If you are a software testing professional, or any type of professional for that matter, you need to constantly hone your skills. Software testing can be more of an art than a science, and as such the more practice and experience you have, the more effective your performance will be. Plus, the nature of the software on which software testing is performed is in a constant state of flux, and as such the simple art of practice can help ensure that your mind remains sharp enough to keep up.
Of course, this begs the question: how exactly can the art of software testing be practiced? While not exhaustive, the list that follows is a good starting point.
PARTICIPATE IN OPEN SOURCE PROJECTS: the beauty of this method is that you gain real world experience with no risk.
DOWNLOAD AND PLAY WITH OPEN SOURCE TOOLS: Download a few open source tools from a website like OpenSourceTesting.org and play around with them.
LOOK FOR BETA TESTING OPPORTUNITIES: If you are really ambitious, locate some beta testing opportunities with companies that have a presence in your area.
FORM A SOFTWARE TESTING CLUB: Form a software testing club and meet regularly to work on complex problems. This is a teriific way to put your knowledge into practice.
TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO VIEW PROBLEMS FROM MULTIPLE ANGLES: Take a complex problem home from the office and try to think about it from various angles and perspectives the business owner, customer, developer, etc. This exercise can help give you a more holistic view of problems, which leads to more effective solutions.
WRITE ABOUT SOFTWARE TESTING: Start a blog and write about your experiences in software testing. One specific thing you could do is try and locate bugs in real software programs that you use every day, and write about them when you find them. Writing about the bugs you find forces you to better process what you learned.
PRACTICE SYSTEMS THINKING: You could practice something known as systems thinking, which is simply looking at the various things you interact with on a daily basis and connecting the dots to view their interactions as an overarching system. Honing this type of thought process will lead to more effective testing.
BECOME A TEACHER: You can identify teaching opportunities at work or elsewhere. For example, conducting training at work, executing a distance learning scheme, or becoming an adjunct-professor at your local university.
ATTEND A CONFERENCE: Attend a conference or workshop about software testing.
PARTICIPATE IN ONLINE FORUMS: Join a couple software testing forums online, and maybe even subscribe to a magazine or two. Constantly be on the lookout for new and improved testing techniques that you could possibly incorporate into your work environment. Just the simple act of keeping yourself informed and open to new ideas can help reduce your brains propensity to get complacent.
In the final analysis, practice may not make perfect, but it certainly helps. This is especially true in software testing, which is more of an art than a science. Importantly, make sure you practice the right things. Do an honest self-evaluation and identify your weaker areas, and focus your efforts on those areas until you see some improvement.
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