Test automation is all the rage these days, but breaking into the role of an automation engineer is challenging, and sometimes it might seem like more trouble than it’s worth. When there’s still a clear need for manual testing, what’s the point of you uprooting your current ways just to follow the trend?
Though going from manual automated testing may seem daunting, it’s about much more than adding a skill to your LinkedIn profile. In fact, your future career could depend on your automated testing skills.
Why Do I Need Automated Testing?
- Faster testing – Your current process might be working for you now, but as a tester, you should be striving for more ways to get faster and more effective at your job. And besides, manually testing repeat test cases must get pretty boring. Learning automation lets you get regression testing out of the way so you can focus on the fun stuff, while simultaneously allowing you to test more software in each sprint.
- More and more teams are automating – Automation has been steadily adopted by companies to improve test efficiency, and today 44 percent of tests are automated on average, according to the SmartBear State of Testing survey. Not only that, but testers broadly believe it will become even more popular the coming years as more organizations shift to Agile.
- High in demand – Because more teams are getting on board with the practice, test automation skills are becoming increasingly valuable. Testers that know how to code and are familiar with tools such as Selenium and Appium are the ones that will stand out when it comes time to make a career move. If you find yourself in the position where you’re looking for a new career, it’d be beneficial to have at least a base knowledge of automation and the corresponding technologies that these companies are embracing.
4 Steps for Moving to Test Automation
- Learn a programming language – As mentioned, learning a programming language is becoming a valuable skill for testers to have. It’s never too late to learn, but it’ll also be the biggest adjustment when adopting automation practices since it wasn’t previously needed for manual testing. In fact, learning to code will probably be one of the most difficult parts of learning test automation, as well. However, test automation is impossible without coding knowledge, so it will be something you need to know. We usually suggest starting with Python since it’s often easiest to pick up for beginners and there are countless resources for learning such as Treehouse or Codecademy. Additionally, other skills like XML, HTML, CSS, XPATH, and SOAP are often preferred.
- Adopt the right tools and frameworks – You’ll make the process a lot easier on yourself if you use a combination of frameworks, open-source tools, and third-party tools for automation. Sorry to break it to you, but you can no longer solely rely on your mouse and keyboard. Selenium WebDriver will probably be the foundation of your automated testing efforts as it’s by far the most popular, which is convenient because you can use any of the new languages you learned. You can learn more about getting started with Selenium here. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with testing frameworks like Nightwatch.JS, Cucumber, and Protractor, libraries like Capybara and Watir, and Continuous Integration tools like Jenkins CI and TeamCity to get the most out of automated testing. On top of that, paid tools like CrossBrowserTesting will make your life a lot easier when it comes to run test across different browsers. Alternatively, you have the option of using tools like Record & Replay if you haven’t learned to write scripts in order to do some lightweight, codeless automated testing.
- Start small – The smaller your test cases are, the easier they will be to debug, maintain, and reuse. You don’t want to go crazy with automation and write heavy test cases, or you’ll just make your life harder in the end. Keep them separate and labeled so they’re easy to identify and share in reporting. On that note, you’ll also have to prioritize which tests you want to automate in general. Just because you have this newfound knowledge of automated testing doesn’t mean you should apply it to everything — in fact, it’s virtually impossible to automate everything, and many things are better off being done manually. Polish off those exploratory testing skills when a new feature is released and run risk analysis for which parts of your application should be automated. In addition, you’ll want to create a list of the browsers and devices that are going to be essential to your particular test automation plan.
- Back to the basics – Keep practicing, learning, and using your resources. Automated testing might seem intimidating when you’re first getting into it, but all it really takes is time and patience to learn the craft. Also, no matter how good an automation engineer you are, there’s always more to learn, so take comfort in knowing even the experts don’t know it all. Luckily, there’s also a lot of resources at your disposal. Between online guides, forums, conferences, meetups, communities, social media, and even Slack channels, there is no lack of help available at any time when you have a question or are just looking for some guidance. The testing community is robust, active online and offline, with many people who are happy to provide guidance and mentorship.
Additional Resource for Learning Automated Testing
- Selenium 2 WebDriver Basics with Java
- Selenium Guidebook and Selenium Bootcamp
- Ministry of Testing meetups
- Selenium Conference
- Free Selenium Tutorials
- Why Begin Test Automation eBook
- Selenium 101 Toolkit
Of course, this is a broad overview of what it takes to go from a manual to an automated tester, and there’s a lot more to actually learning automation than four steps. However, it’s likely that you’ll find the change worth it, both to heighten your career and enhance your abilities.