Transitioning into software test engineering

Coming straight out of higher education and facing a seemingly narrow career choice after years of study can seem both frightening and unrewarding. This is how I faced the fear and transitioned to a career I love in software test engineering.

Changing focus after education

On a sunny morning in July, I remember waking up with what I thought was anticipation, and groggily checking my phone to collect my degree results. After five minutes of staring blankly at the numbers, it sunk in that I’d received a 2:1 Master of Chemistry (MChem) degree. I should have been ecstatic; my family certainly were. There were celebrations aplenty, but I couldn’t quite shake a feeling of uneasiness. I’d got through the University of Hull, I’d come out the other side, but somehow it wasn’t quite right.

It wasn’t until after graduation that I figured out what was bothering me so much. I was talking to some friends about life after university – some people were going abroad, some were starting jobs they’d secured during their placement years. Yet, when someone asked me, “so, what are you doing after university?”, my mind went blank. When I thought about pursuing a career in my chosen field of study, I wasn’t filled with joy, or even excitement. In fact, it turned out that my four years of study had taught me precisely one thing – this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

You could argue that it was an expensive lesson, but one I’ll always be thankful for. I could imagine a light bulb turning on with a comical ding! as the revelation hit me, but it did give me a purpose to really discover what I enjoyed doing, and why I enjoyed doing it.

Starting out in software test engineering

I’ve spent my whole life around software (although who hasn’t nowadays?). I’ve embraced it, enjoyed it, but importantly also critiqued it. I’m sure there are many times when we’ve all stared at the spinning wheel on a website, or watched the loading bar on Windows take what seems like an eternity to complete. And I often wondered, “how could I make this better?”. So when a friend showed me a graduate scheme for a software tester, I thought to myself, “Maybe this is how I could make it better”. The only problem was, I’d never formally studied anything to do with software. But if I never tried, I would never succeed. So off I went to the first stage interview.

Before we continue, I want to briefly describe imposter syndrome. It’s becoming more and more well-known, but here’s a summary: effectively, it’s where you don’t feel like you belong. It’s where you look at the people around you and think to yourself, “Goodness me, everyone is smarter than me. Everyone is going to think my ideas are terrible. Nobody is going to respect me”.

I had a serious case of imposter syndrome during my first interview. I looked around and saw all these tech professionals with their Macs and many screens. I wondered how anyone could need more than one screen! Nowadays, I can’t imagine life without at least two! I thought to myself, “what is a chemistry graduate doing here?”. It turns out, these tech professionals really valued the different insight I brought. They gave me various technical tests, and were happily surprised with the faults and nuances I found, even with no real software testing or engineering experience. I eventually landed the job as a software test engineer, and have built a career I’ve loved ever since.


Working at Simply Business

After three and a half years, I decided I needed a change, and I walked into Simply Business’s offices in London for my first day. I was very nervous as it was my first real career move after the graduate scheme, and my first role in an Agile development team, so I didn’t know what to expect. I could feel the imposter syndrome creeping back as the doors to the lift opened, but as soon as I stepped into the office, all those feelings went away.

Imposter syndrome can be common – it can be everywhere, but here at Simply Business it feels different. We appreciate we’re all human and talk openly and supportively about how we’ve all got skills and expertise to bring to the party (and believe me, it’s a great party!). The biggest thing I still feel to this day is the aura of acceptance. Acceptance of your ideas, your input, of who you are. That’s something that has prompted me to write this blog post – I’ve wanted to describe the feelings of welcoming for someone who never quite felt like they belonged – both professionally and personally. There’s always someone to help, or guide, or support, whatever you need really, and of course, I’m always around in the office too for a chat or a hello (shameless plug!). I’m proud to call myself an ‘SBer’, and would encourage anyone to do the same.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

To conclude, I want to share a few points about my experience so far in changing career direction to one in software test engineering:

  • If you’re feeling imposter syndrome, you’re human! And if you don’t, congratulations, you’re superhuman!
  • Don’t be afraid to express an idea or concept you want to pitch because you think people won’t be receptive to it. The people you are talking to have also been there, and despite the fact that their knowledge might seem boundless, they will never know everything. Your idea might just change the whole outlook of the team!
  • Understanding what is and isn’t for you is critical – if it doesn’t feel right, there is no shame in admitting that. If you don’t think you’re going in the direction you want to professionally, you have the power to change it!

If you find yourself in a similar situation to the one I was in, and want to continue your career with a rewarding employer, then Simply Business is a great place to learn and grow, and you’re always supported!

Ready to start your career at Simply Business?

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Adam Cox

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