I have been wondering about a tester's life. In this post you would find my opinion on my limited view of the tester's career path. This post may have been conceptualized in sub-conscious part of my tester mind. My ever inquisitive mind which wants me to always be prepared for the future to come, in preparing for the coming days. The question which has always been there in my mind and I have been asked by a few others, some times by my father, sometimes by my employers or prospective employers...
"Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?"
This post started as a guideline to the testers who have spent sometime in testing and ask the question to themselves. However at some moments I could not resist myself comparing testers to developers, because Testers are always pictured with developers, always compared against developers.
"This may seem a little harsh to the developers, but we testers are god's favorite children." -yours truly
Testers have much more diverse career options to choose from and are better prepared for these roles.
Since Testers get to know more about the broad view of the product and the domain in which the product falls, knowing about the ever changing requirements of business becomes more of a habit.
Testers get to interact with the end users more, who use it in their day-to-day lives. Testers get to know the various use cases that a developer can never dream of.
A good tester would make a very good Business Analyst. With MBA or without MBA, a good tester would surely make a good Business Analyst.
So you have worked a lot with product. You know much more about the product than others in the team. You are customer oriented, you know what customer's regular workflows are. You understand what affects customers more and what can be tolerated with work arounds.
You understand customer's business and you understand what feature or bug-fix is more important than other to the customer. You have read customer's mails that came as bugs. You were there when the best feature of your product was reverted back because the customer doesn't use your product the way you thought.
Long story short, Business acumen + knowing the product inside out makes you an ideal fit to grow into the role of Product Manager.
You understand the architecture of your current system, you are a problem solver. You understand computer science concepts and business flow well. This role is meant for you.
Marketing or Sales Manager
You know all the features that your sales or marketing team boasts of. You have done multiple rounds of system testing. You understand the Requirements of New Features and you understand all the existing features. You have tested "what the product claims to do" and you have done the sales pitch testing.
With a passion for your product, with knowledge of the market space and competition, with a little charming personality and mental smartness, with good presentation and communication skills and armed with your knowledge (Broad Overview of product) you can be the Sales Star or Marketing Guru of your product and company.
You have always focussed on user friendliness of the product. You care about customers and understand that software is meant to help users and enable humans. You have seen and read customers using your product.
Usability Expert is one great career option that a tester can pursue.
After practicing testing for a while and considering yourself master in exploring a known or unknown application and finding important information, uncovering potential threats to the product or users, you can start your own consulting practice.
You can be on your own, earning boundless income, and get to test varied products, applications work with different people. And you are mostly your own boss to choose these.
Testing (Managing) Manager
Beware testers!!! This seems to be the most easy jacket to fit into or rather was most easy to fit into but shrinking very fast now. Trying to manage people (which becomes more and more difficult with smarter people working as your subordinates). I read somewhere people should be influenced and work should be managed.
These kind of managing managers spend more time in micro-management, in world's largest software producer company's tools (excel and powerpoint) than in their products.
Testing (Working) Manager (Manager 2.0)
These are the Managers or rather leaders who lead by example. These testers inspire by their action. They are testing, finding bugs, suggesting enhancements, suggesting design changes, learning new ways to be and make team more effective and efficient on day-to-day basis.
They are collaborating with testing team, development team, customers, product management constantly. The team grows mutually and gets mentored by this person.
The world is round. Tester has always the option of becoming a Developer.
My logical mind says since a tester knows most of the places where developers generally make mistakes, they should not make those mistakes at least and prove better developers.
However, it is found that testers write bad code for their own automation. I think this question's answer lies in human psychology. Who will Police the police? So a tester will become a very good programmer only if he/she knows the code is going to be tested by a good tester later. :)
As mentioned earlier this is my limited view. Reclaim your personal method and follow your own style. Feel free to add more to the list.
Addendum (14Apr2010, 1250 hrs IST):
I read my guru James Bach's view on the subject...
He wants to be an expert. I would say he already is. But that's what makes you an expert... always pushing the limits and being always in flow... I have Kathy Sierra's graph on how to be an expert on my work desk.
Being an Expert is such a motivation... coz expertise is not a destination but the journey.