Shift from manual to automated testing: whys and how-tos

What manual tester does when hitting an iron ceiling? Sure, he strives to shift to automation. If to browse through different blogs and forums, you’ll find plenty of tips and instructions. People recommend learning one or several testing tools for automation, read books and articles or follow some dedicated sources. But is it enough to become a test automation engineer? A few years ago - probably, now - not at all.

Today automation requires not only the ability to work with some testing tools. Also, coding skills are obligatory. In 2010, 79% of job advertisements for software tester positions in the USA contained the requirements for programming skills. And in seven years, knowledge of coding languages for test automation engineer is not a benefit, it is a must.

Change the role

Traditionally, the testing team is regarded as “skilled end-users” who evaluate the software with the means available for ordinary people - smartphone/tablet/computer, Internet connection, keyboard, fingerprints, etc. But now the role of software testing has changed.

QA specialists should be aware of how the code works and, moreover, how to write it. It resembles the procedure of reading a book - you should not be the author of the book but, for certain, you know how to write it. And the relationship between developer and tester should not resemble the writer and literary critic. They both should be the coauthors of one masterpiece.

To shift to automation, the manual tester should first of all focus on coding.

Select the programming language

According to the analysis of job postings by, the top-five programming languages of 2017 are SQL (Structured Query Language), Java, Python, JavaScript and C++. In 2016, the top list was almost the same. But there are different ranks based on certain criteria and each similar top list may differ. For example, Java is the top language according to TIOBE rank (17,3%) based on search engine queries and PYPL rank (23,1%) based on Google trends. Mind this while surfing the Internet.

Besides that, some languages are not suitable for test automation - purely functional ones, e.g., Haskell or LISP. Of course, you can use them for some data testing but still. While selecting the language, take into account the area of its usage. For example, JavaScript is suitable for pure web testing.

Explore the market trends

Nevertheless, several tops will not help you to make the right choice of programming language. Some are in-demand and others are not. To be in trend, you should either follow the latest trends or set new ones. It is better to start with the first option as now we do not have enough experience and skills to change the face of testing and automation as well.

And what are automated trends in 2017? The tester’s and developer’s roles are expected to be merging because of DevOps (Development and Operations), Quality Engineering and CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Development). Thus, we have to study programming languages.

Focus on mobile development and testing. According to Gartner, more than 300 billion downloads of mobile applications are expected this year. If you are fond of mobile testing, be ready to use Apium, EarlGrey, Selendroid, MonkeyRunner, etc, and do not forget about the programming languages of mobile products - HTML5, Objective-C, Swift and others.

Cisco says that over 50 billion devices will be interconnected by 2020. Thus, IoT (Internet of Things) will require a new testing strategy. Specialists will test not only software but firmware and hardware as well.

API testing becomes more and more popular. It will reduce the time needed for automation. There are no language limitations here because data transfer is in XML (Extensible Markup Language) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation).

Keep hand in coding

When the field and programming language are selected, it is time to proceed with continuous practice. Reading is not enough, you should put your theoretical knowledge into practice. You will be able to understand and write good code only when you try to write and refactor it on your own.

The best way to learn to swim is to jump into the water. But do not go too deep where you cannot stand. You can start with online courses that are free or not so expensive. Such training courses will show you the fundamentals of coding. It is a rather useful practice to start with.

Create a GitHub account

GitHub helps you to get access to the latest open-source toolsets and additional information. You can explore Appium, REST Assured, SeleniumHQ, etc. Besides, if you have your own projects and code fragments, you are able to upload them to GitHub to receive feedback. Moreover, a GitHub account can be added to your resume.

Do not neglect networking

Visit conferences and meetups, network on Linkedin to get more information about coding. Communication with the experts engaged in programming and automated testing helps to understand the nuances of such a position. Do not be afraid to ask questions and share your own thoughts on different matters. Moreover, networking helps to meet potential employers.

While shifting to automation, always keep practicing. Do not lose an opportunity on your way to automation. Enjoy the process and never give up!