Talking Testing: Balancing Manual and Automated Strategies in Software Quality Engineering with Callum Atkinson

We sit down with Callum Atkinson, an experienced Senior Test Consultant with nearly 13 years behind him. Callum enables product teams to deliver with confidence and achieve their North Star Testing ambitions. An advocate of Shift Left Testing practices across development and Testing teams, shortening feedback loops and providing Product and Development teams with early feedback and insights using a CI/CD approach to development and Testing. Read on to see how he discusses Manual and Automation Testing, Different roles that can work together with Testers and Advice for aspiring Testers. Let’s delve in to find out some of Callum’s top tips…

1. Could you please introduce yourself and give us a brief overview of your current role?

I am Callum Atkinson from Accenture Next Gen Engineering, Formerly Infinity Works. My current role is a great combination of the hands-on side of quality engineering and the strategy creation side of how our clients can approach and overcome challenges. This hybrid role allows me to maintain those hands-on coding skills, whilst simultaneously acquiring new skills and driving quality with clients from a strategy perspective focusing on how we do the hands-on work.

2. From LinkedIn, I can see you have been Testing for nearly 13 years! Why did you decide to progress with a career in Software Testing?

I initially got into Testing by taking up a Junior role that focused on Data Warehousing and BI reporting at an Insurance firm based in York. The variation and complex challenges within such a role are what gripped me and realised I had found my niche. Having a personality which matches that of a tester such as being inquisitive, resilient and having a “what if” mindset also enabled me to grasp the concept of what was required from the role of a Quality Engineer. In turn, this opened doors for me to progress and work my way through to the role where I am today. 

3. What are the key challenges that newcomers might face when starting with Software Testing?

The biggest challenge I am hearing from the more Junior members is the pressure to pick up automation and be technical. To this, I say build your knowledge in the fundamentals and get a good understanding of the Software testing principles. Don’t rush into the more technical testing discipline and enjoy the journey of building knowledge.

4. How can a balance be maintained between Manual and Automated testing?

The way I get the balance between Automation and Manual is to always remember you can’t write good Automation without a stable product, getting your hands dirty in the manual testing and making the Automation testing phase a lot easier, learning the niche flows and edge cases on the way which you may of otherwise never have found being focused on automation. It’s also good to remember that automation can’t always exercise the edge cases of every piece of software, so setting aside time for exploratory testing is invaluable and will always yield defects.

5. Why would you say Manual testing is irreplaceable, and how can it be seamlessly integrated into an Automated testing environment to ensure a comprehensive testing strategy?

As mentioned above, manual testing is important and always will be very good at flushing out those edge cases and going off-piste to test the spots that automation may not be able to get to. I am a big advocate of involving as many non-technical members in testing to get as many perspectives and use cases as possible in sessions such as Mob Testing with Alpha Groups at set milestones through the roadmap. This allows the project to understand how the software may be used and provide additional use cases for automation. These activities can also give an insight into Defect Clusters that real users may encounter, which subsequently could help the Testers when building their automation packs.

6. Why is it crucial for a development team to embrace quality as a mindset, and how does this mindset contribute to the overall success of a software project?

As anyone who has worked with me or come to one of my talks will know, I preach that “Quality is everybody’s responsibility”. To get the most out of the testing pyramid, you cannot rely on the testing and defects to be found higher up the pyramid as this results in delays, additional costs and a reduction in confidence as the features and overall software develop. It is key for Test Managers to deliver Strategies which focus on developer-driven testing, and creating a culture of developers championing specific testing types to ensure the selected testing types are adhered to with developers being responsible for driving those testing types and assisting in delivering the quality from the first line of code and beyond delivery. With the large variety of tools and testing libraries available to Developers, the opportunities to find defects earlier in the SDLC have never been easier, quicker and closer to the developers for quicker feedback on the implementation.

7. How can different roles within a development team beyond testers actively contribute to testing efforts?

Including all roles and adding activities within your testing strategies that promote testing being everybody’s responsibility enables you to drive quality from the very first user story, design and line of code written. Having everybody on the product team understand what makes a ticket or feature ‘Dev Done’ and Testable ensures you’re only delivering code that will add value and provide confidence that the software is healthy at each iteration.

8. Any advice for someone moving into a Testing Career?

My advice would be to focus on the fundamentals, learn the core mindsets and behaviours of a tester and remember it’s not a requirement to be super technical from day one. Learning the foundational skills and mindset will allow you to be a better all-around tester in the long run and build a solid foundation to grow. Be inquisitive, be resilient, be that person asking “what if” and enjoy learning the graft that is quality engineering, but most importantly also send developers defects with GIFs!

If you are looking for a role in Testing check out our Live Vacancies or if you are looking for Candidate Resources look no further!

Share the love...

Read more

Like this blog? view our latest posts below...