Build Yourself Up by Building Soft Skills

Cognizant Softvision Quality Control Engineer Ciprian Iancu discusses the role soft skills play in understanding clients' needs and the additional value they bring to development.

Working in QA helps you to both understand and see how you can improve yourself over time. It’s like your life is a big project and, step by step, you can build yourself up and achieve new skills. Every experience you have gone through helps you to do your job better, even if at that moment you didn’t realize it. I would like to share a few experiences from my life that have helped me in my QA career.

The Art of Listening

For many years, I worked as a journalist. You may be wondering what I learned in those years that could bring value to my QA work because, at first glance, it’s not a technical profession. Working in journalism, I learned how to talk to people, how to better understand them, and, most importantly, I learned to listen to what people have to say. Being an active listener makes it easier to be part of a QA team because, the better your listening skills, the better you’re able to understand the rest of the team.

Each team member has their strengths, weaknesses, and sensitivities to certain situations and behaviors. Listening is essential because it provides you the ability to learn about a person and avoid specific triggers which can quickly turn a normal situation into a conflict-filled communication crisis. It’s like when you have a workaround: you can do what needs to be done, not directly, but in such a manner that won’t cause an issue.

Listening to people allows you to see your team’s strengths and put them to work. Knowing what a colleague can do best or better allows you to have them help you in the situations which matter the most. When you need speed, you get help from the fast-paced colleague, or you may “call” for the meticulous colleague when you need thorough testing.

For me, my experience as a journalist improved my empathy skills. I was better at understanding others. Understanding others helps you strengthen the team because you can foresee the team’s needs and, just as importantly, you can become better at knowing the client’s needs. At some point, you can even learn to predict behavior, which can be a significant plus when improving the testing strategy.

From Listening to “Being Listened To”

Another “lesson learned” achievement came from actually speaking to an audience when I worked as a radio journalist. That doesn’t mean that I’m not nervous when I have a client demo or when I have a call with people I have never met before. But, I have learned to focus on the task at hand and speak freely. My focus is on being listened to, and by doing so, I can overcome the fear of talking publicly. I put aside any blocking thoughts like: “They’re going to laugh,” “What if I say something stupid?” etc. Of course, the best tactic is to have some “guiding” lines for your speech mapped out, such as the main ideas you want to cover.

Most importantly, speaking in public helps one discover their courage. A great psychologist said something valuable regarding fear: “Courage is fear walking.” So, walk every day!

Patience @all

Another valuable experience is the one I had serving in tech support. I worked as a technical helpdesk agent in a national call center. There, I learned how to improve my patience with the customer and further developed my empathy. I can hear your question: “Well, nice, but does it help you as a QA?”.

The answer is YES! Patience is essential for a QA, in my opinion. Sometimes, when you test, you don’t see results right away. It would be best if you had patience with yourself. There will be days when your work is not as good as the days before. Again, try to be patient with yourself. This patient thinking applies to others as well; remember, they may have a less productive day here and there, and that’s fine because they’re humans just as you are.

While in tech support, I learned how to switch my mindset to think as a client might think. That helps you a lot as a QA because you can always put yourself in the client’s shoes and adjust your test cases/test plan accordingly. You may laugh, but the most important lesson here is this: never think that “client won’t do that.” They always eventually will “do that” whenever you don’t expect it, no matter how improbable that behavior may seem.

Instead of a conclusion, think about this: every experience like these I’ve mentioned, which at that point may seem not very valuable, may one day be called fundamental life traits because, at some point, they are essential and helpful to use.