A while ago, someone asked me: ”Thomas, what skills do I need to have when tracking bugs and joining a QA team?”
I was astonished by the question and more importantly, quite disappointed that I wasn’t able to come up with a great answer.
But it made me think. And it pushed me to do some research and to exchange ideas with other people in the bug-reporting world.
And today, I’m happy and ready to answer this question. Here are the most important bug reporting skills you need to have.
Knowledge, workflows & skills.
Bug reporting and bug tracking require a specific set of skills which are quite different from those needed in other areas such as design or development.
Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about great bug reporting workflows, tools, and frameworks, but not a lot of people have touched on the question of bug reporting skills.
The reason QA requires a special kind of profile is that it’s the one part that sits right in the middle of the software development matrix, working with and among developers, designers, product managers, users & clients.
If you think about the role of QA and bug reporting, you can think of a middle man. The middle man is the one in touch with alpha- & beta testers and customers. People in QA and testing are the ones that have to tell the web developer to change (fix) their code.
And when the situation calls for it, they are also the ones to tell the web designers that their design isn’t intuitive enough for the end users.
They communicate with the product team and make sure they are on track to fix the existing bugs. All these people have different agendas and it is up to the QA agent to make sure that everyone is aligned and knows what needs to be done.
QA agents, testers or bug reporters (no matter how you call them) need to speak more than one language. They basically have to understand the workings behind the entire product (to some extent).
So what are some great bug reporting skills you should have?
1. You need to have some great tech skills
As a tester, you are hired to press certain software or products hard. You’re the one who’s following every little step, every little hint. You’re chasing down bugs. You’re Sherlock Holmes.
It really takes some great tech and development skills to find bugs, document them and provide a comprehensive description of how to make them reproducible. You should be at the least, a bit familiar with the different programming languages used to develop the product and with the basic configuration of the systems in use.
I’m not saying that you must be a developer genius, definitely not. But you need to have a basic understanding of frontend & backend technologies. You need this understanding to be able to talk with the developers in charge of fixing the issues you’ve uncovered.
2. You need to be good at communication
So much money has been and is still being lost due to poor communication.
It’s so easy to guide a development team in the wrong direction by simply having a mismatch in terminology or bad management of expectations.
That said, when a QA agent or tester finally has some information, he or she has to be willing to ask developers questions when questions need to be asked.
Ambiguity management is key.
Otherwise, you’ll have entire teams going on a wild goose chase, trying to identify or recreate a bug.
That also means that a good QA agent doesn’t mind reaching out to people and engaging in an open conversation.
3. You need to be diplomatic
Looking for other people’s mistakes and bringing them to light is always a tough thing to do. Doing it as a tester or bug reporter means that you must be able to work together with these people in an efficient manner. It also means being able to get the job done even if it means having to deal with a bit of resistance and crankiness here and there.
No one likes bugs and no one likes them to be found. Establishing an open-minded culture of trial & error is absolutely key here.
It doesn’t help to point fingers at your developers for certain bugs or mistakes. It simply doesn’t work.
4. You need to be a good negotiator
It sounds counter-intuitive, but negotiation is part of a QA agent’s daily life.
In order to get things done in a reasonable time, negotiation skills are crucial. Here’s why.
The development team is busy with their development work, so they’ll have to make time to fix bugs.
That means there will be a whole lot of back and forth between QA and development on when and what should be done. This is less the case with small issues but can be an important factor with larger issues.
5. You have to be good at testing
Okay, I guess this one is obvious. This is your thing. You absolutely need to be good at testing. Having a good understanding of different testing concepts, workflows, tools, and techniques are a must-have.
If you don’t have that, you’re not the right person for this role.
6. You need to be a deep diver
When you’re dealing with bugs, thinking you understand the issue is never as good as really understanding what’s happening. If you don’t, your instructions are bound to be vague and will, without a doubt, result in an increase of the costs.
That’s exactly why you have to have a certain level of curiosity.
As a bug reporter, you spent a lot of time on the product itself and you’re learning the ins and outs of the product. Be prepared to dive deep into your product and its technological basis.
7. You need to understand your product from your end-users perspective
The software has to fulfill a certain function. Understanding the product requirements and how they help the users is key to being able to communicate well with everyone. It’s especially key to be able to communicate with the end user.
When the bug reporter needs additional information from the user, it doesn’t really help to communicate in technical terms.
When this happens, the bug reporter has to understand how the product works from an end user’s point of view and what he or she was trying to do. It will also help in distinguishing the critical issues from the not-so-critical ones.
There’s nothing worse than having a reporter that doesn’t understand the criticality of a bug and can’t seem to assign a proper priority code to a bug.
A balancing act for the next bug reporting unicorn
QA agents have a special kind of development job. Too often, they are just another developer when they should be an entirely different kind of person.
A good developer isn’t necessarily a great QA professional or bug reporter. The role of a QA agent and bug reporter is far more social and more general than that.
Next level bug reporting skills
Uber’s QA team lead Dan Kirk shared with us their agile QA best practices in this ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Building an Engaging QA Workflow. Download your free copy today.
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