Is being “technical” enough to be a Quality Assurance professional?

When asked what are the needed skills for software testing, many will give importance to technical skills. But the predominant skills are, social skills and communication. Communication issues are the main failure in the cause of IT project failures. The key to overcoming such issues and bad decision making is to have robust social capabilities.

So, what is a social skill?

Social skills are used to communicate and interact with each other both verbally and non-verbally through gestures and body language and our personal appearance.

Social skills (or in other words, soft skills) most frequently associated with software development and testing are communication, interpersonal, teamwork, supportiveness, problem-solving, organizational, coordination, and adaptability.  These social interactions between team members aid in knowledge sharing, building relationships, promote trust and, maybe most importantly, help to align expectations.

The importance in social skills is that, it helps the team establish the definition and the expectations with regard to project success. The project success depends on at least these five categories:  scope, budget, time, quality and usability. A projects success is determined by the capability to deliver across to all these categories for all stakeholders involved.

A Test Professional needs to have communication, coordination and adaptability skills which will assist test professionals to partner with the development team to determine components and the timing of a builds and to adjust deliverables accordingly. Furthermore, if expectations become misaligned, assertiveness and the ability to communicate across all roles and levels will help in the escalation process.

To collaborate successfully a test professional requires to be able to stand behind an opinion and capably explain that position to all stakeholders in all the levels. If a test professional cannot effectively communicate the values of the testing process and tasks, he/she will lose credibility in the eyes of the stakeholders.

By maintaining robust social capabilities Software Testers can transform how testing is perceived to help all the stakeholders understand the technical perspective of testing and how it aligns to the project/ company goals. Furthermore, it helps the individuals bond with team members of parallel roles and diverse roles. It will facilitate in building relationships and promoting trust among team members and hence build a persuasive team.

Why aren’t technical skills enough?

Technical advances happen every day and a test professional must adapt to it every day. But having a strong technical foundation only addresses half the challenge. Software testing is a Socio-technical undertaking. This means that effective test strategies must incorporate a balance if technical and social (communication and problem solving) capabilities.

The indispensable truth with social interaction is that it helps us do what machines can’t. It helps us assess situations and find the correct path in ways that machines cannot. When a project’s timeline shrink or is aggressive from the start, it’s the people and not the technology that formulate innovative ways of achieving the needed results. Software test professionals rely on their communication, adaptability, and problem-solving abilities to tailor testing deliverables to a level that stakeholders find acceptable, while still meeting the anticipated timeline.

Unfortunately, most software test professionals invest their training dollars and effort into enhancing their technical capabilities, rather than developing the social capabilities required to explain tactics, align expectations and create IT project success.

Without social skills software test professionals are forced to deal with the less than ideal circumstances at hand.

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