How IT companies can raise specialists in the conditions of their shortage in the market

Hi all!

My name is Roman Heinrichs, I am a senior QA specialist at IT Test. Today I would like to share my experience and talk about why to train employees
“from scratch” can be more effective than looking for middle and higher level candidates with work experience in the market.

At the beginning of 2021, the company began to expand the staff of testers and a natural question arose: where to get adequate staff?

Three possible options have been identified:

  1. Search for specialists with real experience and a resume – regular recruitment through interviews. Based on the experience of the candidate and the interests of the company, look for common ground and understand whether we can be useful to each other.

  2. Search among people who have taken various testing coursesbut no real work experience. Here it was required to find potentially promising guys and coach them on internal projects.

  3. Create an up-to-date internal training courseopen vacancies for internships and grow ready-made specialists in fact
    “from scratch”. This experience was in the company from 2017 to 2019, but now a fresh look at the learning process was required, taking into account the current realities of the profession.

Why did you bet on the School of Testers

The article is devoted to the third point of the above, its purpose is to share the experience of working with interns. However, it should be said why we abandoned the first two options and came to internal learning.

Now the situation in the QA-specialist market is quite difficult:

  • June market is oversaturated – everyone wants to “enter IT” and consider this path one of the easiest.

  • The market for mid-specialists is too spread out – I often had to interview people with excellent resumes and 3-5 years of work, who began to fall literally with 2-3 questions in their own field of work. Such people usually just sit in a comfortable position with no desire to develop and are not too different from juniors in terms of level. At the same time, they do not have an adequate assessment of what they can offer the company for the requested salary. A really good candidate comes across in about 1 out of 20-25 cases. And in order to conduct so many interviews, it is required to attract technical specialists who understand the topic – as a result, the right candidate comes across very rarely, and a lot of working time of existing employees is spent.

  • A shortage in the senior market — as practice shows, many experienced specialists are satisfied with their salary level, current project and place of work. If seniors are looking for a new job, they often give priority to vacancies focused on foreign projects.

As for candidates who have taken various tester courses, here we are faced with the same problem of “entry into IT”. At the interview, it became obvious that most people were taking courses for the sake of taking them. When communicating with such candidates, they faced a number of problems: low motivation, deceived expectations, the minimum level of knowledge in the field of software testing.

The situation in the QA-specialist market motivated us to change our approach to recruitment. It was decided to restart the “School of testers” and recruit the most motivated and interested people without work experience. In order to give these people up-to-date knowledge and skills as a tester, we involved the most experienced employees in creating a training program from scratch, gradually immersing trainees in the company’s tools and projects. Candidates who successfully completed the course and showed good results received a place in the company’s staff.

The main theses of training testers

Work on launching a new stream of the School of Testers has begun. We gathered a group of employees ready for mentoring and preparing materials, outlined the main theses on the basis of which the internship was carried out:

  • training is mutually free for the company and the candidate. This helps the company to reduce costs and understand that a person is motivated enough to learn and really wants to work as a tester. The candidate also received a number of advantages from this approach: free mentoring, practice with real projects and the opportunity to successfully find a job on an interesting project. In addition, he could refuse the internship at any time without financial loss – if he realized that testing was not for him;

  • training period – three months with the possibility of early graduation in case of success in mastering the materials and good feedback from practice;

  • mentors separate candidates among themselves to analyze tasks and resolve issues on an individual basis. At the same time, shuffling of candidates between mentors is possible.

  • learning means self-study candidates prepared materials at a convenient time for them, but with a limited deadline for submitting homework on the topics covered;

  • based on the results of passing the training blocks, mentors conduct phone callswhere they analyze the materials of the block, give examples from practice, answer questions. For trainees who cannot take part in the call, a record is kept, and if necessary, individual calls are possible.

The training itself was divided into three conditional sections:

  1. Study of general theory and tools;

  2. Transition to practice;

  3. Preparing for interviews and improving soft skills.

Studying General Theory

We included in this section:

  • basics of testing: the role of testing, principles, test design techniques, and so on;

  • software life cycle and development models;

  • types of testing and discussion of the prospects for the development of testers;

  • study of types of test documentation;

  • analysis of the basics of client-server architecture;

  • analysis of the basics of networks;

  • studying the features of testing web and mobile applications, analyzing the differences between browsers and operating systems.

Exploring the tools

Here is the core set of tools that the trainees learned:

  • work with documentation storage systems: bug tracking, test management systems, task storage;

  • work with layouts on the example of Figma/Sketch;

  • detailed study of devTools;

  • a selection of various extensions, plug-ins and useful software that helps in the work – the selection was collected during a survey of company employees;

  • work with sniffers: Charles/Fiddler;

  • work with metrics;

  • analysis of how to install test builds on mobile devices, raising local builds for web applications;

  • logging and working with it: ways to remove logs from mobile devices, the basics of working with Kibana;

  • Android studio+adb/xCode for a tester, exploring the main features;

  • Swagger+Postman, some SoapUI

  • learning the basics of CI / CD, working with Git and GitFlow;

  • a separate block selected a course of work with the database, the study of operators and functions;

  • auxiliary tools and discussion of specific tools that will help in working on certain projects.

Practice

As a practice, at the first stages, the mentors gave the trainees test tasks on the completed blocks of materials. The tasks were based on real cases, which were regularly encountered in practice. Many tasks were selected in such a way that there was no unambiguously correct answer – this helped to observe the train of thought of the candidates while solving problems.

After studying the theory, the candidates moved on to real practice – under the guidance of mentors, they were connected to the company’s internal projects. We agreed with several partner companies to connect interns to their projects under the full responsibility of the mentor and at no additional cost to the customer.

The leaders of these projects gave feedback on the work of the connected trainees, which influenced the final learning outcome. When evaluating learning outcomes, not only hard but also soft skills were taken into account:

  • how freely a person communicates,

  • whether he finds a common language with colleagues and representatives of the customer,

  • how quickly and easily he joins the team.

Interns who successfully passed the test period continued to work on this project already as a full-time employee.

Preparing for interviews

During the training process, it was important not only to give students theoretical knowledge and practical skills, but also to prepare them for job interviews as QA specialists. Such training should help trainees feel more confident during interviews with employers and when taking test tasks when applying for a job. This section of the curriculum included:

  • conducting test interviews;

  • analysis of communication between candidates and HR specialists;

  • study of the construction of speech, answers to tricky questions, the ability to talk about yourself;

  • structuring the acquired knowledge to build competent answers to technical questions.

What platforms were used in the learning process

The learning process took place at several sites:

The Moodle system was taken as the basis for storing educational materials and tasks. The main arguments in its favor:

  • ease of integration with a large number of software;

  • flexible interface with the possibility of point settings;

  • advanced system of roles;

  • built-in assessment and assignment systems.

  1. Test platforms and applications for practical training of interns, mentors were taken from the company’s internal cases.

  2. Classic calls were made in Zoom and Google meet.

  3. Written communication was conducted through Telegram and Slack.

results

In 2021, we successfully conducted two internship courses: 10 people in the first and 15 in the second. According to the results of the training, only two people from the two groups did not receive an offer from our company – they did not fit in soft skills. Mentors of the School of Testers gave them recommendations for possible employment in other companies.

As a result, the company hired 23 new employees who are still actively and – most importantly, with interest – continue to develop on 8 different projects.

Since the beginning of 2022, we have been training a new group of interns, for whom the program has been developed in the direction of complexity – the basics of web application automation were added as a separate block. Based on the results of the training of this group, a number of decisions were made to further refine the course for use by existing employees as part of the advanced training program.

It should be separately noted that despite the current situation in the IT-sphere, we managed to successfully complete the training of the third group of interns and successfully place them in a number of promising projects.

Of course, the company has not abandoned other ways to find qualified personnel. The HR department is still interviewing and hiring people with relevant experience in software testing, as well as people who have taken tester courses elsewhere. But the experience of teaching people the profession of a QA specialist from scratch has shown its effectiveness and will be used by us in the future, especially given the need to grow new qualified personnel in modern realities.

My Experience with Internship Training

In the end, as one of the curators of the School of Testers, I will share my impressions of training interns. It was a very cool experience that presented our team with several serious challenges and required the utmost concentration to answer them.

The main challenge was the need for a training program that would include not just materials and reprints of some official documentation, but would be well supplemented from a practical point of view. It had to be backed up with the knowledge of the current testers of our company, while making the training program understandable and interesting for people without experience in the IT field. For me, as a mentor, this task helped to systematize my own knowledge and gave me the motivation to fill my own gaps in the skills to use professional tools, methodologies, documentation, and so on.

Another serious challenge is the systematic training of people with different behavior patterns, psychological attitudes and life experiences. Here it is important to find an individual approach to each trainee, while adhering to the general course and training program. And here I want to note how pleasant it is to teach motivated people who understand what they want to get as a result of the internship, and help them in their professional growth.

And for other companies I can say: don’t be afraid to invest in employee training. In modern realities – as in general and always – it is very useful to have loyal and professionally trained personnel. And if you are going to work with us – do not hesitate, we will select only the best specialists for your project.

All success and qualified personnel!

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