Author Topic: How to Begin QA Testing?  (Read 1773 times)

Offline Spikey00

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How to Begin QA Testing?
« on: January 30, 2010, 09:19:39 PM »
I know enough information about quality assurance testing, and I am afraid it has not deterred me as of yet enough to still consider this a route into the computer-gaming industry.  My main issue is with understanding how and what one has to do in order to gain that first "foot in the door" and to actually make a living of sorts, because as my mother says, "pay rent or find yourself on the street".  Of course, I resist the idea of being in a position irrelevant and short-term to future possible goals, and I'm feeling that anything else related to computing requires more experience and education than QA; consequently, more than what I can afford.

My resume would basically be pathetic, aka: 
- No experience (unless 'volunteer' counts)
- Limited education (no college; still in high school until Summer)

I live in a particularly bustling city (Calgary of Canada's Alberta), but I have no idea where to go to first--whether it be through the internet (which Google mainly fails to return anything direct and useful) or through advertisements locally (none that I've seen).  Therefore, I'm somewhat left in the dust, and ironically between the curbside and the local part-timers. 

The main question here is, what can I do first?  How do I do it?  I definitely know I'm not the best, but I would love to give it a shot, and gain experience along the way--even if they say burn outs are a common occurrence. 


If anyone has any information regarding this, I would love to hear it, because my time is running out; I'll soon have to find some type of employment, and I do not have a clue on how to get started.

Appreciations in advance!
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Offline HellishFiend

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2010, 09:33:11 PM »
My best guess is that the best way to get into the computer gaming industry right now is as an unpaid intern. I'm also guessing that's not an option for you right now. I wouldn't try to talk you out of pursuing your dreams entirely, but until you go to college, you might be stuck walking into local businesses and asking who is hiring, or looking at local ads. After all, sometimes you end up finding a boss or company that really clicks with you, and you end up where you're meant to be!
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Offline x4000

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2010, 10:43:48 PM »
Lars (Fiskbit) worked as a QA tester for Nintendo in WA, so he might have some insight about that.  But in general the competition for those jobs is pretty stiff, so you need to just put out a lot of inquiries and see what you can find.  Montreal has a lot of developers, for one thing, so you might have some luck looking around that area.  I don't know much about other areas of Canada.
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Offline Fiskbit

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2010, 09:46:43 AM »
I've wanted to be in the games industry since I was 3 years old and was always looking for that 'foot in the door' sort of thing. There's a bit of an unfortunate cycle with the industry where, for a lot of positions, you need industry experience to get a job that gives you industry experience. Product testing really isn't that sort of thing, though. I've heard tales of people starting as game testers and moving their way up the ranks to actual, worthwhile games industry positions, but from my experience with product testing, I wouldn't believe it. If you were at a small company or this were 15+ years ago, then it might be possible because there could actually be tester / developer interaction to speak of, but that's likely a situation you won't easily come across. I spent a month testing games at Nintendo. Their testing department is large and isolated from other aspects of the company. You shouldn't expect to be interacting with developers, and you won't get 'noticed' by any higher ups in the testing department for anything other than being good at testing certain kinds of games.

Bluntly, product testing isn't a job you should want. You typically don't have control over what project you're given. Maybe you'll be given a good game, but depending on where you're working and what sorts of games they make or handle, the chances of that may not be high (consider how many games are released and how many of them suck or aren't your thing). In one week, you'll be doing 40 hours of testing on a single game. Don't like the game? Tough; that's your job and you have to suffer through it or quit. They may make an effort to try to put you on a game you like playing, but there's likely to also be some incentive for them to make people play games they don't like. If you don't like it, you're likely to mess with it in different ways than those who do like it (and thus could find new ways to break it). Maybe you're not even testing something that could qualify as a game (non-game and casual are still industry buzzwords at the moment), so then you're stuck fiddling around with awful software. I spent 120 hours playing a game that I normally wouldn't have touched for more than 5 minutes and had to find ways to entertain myself using it, making meta games out of the most mundane aspects of it to try to garner some fun from it. [I did manage to have a lot of fun with a four player game of Daily Horoscope Turbo Extreme, a metagame a coworker and I made for the 'game' we'd been assigned, but it was pretty short-lived.]

Then there were the people who had games that one could definitely classify as fun, but there's a limit to that. Do you think you can play a fun game for 6 months at 40 hours a week with possible overtime on Saturdays or night hours? What if it's not even a very fun game? What if you hate it? Do you think you can really stand being assigned to beating the same game every day? To rechecking everything every time a new version is out? You're likely to be assigned some aspect of the game and it'll be your job to make sure it's functioning properly throughout the development cycle, and that means a lot of tedious, mundane actions.

It's not the worst job in the world; there are obviously ones worse than it. But it's not one to be envied or desired. It's work, it's exhausting, it's boring. It'll surely be disappointing. The testers I've met all say this same thing, and I'm repeating it because it's true.

That said, there are things you can do.

What do you want to do with games? Hone your skills. Do you want to do artwork (2D? 3D?)? Programming (what kind?)? General game design?  That last one is the hardest and most sought after, and don't expect to be able to just get it. It's usually a tough fight to get it and you often need to start in another position and work your way to it (and some companies simply don't even have that position, opting instead for more of a collaborative (cabal) method or something of that sort). I can't speak much for artwork, but there are programs you can do for it at schools and you can always draw stuff to put into a portfolio.

If programming sounds fine, though, but you don't know anything about it, read up on it. I know, it's hard; finding the motivation to read this stuff and learn from documents can be tough, as it's not everyone's style of learning, but it can certainly work. Books or online tutorials or whatever can be fine. Make little programs and use those skills to work on simple and then more complex games. Or, take a simpler approach and use Flash or GameMaker. It doesn't have to be fancy; you don't need to be Pixel, a one-man Juggernaut who can pump out a game that's fantastic and cohesive in every aspect. Just make some games. Have something to show. Show you can code, or show you have a grasp of gameplay or how to make something unique or artistic or whatever. You can simultaneously hone your skills and build up a portfolio this way, which can be a big help in the future if you go applying to companies for jobs. When you're good and ready, email companies and check their web sites; they have job openings like companies in any other industries and you can apply for those openings. Some company sites show openings online, so you can see the requirements and send them your resume for a particular slot. Companies like to see people with initiative and something to show. If this is stuff you're doing in your spare time and you've made some cool things, you'll be pretty ideal. Having something to show can certainly make up for a lack of real industry experience.

College is also helpful. There are a lot of options. Go for a computer science degree if coding seems interesting and use that knowledge to make cool things to show to companies. You'll gain a skillset that'll help you get a position at a company as well as make stuff that can go into a portfolio to impress potential employers. You could also go to colleges like DigiPen and get a more game-centric education, which game companies seem to like, from what I've heard. What's even better is that an education of that sort involves making games at school, so you can work on solo or group projects there that can go into a portfolio of game projects without having to do it in your spare time. Games made at the school can go far, and it's a good way to make connections for future projects.

And hell, if you can handle it, you can even start your own games company! Chris making Arcen Games is a fantastic example of that. :)

Really, though, I think it mainly comes down to this: make stuff. It doesn't matter really what it is or how you make it, just make things to show off. Do it to tell them that you want to do this and you're able to do it. Program stuff from scratch, make a flash game, mod a PC game, or hack an old console game. There are a lot of options that take different levels or different kinds of skills, and they can get you started and take you very far. If a community is involved, you can also make some good connections and lasting friendships (though be weary of scene drama, from which no good can come). I met Chris and some other really talented, fantastic people doing hobbyist game stuff a decade ago and I really value those relationships; the people have been both helpful and just plain awesome to interact with. Perhaps you'll luck out and meet some great people, too.

I hope this has been helpful. To do what you want, it'll take some work, but don't get discouraged; there's a lot to learn and it won't necessarily all be fun, but ideally it'll largely be pretty cool and you'll be able to make stuff you can be proud of. If you find yourself not enjoying this much at all, though, take that as a sign that maybe this career path isn't as much for you as you'd expected (though again, there are a lot of different aspects of it, so maybe another aspect of it is more for you). Make stuff and see how it turns out. Make an effort to show it off to companies and try for positions. Don't expect product testing to be anything more than a job you do for a little while for some money. I think your best 'foot in the door' is a nice portfolio and persistence.

I hope it works out for you. Good luck, and if you've more questions or whatever, ask away!
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Offline Spikey00

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2010, 02:36:40 PM »
Major thanks for your great reply, Fisk; it certainly helps to understand first-hand on how the industry works, and the information regarding QA.

I always have this procrastination sort-of-aura that emits from me, but I have been the type of person who oddly [at times], find interest with feedback and perhaps some minor mapping with RTS games.  While coding is not my interest as of yet, I have done some very minor digs into it; the most major experience was from a simple ALICE course in computer science 101 that I found myself do fairly well [but still procrastinate], where I created this sort of large city environment that wasn't significant to the course and had some crappy coding issues that I never really managed to fix (namely with a car that you "drive" and follow was somewhat FUBAR in changing camera angles).  There are always particulars that I do not quite understand how to solve (and mind you this is elementary compared to your experience), and therefore I fail at that.

I am still conflicted about whether or not I still want to QA--I usually trick myself into believing I am actually making a difference, but I do see your point that it can be a dead-end job that drags the mind along with it.

Well, with that, do you have any other advice?  Any helpful websites, books, software, and which language should I learn first (Java/C/etc.)?


Again, I offer my gratitude for your replies.  (;
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Offline x4000

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2010, 11:59:53 AM »
One thing to remember is that there are thousands and thousands of folks who want to make it as game designers or game programmers.  Most have no experience whatsoever, and just "a great idea" that usually isn't so great.  A lot of them also see game design as something that is easy and fun and casual, not a serious job.  That "aura of procrastination" is something that a lot of them have in common, and that's the sort of aura that prevents most of them from getting hired.

If you want to work in the industry, there are a hundred avenues you can take.  You can learn one of many languages (C#, Java, Python, ActionScript, or the industry-standard C++) or one of many game development toolkits (Torque, GameMaker, Unity etc) or one of many 3D engines (Unreal, etc ).

Ones that are most respected out of that list: C++ and Unreal.  Why?  Because they are the most hardcore, in some respects the most powerful, and in general require the most commitment.  I don't use C++ because I don't believe in the loss of productivity it embodies compared to something more streamlined like C#.  However, there's still a stigma that I have to overcome at times about why I make my choice, and why it's not a cop-out lazy choice.

Other things, like use of a game development toolkit at all, often come with an even bigger stigma.  Those are seen as hobbyist tools for people who want easy-ins and do non-serious work.  Of course, that's because the variety of games produced via those tools are hobbyist and nonserious.  Those folks who create something amazing with those tools do get more respect, but there is still something of a stigma from the hardcore purists.

Short answer: there's no easy in, anywhere.  People in the industry want to see you working insane hours, on your own time, for free, because you love it that much.  They want to see that you know your stuff backwards and forwards, and that you are constantly learning more rather than resting on your laurels.  Alternatively, they want to see that, whatever your methods, you've produced something noteworthy in the past.  Or, to some extent, gone to a noteworthy game development college program, but they want to see that you produced something notable there, too, with your team.

I'm not trying to scare you off, here, but I think that a lot of young game-players have starry-eyed notions about the industry at large that need to be dispelled, and which will be dispelled sooner or later.  In my view, this is not a very humane industry overall.  There is a reason that most developers burn out in their 30s, and that those in their 40s and 50s are "old" and a rarity.  The hours are long, the deadlines are everpresent and stressful, and you really have to love what you do with a passion -- and be excellent at it -- to have any sort of decision-making power.  I know some smart guys who work for AAA studios doing really mundane stuff, like menu design, as their sole and only purpose.  The game industry is a job, it's a hard job, and for many it is not a terribly fun job.

There are exceptions out there; if you can find just the right development shop, the experience can be very different.  Or if you are able to successfully launch your own indie studio, or get picked up by an existing indie studio, you'll be able to make a lot more direct contributions to the team.  In my opinion, aside from a few key developers in the AAA realm, indie is where it is good to be.  But even there, it's not rosy at all, you have to get really lucky and work insanely hard, too.  In my own case, I've been enormously successful as far as indies go, in the top 1% or more financially, but it's still not a given that I'll be in business in a year or two years.

The core problem as both an indie and as someone looking to enter the AAA industry is this: there is far more supply than demand.  You're going up against hobbyists who have dabbled and maybe thought a tad about game development, as well as lifelong diehards who have been doing something game-development-related their entire lives, as well as those folks caught in the middle who caught the bug late, but are super serious about it now.  If you're in the first group, you might as well not waste your time unless you're willing to join the ranks of that third group.

So, there is a path for you to the industry, but here's what it is:
- Lose any notions of procrastination, and find some aspect of game development that you are willing to work really, really hard on.
- Find some sort of day job -- QA tester is cool, if you can find that, or whatever else works -- while you perfect that aspect of game development that you are focusing on.
- Expect to spend a few years on the above, whether you choose art, programming, or design.  It takes at least a few years to become proficient at any of them, and you also have to have a certain amount of natural talent for whichever discipline you choose.  If you're very lucky or talented, you can shortcut that part some, but as a general rule people should not count on that.
- Meantime, keep sending out resumes/CVs to companies that you think might want to hire you, and make sure that if you get any interviews that your dedication is what shines through.

My own story goes basically like this:
- Loved games since I was a kid, started designing hobby levels on a regular basis when I was somewhere between 9 and 11.
- Designed levels for myself and friends to play throughout my teenage years, on a consistent and ongoing basis for a dozen games, and dabbled a bit in game programming with QBASIC.
- Went off to college intending to become a software developer for unrelated purposes (despite my love of creating video games, I never considered it a valid career because of the barriers to entry and the horror stories of working in a AAA studio).
- During my time at college, I fell in love with C#, and started programming my own games on the side, as well as making my own 2D game engine.
- 5 years after that, I finally started working on my own IP instead of just working on unreleased Mario clones, and started developing out Alden Ridge in earnest (this was 2008).
- Things were working well, but not perfectly, with that game.  It had some problems I knew I would have to fix, but was getting too burned out with the game to really tackle at that stage.
- Therefore, the other idea that was really exciting me at the time, AI War, instead took over my attention and I created that in about 7 months.
- Then you know the story from after it was released, and even that part of it has not been an easy road.  I didn't actually take any money for myself until December 2009, after having been working insane hours for a few years, and spending several thousand dollars of my own money, to get the company and the game launched.
- Now I'm in a position where I am more successful than the huge majority indies, but not nearly at that blockbuster status.  We have to keep making more games in order to survive, and they have to be popular on par with AI War or better (incidentally, this is the curse of the AAA studios, too, if they hope to stay in business).

The thing to notice about that story is that there were long, long stretches of time involved, and tons and tons of unpaid hours that I have still not recouped.  If you factor all of my time that I have spent on AI War, I probably have made less than minimum wage.  But, that's okay, because I love it.  But anyone looking for an easy in, or seeing the more glamorous aspects of game development without the more challenging sides of them, needs to be cautioned in order to avoid worse heartbreak later.  It's entirely possible that this is the industry for you, and you may have an easier or a harder time than I had it.  There's a lot of chance involved in the whole thing.  But it's important to know what you are getting into, and what will most impress any potential employers: dedication, self-motivation, and experience making good games (whether on a volunteer, professional, or hobbyist basis, it does not matter).  Those count more than education, but education can be a really good way to go.

Actually, there is one easy in that I know of: a 4-year degree from someplace like Digipen or Full Sail.  Compared to any other avenue into the industry, from what I can tell those are the easiest paths (and, in many respects, the shortest -- only four years!).  I guess that speaks volumes about this industry, when the "easy in" path takes four years.  It's a great industry in many respects, but it is not an easy one.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2010, 12:08:01 PM by x4000 »
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Offline Spikey00

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2010, 12:32:30 PM »
I really appreciate all your insight, Chris; it always offers me more a greater intelligence upon this type of industry--and, of course, on you.  I am still interested, but I still have questions with regards to actually learning the basics, and to advance from there--perhaps I will take uni/college courses later on when I have more information on the subject and on myself.  I suspect my procrastination results in a lack of direction; I may find my dedication during this venture.

I was also referred by someone to try out GameMaker--would this be a decent path to head on?  While I understand its drag-and-drop simplicity, does it really help in the long run (ie. does it translate)?  In general, is it easy to pick up, and can I actually use it to create the base of my knowledge?  Would this be the "best" software to hop into, or should I head straight off in learning Java/C/etc. in learning how to actually author scripting?

I am also curious to know if there are any helpful tutorial-type of repositories that stands out--whether they be books, sites online, or any software that I can start to study and such.  I have a few in mind, but I am wondering about your personal recommendations.  Anything that can be followed easily, with walkthroughs?


Thanks again for your time spent, and sorry for the lengthy delay in response (and lack thereof activity here)!
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Offline x4000

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2010, 12:56:08 PM »
I really appreciate all your insight, Chris; it always offers me more a greater intelligence upon this type of industry--and, of course, on you.  I am still interested, but I still have questions with regards to actually learning the basics, and to advance from there--perhaps I will take uni/college courses later on when I have more information on the subject and on myself.  I suspect my procrastination results in a lack of direction; I may find my dedication during this venture.

My pleasure -- and yes, I think procrastination does result from lack of direction.  By the way, I have a trick for dealing with my own procrastination (we all have some tendency to do that): make sure there is always something really large that I'm intimidated about doing, and then procrastinate on that by doing something else.  In other words, if learning to program intimidates you, learn to be a good game designer by working with Game Maker first, for example.  And then when you want to learn the programming part of it, that will be easier because you're not also trying to learn to be a game designer at the same time.

I was also referred by someone to try out GameMaker--would this be a decent path to head on?  While I understand its drag-and-drop simplicity, does it really help in the long run (ie. does it translate)?  In general, is it easy to pick up, and can I actually use it to create the base of my knowledge?  Would this be the "best" software to hop into, or should I head straight off in learning Java/C/etc. in learning how to actually author scripting?

Same thing as above, these are two totally different tasks.  Learning to be a good game designer and a good game programmer are kind of related, but not at all the same thing.  You'll design better games if you understand the architectural concerns of the programming.  What Game Maker can help you learn is how to be a good game designer -- in fact, working on mods, or levels, or similar, for many other games is how I got my own start.  I spent a few hundred hours as a kid working with levels for Demon Stalkers, and then later at least a hundred hours on making content for GraaL.  And I spent a significant chunk of time with making levels and content for other games, too: Duke Nuken 3D, Counter-Strike, Quake 2, Lode Runner: The Legend Returns, etc.  Oh, and another huge, huge, chunk of time making Warcraft II maps.  Oh yeah, and hundreds upon hundreds of hours with Unlimitd Adventures.  And quite a bit of time writing content to go with that "Northlands Epic" thing they did on AOL way back in the day.  I also programmed a couple of terrible games in QBASIC, but I learned a fair bit with those, too -- mostly what NOT to do.

By the time I started working with Game Maker, I'd already spent several thousand hours designing various content for various games, and had had commentary from a few hundred people on my work, so I had some ideas about what people liked and what people did not.  The reason I moved to Game Maker was that I wanted to make a Mario Clone that had stuff from many different Mario games all in one.  But I soon grew frustrated with the lack of options available to me there in those early versions of Game Maker, and since I was getting into programming more heavily, and thus jumped into C++ game development with both feet, hated it, and switched to C#, which I liked much better.  I spent about 6 months making my first Mario clone, based on DirectX7, and the architecture of it was pretty terrible, but I learned a lot and the game functioned.  So then I scrapped everything and redid the game from the ground up, and the game was much better the second time around.  But since I couldn't legally release a game like that, and since my main career was taking a lot of my time, I dropped that and never came back to it.

A few years later I came back, took what I'd learned, and built the first 70% of Alden Ridge in 8 arduous months.  Then I got stuck on that, not knowing where to proceed next with it, and instead worked on AI War for a "side project" in the interim.  7 arduous months later, using the engine from Alden Ridge as a base, and I had AI War 1.0.  And you know the rest.

Why tell you my story again, in a different level of depth?  Well, because I think it is instructive about my way of thinking about things.  I view design as the primarily important part of making games -- the part that is effed up the most, all over the place.  You can only learn to be a good designer by... designing.  A lot. A lot a lot a lot.  And it's helpful if whatever tools you are using to design let you do so quickly, and then make changes quickly.  And that you get honest feedback early and often from someone.  In other words, you don't wanting to be getting bogged down on concerns about art, sound, music, programming, any of that stuff at first.  You want to learn how to make good games that are fun, from a mechanics and level design perspective and so on.  And then once you have that down, then worry about programming.

Of course, that's not going to help you become a game developer at a AAA studio anytime soon, since they don't hire novice game designers.  So if you just want a programming gig, then I guess forget all of the above and just focus on programming.  But there you're getting into advice on something I've never done, so take that for what you will.

I am also curious to know if there are any helpful tutorial-type of repositories that stands out--whether they be books, sites online, or any software that I can start to study and such.  I have a few in mind, but I am wondering about your personal recommendations.  Anything that can be followed easily, with walkthroughs?

It is hard for me to make recommendations, as I don't really use resources like that anymore, and have not for a good 7 years or so.  The things I used are super out of date now.  Others may have more info.

Thanks again for your time spent, and sorry for the lengthy delay in response (and lack thereof activity here)!

My pleasure, and no worries on the delay.  Hope things have been going well with your schoolwork.
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Offline Spikey00

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2010, 11:00:07 PM »
I am always greatly appreciative that you have always had the effort to go beyond my expectations--and I believe I'll head off to see what I can do next.  Perhaps I'll search for a "Java/C/etc. for Idiots" type of follow-along, as I've thought perhaps a drag-and-drop isn't as effective as understanding the raw material.

Though while I still have a few questions (what language to start with, what software is best), I hopefully can have it started [so as to avert myself from bothering you too much]!  I don't expect to ever surpass your level of success, but perhaps I'll have synergy amongst my computer knowledge and travel over that first obstacle of learning.


I hope everything has been going well for both yourself [and family] and the community as usual; and school!?  Hah!  I still play games [like an idiot], though sometimes with homework behind the screen while running a defrag that has since been stopped-started since a couple months ago which has yet to finish.

Still interested in your upcoming puzzle game though, and as usual, I'm intrigued with how the coop/competitive will work!  There has yet to be enough games in the puzzle genre that actually involve more than a single player.  I hope you have a super-cheating AI that can utterly destroy any human player if there is such in your game!

Good luck~!
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Offline x4000

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2010, 11:15:33 PM »
Many thanks, Josh, and best of luck to you.  Things are well on my side, also.  Looking at my last post, the number of typos and typing-too-fast grammatical errors are atrocious, but I'm glad the information was of help!
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Offline XRsyst

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2010, 02:45:54 AM »
A bit of good advice, if you're looking to get into the programmer/tester route and you don't have experience but you have some skills, volunteer.  Find an open source project along the lines of what you would like to work on and submit enhancements/bugfixes/quality bug reports.  For example, a group I work for develops analytics software, we hired someone straight out of college over others because they had worked on an open source project similar to our product.  This gave them obvious advantages over the other candidates that I'll list:
* Prior experience in a similar field (domain knowledge)
* Experience with a production quality product (hopefully...)
* Experience programming for something that is industry standard-ish

Also, the best part of them getting this experience is no one really could tell them "no" for lack of prior experience (They can still say "no" if what you submit isn't of acceptable quality).  So in a way this solves the conundrum of "The only way to get experience is to have experience".

Hope this helps, luck!

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Re: How to Begin QA Testing?
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2010, 12:19:22 PM »
Thank you for the additional information, XRsyst; I previously didn't think of open source projects (I'll need some programming knowledge for that, though).
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