What can programmers learn from software testers
From humanities to software testing
Kristofer Mohr and Matthias Passer are career changers at MaibornWolff. Both have completed a degree in humanities, and both started in 2017 in software testing every five months. In the interview, the two tell how they ended up at MaibornWolff and how they mastered the entry into IT.
You are a career changer in software testing. What did you study originally? What titles do you have on your business cards?
Kristofer: I did my Masters in Medieval History with Latin Philology and Ancient History as a minor at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. After graduating, I looked around the humanities job market for a while and worked on museum projects, among other things. But I wasn't really satisfied with the job prospects.
Matthias: I studied historical and comparative linguistics in Salzburg. After that, I also spent a few years in project work and did my doctorate in Amsterdam. During my doctorate, I decided not to pursue linguistics any further. In this area, only a university career is actually possible and that is associated with many restrictions.
How did you find out about MaibornWolff?
Matthias: I thought that I couldn't avoid a second apprenticeship and actually wanted to start a dual course of study. In Hesse, only IT was an option for me. I contacted the Rhein-Main Wiesbaden University of Applied Sciences and phoned the secretary from the computer science department. She gave me the tip with MaibornWolff. She said that you look forward to exciting résumés.
I then wrote an email to Simon Eisenried, Head of Talent Acquisition at MaibornWolff, and expressed my interest. So that he can get an idea of me, he asked me for a short résumé with a letter of motivation.
Did you apply for a specific position?
Matthias: I applied as a dual student. The whole IT field was new to me, so I didn't have any preferences in any particular area. Testing sounded exciting because as a career changer you can quickly get started with technology - that was a matter of concern to me.
How was it with you, Kristofer?
Kristofer: I told a friend that I was considering studying computer science for the same reasons as Matthias. She works at MaibornWolff and has said a lot of good things. She invited me to just get to know the company.
I liked the atmosphere so much that we spontaneously stopped by the talent acquisition office during my visit. I then talked to Simon Eisenried for half an hour. At the end of our conversation, he said that I should be happy to send him an unsolicited application. Two months later I had a meeting with Marcel Gehlen and Ulf Richter. They offered me the opportunity to do an internship at MaibornWolff for two months in order to get to know each other better.
How did your introductory meeting go?
Kristofer: Above all, Marcel and Ulf wanted to know how I ensured the quality of my master's thesis. It was interesting for them how I approach problems, how I analyze and minimize risks. With this in mind, I also tried a testing challenge in which you should find as many useful test cases as possible for a text field - the first name field on the registration mask for a website.
Matthias: I spoke very intensively about project work with my interlocutors Francesco La Torre and Richard Gross. For example, we compared the working mode in the private sector and in scientific project work. Instead of a job as a dual student, Francesco offered me a permanent position and suggested that I do a two-month trial internship. He also gave me the phone number of Jutta, who has a similar professional background as me. She was able to relieve me of many worries.
Kristofer: I found it very pleasant that it was communicated directly what I had in mind during the internship. The internship should help me, as a career changer, to get to know the IT environment and find out whether it is right for me at all. It was not intended as a second class entry.
Was there a formal interview after your internship?
Matthias: Yes. After the two months I had an official, albeit shortened, job interview.
Kristofer: Because a tester was urgently needed in a project, I shortened my internship by two weeks. After the end of the internship, I created a LUXX personality profile. I evaluated this together with Holger Wolff. But there was no longer any extra discussion with the department.
Did you work on projects during your internship?
Matthias: I only got involved in a project after my permanent position and learned all kinds of things about software development and testing from books and online courses in particular. At the time, there were two testers in Frankfurt who spent most of the week working on projects and could only support me on the side. For me it wasn't that bad. That was pretty much in line with my university rhythm, where I also worked a lot independently.
Kristofer: It was completely different for me - on the one hand, probably because of the experience I had already gained with lateral entrants at the time, and on the other, because there are more testers in Munich. During my internship, Florian Pilz - also a career changer - looked after me as a mentor in technical issues. In the beginning we met at least once a day for two hours. We also created a common Trello board.
On the very first day I started working on a project and testing internal tools. When I met Florian, I usually got an introduction to new topics and suggestions on where I can find more information. I read relatively little in books, but was referred to blog entries by Florian.
The rest of the time I was able to actively apply what I read. The focus was on session-based testing. I also took part in two test training courses. When the external project emerged, I was there for the opportunity to get to know the project and the people before my official start.
How did you approach the topic of software testing?
Matthias: I started a basic Java programming course before starting work. My biggest goal for the internship was to understand code and be able to program it myself.
In addition to the programming exercises, I spent a lot of time reading. This included books on agile methods, different languages and the like - actually everything that has to do with software development. I also prepared for my ISTQB certificate (Certificate of the International Software Testing Qualifications Board), the standard exam in testing. I took the exam when I started my permanent position.
Kristofer: I had my first contact with ISTQB when I was preparing for the introductory interview. I acquired the certificate at the same time as my first external project in December. This year I also did my Scrum Master.
Matthias: Around the same time as the first project assignment, I often met remotely with a colleague who is also a career changer and originally comes from HR. She brought me closer to session-based management and looked after me.
Then project after project followed and I was on the road a lot. For me as a tester, of course, different projects always mean different requirements. That's why I read a lot, but - like Kristofer - stuck to blogs and the community rather than books. In addition, I was certified as a Scrum Master relatively quickly after my takeover.
What do you think: What requirements are important for a lateral entry into IT?
Kristofer: I think the most important requirement is to have fun learning and to be open to new things. As a career changer, you actually spend the whole day learning new things and making new experiences - at least at the beginning. You have to be able to leave the old behind to a certain extent.
You should also have a certain basic affinity for mathematics, science and of course computers. I know some humanities scholars who really don't have that. Somebody like that probably has a hard time in IT.
Matthias: In addition to a very high level of commitment and willingness to learn and the ability to organize myself, there were two main points for me that were indispensable for my lateral entry: the willingness to jump into the deep end and to speak to colleagues for help and support even with smaller questions and problems .
With every new task that I faced after my first day at MaibornWolff, I had to do things that were new to me and that were often outside my comfort zone. Of course, it often took a bit of effort to face it. But I've always learned from it. And in retrospect, it was always fun to see how you grow with such challenges.
I also often see that people don't want to or can't admit if they don't know or understand something. As a career changer, one can feel small and ignorant among many, often younger, experts. That may be true to a certain extent, but it won't change if you don't get over it and approach those who can help you. I always met with understanding and accommodating my questions and can warmly recommend this approach to everyone.
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