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Despite your day-to-day workload, here’s how to create learning opportunities through micro-learning, leveraging your work environment and other flexible options.

Lifelong learning sounds painful. Whether you’re just entering the workforce or have been working professionally for a long time, the prospect of constant learning can be daunting. Many organizations operate on tight budgets, which means each employee is responsible for a greater amount of work. When you’re overwhelmed with work responsibilities, the last thing you want to do is learn something new.

Lifelong learning is more than simply learning new job tasks to advance your career.

Lifelong learning is also an opportunity to make working more enjoyable, engaging and fulfilling. Most people work a significant number of hours each day, so making sure your work is interesting, enjoyable and fresh is important to both job and life satisfaction.

The problem is fitting it into an already packed schedule. How can a busy software tester find time for lifelong learning?

This guide describes how to create learning opportunities through micro-learning, leveraging your work environment and other flexible options.

What Does Lifelong Learning Have to Do with Testing?

Lifelong learning and software testing are linked in an eternal spiral. How so? Software testing is constantly evolving. Consider the number of software development methodologies, testing techniques and applications under test. For software testers, what and how you test is continuously changing.

Modern software testers need to understand how testing has been done and keep up with what is changing. For example, two decades ago the first forms of test automation tools came into our software testing lives. Some worked well, but most ended up being more work than they were worth, so the ROI was low. However, test automation tools have changed.

Codeless test automation tools like Progress Telerik Test Studio that leverage AI and ML technology create more positive business value. Testers of all levels can learn to develop test automation on the job. The same holds true for learning skills in product or project management, database management or coding. There’s always a use for learning new skills, whether they advance your career or simply make work more engaging.

What is Micro-Learning?

Micro-learning is education or training taken over short periods of time. For example, automated testing tutorials or short API testing training podcasts or videos. There’s no time like the present for easily accessing education for practical and technical software testing skills. With nothing more than an internet connection, testers can access videos, tutorials, blog posts or even short skill training sessions on a variety of platforms.

Micro-learning when you’re busy easily fits into short down periods, walks or exercise time. Instead of only listening to music, try a day or two listening to a podcast or other audio skill presentation. Micro-learning can also be done within groups. Many software testing teams hold weekly or monthly lunch-and-learns to present training. There are several advantages to group learning including support for questions and assistance with details that aren’t immediately clear.

If during the day never works out due to your work schedule, consider attending a monthly meeting. There are online and in-person events held frequently by professional QA testing groups. You can also find online educational sessions presented by software testing groups on LinkedIn. The easiest way to find groups is by searching for related groups by specialty (software testing) to follow. If you’re looking to use your software testing experience to move into product management or another area, there are plenty of opportunities.

If group meetings don’t work for you, then there are always blogs on software testing and other topics. Blog postings and industry newsletters published by professional testing associations or groups provide valuable tips. Tips may seem small, but they can frequently lead you to more valuable and detailed information.

Why Volunteer for New Opportunities?

Raise your hand and volunteer for new projects. Volunteering for stretch opportunities enables learning on the job. Volunteering for new projects like automated test development using a new tool, or a new type like codeless test automation. Learning it first means you’ll not only learn to do it, but you’ll also cement your knowledge by teaching and training your peers.

Companies invest more in QA testing and training when testers volunteer. You can be the one to implement it and move yourself and the test team into the future. Learn it now and you’ll be the one in the know for all things test automation.

Interested in project management? Volunteer to lead the next new project when a new opportunity is offered. Don’t let fear hold you back. Sometimes volunteering is best done by pushing yourself off the cliff and not letting fear keep you from learning new things. Jump in and learn! The ROI not only helps the organization but it builds your skills and knowledge from the ground up.

What if your organization doesn’t offer new opportunities to stretch your skills? Consider finding a mentor in the area you’re working toward. So, if your goal is to be a testing technical expert or a developer, find a mentor to learn from. Mentors are a great way to get access to learning opportunities. Ask around. If you can’t find a mentor within your organization, check your network, LinkedIn or within related groups. Industry or professional conferences are a great way to find industry leaders and possibly a mentor to help guide you.

Another option is signing up for short-term project work as a freelancer. Keep in mind you’ll want to make sure you don’t overcommit. Side or freelance projects help you develop skills and discover new interests, career goals or additional opportunities. Freelancing is a great way to explore other interests without risking your main source of income.

Leveraging Your Work Environment for Learning

Opportunities often exist within your current work environment but may be harder to find. Consider meeting with company leaders in your area of interest. Offer to take on new tasks as time allows outside your job description. There’s nothing worse than doing the same thing day after day, year after year, and becoming stuck or stagnant. By finding new opportunities to learn within your organization, you increase your skills and stay engaged with your work.

The advantage of learning by solving problems or working outside your job description is you find a new perspective. Solutions provided by outsiders are common because of a new perspective. Sometimes simply expanding your skills can make you a more valuable business asset. As software testers, consider offering to work on product management tasks, technical documentation or even development, depending on your interests.

For example, a popular method of moving from software testing to development is through test automation. By investing in learning how to develop and code automated tests, you’re not only helping the testing team but you are gaining coding experience. Knowledge of automated testing and tools can also lead to becoming a technical test lead or a similar role.

What Other Flexible Educational Options Exist?

Read! Yes, reading books is still a viable path to lifelong learning. There are plenty of software testing, management and coding books available. Keep the cost reasonable by checking for books at a local library instead of purchasing them individually. Want your own book? Then consider looking into thrift retailers and buy at reduced costs.

You can also take traditional college or adult education courses in a massive number of subjects from local community colleges or universities. Optionally, consider online courses as well. Many online courses can be taken on your schedule. No need to apply, sign contracts or pay high fees.

Check out the following online options:

If you’re a software tester, you may be already trying to squeeze more work into a day than is reasonably possible. Software testing is not for those who don’t want to work hard day in and day out. When not actively testing on a project, testers are reviewing technical information, developing test cases or training coworkers.

Keeping your software testing skills up to date and current is important to your organization and your personal career. There are internal and external opportunities all around you for lifelong learning. Take advantage of opportunities to volunteer for new projects or tasks. Take courses, listen to podcasts, watch videos or find other tutorials. Learning doesn’t have to be complicated. Lifelong learning is a skill in itself. Take advantage of all your opportunities to learn and get more out of your work life.

About the Author

Amy Reichert

A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management.  She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.


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