FAQs to How I Became An Automation Engineer (talk)



I’ve given the talk on How I Became an Automation Engineer a few times. Each time I’ve gotten good feedback and a lot of questions from engaged participants. With each repeated question, I try to update my talk to address those points for future audiences. However often I do this some repeated questions still arise. I’ve taken this challenge as both an excuse to write out my answers and try out a FAQ schema block!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the FAQs for my talk How I Became an Automation Engineer.
How do you decide the scripting or programming language to use in your testing? Do you typically use the same language the app is built in?

My recommendation is to use a programming language that your company supports. By this I mean a language that someone within your company uses and can provide feedback on your code through code reviews. This may or may not be the language the application is built in. Most companies use several languages. You might build your tools in JavaScript while the application is built in Java.

Ultimately your goal is to tackle the task at hand. Use the tools and languages that make sense.

Is (insert name of your current tool) sufficient enough to perform all types of automation testing?

No, probably not. Hopefully you work for an organization that wants to use the right tool for the right job.

Part of the process for learning about tools is we figure out what they are and aren’t good for. No one tool is good for all jobs. The same goes for the person using the tool. If you only know one tool you’ll try to use it for every problem. The more tools we learn, the more likely we will use the right tool for the right job. This also makes us more valuable in the market for new jobs.

What are your thoughts on using frameworks with record features to start learning automation?

It depends on your needs and your skills.

In the past, Record and Playback features were sold as Snake Oil. They’d fix all your problems. But they usually were much good beyond proof of concepts.

Today, more and more services are cropping up with codeless / record and playback capabilities. If these meet the needs of your project and/or company, then use them. One challenge for the individuals learning and using these these tools is they might not benefit your (market) value in the long term.

Sometimes the team or project doesn’t support automation either for budget or time concerns. How do you tackle that?

Test Automation is there to provide feedback, but it costs money and takes time to build and maintain. So if you are on a short term project then it might not be worth the time an effort to do certain kinds of test automation.

What kinds make sense? Well it depends on the project. It might be worth it to do unit tests but not much else. Or it might be worth it to build some one-off probabilistic automated tests to help you discover problems because it doesn’t have to be maintained. Remember the point of automation is to reduce our time or extend our capabilities but all that must be done within the context of your project.

Do you recommend learning to test and automate at the API level? Is Postman adequate for this?

Yes! In general I recommend automating tests at the unit level first, then at the service or API level and lastly at the UI level. Learning to explore APIs is a big part of this and eventually once you explore them, you can create automated tests.

Postman is a good tool for exploring APIs (there are probably others). It might also make sense for you to write some automated tests in Postman but that really depends on your goals and/or if there are better places to do it. This depends on your overall strategy.

According to your last slide, the future of the Automation Engineer role is uncertain. Do you think it’s better to move to the developer role or there is still hope that automation roles will be still exist?

We know that in high performing teams developers own the automated tests and testers are allowed to explore for risks. So there’s a high probability in companies looking to build high performing teams that Automation Engineering roles will disappear or not exist. There’s also a high probability of developer roles being needed in the future. We just don’t know when any of this will occur. If you are going to move, it makes sense to survey the landscape and see what the options are, see what your skill levels are and be practical.

What is the name of the book about you recommend / quote about high performing teams handling test automation?

Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim. Buy it!

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