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The Dark Side of Being a Test Automation Engineer

Five worst feelings I've faced by being a test automation engineer

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Sérgio Martins
·May 13, 2022·

4 min read

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The Dark Side of Being a Test Automation Engineer

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

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Fun fact, I started my career as a test automation engineer by accident.

And holy moly, to be honest, I wasn't too fond of it.

Not like I hated what I did, not that, but I hated that it felt that everyone around me thought that my craft was expendable.

And who loves to feel that we're going on a path to have an expendable, a.k.a. useless job? —right, no one.

Unfortunately, I'm aware that I'm not the only one that felt like this at a given moment in time, and even worse, this is still a reality in a large and undesired amount of organizations.

5 Feelings You've Probably Faced as a Test Automation Engineer

NOTE: Read these with a slight touch of sarcasm and not as the plain and brutal truth that we live in —although it might be for some.

Blame Magnet

If you're familiar with the expression of being a "chick magnet" you certainly understand what we're talking about here.

As a Test Automation Engineer, part of your job is to implement automated mechanisms to ensure that your product’s features are working as required, which no one cares about because it’s your job. Still, on the other hand, everyone will blame you otherwise.

100% of the time, if there’s an issue found in production, you’re the one to blame. Because you haven’t tested it enough, your automation testing isn’t good enough, or simply because you’re not capable of ensuring the quality of the whole product. And the list goes on.

Loneliness

If your job is to cover what everyone else on the team has worked on, there’s no need to be informed beforehand of product decisions that impact the whole product or change the core features’ behavior. You’ll know them when they’re deployed.

Being left aside on meetings, product decisions, and implementation discussions is also part of a tester’s day.

Clark Kent’s Underrated Level

Those who have no idea who Clark Kent is are somewhat of an awkward journalist with a nice pair of glasses. However, when he takes them off, he becomes known as Superman.

Sadly, if you’re a tester, you will be the Clark Kent of your team. Whether you keep your glasses on or you don’t, you’re perceived as someone that’s simply there to automate a bunch of repetitive steps that would otherwise be done manually. And on top of that, because the tests you automated keep failing, you’re the reason that your team is slowing down the development pace.

Metaphorically, you’re a dispensable Clark Kent type of tester that’s there because the industry requires so. And, even if you take your glasses off, you’ll be seen as a disruptive and unwelcoming opposing force because “We’ve always done this way, and we’re not going to change it”.

“Thank you for the millions of dollars. Here’s your minimal wage compensation”

Discovering new features for your product will earn you tons of money, and implementing those will also get you to make a fair amount of money. However, enabling an organization to reach millions a year will not — how come?

You’ll spend most days of your life ensuring that every feature is working as expected to allow your organization to capitalize on its products continuously. Yet as a test automation engineer, you are paid way less than a developer or product owner on average.

Career Growth Easily Capped

Junior and mid-level positions are often in demand. However, as you reach a more seasoned and senior position, you’ll quickly find out that it doesn’t truly matter. You’re as replaceable as you were when you first came into the company.

Companies love managers, and if you’re not one (e.g., a test manager), you’re just a cog in the wheel that’s, again, replaceable. Therefore, you’ve to be promoted to a management position as soon as possible. Make it your life goal. You’ll probably live unfulfilled, but that doesn’t matter because your career path will only know one way — up.

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, every career path has its ups (check out The Bright Side of Being a Test Automation Engineer) and downs, and not every organization — thankfully — will make you feel the Clark Kent of the team. Still, if you’re sharing some of the feelings I described above, there’s a big chance you’re currently in the wrong place.

Friendly advice, don’t panic. Firstly, try to figure out if there’s something you can do that can change the situation you’re in, and for that, you can start by asking for honest and truthful feedback from your closest peers — if you have none, make your conclusions. Secondly, move on. There’s a world full of opportunities and organizations that will value your sweat and tears.

Just remember that opportunities don’t simply show up at your door. Create your opportunities by being the best version of yourself — work hard, stay humble.

Even then, I’m passionate about being a test automation engineer.

© Sérgio Martins

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