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How do I transition from QA into SWE?

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Software Test Engineer at Series B Startup2 years ago

Right now, I'm on the test side in my company, writing some automated tests but doing a lot of manual tests as well. I would like to transition to software engineering, but I'm not entirely clear on my path there. There has been precedent of making that transition within my company, but I don't have any hard commitments there on allowing me to do the same. Any advice on how I can plan out this switch?



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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    This is a transition I've seen a lot of folks make. It will take a good amount of work, but it's definitely doable, especially if you have the proper high-level ideas. Here are my thoughts:

    • It's way easier switching within your company - Convincing a new company to let you in for a different area is a tough sell - They already know that you'll be less productive during onboarding, and if you have to onboard into a completely different field, you will be even slower. This is why doing this move internally is far easier - You also have all the context and relationships from your current job to help "grease the wheels" here.
    • Clarify expectations on what's required for a transition - It's great that someone else in the company has already done it; this should mean that you can replicate that. I would work with your manager and whatever other relevant stakeholders to figure out a plan for you to make the same switch. The end goal is to have something in writing that clearly states the requirements necessary to make the move, similar to creating an expectations plan for performance review. Some questions to answer here:
      • What expectations do you need to continue meeting on the QA side?
      • What sort of team would you be joining as a SWE, and how can you prepare for it?
      • What SWE signal can you show to prove that you're capable of handling a formal SWE role? Is it injecting more coding work into the QA job? Building some internal tool? Or something even more high-level like "Land 20 commits in Python"?
    • Find as many coding opportunities as you can - This is something a colleague of mine at PayPal did very well as she made the transition from QA to SWE. Wherever there's manual work, there is opportunity for automation (i.e. coding something). In my colleague's case, I remember she wrote a Python script to greatly expedite some manual data entry - I would look for similar opportunities there. Generally these problems manifest as scripts - Python is good for this, Bash shell as well.
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