Madi spent a few years trying different career paths, but didn’t get really excited about anything until she discovered Software QA. She considered teaching herself, but decided to enroll in DevMountain’s Software QA bootcamp in Utah to learn more, get experience, and build a portfolio. Madi tells us about working on projects with members of her diverse cohort, learning from DevMountain instructors who had real industry experience, and how a chance meeting on a bus led to her new job as a QA Engineer at Young Living Essential Oils!
What were you up to before DevMountain?
I attended a traditional four-year college for music education for one year because I loved it, but I knew that wasn’t my ultimate career goal. I decided to go on a long-term mission trip with my church, and when I returned got a job as a medical receptionist. I absolutely loved the dynamic nature of that job in talking with people every day and working on the computer.
But I had a feeling there was more for me, so I spent the next year and a half figuring out what was next. I applied to a bunch of different jobs and tried different schools. My husband is a software developer so I had an idea of what the software world looked like, and while QA sounded cool, I didn’t think I had the skills to go for a job. I knew DevMountain offered coding bootcamps but their Software QA bootcamp got me really excited. They taught both manual and automated testing, which I knew would make me more marketable. They also don’t just teach you the material; they help you get a job by helping you build your resume and LinkedIn profile, practice interviewing, and offer networking events - all of that together just sounded like a great way to get into the industry.
Did you consider a different route to QA than a bootcamp? Perhaps teaching yourself or going to a university?
I considered teaching myself, but I figured it would be faster to go through DevMountain. I knew I would commit to it more if it was full-time and immersive, rather than doing a few hours here and there at home. I love learning in-person and wanted to be able to ask an instructor questions, especially with learning coding and test automation. I didn’t really consider a college degree – I knew there wasn’t a direct path to a QA career from a university, so this seemed like a simpler and more direct path.
What was DevMountain’s application and interview process?
There was a 30-minute phone interview with one of the admissions representatives which allowed me to ask questions and gave them an idea of my background and my interest level. Then I had to complete a practical challenge, which was pretty simple and not intimidating, and we could use any resources we needed (I asked my husband a few questions!). It was a basic web application to test with a pre-made Excel spreadsheet to log what we found.
After being accepted, I applied for a loan through Climb, one of DevMountain’s financial partners. They helped me finance my bootcamp and have been really great to work with – I’d definitely recommend them.
Who were the other students in your cohort?
DevMountain had just started an online option so we were a small cohort of only 6 people. We were three women and three men. Two of us were from Utah, two were from India, one was from Philadelphia, and one was from Russia. Our backgrounds were diverse as well. One person had interned as a software tester before, another was a developer in other languages, and the rest of us had very little or no experience.
What tools and technologies did you learn in the software QA curriculum?
The main structure of the course was based on preparing for a certification through the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB). The curriculum covered a lot of terminologies and testing methodology, and it was designed to help us qualify for the certification exam at the end of the course, which DevMountain paid for.
The tools and technology we used:
- Jira, the development tracking tool. We moved cards through the workflow, ensured we had traceability with our test cases, and learned how to write test plans and test cases.
- We used an API testing software called Postman.
What was the bootcamp instruction format?
It was super awesome. The first half of the day was lecture time with powerpoint presentations, discussions, and breakout partner activities to answer questions or do a small challenge. The second half of the day we worked on projects based on the day’s lecture. The final two weeks of the course we were completely focused on projects. We had a week-long group project where we worked with a partner or a group to test a chosen website or app. We spent the project time planning out test cases and approach, documenting, and then running the test cases and testing throughout. The final week was a solo project for which we found an app to test by ourselves.
What was your favorite project during the QA bootcamp?
I think it was the group project where we worked on Yoodlize, an actual website being developed by a friend of our instructor. We got to test the alpha version and report bugs that went to a developer to work on throughout the week. It was really exciting to get into a real-world project.
What types of career preparation and job assistance did DevMountain provide?
DevMountain has a designated career counselor who comes into class once or twice a week to talk about what makes a good resume and a good LinkedIn profile in this industry. They coached us through specific principles and then we would build out our own profiles and get them checked off at the end of every week so they were up to date.
At the end of the course, DevMountain staff helped us with interview prep questions in a large group setting. The career counselor randomly picked a person, asked them an interview question on the spot, and then would then coach us through what would be a more ideal answer, or perhaps what the interviewer might be trying to understand through the question. We also did one-on-one interview practice with our instructors – nothing too formal, but a great chance to answer questions and brainstorm our interview responses. It was super helpful for me.
Congrats on finding a job as a QA Engineer at Young Living! How did you find it?
It was a bit of a crazy story that came down to good networking and a little bit of providence! I attended a QA meetup in the area where a bunch of us get together and do some workshops lead by senior QA professionals, and I met the Head of QA Automation from Young Living. I knew it was a great company, so I introduced myself and told him I was definitely interested in applying once I was done with my bootcamp.
A separate time, I was riding the bus on my way home from DevMountain and I overheard a guy talking about QA with someone else so I decided to jump into the conversation! He was also a QA Engineer at Young Living! He told me they had an opening and we discussed what they were looking for in a candidate, but I was still several weeks away from finishing the bootcamp. When I graduated, I sent him my LinkedIn profile and inquired about the open position. I filled out the application and reached out to the Head of QA I had met at the meetup to let him know I had applied. They got together, brought me in for an interview, and I was hired just over two weeks after finishing DevMountain!
What is Young Living and how does your role in Software QA fit into the company?
Young Living’s goal is to get essential oils into every home in the world. I’m on the New Market Team – we’re responsible for opening up new markets in new countries. The other teams work on new and existing website functionalities for existing markets, but the New Market Team works on configuring what we have according to the specifications of each new country market that we enter. It’s very exciting and fast-paced because we have the goal to open five new markets each year for the next five years.
I’m one of a few QA Engineers on the team and we make sure everyone knows what needs to happen so that the software is testable. I coordinate with the developers and product owners to make sure I understand the software requirements, then I test it manually and record what I find. I’ve recorded quite a few bugs already. (I took this part out because it’s basically a no-brainer explanation of everything I do as a QA Engineer.) We have really tight deadlines but I’m working with some great people who are helping me write better test cases and improve my skills as a tester.
Are you using the same technologies you used at DevMountain or have you learned new platforms?
How have your first several weeks been as a QA Engineer?
The first two weeks were an onboarding process and there was a bit of a team reorganization at the same time. That gave me a great opportunity to familiarize myself with a lot of the softwares and continue learning SQL. Since joining the New Market Team, I’ve been sitting next to the guy I met on the bus and he’s been mentoring and training me along the way and answering my questions. I’ve already been really surprised at my level of independence in the first six weeks of working. There’s still tons to learn, but I’m learning to answer questions myself, I’m finding I can hold my own in meetings, and I’m contributing value in our team coordinations, so that’s all been very exciting.
I have learned that being able to talk to a number of different people is really important as a QA Engineer. I’ve also found that my interpersonal skills from my previous roles have been helpful. In QA, it’s very important to be able to communicate well – we even covered that in DevMountain. You need to know how to kindly communicate to a developer about a bug they created in their code that needs to be fixed. I developed those skills in my previous roles and enhanced them in DevMountain.
Do you think a bootcamp was necessary or do you think you could have taught yourself the concepts?
Honestly, I don’t think I would have been this employable if I had learned on my own. DevMountain helped me learn methodologies and development cycles. I probably could have learned those on my own, but I learned it in a more real way from an instructor who had been a QA engineer and had real-world experience. He could tell us about the day-to-day struggles of the job. I think the combination of everything in DevMountain’s curriculum were things I wouldn’t have known to have put together without a lot more time investment.
DevMountain has been a very supportive community. I’ve stayed in touch with a career counselor and a student success counselor who follow each student’s journey through DevMountain. They regularly follow up to see how I’m doing and offered their congratulations when I landed a job.
What has been your biggest challenge in becoming a QA Engineer?
My biggest challenge has probably been “imposter syndrome” – I think to myself “who am I to call myself a QA Engineer after a six-week course, and then apply to companies that will pay me a higher salary than anything I’ve had before?” And yet, I now know what I need to be a QA Engineer and, relative to my non-QA team members, I’m an expert at testing software. I’m still working on it and I still want to make sure I know what I’m talking about before I contribute to discussions, but that’s something they also addressed at DevMountain. They told us, “you are the expert at this part of the process.”
What advice do you have for others who are considering a bootcamp like DevMountain to make a career change?
It’s so worth it and I absolutely love QA. I thought it was interesting before I started but I have discovered that I am deeply passionate about this. DevMountain was such a small investment relative to what I learned in such a short time and what I’m able to make now. I’ll be able to pay back my loan in a couple of months.
Bootcamps are so totally worth it. They require hard work and you’ll want continue investing time to keep up your skills afterwards, but I think bootcamps are invaluable. People think they can just test software but I came out of DevMountain with technology experience and a portfolio from working on real projects that I could not have gained otherwise. I feel like I’m thriving right now. I’m super grateful for the time at DevMountain and the push to get where I am now. I can’t say enough about how much they did for me and how much broader a scope of opportunities they offered me.