Volunteering – a good way to learn Testing

I often get asked by people new to Software Testing what the best approach to learning more about Testing is.

Is it certification, books, blogs or other courses? These are the usual categories that get listed.


I very rarely hear people ask whether “practice” is a good approach to learning. I think this stems from many people thinking that “practice” and “work” are the same thing. That one cannot exist without the other.


How can I get experience in Testing unless I have a job Testing?


I think this view is out-dated. I practice my testing outside of work. I practice my testing inside of work. If you want to get good at something..practice.


Over the last year I’ve been working with a great organisation who are building wonderful technology, mainly aimed at people without access to the basic infrastructure that many people take for granted. It’s got a great user base and is making a positive change to many people’s lives.


Over the last year I have been trying to organise some Testing for this organisation. The group of Testers I’d gathered are great; a mixture of domain experience, general testing experience and a few new to the scene.


Last week it all came together and hopefully this year we’ll starting adding a load of value for our client. And all of this is free, outside of work and purely voluntary.


My stock response for the last few years to the question “How can I learn more about Testing?” has been “Volunteer your time”.


There are so many organisations out there building software that *could* benefit from your enthusiasm and skills.

You’ll potentially learn loads about testing, working with people, time management, commitments, decision making, technology, reporting/articulating your testing and how to work within constraints.


It’s all great for your CV.

So how to do it?

  • Find an organisation that you feel some synergy towards.
  • Get in touch with them and volunteer your time and energy.
  • Be sure to set expectations about levels of testing, time and experience you are offering.
  • If you need a more experienced person to help you get it started then head to The Software Testing Club and ask for help, or drop me a line.
  • Persevere – communication can often be tough, expectations may need aligning and relationships will need to be built.
  • Commit and deliver on your promise.
  • Ask for help in the community if you get stuck or you realise there is too much work for you.
  • Document and audit your learning. (any good interviewer will ask you about your experience)

There are so many organisations, open source projects, charities and not for profits that would benefit from some volunteer help….so what are you waiting for?

Image courtesy of wblj – http://www.flickr.com/photos/imageclectic/

4 thoughts on “Volunteering – a good way to learn Testing

  1. Great idea. I tell people the same thing about learning leadership at Toastmasters. People will take a chance on you if you work for free. Dave

  2. Hi Dave,Toastmasters is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do but not found the time. Maybe I’ll add it as a goal for next year.It’s the same thing with anything really. Volunteer for something that’s outside your comfort zone, will challenge you mentally (and/or physically) and give you a set of skills you could see using in Testing. Toastmaster, volunteer police/fire/medical, charity work, organising meetups, running community projects, local council initiative, etc etc. I believe that the more people we have offering this same advice then the stronger our community *may* become 🙂 You think that too?Rob..

  3. Definitely agree. As the chair of the Mission Ministry, I try to convince people to get involved at my church through projects like Interfaith Shelter (temporary homeless shelter held at our church) and Angel Tree (providing gifts to kids of inmates). And it doesn’t have to be religious-based. In fact, most are not.Dave

  4. Hi Rob,

    I am an Administrator with progressive experience in UAT testing. My role involves a bit of confirmation/UAT testing. I am pursuing ISTQB foundation level and I want to get practical knowledge of Automation/Agile testing.

    I have been involved in my Company’s projects for Testing but I need something consistent to help me understand the theory part better. I am not certified currently and I don’t have enough experience so getting a tester job is not a possibility. I would like to join the Software Testing club for gaining more experience.

    Please help.



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