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Being a Professional Tester in the Dark Continent

The term  “The Dark continent” was coined  by the European colonisers around 1800s because of the mysteries and the savagery they expected to find in  Africa according to the article written by Angela Thompsell(click here).  After such a long time one would have thought that this perception has slowly eroded through centuries but that seems not to be the case. The Narrative still portrayed in movies about  Africa is of its  nature , wild life , refugees and famine ravaging some parts of the continent.This topic delves deeper into unpacking the challenges and opportunities available for individuals embarking on a testing journey in Africa.

There are many avenues one can explore on their journey to becoming a professional tester in Africa since most part of African countries are developing and realising the potential Growth those countries have to offer. Test professionals are incubated via formal training , self-study or practical experience. After graduation one can enrol on an internship programme( if they are lucky) and learn the craft from one of prestigious testing companies  in the country. I am referring companies that have testing as one of their core business . The minor setback with this vehicle is that you might be exploited by the very same company  until you seek employment elsewhere.Lets face it,  the company would rather replace you with someone who is more desperate than you instead of giving you that 5% increase you need.

One would have thought that self-study should be cost effective although would take longer but that’s not the case. To embark on self-study you have to look for trends pertaining to skills and tools that are in demand in the market. Its very hard to get point of reference when it comes to world trends because Africa as a continent(yes you read that right, a continent not a country) is perceived as technologically not there yet.

Source of information like world quality report does not include Africa in their whole survey. See snapshot below for World Quality Report 2017-18.Follow this link here for full report

Dark Continent

Testing  Tools companies sponsoring the report have significant  presence  in Africa, selling test tools and offering training to a lot African companies.  Our money is green enough but our opinion don’t matter I guess. Its hard to gauge the state of testing in the whole continent.  As a young person interested in this field you might scrape some content on the web and learn the skill that is comprehended as critical skills to have,  only to find that you are ten years early.  Another option would be to do actual testing using gut feeling , experience and learning from other professionals out there. When there is a test conference coming to Africa you are super excited because you believe you will get to experience how other test professionals are doing in testing. This early premature celebration is humbled  by the reality check when you discover that a conference registration fee is 30%  of  your income at the minimum and 75% of your salary at most.  The company you work for sees testing as an afterthought, so they are not going to pay for such extravagance anytime soon. One will argue that its about getting your priorities straight then one should be able to afford the fee. The tax deduction from your salary in Africa is a difference to be reckoned with.  If you are previously disadvantaged you get a second layer of tax called black tax(Black tax is financial obligations that falls on you after you get a job to assist to uplift/support your siblings).

Working as a contractor does no offer much exemption to the challenges faced either. We have our adorable labor brokers(someone who pimps out professionals and take bigger share of their hourly rate without themselves doing any work ). They  don’t offer you any skills development benefit, leave or any form of benefit permanent employees have. You are as relevant as the contract you are upholding, if that contract elapse  and there is no further services required by the client , it means  the end of you. Thinking of going on a formal training for few days will result in no pay although the client pays them the rate they do with the consideration that they are liable for taking you to training should you need to.

With all this bleak picture and hurtles that I mentioned thus far, we have to be thankful to the internet.We have humanitarians of testing like Joe Colantonio, James Bach , Rex Black , Cem Karner , Bret Pettichord, Lisa Crispin etc… the list is endless. Although I know some of the individuals  won’t feel comfortable being mentioned in the same breath as other  experts since they are from different school of thought in testing, this side of the world  all of you belong to  the same WhatsApp group “Improving the testing craft“. Testing magazines are another form of source of information we turn to besides books  and Blogs. We used to have test focus magazine  in South Africa but that went away which reminds me of the test champions like Walter Kruse , Peter sage(iLab) and Wayne Malinson(iLab).  Magazines such as Testingexperience,Professional Tester,LogiGear and not forgetting TeaTimeWithTesters . They provide best practice in testing , practical testing approaches, tips and tricks and  lessons learned .Other frequent events contributing a lot in shaping the testing arena in South Africa per se are events organised by  SIGiST(IITPSA).

There are lot of guys out there who feel despondent , unappreciated  for doing testing and feel like the only thing they are good for is taking the blame for when bad things leaks to production. There is no perfect development team where you will ever get all the variables you need to shine as a tester, make use of what you have because either way you are damned if you do and also dammed if you don’t, stand your ground.Keep  pushing, continue honing your skill  even though you are the only one noticing the difference. The important thing to keep in mind is to be ready when the world finally comes to you.If one is interested in knowing which skill to start leaning with regards to test automation stay tuned  for the next post(“Test Automation Skills Trends in South Africa“)  As James Cameron puts it “Hope is not a strategy, Luck is not a factor.Fear is not an option”




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