Change is inevitable, change is the only constant – these are fairly proverbial that we have all heard. However when it comes to careers, is there a magic number for how frequent is too frequent, or what’s a good duration to latch on to one area. There’s certainly no clear cut answer. Here’s a quick take based on a recent panel I attended as part of the women’s day celebrations at a leading MNC. One of the panellists when talking on women in STEM, talked about how she has not stayed at any given area of specialization for more than 5 years. This got me thinking. Her intent in not staying for more than 5 years was largely focused on learning opportunities. She spoke about how she is ready to move on when she hits a saturation point, and there is no learning beyond the same to challenge her. However, I have a slightly different take on this, especially keeping in mind the younger generation of professionals who are ready to switch jobs in a span as short as 1-2 years. A lot of what we do, in software testing, requires ongoing learning on the job, branching into newer areas associated with the core job and continuing to learn.
There is a lot of practice and make perfect on the job, as technologies and the industry we work in, are extremely agile and changing by the day. The core job itself offers enough room to both specialize and develop newer learning opportunities in associated areas. For example, I may be a functional automation tester, but in the context of extending these core skills, I may need to branch out into the combinatorial space to take on automation for accessibility testing, for security testing, for localization testing etc. The other way of looking at it is not just from the tester standpoint. From the organization and end user/client standpoints, having invested a lot into the tester’s learning and specialization, it makes sense to leverage the expertise for the benefit of all entities. From the tester standpoint too, though it may seem that he/she is ready to move on to another area, too many hops also tend to randomize and make one shallow rather than being an all-rounder. To reiterate there is no right or wrong answer here. One needs to constantly evaluate to see if a state of complacency is being reached – to that extent ongoing learning is important. But as to whether the ongoing challenges and ongoing learning come purely from a frequent switch is what one needs to closely evaluate to ensure he/she doesn’t become a master of all trades but jack of none. Core areas of specialization will continue to be extremely valuable especially in quality engineering in the coming years. Automation, ongoing evolutions in the world of DevOps and continuous testing – there is no limit to the learning, if one comes in with an open mind. Be your constant judge in evaluating all of these in deciding how frequent is frequent in a change, even within the same organization in the role or project that you work on. These will go a long way in shaping your profile as a solid quality advocate and tester, over time.