Strategy Vs Tactics – a job hunting example

One of my pet peeves is when people use the word strategy when they are talking about tactics. According to “I have a strategy (no you don’t)” a visual guide on understanding strategy; a strategy is a planned/doable sequence of actions/tactics designed to achieve a distinct, measurable goal. Strategy is an idea in my head, I have ideas on what tactics I can implement that will help me achieve a particular goal.

book cover for I have a strategy no you don't

I have a strategy to find a job I’m happy with. Now my success metrics will look different to yours even thought it may sound like we have the same strategy. My success metrics look like; find a good team that is passionate about the products they are building, they have a respect for software engineering quality practices and to receive support for public speaking at technical conferences. Ideally I’d like to have a small gap as possible between my current employment and the new job. I would also like a 10-20% pay increase from my current salary. Through going through a few interviews/having conversations with my partner I have discovered that I want a role based in Sydney so I have adapted my success criteria. A strategy is an evolving thing, the words I write today are an attempt to formalize that strategy but it is just a snapshot. I’m leaning towards a software tester role too because it is my most marketable skill/expertise.

The tactics I’ve used thus far to help support my job hunting efforts have been:
Enable the “open to new jobs” label on my LinkedIn
Reaching out to recruiters who’ve I’ve had good experiences with before
Reaching out to old colleagues
Reaching out to people who I’ve met through the tech/meetup scene
Applying for roles on LinkedIn
Browsing the careers pages of some known companies and applying that way

I’ve had different levels of success in scoring interviews with these different tactics. So hopefully you can see I’ve employed a diversity of tactics that are meant to help support me in finding a new job that fits me

I’ve also been constantly reiterating on my CV. Other tactics that people could use are; create a custom CV per role you are applying for, seek feedback on CV, practice mock interviews for a particular role, build up connections with the company you are looking to get hired at

But all of these tactics are just that, they are actions that help support the strategy,they aren’t “a strategy” on their own. Strategy is steeped in battle, I’ll leave you a quote from Sun Tzu about strategy.

strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat - Sun Tzu

job hunting diaries

I’ve been job hunting now for nearly 4 weeks. I’ve had face to face interviews with 6 companies, done 3 technical tasks, have 2 more interviews scheduled, have 3 more technical tasks to do and 3 more leads I’m chasing up. And I’m exhausted. I’ve been rejected by 3 of those interviews, I turned down progressing further for 1. All of this on top of attempting to work a full time job, speaking at EuroSTAR in Copenhagen and having a life. It’s getting to me mentally. I really struggled to get out of bed this morning. I even sat in front of this computer for 10 minutes struggling to start this blog post. But I’m doing this for my own therapy.

My tactics for job hunting have been;

  1. Enable the “open to new jobs” label on my LinkedIn
  2. Reaching out to recruiters who’ve I’ve had good experiences with before
  3. Reaching out to old colleagues
  4. Reaching out to people who I’ve met through the tech/meetup scene
  5. Applying for roles on LinkedIn
  6. Browsing the careers pages of some known companies and applying that way

In terms of tactic number 1, I was concerned that I would be swamped with recruiters. I’m glad I wasn’t, in fact I’ve only had 1 lead get generated this way. Tactic 2 has been the most successful in generating leads, it makes sense because these are guys who are literally in the business of recruiting tech talent. Every other tactic has generated a lead or two, tactic 5 has had the lowest lead generation rates.

The feedback I get is that I interview very well, I pride myself on my skill in testing and I enjoy talking to people about it. This passion comes off in my interview and often my interviewers walk away saying they actually enjoyed the experience. One role I was rejected for was because they thought I would actually get bored in the role, that’s a far call to make and if they aren’t willing to be flexible to accommodate my skill set that is the best call to make. On a side note this is actually the third interview I’ve had in my lifetime of testing interviews to come back with that feedback. I have huge respect for companies who can be open enough to make this call.

One role I didn’t do so well with the technical task, basically they asked me to automate some tests using visual studio, c# and Selenium. I said automation is not my strong point, I haven’t touched windows in over 2 years but give me enough time with google and stack overflow I can work something out. After tackling with the tools for 3 hours I submitted the task, I hadn’t completed it 100% but I thought it would be enough to help them assess my coding styles and thought processes. I wasn’t successful and there weren’t any surprises there. I interviewed well but I was being tested on tools I had barely touched. I can code, it just takes me a ridiculously long time to do so because it’s not a skill I practice every day and I’m not going to mislead anyone about my skills here. I could have sunk more time into the technical task but for my mental well being I drew the line at 11:30PM. Lack of sleep is one of the easiest things I can do if I want to experience a relapse of depression. I got to the point where in the workplace I would ask a fellow colleague for some assistance or looked at similar tests to get inspiration but I didn’t have access to those types of resources. In terms of assessing my technical chops, I think a pair programming exercise is better suited for me.

I’m a little annoyed at what feels like wasted mental energy but I should try not to dwell on the past too much. I have a few more leads that I’m more excited about so I hope they turn up more promising results. An example role that gets me excited to apply for is Quality Coach, an example job ad can be seen here. Anything that has an emphasis on automation testing over people skills is a little bit of a red flag for me because I’ve been burnt a few too many times now. How do you handle rejection in the job hunting process?

Response to “the end of manual testing”

This blog is a response to this blog by Michael Bolton titled “the end of manual testing”. While attending EuroSTAR in Copenhagen in 2017 I had the joy of having a good chat to Michael about this topic.

Let me speak from my experiences; I’m bored in my current role and I’m looking for a new job. I have recent experience in observing what the Sydney market is demanding vs how I view myself. If I could choose my own label I would call myself a product risk investigator because it reflects my views in the value of what a tester brings to the table. Now I personally don’t refer to myself as a “manual tester” even though most of my work has fallen under what the market would call “manual testing”.

So how do I market myself for new job prospects? You can check out one of my recent software testing resume’s here. Did you notice that I never refer to myself as a “manual tester”? I try to highlight my technical skills in roles that the market would call “manual testing” because of the negative conations associated with the label of “manual tester”.

As part of my job hunting efforts I reached out to the recruiter who placed me in my current role. He seems to have a good pulse on the Sydney job market for testers; I reached out to him on October the 31st and the next day he had scheduled me a job interview with a startup in Sydney. He then secured me 2 other interviews and I had 3 interviews in 3 days just before I came to Copenhagen for Eurostar this week. I’ve already received positive feedback from 1 of these interviews. However all 3 of these roles have had a focus on trying to find a technical tester who can help the company test API’s through some sort of coding efforts. No one appears to be hiring a pure “manual tester”. Some job descriptions that I’ve read have said stuff along the lines of, “some manual testing will be required but the focus of this role is definitely writing code”. These type of job descriptions trigger warnings in my head along the lines of, “maybe these guys don’t understand skilled testing?”. I almost feel like this phrase “manual testing” is a dirty word. Maybe I should just come out as a loud and proud Manual Tester? Next week I’m aiming to have 3 more interviews before assessing all of my options and moving forward. These next 3 interviews have been set up via applying to jobs via LinkedIn/Seek/Career portals, reaching out to an old colleague and reaching out to recruiters who are involved in the meetup space.

In Summary; I’m being pushed towards more technical testing because those skills are more marketable and I’m struggling to market myself as a skilled exploratory tester. I agree with Michael; “manual testing” doesn’t exist but finding a company who shares my understanding of testing is pretty hard. Now why is that?