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Adapt IT operations skills for QA roles

IT admins who want to transition into a QA role can lean on their existing skill sets around data analysis, documentation and more, but the move still presents a learning curve.

DevOps instigates a drastic increase in automation, leaving IT operations admins in need of new skills to transition into other roles, such as quality assurance.

Experienced ops professionals are primed for such a job shift with their background in production systems support, and they can adapt the following IT operations skills for QA roles.

Data analysis for actionable intelligence

Cloud computing and automation have transformed IT operations into a more data-driven profession. IT administrators use data analytics to manage, troubleshoot and secure production environments -- a skill that lends itself to QA. To transition into a QA role, admins must operationalize more data and analytics as part of test environments and create more accurate production metrics for test cases.

In addition, increase training on internal data analytics tools and establish a standard analytics and data processing framework in test environments.

Analytical problem solving

The processes IT operations staff use to solve technical issues translate into a QA environment, where hardware and software integration issues are often abundant. These analytical skills give an IT ops admin an advantage over a career QA specialist who has never had to resolve such issues in a dev or test environment without IT operations' assistance.

Study how teams traditionally resolve issues in your organization. Transition the most adept problem solvers into mentors to help others on the team refine their ability to analyze and resolve issues. Additionally, create and maintain documentation for troubleshooting processes for traditional issues in a QA environment and store it in a central repository, such as Confluence, SharePoint or LearnBee.

Communication and documentation

An IT admin's communication skills -- built from handling issues and outages -- directly translate to QA, where testers must communicate news to managers, developers and other stakeholders clearly and succinctly during times of stress.

Continually polish your team's communications skills with group discussions rather than online training videos or in-person classes. Include team communications as a significant part of a post-mortem process. Examine written communications and meeting minutes and discuss as a team what did or didn't work.

Admins must also identify where technical issues and problems were miscommunicated, misunderstood or lost in the shuffle. For example, if the IT team struggles to write bug reports, admins must determine a remedy, such as creating standards and templates, as well as establish and refine the review cycle to enable the team to improve their test case writing skills.

Documentation is another key skill shared between IT operations and QA. Admins create and document operations activities, process guides and maintenance tasks, establishing a strong foundation to create testing documentation and reports for QA. They must collaborate with the full IT team to build templates for major document types with boilerplate text, tips and guidance to smooth the transition.

In addition, consider an internal training program for IT ops personnel to adapt their documentation skills for QA processes.

Build some QA skills from scratch

Even a well-rounded IT ops admin will need to learn new skills for QA, particularly around testing tools and techniques. There are several ways to go about this, including vendor certifications and public training; online resources and learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning, Coursera and Udemy; local adult education courses on software QA training; and cross-training with the current QA team.

While an IT ops job often includes scripting, true programming isn't a common requirement. For those without a traditional IT background, learning programming skills can be a challenge. Consider a combination of online training, tuition reimbursement and self-learning to teach IT ops staff who lack, or are out of practice with, programming skills.

This was last published in May 2019

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