How My Background in Translation Prepared Me for a Career in QA

How a background in translation can unexpectedly pave the way for a career in QA, demonstrating the potential of transferable skills and diverse career paths.

How My Background in Translation Prepared Me for a Career in QA
Quality Assurance4 min read
Tea Palescak
TeaPalescakTea Palescak2024-05-15
Quality AssuranceCareersSkills
Quality Assurance

Let's start with how I ended up in QA in the first place, considering my master's degree in languages and translation. It happened by accident, as many cool things in life do. A month or so after quitting a job that had nothing to do with QA or my master's, a friend and former colleague of mine called me and asked if I would like to come and test out an app they were developing.

Not going to lie, I was surprised and asked: “Wait, but… you DO know I don't have a tech background, right?”

He replied: “Yeah, that's exactly what we need, you'll be acting like a regular, average, non-techy user. When you find something that's off, you're gonna write it down, report it in another app and then, after we fix it, you'll check if its working. “

He explained manual testing in the most BASIC way possible. :D

Of course, I accepted the opportunity.

It didn't take me long to start noticing that some skills needed for manual testing are the same ones I already possess due to my background in translation. Let’s have a little overview of what they are:

  • Attention to detail
  • Thoroughness
  • Creativity
  • Understanding the context and circumstances
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Handling pressure effectively
  • Being a bit of a wordsmith
  • Communication skills

Attention to detail and thoroughness

Paying attention to detail is pretty self-explanatory. When it comes to translation, that means catching typos and ensuring accurate language expression. Similarly, in testing, you should also pay attention to all the little visual bugs, misalignments and other subtle issues that may affect the user experience.

You cannot be a good QA or translator if you are not attentive and meticulous. Firstly, reading the provided text with comprehension, such as tickets for new features and bugs in Jira, greatly impacts your ability to perform on a required level and do your job correctly.

Secondly, after thoroughly reading and understanding the documentation, being detailed when testing is crucial. No skipping, no “meh, that's not that big of a deal” mindset. Here comes a big one: never “assume”. Assumption is the mother of all mistakes, if you ask me. Both in QA and in life. You can never be 100% sure that potential users won’t do something you assumed would never happen.

Creativity and open-mindedness

Testing all the things mentioned in acceptance criteria is a standard practice, but what makes testing more exciting and fun is being a little creative. Finding multiple ways to test something requires you to be open-minded and not just following a set of obligatory “go-to” steps. Figuring out edge cases is always thrilling. Same applies to finding the right word, synonym and sentence in translation.

Understanding context and circumstances

Understanding the context and circumstances - now that's a biggie. Translating a book compels you to think in a different way. By that, I mean immerse your brain into that nation's culture and history, cause it’s not just about the language syntax. This very much applies to testing. You cannot test an app designed for kids the same way you would an app made for construction workers. Understanding who is using the app, when and where they are using it, and the circumstances surrounding its use is important. That doesn't mean you'll predict ALL of the potential problems, but thinking like an average user of that specific app definitely helps.

Meeting deadlines and handling pressure effectively

The ability to meet deadlines and handle pressure are also valuable skills in the QA field. Of course, take your time and test that thing out as much as possible, but be aware of the release plan and prioritize tasks accordingly. Keep in mind to leave some time to check the some things multiple times, because we all know that repetitio est mater studiorum (or in our case: testiorum?).

Communication skills

We can combine the last two skills mentioned into one: good written and oral communication. Being able to write a bug report with enough detail, but without it turning into the Epic of Gilgamesh that will confuse and, let’s be real, put the assigned dev to sleep is a decent skill to have. Keeping it sweet and short yet detailed and precise is the way to go. Adding some visual aids in the form of a screenshot or a (short!) video is highly appreciated.

Communicating with your teammates in a nice and respectful way is a beautiful and rewarding skill to have. Generalization that developers hate QA is just that - a generalization. It greatly depends on the person’s character and their level of emotional intelligence. The same goes for communicating with clients - always being respectful, not cutting them off while they are talking, actively listening and sometimes even taking a reasonable amount of time to reply is perfectly valid. We all know time is money, but misunderstanding and wrong interpretation also cost money in the end.

Overcoming "document blindness"

I’d like to end this post by also mentioning one of the most common problems that can occur in both fields, and that is called “document blindness”. You know how when you read the same text over and over again, you start to miss the little mistakes and errors? Well, the same thing can happen in testing, especially when doing regression tests manually (we all know that can get boring and repetitive). Your brain goes into autopilot mode, and sometimes that means you can overlook an obvious bug. So, if you ever feel like you're not truly “in the moment” while testing, take a little break, grab yourself a cup of coffee and resume testing with a fresh and caffeinated mind.

I wouldn't change a thing

Ah, reminiscing on how I started and considering all the shared skills between these two very different fields of work makes me all nostalgic and teary-eyed. In all seriousness, it really becomes clear that my experience in translation laid a strong foundation for my transition into QA and is still super helpful every working day. That is probably why I fell in love in QA in the first place and why it didn't seem so intimidating as it surely would have otherwise.

And yes… Maybe having some of these skills makes me the worst person to watch a movie or TV-series with because I constantly notice and loudly comment on faulty plots and scenography, but it does make me a good QA.

So, if you ever find yourself at a crossroads between different career paths, think about those transferable skills and all the perspectives your background can bring to the table. Be brave and embrace the opportunity to embark on an exciting new career journey!

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