Day in the life of
Test Engineer – Jon M Quigley
The test engineer provides an objective review of the product from multiple perspectives.
- Compliance testing – assess the product (hardware and software) to regulations and specifications
- Combinational testing –such as two different stimulus (example: high temperature and vibration)
- Exploratory – testing that are outside the use defined in the specification, but could how the customer will use the product
- Extreme testing – testing that is beyond the specification limits, for example, higher temperature, beyond the vibration expectation, the more severe electrical stimulus
While the product is being developed, iterations or versions of the product will be sent to test engineers to assess the product. The test person will compare the product as it is presently and what can be an anticipated customer use or interaction with the product. Reporting is the symptom or observable phenomenon or perceived failure, but the actions the test person took to evoke the anomaly. The developers will use this to develop actions around adjusting the product (software and or hardware changes). The team then will make a decision on what actions should be taken to remediate (design change) or ignore (make no adjustment to the product design). The project will develop a scheme for prioritizing these reported anomalies and set about planning the subsequent product updates.
- How shall the product be tested? What stimulus should the product be subjected?
- What equipment, test cases (specific instructions for the test), and processes are needed?
- What test data (inputs to the product) will be used?
- Answer question
- Does the product meet specifications (contractual obligations)?
- Are there product boundaries that if crossed could present risk to the customer?
- Will this product put the company at risk due to field or application failures?
- Does the product meet the actual use of the product by the customer? The atypical but likely use of the product?
I like to look at the embedded engineer and the test engineer as yang and yin. The developer is positive, building new things. The test engineer must be a strong critique of the product (not the people developing the product). The test engineer critique is used by the developers to improve the product. Personally, I believe a test engineer must have good communications skills, and not fall any counching language in their articulation of the findings. They must stand strong in the face of management and project pressures.
- Team interactions provide opportunities for learning
- Opportunities for problem-solving and creating ways to adequately test the product
- Opportunities for problem (puzzle) solving if you like that sort of thing.
- Testing pressures increase as the product nears launch date.
- From experience, it seems testing is thought of as the final thing we do, and this adds stress to the work.
- Severe failures found in testing can create difficult discussions and pressure on the tester
Advice for aspiring test engineers
It helps to get an engineering degree for this one also, or some way to learn a specific and critical way to analyze and think. There are organizations such as TMMi (https://www.tmmi.org/ ) and volunteer opportunities, for example, SAE has standards committees that focus on testing products and systems.
Jon M Quigley
Founder of Value Transformation