QA and Testing are terms that are often used interchangeably. But Quality Assurance is a prevention and Testing is detection.
To be a good QA Engineer is a combination of multiple skills which either you have naturally or develop along the way.
Companies hire QA Engineers to make sure the product or an application which they are delivering is bug free (or an acceptable amount of bugs) and provide good user experience.
I've been in QA for over 15 years; here's my tips on the 3 key skills you must have to be successful QA Engineer.
Excellent Analytical and Technical Skills
To find issues in the application is more important than knowing how the application functions overall.
To find issues, a good QA Engineer would have to think not only of what the code or application is supposed to do but also multiple business scenarios, find various use cases, and workflows. Ask yourself not only what the code or product is supposed to do but how can it fail? How can a user get confused and misuse the product or stress it out?
Having Technical knowledge of domains, platforms, coding languages, infrastructure step, and databases etc. will help find bugs caused due to system compatibility and environment specific issues
Don't limit your focus on set of requirements - you may miss on the bigger picture and impact.
A good QA engineer will always test an application as a end user along with making sure all the requirements are met.
Curiosity and Exploratory Nature
This is one of my favorite. Having an attitude that QA will test so thoroughly that they will eventually find all the issues is very important during QA process.
From my experience most of the unusual, important bugs are found during exploratory testing and that’s the very reason Automation can never replace Manual Testing. Save time every test cycle to set aside your test code, automation and test cases and just "play around" with the product.
Developers build applications in a serial way but customers use the application in an exploratory way!
Fantastic Communication Skills
You need the ability to listen carefully, ask for what you need and summarize in a balanced way. Why?
Software changes quickly, often before there is any documentation. You need to get enough info fast so you can either adjust your tests or write new cases or test code (or explore without a net as I mentioned above).
You'll listen carefully and read between the lines so you know what follow on questions to ask.
You'll need to assess the right time to chat with busy people so you don't take them out of their zone.
You'll need to chat diplomatically so people don't feel attacked or threatened. You don't want to be perceived as the person who is always complaining!
Finally, people all over the Company from your peers, direct reports, managers and executives will ask you "how's it going" and by that they want to know how the software is looking. You must be able to summarize the good and the progress as well as summarize the bad. Don't be the person who recites the bug list - summarize!