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GrantVolker

Starting off with learning test automation, some thoughts on approach for beginners

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I've often heard questions from people about how and what to start learning when starting off with test automation. I've built test automation frameworks across a variety of tools and would like to share my method for accelerating my learning, which I hope might help or be useful for forming your own approach.

Get started
The first time I tried frying an egg I was very unsure of what to do and was very hesitant to start.
• Not feeling ready is normal so get started small anyway, perhaps by automating opening a browser and navigating to a webpage.
• The more popular tools offer a 'record' feature where you can record the actions you perform on the application and this can be a great way to get started by having a go.
• Reading the code produced can help with learning and you could start learning to code as you learn automation.

Reach out
My first effort did not go well and so I asked someone for help so that I could learn from their experience.
• Join a community discussing the programming language you're learning and another for the automation tool.
• Browse the community discussions and before asking questions do try to do a little research and problem solving yourself, at least for 15 minutes.
• Reach out to the community with your question including relevant code snippets and references you've tried, what you're expecting and what's happening.

Transfer existing knowledge and skills
So I reduced my learning time and discovered I knew something about frying eggs, like using cooking utensils.
• Skills you already use every day such as looking for something can be applied to learning how to find objects in a web page, using techniques like Xpath (try Googling it!).
• In every tool there are the common elements of a framework (structure), coding language, finding objects, storing objects, interacting with objects, performing checks and reporting. Knowing something about each of these elements in one tool can help springboard your learning with another.
• TestComplete and HP UFT both use VBScript programming language which shares some similar concepts with C# and Java, both popular with Selenium WebDriver.

Explore
Frying eggs soon lost its charm and so I began experimenting on my own and from cookbooks.
• Experience is a great teacher so explore and experiment in small increments to balance the learning opportunities in 'wins and loses'.
• Find out where the tool’s core documentation can be found and forums are popular for the tool.
• Skim through the core documentation and check out a few posts on the forums about what you're learning in your increment.

Re-use
Slowly I built on what I learned, creating a menu and ingredients of my own to use.
• Be aware that converting a recorded script to code through the tool might not produce code you'd use for the longer term.
• Build your test assets with the intention of re-use as well as making use of examples from forums, training documents and anyone else available to help.
• Learning to build re-usable assets will prove beneficial to you and helps toward disciplining yourself for DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) development.

Keep an open mind
Then someone suggested trying fried banana, which seemed strange and that's a beginning of a new story.
• Some things just work differently so sometimes it's necessary to be aware of what you know, set it aside and take on board new information.
• There are various frameworks for test automation such as Sequential, Modular, Data-Driven and Keyword-Driven and it's worthwhile taking a quick look what they are.
• Sometimes it helps to give yourself a break and try again later, which also gives people time to respond to your request for help..

References
Some sources of information I’ve used are listed below as suggestions and I encourage you to also discover others you enjoy and feel comfortable to participate in. Off course SQAForums is a great reference too.

W3 Schools, an online training platform offering free tutorials as well as certifications.
W3Schools Online Web Tutorials

stackoverflow, a long standing and thriving programming community for beginners and professionals alike.
Stack Overflow

An Introduction to Python, a softcover manual and a reference well-recognised by programmers.
By Guido van Rossum, Fred L. Drake, Jr.

Python online documentation
3. An Informal Introduction to Python — Python 2.7.13 documentation

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