How to Transition Roles

From Customer Service to QA Product Analyst

How I did it

Salem the cat with a magic outfit change

MAGIC! Just kidding, of course not. I worked hard and had many magical outfit changes before transitioning roles.

I started off in a Customer Service role at the Flatiron School. Even though I work at a coding boot camp, I do not know how to code, and I was not always technical.

At the front lines of a software-based or startup company, the issues you hear from customers run the gamut, both technical and nontechnical. I learned the product and systems at our company by assisting customers with their technical issues and interacting with the technology team. If you are not technical like me, this is the perfect segue into it.

The more I interacted with the technology team to learn our systems, I didn’t see my career trajectory in five years being in customer service. Instead, I saw a future where I could work to build products for our students and challenge myself in a different way.

Flatiron School is an awesome place to work because we get to help change people’s lives every day! In my role, I got the privilege to talk to people who were brave enough to change careers and transition to Software Development after they’ve had 1, 5, or even 20 years of experience in the workforce.

One and a half years into my role in Customer Service, I got the awesome chance to change my own career and switch into a QA Product Analyst role on the technology team. Doing what you may ask? Getting to test new features and changes to our proprietary learning platform so I could identify bugs BEFORE they reach the customer. Now I get to help our students and my colleagues.

Testing all the things

How you can do it

Be curious

  1. As you’re trying to figure out answers to customer issues, try to see if you can solve them yourself! Poke around the product and systems to get familiar with them. By being a user yourself, you will become an expert in the product. Constantly learning and challenging yourself to grow your skills will set you up to be successful in a transition.
  2. Find patterns to help the team identify repeatable tasks or pain points. You can quickly provide value to the product team in your current role by identifying and sharing frequent issues that arise. Being on the front lines gives you a huge advantage in hearing user feedback in real-time that may not reach the product team’s ears for weeks or months.
  3. Ask questions and jump in to help when it might not always be your job. Engineers are super busy so don’t bog them down with questions. But! If you happen to have a moment of an engineer’s time going over a specific issue, ask them questions about why or how something works the way it does to deepen your knowledge of the product. If you see other colleagues asking questions about the product, chances are you’ll be able to start helping to answer their questions to gain more hands-on experience.

Connect with others

  1. Go to dogfooding sessions! Most product teams open up a new feature they are introducing to their colleagues for beta testing (AKA, eat their own dogfood). This gives the team valuable knowledge about how a user will interact with the feature and catch any weird bugs before it gets shipped to real users. Attending these sessions will ensure you know of all the latest features, give you real experience testing, and give you some face-time with product team members.
  2. Take an engineer out for coffee. Software engineers are your core partners when testing a feature. After all, they are the ones who will build features you will test. Get to know team members, ask them what it’s like on their team, and make genuine connections. Engineers tend to be head down in code most of the time and usually appreciate when a friendly face reaches out to get to know them better.
  3. If you’re interested in joining a product team specifically, ask a product team member what their day to day is like. This will give you a better sense of what to expect and suss out if it’s an interesting path to you. Plus, you get to spend time with your awesome coworker who, let’s be honest, you don’t usually get to spend time with outside of troubleshooting issues.

Advocate for yourself

  1. Be really good at your current job first! Before looking ahead to your next role, you should enjoy and tackle your current job head-on. The better you are at optimizing your work, the stronger your case will be when you ask to switch roles. Be patient, though; transitions won’t happen overnight and you will need to put in the time and effort to show your hard work and dedication.
  2. In your quarterly or yearly check-ins with your manager, be transparent and convey the areas that you want to grow in. Hopefully, they are related to a more technical-focused role, i.e getting better at data or assisting customers with technical bugs. This will allow them to think long-term about how to help you grow in your career within the company.
  3. When connecting with product or engineering team members, express your future goals in growing towards a more technical role. They might have tips or feedback on what areas you are already good at and what some of the challenges will be.

Why you should do it!

If you are in Customer Service and think you can’t transition to a product or QA role, think again! Imposter Syndrome is real, but already knowing the systems and processes at a company is a huge advantage you can leverage, and you might find that you can provide immediate value even before you transition.

Each company has different responsibilities for QA Analysts and testers. Find out what it means at your company and even if it’s not that specific role, there is another role where your experience will be invaluable on a product-focused team.

The days of doing one job for the rest of our lives are behind us. We are in a new era where workers constantly want to be challenged and learn new skills. Hopefully, your company supports lifelong learning as Flatiron does and you get the chance to do something you didn’t think you could ever do before.

Cat riding a unicorn

Thanks for reading! Want to work on a mission-driven team that loves lifelong learning and building magical products? We’re hiring!

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