Talking Testing With Phil Hargreaves!

As a part of my Testing series, I caught up with Phil Hargreaves, a Contract Software Tester with over 10 years industry experience. Read on to hear about his career, benefits of being a contractor and industry advice for the wider Testing community. Follow Phil on Twitter here.

1. Please introduce yourself and your path into Software Testing!

Hi Everyone, I’m Phil! I’ve been in the testing industry for 10 years now in various roles. Quite often you hear quotes like “I fell in to testing” which in a lot of cases is true. I first got the bug for testing when I was asked to carry out some UAT for some new internal systems that were to be introduced in to the department I worked in at the Bank, I then did this again elsewhere in the company before finally applying for my first official testing role in 2008.

I heard this quote at a conference a few years ago “As testers we are getting paid to learn everyday” this is very true so why would I want to do anything else?

I have spent the majority of my time in the financial industry working on multiple small and large-scale projects dealing B2B, B2C and B2B2C products including a banking merger in January 2009. During this time, I have been lucky enough to deal with software focused on Credit Solutions, Fraud & ID and Consumers.

I spent 18 months in the Digital Marketing & Advertising industry with testing for a significant range of external clients and also spent a short time in the Insurance industry testing general insurance software and IFA software.

2. When and why did you start to consider moving into the contract market?

I’d worked at a company for 5 years in the centre of Leeds, and for the people I worked for and with I have a lot to thank them for as the contribution to my development was second to none. I found myself working myself further and further away from the ground work that I enjoyed the most. Questioning/ trying to break software and bridging the gap between development and the business is what gets me up in the morning, so I had to do something about it.

I took a risk moving to a company that for me just didn’t work out, I always said that if it didn’t then I would look at contracting… So here I am!

Was I nervous? Yes, it was a big deal. I have a young family and bills to pay like most, but after the first 6 months feel like I couldn’t have made a better decision.

3. What are some of the first things you did to put your plan into motion?

After taking the leap from a comfortable job in to the unknown I always had in the back of my mind that contracting could be a good fall-back, I have been talking about it for couple of years. When I realised the job that I moved to just wasn’t for me I used my network and contacted a few consultancies I was aware of… the responses from this couldn’t have been any better.

4. What are the benefits to contracting?

Firstly, lets eliminate the elephant in the room, Yes, there is an increase in earnings, but you have to manage this properly. You are running a Ltd company, and yes, we do pay tax…

One of the main benefits for me is the variation, having the ability to choose only the work you are interested in is great, but sometimes you have to take what’s available it always depends on the market at the time. Just remember whatever role you choose/ accept there is always something new to learn whether is a new testing skill or a new industry… it will all benefit you in the long run.

Contracting forces you to stay relevant and continue to learn new skills, it’s a great driver for development.

Other elements such as choosing when to work and when not to work is also a nice to have as you can really tailor your own work life balance which is great for family life.

5. And… what are the negatives?

Being a contractor is something you choose to do so I see very few negatives, there is the obvious such as down time between contractors, holidays, choosing to do a training course all of which you don’t get paid for but for me this is what I signed up for.

6. What would be your advice to a Tester considering making the jump into the contract market?

I have been a contractor now for the last 6 months and can’t see me taking a U turn anytime soon. Take the time to speak to your agents, take advice from somebody who is or has been a contractor.

I’m pretty sure they will sell it to you but if there is one thing to remember is you no longer have a HR department, you won’t get paid if you are ill so make sure you have to correct insurance/ cover in place.

I always say you only regret the risks you didn’t take…

7. Last but not least, would you do it again, do you have any regrets?

I would absolutely do this again! The only regret I have is not doing this sooner.

I wish anyone going in to contracting the best of luck… Id also be happy to meet and chat to anyone in my position in the future.

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