Working with professional telecommunications equipment manufacturers for the past 13 years, we recognize that one of the biggest challenges they face is finding and retaining professional Equipment Test and QA engineers.
Why is it so difficult to find such engineers? The short answer is that such engineers have a specialized profile, requiring very technical skills in multiple areas. It’s not a common career path for telecommunications engineers and the ones making this choice do it out of sheer passion.
Telecommunications Equipment Test Engineers need to develop a niche of specialized technical knowledge about telecommunications software, hardware, and infrastructure; as they’ll be using technologies such as VOIP or WiFi, on a daily basis.
On top of that, the speed at which technology evolves requires that test engineers continually upgrade their knowledge and skills, making this field a competitive one.
What is the profile of a good Telecommunications Test and QA Engineer?
To best answer this question, let’s break down the three areas we explore and discuss in our recruitment process:
- Background - formal training in university and professional training in their career
- Skills - technical skills gained through applied experience
- Ability - the capacity and passion to perform the job professionally
By background, we understand formal training received in university. Our Test Engineers have a bachelor’s degree in engineering and they either followed a program in computer science, telecommunications, or electronic engineering. To be able to understand how telecommunications equipment works, an engineering background is a must.
What are the specific skills a test engineer needs?
- Networking & telecommunications protocols and technologies, and security knowledge - To be able to test telecommunications equipment such as IP telephony devices, an engineer first needs to design and set up complex infrastructure and network configurations. They need to understand how communication protocols and security works, to be able to provide the R&D team with detailed technical feedback, not just a fail/pass status.
- Understand how the user expects a specific device to work and how the system should behave, on top of the device’s specifications.
- Knowing testing methodology and terminology as well as how to create test scenarios is important. This ensures Test Engineers have a common language with the R&D and development teams. It also ensures that they are consistent in their testing procedures.
- Software development skills are nice to have, but not mandatory. When Test Engineers also have software development knowledge and skills then they can use them to automate test cases.
The technical skills gained through experience are valuable but they are not a deal-breaker when an engineer has solid technical training together with the willingness to learn and commitment to delivering what is required.
Why are Telecommunications Test and QA Engineers so hard to find?
The combination of engineering background, networking, protocols, and security knowledge, in addition to QA and testing knowledge, is what makes test engineers so hard to find. The ones that choose to specialize and develop such a profile do so out of a passion for the field, and it’s a path few choose to follow.
On top of that, there is an ever-growing demand for engineering graduates, which is not being fulfilled.
The Future of Work McKinsey Study from June 2020 estimates that across Europe STEM-related occupational roles could grow by more than 20 percent in the coming decade.
Telecommunications engineers, in particular, are in high demand due to wireless communication access and the expectation to have instant communication across the globe.
How do we support our Equipment Testing Teams to grow their knowledge?
Continuous learning is one of our core values and we support our teams in the Electronic Equipment Services department to further develop their knowledge.
Our training plan for 2021 is built around three main learning areas:
1. Job-specific training: we provide training and access to Cisco (CCNA), ITSQB and Linux certifications. These are mandatory certifications for engineers working with telecommunications and networking equipment.
Internal training is another component of job-specific training. We explore together with our clients and teams what skills they need to broaden and/or strengthen. Then we develop training programs to address those needs, including: automation testing, networking (eg. WiFi, DECT), and telecommunications, Python, Cucumber BDD Testing.
When we onboard a new test engineer, we provide hands-on project-specific training, and client-specific training (with a focus on the client’s equipment and business needs).2. Soft skills training that the team members are interested in attending to become better professionals. These courses include important topics such as: Agile methodology, leadership, communication, and presentation skills.
3. Expanding our competencies in new technical areas, including: IoT, DSP (Digital Signal Processing), and Robotics. Building on the knowledge we now have, we are learning to expand our competencies in IoT, DSP, and Robotics through hands-on workshops. These workshops are continuously being delivered with both theoretical components as well as practical ones - in which our engineers are tasked with building and configuring different types of equipment or systems.
The telecommunications industry is constantly progressing and evolving. With the progress comes an increasing need for specialists who have a strong technical engineering background, relevant professional experience, desire to continuously learn, and of course, maintain passion for this profession. To meet the needs of our clients we will continue to train our engineers and our teams.