Tester as scapegoat. Yes, it still happens sadly, and not all are equipped to see it coming. My gut instinct has matured to see this kind of situation, though it is very rarely deliberate. The first sign is the feeling on your first day, you have been lumbered with a mess someone has left behind. So the strategy is hire a contractor, pass it over, and run away. Then further down the line, credit will either be taken for the contractor’s hard effort if successful. Regardless of the state of what is handed over, once handover is done, it’s yours. Whether you like it or not. How you choose to deal with it is another matter.
If you are going into contracting, especially in QA arena, be aware that things can/will happen that seem unfair. That’s life – and as a contractor, you are choosing to be more at risk of life seeming unfair. We have bills to pay, but that doesn’t mean I will stand for environment addicted to bad process in development management, or suspect project management. Because in the end, the project timeline fallout, can easily be landed at the QA door. And if you don’t push back, you will be liable to end up the scapegoat. So the skills you need are not only test planning, automation, etc … you need robustness to speak up and complain. it’s part of the role as far as I am concerned. There is little point maintaining great tests and automation frameworks, if the process that feeds into it is fundamentally flawed. That won’t stop people blaming QA though.
What I have come to value most in my skill-set, is my approach, which appears to now encompass not only what I know now, but what I will know. In order to keep up with the pace of tech (if you don’t want to be stuck on projects, where you want to scoop out your own eyeballs to alleviate the tedium), it is necessary to keep close eye on what is round the corner. And to learn fast but also efficiently. Some no doubt are born with these skills, but they also come from persistent experience. I say persistent, as that is exactly how it feels you have to be to stay in tech for any good length of time. In order to survive, you need decent softskills (emotional intelligence).
So in summary, if you feel something is wrong early in processes, voice it. You will not be popular for it, but do you really care what those people think? These are the people preparing (albeit maybe unintentionally) your slippery slide. So be ruthless when needed – but only when needed! The team spirit can be a fragile thing, so tread carefully but don’t pander too much to the way things work, if you feel they are flawed.