What new programming languages should you add to your “repertoire”? What new tools should you consider including in your toolbox? Are there any special soft skills that you should develop or further “polish”? And what bachelor's degree should you have? In short: "How do you become an automation engineer?"
That is the question...
And a very legitimate one, if you think that:
Companies in all industries are implementing automation. From streamlining their software development processes to automating their business processes, they all have one major “need” in common: the need for automation engineers to help them plan, develop, implement and manage their custom automation systems.
The ones to deliver the best automation solutions for their specific processes (software or business).
And now, to answer your question, here are the automation engineer skills that all these companies are looking for in a potential candidate:
1. But First, Let's Define this Role: What Is an Automation Engineer?
Before you can give yourself an accurate answer to the question:
“How do I become an automation engineer?”
… you should have this role clearly defined in your mind.
So, let's try to define it:
An automation engineer is the one responsible for delivering the best automation solutions for streamlining a company's specific processes.
He/she is also the one who implements specific automation technologies (e.g. chatbots) for the same purpose: to boost the processes' efficiency.
In plain language: you, as a future automation engineer, will be expected to identify all the bottlenecks/errors/limitations of the products or process and come up with a solution for improving efficiency/quality.
Now, speaking of this role, you can find it under various job titles:
- IT/software automation engineer
- QA automation engineer
- automation design engineer
- end-to-end automation engineer
- process automation engineer
- cloud automation engineer
- automation systems engineer
In short: is there a way to eliminate manual processes that are redundant, prone to human error and inconsistent? You'll be the one to give an automation solution for that.
A solution that would:
- reduce the teams' workload
- speed up the development cycle
- improve processes' efficiency
- improve the final product/delivered services' quality
2. And What Does an Automation Engineer Do? Key Responsibilities
If you really want to become an automation engineer you'd be the one assigned to deliver automation solutions for a company's:
- business processes
- software (or hardware) systems
This means that you'll need to:
- work closely with all the teams involved
- get an in-depth understanding of that software product/business process
- identify any existing problems
- anticipate the impact that your automation solutions will have
But, let's get your future main responsibilities as an automation engineer listed here:
- to seize all opportunities for automating those business processes/software development processes
- to identify any bottlenecks, issues slowing those processes or compromising the final product's quality
- … and to troubleshoot them
- to work closely with various teams and figure out what automation solutions could streamline their workflow
- to design and implement QA test scripts for automatically testing the products' functionality
- to put together automation processes
- to run tests for applications, software, databases, systems, hardware, networks
- to keep accurate documentation of all the automation solutions that you will have delivered
- to collect requirements (from end users and clients) before figuring out how you could automate those processes
- to train the staff (if needed) after you've designed and implemented a new automation process (or you've updated an existing one)
3. How to Become an Automation Engineer: Must-Have Skills
“What are the skills required for an automation engineer?”
A short answer would be:
“You'll need both technical and soft skills.”
In other words, you'll need:
- relevant competencies and hands-on experience working with job-specific networks and tools, operating systems, software and hardware and programming languages: Java, C#, SQL
- soft skills such as: social skills — your role requires you to collaborate smoothly with various business units, with different types of clients and customers
- … flexibility, creativity, organization, leadership skills
But, let me highlight here some of the most in-demand automation engineer skills to consider developing/polishing:
- first of all, you'll need hands-on experience with AI, robotics, machine learning and analytics, statistics, control systems, artificial neural networks (ANN)
- experience with manual and automated testing techniques and technologies
- a high level of adaptability; you'll be expected to keep up with all the latest technologies and techniques as they emerge
- problem-solving skills and creative thinking; you'll be tasked with finding suitable and in most cases innovative solutions and with troubleshooting all the detected problems
- leadership skills, since you'll be managing cross-departmental teams in order to automate shared business processes
- organizational skills, much needed for clearly documenting your automation solutions, for structuring projects and prioritizing workload
- technical skills and hands-on experience working with any tools relevant in that specific industry
In short: it's a mix of soft & engineering & science & IT skills that you'll need to become an automation engineer. A sought-after one...
“And what about education?”
Here, you should know that, depending on the hiring company, you might be asked for a particular type of bachelor's degree.
And that relevant courses in robotics, ANN, statistics (and all the above-mentioned fields) are more than likely to set you apart from the crowd of candidates.
Now that you have it all clearer:
- what an automation engineer is
- what he/she does, what are his main responsibilities
- what are the needed skills to become one, a valuable asset for any company looking to get into automation...
… it's time you developed/brushed up some skills, acquired some relevant hands-on experience and took a shot! There's a real “hunger” for automation engineers out there, you know...
Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash.