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Created on 03.08.2020

IT jobs: what does a performance tester actually do?

Stephan Baumhoff, Head of Performance Testing at PostFinance, explains what a performance tester does and the skills required for the job.

What exactly is a performance tester?

Performance testers use sophisticated tests to check applications are fit for purpose, and make sure they are stable enough to go into production. 

What a performance tester does

“By carrying out tests before major releases , we help ensure e-channels are stable and easy for customers and employees to use,” says Stephan Baumhoff, Head of Performance Testing at PostFinance. This way, we can prevent response times getting significantly worse from one release to the next, or from becoming slower in the long term. “The idea of these tests is to keep stability risks for critical applications to a minimum before they go live.” But this doesn’t just involve testing at peak times on normal days – tests are also carried out on exceptional days such as on Black Friday or over the Christmas period when the frequency is particularly high. First of all, it is important the tests are set up as realistically as possible, and secondly, it is also important we interpret the results properly. “We also have to look to the future. It is only by knowing what new technologies are in store for us over the coming months that we can ensure we have the right work tools when the time comes.”

How to become a performance tester

There is no performance tester training per se, but there are many different ways to become one. “I studied physics at university, and went on to explore the field in greater depth as a financial IT consultant during the first internet boom,” says Stephan Baumhoff. “After 20 years, I still think it’s a really exciting area. There are always new challenges.” Other people on the team have a background in development, a degree in telecommunication or media information technology, or they completed the IT internship at PostFinance. 

Skills required to become a performance tester

For this job, you need to have a strong interest in testing, good knowledge of software development and an in-depth understanding of how all the different areas of the IT landscape are interconnected. You must be an analytical, independent thinker, you need to be methodical and to understand and be able to explain technical matters. “You need a Sherlock Holmes gene,” says Stephan Baumhoff. “If there is a problem, this could be down to the code or the database, or alternatively one of the many software/hardware components involved.” You have to really persevere and go through every possible cause.

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