Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Software Quality Assurance Engineer... Happiest job?!?

If you haven't seen this article, you want to read it:


About half way down it says:
The happiest job of all isn't kindergarten teacher or dentist. It's software quality assurance engineer. Professionals with this job title are typically involved in the entire software development process to ensure the quality of the final product. This can include processes such as requirements gathering and documentation, source code control, code review, change management, configuration management, release management, and the actual testing of the software, explains Matt Miller, chief technology officer at CareerBliss.
With an index score of 4.24, software quality assurance engineers said they are more than satisfied with the people they work with and the company they work for. They're also fairly content with their daily tasks and bosses.

These professionals "typically make between $85,000 and $100,000 a year in salary and are the gatekeepers for releasing high quality software products," Miller says. Organizations generally will not allow software to be released until it has been fully tested and approved by their software quality assurance group, he adds.
So I have a bunch of comments:
  1. I guess I don't know what a "Software Quality Assurance Engineer" is -- or this Matt Miler guy doesn't. 
  2. *If* anyone "ensures the quality of the final product" in software, it's a PM or higher.
  3. I don't think I've met anyone with that title who smiled and told me how much they love their job.
  4. I'm certain I've never met someone with that title that makes that much money. 
  5. I think I'd rather shoot myself in the head than have those tasks... even at such a generous salary.
I could go on, but I'll stop.  I want to see these questions, & I want to know the demographics of the people surveyed, & I want to see the titles actually reported by respondents that got rolled up under "Software Quality Assurance Engineer." I'd also like to have a word or 73 with this Matt Miller dude... CTO to CTO, 'cause lets face it, we all know that testers wouldn't be caught dead bragging about how *happy* their job makes them, or how *satisfying* it is. Testers tend to love the act of testing, but not their jobs, or their bosses, or their companies -- and if this ain't referring to testers, I wanna know why these process people are apparently so happy about being forced to do the actual testing on top of their "real" job.

Feel free to share your thoughts, but this strikes me as "not *even* wrong" to a degree that I can't seem to even reverse-engineer a single measurement dysfunction that could account for all the ways in which this article strikes me as "just not right".

Scott Barber
Chief Technologist, PerfTestPlus, Inc.
Director, Computer Measurement Group

Co-Author, Performance Testing Guidance for Web Applications
Author, Web Load Testing for Dummies
Contributing Author, Beautiful Testing, and How To Reduce the Cost of Testing

"If you can see it in your mind...
     you will find it in your life."


Alan said...

I've noticed a huge uptick recently of articles where the author knows next to nothing (or nothing at all) about the subject they're writing about. Apparently, you can make stuff up these days and nobody cares?

Short story is that in test jobs (or 'qa'!), titles mean nothing - and I have no idea how'd you correlate a title to a salary when there's that much ambiguity in the role.

But you know all this...

halperinko said...

Finally we get some positive media, still we find the urge to seek for bugs in it :-)
So this guy is not accurate about our profession, just like 90% of the HR companies (Actually - he was not accurate about someone else's occupation as we are Testers and not QA's),
Even though - it just might push some graduates to SW testing as a profession, and ease our way trying to answer puzzled relatives regarding what we actually do :-).

I for once, Truly enjoy my profession as a Tester, and happy to get any positive media coverage.

@halperinko - Kobi Halperin

David Greenlees said...

"typically involved in the entire software development process to ensure the quality of the final product"

I need a their definition of 'typically'! I'm pretty sure that a lot of testers still aren't that involved. Although, I'm talking about testers... I have no idea who they are talking about!

It's another case of showing 'part' of a survey's results without giving the context that is so desparately required (*insert Capers Jones joke here*).

mark said...

I think it is an April Fool's article released too early. Bank Teller is the 3rd "happiest" job? I don't believe that for 1 second based on the bank tellers I've encountered.

Darby said...

Nice that they name drop "Forbes" as the content provider. Look at the bright side to this article: YOu can use it to help justify that raise you want to ask for.

And a PM having much input into the quality of the final product? No PM I have ever worked with would be worth a darn to do that. But of course they exert political power and do it anyway, until the product has a production but. At which point, you're the professional scapegoat.

Unknown said...

If your PM isn't making the go-live decision, who is? *Someone* is going to be held responsible for that decision. Whomever that is, is the *sole* person responsible for the quality of the release (not of the code, or the work, or, or, or). Testers are not responsible unless they make the final decision, independently, about what build to release when.

Many orgs *try* to make this a committee decision. I think that is a mistake unless the committee includes the shareholders and the corporate BoD.

Matthew G. Sullivan said...

Actually, I think if I were actually held responsible for go-live decisions, I would be a lot less happy with my job.

On the one hand, a lot of us may daydream of being a fireman, but wouldn't REALLY want to rush into a burning building. If we really take a step back and look at what it is that we do, the environment in which we work, and the culture of a typical software development organization, things could be worse.

On the other hand, there are a lot of positions that I would think are happier. Tenured college professor, judge, beer taster, these are just a couple that come to mind. Even in the software business, trainers seem to be a lot happier than testers.

My guess is that they did not purge the test data after they developed this survey. So they had a bunch of submissions with "Tester" as the profession, and all 5s for the scores.

More comments in my new blog Transparent Positronics

Yvette Francino said...

Yeah, I had a similar reaction when I read that article... And your blog post cracked me up. Not sure if it was meant to be funny, but I love the way you just say it the way it is.

Also got a kick out of David Greenlees' comment. I tend to never take these surveys too seriously. (Except the ones by SSQ, of course! ;-) )

I did see something about a "Happiness Metric" not too long ago, though, and I'd made a note to myself to look that up and maybe write an article about how we measure happiness.

I'd be curious to know more about how they got the results from this survey and find out where these happy QA engineers work!

Anonymous said...

"*If* anyone "ensures the quality of the final product" in software, it's a PM or higher."

Ha, spoken like a true middle manager. As if the quality of a software project isn't the result of a team effort (engineers/testers/release engineers/documentation staff/managers/etc).

I have worked as a QA engineer for most of my career and while I can't say that I love every moment of my work, overall I find it quite satisfying. And yes, I actually make more than the salary range listed in the article. I'm worth it. I'm good at what I do.

I don't have a problem with you questioning the validity of this article (I too would love to see how this survey was conducted), but I do have a problem with your condescension. I certainly wouldn't work on your team.

"I think I'd rather shoot myself in the head than have those tasks... even at such a generous salary."

And this comes from the CTO at company offering testing services. Awesome PR amigo!

Anonymous said...

Scott, you probably just read my last anonymous comment. I just re-read your post, so let me rescind most of what I said. I do slightly disagree with you that it's PM or higher who ensures the quality of the final product, but mostly because I've worked at small companies where everyone has a larger stake/responsibility/impact on the final project (e.g. everyone wears "many hats").

But yeah, I agree with most of the rest of your post. Anyway, please disregard the original. The yahoo blog post is basically garbage.

Anonymous QA guy. . .

David Greenlees said...

@Anonymous - Maybe if we take out the word 'ensures' and replace with 'decides on'? Would that be more appropriate?

Remember that Scott highlighted *If* too.

Decisions to release are a touchy subject though, that's fo shiz!

John McConda said...

Wait, I thought testing was dead? Maybe that's why we're finally happy.

John McConda said...

Wait, I thought testing was dead? Maybe that's why we're finally happy.

Michael said...

I can't really be bothered responding to all the errors in the article, and personally I see myself as a Tester, not some Quality Process Numpty. My only concern is that some HR people will see this article as an excuse to pay testers less than now.

QA Thought Leaders said...

Very interesting post indeed. Any one from QA testing background will love to read this post. There are various topics that can be discussed when it comes to Software Quality Assurance but then this is unique and very interesting. Look forward to your next post.

Kevin said...

After 12 years of doing QA I don't know anyone who likes doing it. Most use it as a means to an end or to progress from where they are to where they want to go. Perhaps video game testers have an enjoyment level that most application / software development test engineers dream of...

Arifa Batool said...

I ain't agree with most of what the author said in this blog-post. I know my experience as a QA is negligible as compare to the other people here (mere one year of QA in smart phones' games). But as per my understanding I would like to jot down a few things here:

1. Yes, QA people involve since the very beginning of project life cycle and their say is equally important like PMs, Devs etc

2. As far as the ensuring the quality of product is concerned its not the responsibility of either JUST QA or JUST the PM, a software is a result of a team's efforts, so each and every team member is equally responsible for the good quality of the product. PM's main responsibility is to deliver the product on TIME, where as delivering good/high quality product is the responsibility of every one in the time and can be held accountable accordingly.

3. Nobody on this planet is satisfied with their job all the time, there are ups an downs sometimes. So labeling it by saying that QAs aren't satisfied or love their jobs is not right and vice versa. But as far as my personal experience is concerned I found most of the QAs are ok and happy with their jobs and SALARY, that includes me too.

5. and yes QAs too, make good salaries, trust me on that.

PS: I have worked as a QA in Tap Fish Series game (Tap Fish, Tap Fish Exotic, Tap Fish Plus) on Android from Gameview Studios.

Unknown said...


1. I can forgive your English, assuming it's not your first language (I can't speak a second language at all, so my compliments both on how much you've learned & for having the courage to post publicly in a non-native language)

2. I can forgive you for not agreeing based on your experience.

3. I can forgive you for your obvious enthusiasm & love for your role in your company.

4. I cannot help but think it odd that a tester posting a comment, disagreeing with the author, on a blog about testing either cannot count to 5, or failed to proofread well enough to notice that the comment has no number 4.

5. I would like to suggest that in the future, at least until you have a broader experience than one year of testing with one company in one country on one series of games for one operating system, you restrict your public comments to sharing your own experiences as opposed to making statements that are clearly intended to be read as near universal facts.

I make this suggestion as someone with much experience in this field, much experience moderating online communities, and much experience teaching recruiters and hiring manager how to find and screen testers. My post, while certainly controversial & abhorrent to some, is only debatable (factually) regarding definition of terms (which is a large part of my point in the first place), and would not disqualify me for any job or role that I'd be willing to consider taking in the first place AND has not only *not* lowered my stature in the testing community, has raised it in some segments of the community.

I suspect that the day will come when you send me a note asking me to allow you to edit your post, or for me to take it down altogether.

I could be wrong, but if you spend enough time in online tester communities and this post continues to receive the volume of traffic it has been receiving, I feel fairly confident in my prediction.

Arifa Batool said...

I forgive you for not accepting criticism.

Unknown said...

I cannot recall ever being accused of not accepting criticism. If that is what is happening here, I'm both confused and embarrassed.

An alternate explanation is that I accept that your experience is exactly what it is & I'm happy for you; however, *my* experience (spanning more than 10x yours with first hand information about 100x more orgs and second hand information about upward toward 1000x more) says that your experience is as far from universal as both the survey results and the interpretation thereof by the so-called expert than none of us testers have ever heard of.

Nor does your experience do anything to change the entirely flawed methods of the survey itself or the completely unsupported "conclusions" drawn from the data.

I did take the survey, I do have training with such things, and I did consult a highly respected PhD researcher to critique my assessment of the survey and the conclusions (honestly expecting her to tell me all the ways in which I was mistaken) who not only agreed with my assessment, but pointed out additional ways in which it was (as my children would
put it) an "Epic Fail".

So, my opinion is my opinion. My experience is my experience. What I believe is good/bad for testerland may be right or wrong. The positions presented in the article may be right or wrong (incidentally). But right, wrong or otherwise, the positions presented in the article are not the result of scientifically, statistically, socially or cognitively valid analysis.

My recommendation, if you and/or others who share your position are so inclined, would be to invite me and my "research consultant" to review, or possibly collaborate on establishing, a valid research model to figure out what is *actually* going on out there.

Anything else is simply "experience & opinion vs. experience & opinion" -- a.k.a. one thing that's valid & true, but about the past and one thing that is only possible to judge the general utility of post-facto.

Ryan said...

I have discovered that your career is what you make of it, and here is what I mean.

If you are in QA, and are not involved in the product development from beginning to end, it is your responsibility to get there.

If you are in QA, and you find that you are just pushing the same buttons over and over again, and this makes you happy, then stay there. If you are unhappy, then expand your scope. Automate those tasks, and then automate more.

If you are in QA, and you want to develop, then level up your skills, and develop ways to ensure the product has less bugs, or ways to prevent bad code.

I think the only part about QA that has any negative connotations is this. You are the bearer of bad news. You have to tell engineers and developers when they have made a mistake. You are sometimes the long pole in the project, so you mess with the timelines. If a customer finds a bug, it is YOUR fault. Everyone has a reason to hate QA.

In my experience, rarely has qa decided when to release a product. That is normally the decision of sales, believe it or not. I can find bugs if I look, so the product release is when the market says it has to go out. The severity of the bugs goes down over time, so if we have to release to get a customer, then we get it out there and start the cycle again.

This is based on my experiences so far, and these are my opinions.

Brian Osman said...

@Arifa - Scott is more than capable in defending himself BUT the work he does in the COMMUNITY almost demands that fellow testers call out the arrogance in your comments. Scott is a leader in the testing community - online and in person, spoken at many conferences, authored many books, articles, blog posts and has been the voice of a number of webinars. I know Scott - I have met him and i have *worked* with Scott on few community activities.

My question to you Arifa - is WHAT have you done? Who are you? Where is your reputation and credibility?
The answer of course is nothing, no one, no where.

BEFORE you criticise, think about what you are criticising. WHEN someone like Scott is offering constructive criticism understand that he is trying to help you.

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QA Geek said...

I don't agree that QA is most happiest job. In some aspects QA is a cool job but QA is far from the happiest position. QA is one of the most unpopular positions to be in as we constantly need to take a position which promotes quality over deadlines. I find it hard to believe QA was rated in the top for happiest position.

MP said...

Perhaps most people do not know what a software quality assurance engineer does. In my opinion, if you call yourself a "tester", you are not doing your job right. An SQA engineer ensures "quality" and does so in so many ways that if one did this work, would be proud and confident enough to not only call themselves an SQA engineer but to also get paid the salary range described above. I am an SQA and I ensure quality from the top down as well as I engineer the tests that I apply on the software. I also am happy and I do get paid.
~My advice to new SQA engineers:
Don't pay attention to negative feedback, as it will only keep you at the level of accomplishment and salary as those from which the feedback came from. Value yourself and keep learning!