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What are today's top QA challenges?

In terms of development, QA testers are often perceived as the lowest of the low. Expert Amy Reichert explains why QAs don't get respect and what they can do about it.

Quality assurance professionals face many QA challenges. The number one challenge: gaining respect. Nearly every...

day somewhere, QA professionals are virtually banging their heads on walls, lamenting their profession because developers get all the money, extra benefits and attention in a software development business. The reason: Developers are at the top of the totem pole in software development and QA is at the bottom.

Why? The business nature of software development demands the creation and fixing of code. That is the job of developers. It's a simple fact that will never change, as long as a software development business needs to make money. As a QA professional, you shouldn't stress or gnash your teeth over it. Don't add more stress to a job that's already overwhelming in repetitive cycles. It is simply a business fact that QA can't control.

What QA professionals should be focusing on are the customers. Customers are important and their experience with an application is of utmost importance to business success. As a QA professional, quality and a positive end user experience is the goal. Nearly every software development business has quality in their mission statement or brings out the quality balloons and banners as needed. "Quality is Job 1," was the long-time signature statement for the Ford Motor Company after it was plagued with quality issues and lost significant market share. Most companies tout their quality, so we know it's vital.

As QA professionals who test software applications, we believe in the quality of the customer experience. We don't want to release defective or problematic code. But the reality is quality has to balance with business survival needs. Quality is important; QA is important, too. The problem is developers create the product and they fix the product when it's broken. QA cannot do that. For that reason, developers will always be more important than QA, and as a QA professional, you shouldn't let it get to you. One of our QA challenges is to do our best as part of the software development team to create the highest quality application possible.

Don't be insulted. Be proud of your work as a QA. It's crucial, even if we're not on the top of the totem pole.

Next Steps

Take charge of your QA career

What does tomorrow's software tester look like?

The tester's challenge in CD

This was last published in December 2015

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Do you agree that lack of respect is one of the biggest QA challenges today?
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I don't think so. I have never worked for a place in my 30+ years where we had a QA staff. WE did everything our selves or within the development team. Personally it would be the same situation with those that staff the help desk. They may not have all the perks like development but I do not look down on them. I have respect for everyone that is doing their job to their best. The reason is we work as a team and if one part fails it effects us all. If I want respect I have to give it as well.
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The author of this piece doesn't know what she is talking about!
FACT>>Software Test Engineers make HIGHER PAY than software developers. I've been in the industry since I graduated from high school at 10 & 2 yrs l8r went to work as a junior programmer... in 1960. I'm still working, not because 'i have to' but b/c I LOVE MY WORK. I am C-level now, but even so, I know that a good STE is far more valuable than a SDE.
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I have not encountered respect issues in working with Development and project teams.  In fact,  developers are proud of their work and generally happy with services provided by testers.  Part of QA service is finding bugs!
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In my last position, newly graduated computer science engineers were interviewed for both software development and QA. If the new graduate was offered a QA position, they initially felt it was a lower offer. I think this is because the universities don't teach anything about software quality and the importance of this discipline. Test automation frameworks offer endless coding opportunities and success in this area is coveted. In waterfall development environments, there are different role and skill requirements. In agile development, it is more homogeneous. Everyone pitches in to meet the story (quality) acceptance criteria.
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I've heard this myth that testers (here in this article mislabeled as quality assurance staff) are not respected, and I can't say that I've seen it.  Maybe some people expect respect day one, but in my view you have to earn it.  The best Dev's i've worked with have quickly realized the value I bring to their work, and that means better outcomes for customers.

Oh and the dev perks everyone talks about, may actually be overrated.
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Lack of understanding about testing - might be.
We have issues with misunderstanding about testing role (not assurance), automation (does not replace skilled human testing), checking for known problems and exploration for unknown problems.
That said, there are places with lack of respect to testers but typically programmers were equally mistreated in such environments.
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If there’s a lack of respect, it’s only because you haven’t earned it yet. I think it was James Bach that said that a tester has to earn their reputation with the team. On that note, I’d have to agree with Albert that the misunderstanding about testing may be the big problem.
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Testers need to be mindful, its not just do enough to look or feel busy, you have to find ways to ask new questions that noone has thought of, try input that could cause problems, and you have to do so while being as positive as possible, to help the team improve what it releases.
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As for Respect, respect comes from showing value, It is not a function of who builds, who inspects.  We have an industry that has tried to turn Testing into some kind of commodotized process with easy rules and best practices, that in practice often fall far short of enough to really meet our team needs.  It should come as no surprise that those that treat testing like its disposable do so because of efforts like the ISO 29119 Standard (which hasn't a prayer of adequately doing anything but providing a possible documentation imperative, that just adds more red tape to the already slow process of testing.)
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Talk about trying to change an industry culture. Wow!! I recently spoke at a Test Conference on this subject. It starts with pride, confidence, positive attitude and constructive communications to your SW developers. Too many times, inexperienced QA people are too fearful to ask questions (5 whys) until they comprehend & flush out all the code behavior they need to do their job properly. More importantly, QA people need training in communications and continuous curiosity. Strategically, we need to get to the universities & colleges to have them "promote" how awesome quality engineering is in the real world!! It can be a career or a career launch pad to product management, technical marketing or development. Many of the best professionals have spent some time in quality assurance.
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Good points Steve. I had never heard of software quality assurance during college. I am trying to do my small part to remedy that, though. Each year a small group of alumni return to our university's computer science program to speak to senior students and talk about career paths. Since I work in QA, I of course talk about the need for QA in software development, and what it's like as a career path.
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James Bach said something along the lines of you have to earn your reputation when you start on a new team. I think that clearly applies to respect on an individual level, as well, but professionals should respect the position, even if the tester has yet to earn their respect personally.
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