|Where are the Heroes of Quality?
||[Mar. 11th, 2006|05:15 pm]
This post has been bouncing around my head in a number of different formats for a couple days now. The gist of it is this. Who is there out there for people new to QA/Test to look up to and try to emulate? Or more importantly, to draw new blood into the field?
I don't think there is any person, or group of people, who have the name recognition to pull someone who is not already on the testing trajectory onto it. Programmers have Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Linus Torvalds et al to look up to. Money and Power is sexy. Finance people have the likes of Warren Buffet to look towards. Again, super successful and as a result super moneyed. The Internet Bubble had a number of .com millionaire (or Billionaires in the context of Google). Outside of technology again you just have to look at how many kids want to be pro athletes. Money. Fame. Power. So how come there isn't such a person in the field of QA/Test?
- Money (or lack thereof) - One thing most, if not all, household recognized names have in common is the size of their bank account. In the technology realm, most of the money is made when a company goes public or is acquired. By definition, the people at the ground floor get rewarded disproportionately than the rest. But when was the last time a company went public or was acquired which was started by a QA person? Again, almost by definition they are founded by a (group of) developer(s). So you are never going to look at the annual Forbes list of wealth and see someone with 'QA/Tester' beside their name. When picking a career, what are most people going to choose? The one that tops you out at 200k/year or one that could net you millions at IPO time? I remember wanting to learn how to write C in grade 3. If I had, who knows how different my finances would look now?</i>
- Career Path - This is kinda Money part 2. What is the career path that someone who chooses QA/Test choosing for themselves. There are really two choices. Consult/Contract and ladder climbing. Consult/Contract is a separate bullet, so we'll concentrate on the ladder. How many CEOs of companies of recognizable size are there in the world that started in QA? Not one I would bet. C* positions tend to be filled from Finance or Operations. So realistically, the ladder tops out for someone climbing the ladder around Quality Czar. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But the pay cheque is missing a couple zeros in comparison.
- Domain micro-brand - A lot of QA/Test people go on their own and hop from company to company once they reach a certain level on testing philosophy development. We'll call this the domain micro-brand. These people have visibility only in the testing domain which does not help attract new people in. If you look at successful people in business, they were not there for 3 months whipping a division into shape, but often years stamping it with their identity. I would guess that there are a number of reasons for reinventing yourself in the domain micro-brand model. Money and Career Path likely factor high in the list.
- Domain immaturity - Lets face it, QA/Test (heck, programming) is in their infancy as far as a domain goes. Architects, Plumbers, Cobblers and Coopers etc all have hundreds of years to draw upon. We have, what, 50? Tops? Until the the field itself matures, the visibility of it will lag behind. So how do we do that? I'm not sure.
- Some argue that we should all agree on a certain way of doing things and get a single body to certify people in it. Of course, there are those who argue that such an effort would not really do anything. In networking, the Gold Standard for awhile was the CCIE certification because to get it was damn hard. I'm not sure if it is still the same thing, but if you wanted someone who know knew networking you weeded all the resumes that did not have that. This not going to be resolved any time soon.
- Part of the reason for not having certifications is that there is a lot of disagreement over what knowledge should be certified. I'm guessing though that there is a common subset that could be disseminated around. What we as QA/Testers should do is work on getting that subset developed to the point where it can be taught to students at the post-secondary level. Very few colleges or universities have courses dedicated to software engineering (version control, unit tests, design patterns etc) let alone on pure Testing Fundamentals. If we could get that taught to all 2nd or 3rd year computer science students we might get more to choose this route. More bodies == more visibility and the chance of finding a Testing Hero.
- Test as Stepping Stone - All too often there is a high churn rate of people in QA/Test as it is often seen/used as a stepping stone into development proper. I can't tell you how many times people have expressed shock when I say that I want to be in QA/Test for the length of my career and not move into development at some point. This is what I enjoy, am good at, and passionate (hate that term) about. Type. Compile. Swear. Type. Compile. Swear. Thanks, but thats not a work cycle I want to live in.
- Domain Fragmentation - Another working against us is how fragmented / specialized the Test world can be. Automation vs Manual. Exploratory vs Following a script. Tool A vs Tool b. Functional vs Load. The list goes on and on. Specialization creates more domain micro-brands, who start to consult/contract to get more money. See how all these build on each other?
- Personality - Lets face it, most people who enter into technology are introverts. To develop a large enough profile to be a role model/draw for new people to the field will likely take some pretty meticulous and deliberate planning (and execution of course). That is likely to result from an extrovert who just happens to be in technology. Something that statistics appear to be stacked against
How do we get someone to that level? I hinted at it a bit earlier.
- Start them Young - We need to seriously push our institutions of higher learning to include at least one course on testing to find those people who have the knack for it.
- Certification - Even though there are very valid reasons not to push certification yet, I think we need to pursue it if for no other reason that it would give some level of credibility to the profession in the eyes of organizations.
- Educate employers - If you work with someone with hiring responsibility, make sure that when they want a tester, that they do not structure their posting as "a developer who cares about quality". They won't get what they really want, a tester, and will then likely look at people who call themselves testers in a negative light.
- Educate the greater technology community - It would nice to see columns on the advances in testing methods and methodologies in the major development/technology magazines. With added exposure, will come new thoughts and blood to the profession.
And who is there presently who could do this? I can think of three people who have the in-community clout to possibly get outside interest to testing. Of course, this is bias based upon my exposures to the greater testing community and no doubt is different from someone else's list. Which proves my point to some degree.