Being a QA professional is a unique career goal and can be equally rewarding. The career is so distinct and off the beaten track, that discussions at universities regarding software testing careers are also unique and slightly rare. It is known that there isn’t a standard way to start off a career in QA. On record, there are more people who have fallen into the career rather than getting there by planning.
Not much attention has been devoted to the long-term career prospects of those who start in QA roles. But in the fast-paced world of software development this is quickly changing with QA testers easily moving up the ranks to become QA managers. More and more businesses are adopting agile development methodologies, DevOps approaches and a whole lot more.
It has come to pass that Quality Assurance is no longer the last item on the software launch checklist. It is part of the entire software lifecycle and has business goals interwoven into it. The CEO of the Software QA enterprise Bridge360 swears by the integral part of QA in software development and promotes QA as the leading task for success in development.
The initial period of years in a tester’s career, are not as smooth as one would hope to be. And the treatment meted out to testers is not the same as experienced by developers. Once the testers get through this initial rough patch, there are great chances of them transforming into excellent leaders.
In today’s market scenario, experienced QA professionals are highly versatile in handling tasks. They not only can manage QA testing processes but are highly equipped to tackle fresh career challenges. Such challenges can range from product management, to enterprise architecture and even customer experience.
Why are QA Careers in demand?
Software QA engineering jobs are at an all-time high in terms of growth rates and business pundits has forecasted an average of 100,000 to be created by 2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the USA have anticipated a whole lot of different other skilled technical openings in the coming years. And it has been established that a majority of these technical openings will be QA based.
These statistics do not come as a surprise as QA engineers and professionals are a vital component of most enterprise technical teams. QA designations are but an integral element of every software development platform. Market experts have noted that the rising demand in the United States for QA engineers is concentrated in tech-laden markets as Seattle, Austin and San Francisco. The average national pay for a QA professional and an engineer is around $75,444, according to the Dice Salary Survey. QA engineering candidates and professionals are seeing a steep rise in demand for skills such as test automation, Ruby, Selenium, Java, C++ and Chef or Puppet.
Along with the skills mentioned above one can see the increase in frequency of black and white box testing. White box testing is unique in the sense that it utilizes an application’s internal structures to create and design test cases. This requires engineers to have programming skills. In the case of black box testing an external perspective is adopted in order to test functionality.
QA has locked in its need for all technical professional since test is moving into automation and clients are searching for QA professionals and engineers who test and write code side by side!
Clients are looking for professionals to possess the know-how on how to code to automate and go beyond just leveraging automation tools.
Here are six innovative career leaps and ideas for QA professionals.
1. Product manager
Larry Kelley, who founded QA services provider Qalytics in 2013, has seen QA professionals take on a number of new challenges, including as a vice president of publisher/developer relations for a major entertainment division, a head of project management for a major health insurance provider, and a studio head of a gaming company.
Larry Kelley goes on to say about product management. And that it helps analyse and review software and this leads to development of a deeper understanding of the methodologies in software quality enhancement. In the market of today, demand for software with high functionality is highly critical to the success of enterprises. The more second nature QA becomes to all staff, the higher the chances of success a business will have.
Brenda Hall, CEO of Bridge360 says new product development and feature development are the forte of QA professionals. They would have amassed a wealth of knowledge to achieve new heights in product improvement. QA professionals can now be seen shifting and growing into other regions of an enterprise such as PMOs, director level, business unit leaders etc.
2. DevOps Roles
Software testers have known to possess a comprehensive view of the software development process. This makes them great release managers and engineers, along with product stability managers and automation engineers in businesses that most likely follow a DevOps approach to software development.
This makes sure that code reached users faster, at higher qualities and more often. Developers are oblivious to this approach most of the time as they are not able to see the forest for the trees as they say. But the QA gets the whole picture and uses it to deliver a great software product. QA has been steadily moving upstream and now can involve more easily in DevOps movement and practice. In the long run it is even possible to take over DevOps roles.
3. Customer Experience Leader
Most QA professionals are intensely focused on users and customers therefore boosting their own value immensely as enterprises prioritize customer experience. Great QA testers have always understood that customers come first. It is common knowledge that most customer service positions are great for QA testers seeing them excel in the field.
One can go so far as to say that in technology driven, fast paced enterprises have QA software testers as the voice of the customer. An enterprise will have to keep in mind the human component at all times. It will have to ask questions such as “What do the customers care about, and why?”
4. Enterprise Architect
QA testing can be described as “creative destruction” with testing and probing the code to make the product better. QA professionals have known to exhibit great deals of attention to detail and high levels of appreciation for independent review. These qualities may make QA professionals unwelcome in the fast paced software development shops in a few cases. But the bright side of this is that QA professionals make for amazing enterprise architects
The ability to utilize many dynamic components of code and fit them into a holistic “big picture” or flow is invaluable in an enterprise and can be found easily in QA professionals. They are the ones responsible for developing and architecting the business wide software delivery chain.
5. IT management
It is said that to effectively manage any individual or group of individuals one must understand the day-day tasks along with the mind-set of the individual or group of individuals. This is possible when someone is well versed in QA and will allow one to mentor their employees more effectively.
Established QA professionals go on to become senior directors of companies such as CRM and enterprise social software. One shining example of this is Shelley Reuger, senior director of QA at Moxie, which produces CRM and enterprise social software. Reuger says testing leads to a lot of risk-based decisions, critical thinking and looking at the big picture. A QA professional will ask questions like, how likely will a business problem affect the customer. And what are the problems that the customer will care about.
The conventional and orthodox view of QA testing has always been that it is of lower value than actual dynamic development. And when a new CTO or CLO position opens up the first people considered usually are from development backgrounds. But with the change in viewpoints over the years, and shining beacons such as Reuger, the scenario is changing for the better for QA professionals.
6. Quality Engineering and Strategy
Even though QA to Quality Engineering may seem like a big jump but it has known to be a sure shot way for QA professionals to increase the level of engagement and challenge in their careers, not to mention, growth. Quality Engineering has its efforts focused on making sure of a streamlined system for quality for all software product releases, rather than ensuring quality on specific app releases. As of now QA professionals have also the choice to pursue designations in QA strategy which history has shown, has usually been the forte of nontechnical professionals with business analyst backgrounds.
Salary and Job Trends for QA Professionals
In the US the average salary for a QA analyst is around $83,000 which is on the higher side for jobs in the IT sector in the US. As with most job profiles experience plays a huge role in salary. Software Test skills, system testing, test planning, Black Box Testing and regression testing are all highly coveted skillsets within QA that increase pay. The fluctuation of salary is shown in the graph below.
Quality Assurance Analyst National Salary Trends
The annual salaries of QA analysts sometimes even average around $58,516 nationally in the US. In the most recent developments in compensation for QA professionals in the USA, the per annum salaries have increased by 3% which was slightly lower than a few years before.
And coming to how much would a QA Manager make in terms of compensation per year. A QA manager salary is around1 $102,229 as of December 2016. The salary range is between 90K to 118K, and depending on a variety of factors. These factors can range from skill sets and experience to certifications and education.
Beyond QA – How to get there from here
QA professionals have to overcome challenges more often than not to take on bigger roles within testing function or outside it. QA managers are known to be a double-edged sword to them. They tend not to divulge points of view, opportunities and victories in execution of tasks, big and small.
QA professionals in strategic roles such as QA managers and higher, have the challenge of communication of both good and bad needs on a clear and consistent basis. This will not be in the form of a document and has to be dynamic. QA professionals will need to communicate on all wavelengths across different and disparate teams to battle for and achieve required goals. Preparation for future opportunities QA will need to collaborate on automation projects and strategy and will need to share ideas to increase productivity. Along with this QA will also need to participate in new initiatives
To ascend in corporate hierarchy QA professionals will need to learn as much as is humanly possible and will also have to put up with the initial rough patches (that are so common when compared to developers). QA professionals will need to take on more responsibility and will also need to create added duties to enhance skillsets. Taking initiative is a very powerful tool for QA professionals to advance in their career as compared to their developer counterparts.
QA Professionals can make the smooth transition to bigger roles and responsibilities if imbued with the right incentives and motivation. They have been known to grow into positions in advanced data analytics, finance and in rare cases, even law!
Thus the most essential fact is that key skillsets like critical thinking, big picture approach to problems, process focus and enhanced organizational ability will easily translate to higher advanced careers in QA.
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