Trying to explain to my mother what I do for a living
Working as a Quality Assurance Engineer for three years (that is the official title for Tester), there is one question I have been asked by almost everyone: “What is it exactly that you do?”. It made me quickly realize that this field is still relatively unknown to the public. So why not make a Q&A on QA? Pun intended.
Who are you people?
In the IT world, everyone knows that the developers write the code and the designers design all the cool graphics. So where do the testers step in? A short, humorously biased, version to this answer is: The QA team (short for Quality Assurance) makes sure that the project will stay afloat when the former two (the developer and designer) decide to bring their masterpieces to life, alongside with quality standards being met.
QA is the safety net, the final step before a new feature is presented to a project and the public. So it’s the QA’s responsibility to track down every possible error and make sure it is fixed.
We put the cherries on top 🙂
What do you mean by Quality Assurance?
Quality Assurance is a pretty self explanatory title. But how does one define quality? The definition of the word suggests that quality is something subjective that differs among people. So I will have to describe quality in the way I perceive it.
Theoretically, quality is a fickle, intangible, unreachable goal chased to eternity. You can pursue it but when you consider you have achieved it, the time that is passing by will outdate it instantaneously. Therefore, quality is something you must always pursue, alongside with the desire and passion to become better than yesterday. It’s an ongoing process that you must learn to walk along with.
On the technical part, and to apply the theoretical part to the job, in order to bring quality into a project you must always think ahead and follow rules. Quality Assurance is the means of preventing mistakes before they reach the customer, or making sure that the project is following the provided guidelines.
So, do you do any programming?
While having programming skills can be very convenient, a tester’s job does not include any programming in parts of the project. That being said, a tester can always follow the path of writing automated tests, which do require some programming skills. I would say it is a great plus to know how things work, but not necessarily a must.
What skills are expected of a tester?
In my opinion, observation is the number one skill that matters. Followed by creativity, mental sharpness, analytical thinking, communication skills, will for research, writing skills, patience and last but not least, will for knowledge. Being able to handle deadlines and set priorities is also very important. On a second thought, there’s a ton of skills involved in this field.
Overall, I would say that this field can become quite fun or quite tedious, depending on what one makes of it. In the end, it all ties up to the tester’s mentality itself.
How did it affect your life?
Being a tester has actually been an eye-opening experience. I suppose this applies to other jobs as well. Ever since I started focusing on finding flaws on a daily basis, I began to see them all around me. The illusion of perfection shattered and the realization that everything can break became my new reality. Everything around us can be broken, manipulated, and improved.
At the same time of seeing the somewhat negative aspect of the matter, my thinking of how to face a problem has also improved drastically. I can now find an issue’s root, set a plan on how to fix it or improve it and apply the fix to see if it will work. It’s fascinating, really. There’s a great amount of information out there that we’re missing because we are not really looking or we don’t know what to do with it. For me, working as a tester has taught me how to use whatever tools I have to get the best results out of it.