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Is QA a dead end career move for a new grad?

I'll be graduating next year and a lot of the jobs I see posted locally are for QA / test positions. Is this a dead end career move for a new grad?

I want to do development, but I also just plain want a job.  If I took a QA position, how would it effect my career ?(generally speaking, of course)

Friday, July 25, 2003

Not enough information, my friend. What career to do you want? Want have you graduated in? If you wish to be a programmer, it ain't going to do you any good.

Mr Jack
Friday, July 25, 2003

By "I want to do development" I meant that I want to be a programmer. I figured it wouldn't help me in my career, but would it hurt? If I decided to bide my time as a tester until I could land a programming position, would it pigeonhole me as a QA type?

Friday, July 25, 2003

OTOH, if you can't get a job, will it pigeonhole you as unemployed?

You have a tough decision here. It's not the job you want, but it's A job, and it's in IT. That's a pretty rare sighting, these days.

If you do go into QA then it's really other people's decision whether you'll ever be allowed into programming. Maybe an opening will come along in your new company that you can apply for. Quite possible and not at all unlikely, if the company is run by decent people who will listen to you.

You might find that you even like QA. Stranger things have happened.

OTOH, maybe all the hirers in the whole IT industry will close ranks against you and cry "Sod off, you stupid tester, we don't want your sort in development." You just don't know.

My instinct would be to take the bird in the hand, but it's only my opinion. If you're broke, take the job. If not, go with your gut feeling.

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, July 25, 2003

QA is a shit tester job.  Programming is Programming.  One does NOT necessarily lead to the other.  So the answer to your question:  YES. 

Friday, July 25, 2003

[QA is a shit tester job.]

Heh, nice attitude.

I don't suppose it occured to you that the "shit tester job" probably wouldn't exist if the "shit programmer job" was done properly?

So, we've reached the point where our errors not only don't embarass us, but are now simply a mess for someone else to clean up. Man, we've got the best jobs. It's like play school all over again.

Seriously, a lot of companies DO farm their QA work out to people who are basically untrained. However, if the company offering the job appears to take QA seriously, you could actually learn a thing or two about software. I certainly wouldn't hold it against a developer if I say a tour of duty as QA on their resume.

Friday, July 25, 2003

<QA hat on>

I'd like to but in to add my €0.002:

One of the roles I have at my company is testing and "bug hunting" (truth to be told, I was hired to do docs, but we _need_ QA much more than we need docs right now).

I am lucky in that the programmers on the company (2 of them, we're a small shop) do in fact pay atention and care about fixing errors, and once I've shown that I do have an opinion that is worth listeting to, I get to speak up and even argue with the "architect" of the system.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not ready to argue the details of the implementation, but I am part of the development meetings and am asked about "high level" issues (networking, cli/srv design, etc). Background: Electrical & Control Eng.; I have done more than my share of programming, but over 90% of the product is windows driver development, and that is not something I am familiar with.

Of course my ideal position is _not_ as a programmer, but I really believe I could get into that if I wanted from the position I am now.

Just my opinion.

Of course, the day programmers start considering testing and QA something that is worth paying attention to, maybe their code won't be so lousy, and thus probably QA won't be such a thankless job. OTOH, it has its good moments, like when you get to bust some hyper-inflated programmers egos. When / if you build a reputation for good tester (ie, one that _does_ break apps), programmer tread more carefully around you ;)

<QA hat off>

Javier Jarava
Friday, July 25, 2003

Many companies do not have the patience or coolness necessary to make qa a good learning experience.  At least not if you really want to develop software.

Therefore I would look for one that isn't dismissive of testers, and takes very seriously my desire to automate tests whenever feasible.  Also, I would like my title to be (support) developer within the qa dept, not "tester" or "QA".  Obviously I would spin this in a friendly way, so it doesn't sound like my ambitions would get in the way of my actual job but rather complement it.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Joel pointed out somewhere that the problem with testers at Microsoft was that the good ones get bored.

Take it though. Better than WalMart

Stephen Jones
Friday, July 25, 2003

Test Automation is programming, so finding a position which allows you to focus on that will help you build up some street cred while you feed yourself.

That's how I got my start, anyway - from here, that doesn't appear to have been a dead end.

Friday, July 25, 2003

I started my career as a tester in my company. Then an opportunity came along, and I moved to development. Then again, it was 90s, so getting a developer's job was easier back then, of course.

If I were you, I would still take it. As someone mentioned, it's better than WalMart. You can go to a grad school part-time, and by the time you graduate, the economy will get better. You might even change careers and go to a law school or something. Living frugally for a couple of years will allow you to save some dough. Good luck in whatever you decide!

Friday, July 25, 2003

In an ideal world, no, it'd be a great path to programming.  Working with testing for a few months really changed my outlook on programming and even good design, I would say for the better.  I'm much less likely now to throw something in because it "might" be useful, or because I think it's cool.

Back in the real world, on the other hand, the tester I worked with at that time who had a CS degree and was hoping it would lead into programming has not gotten a programming job in the two years since then.  The two best testers on that project have since worked as telephone support people, served coffee, written technical docs for a small-company dictator...  And generally, I must admit, been happier for longer with those jobs than with testing.

I hate to say it, when working with a great testing group has meant so much to me.  But testing doesn't get the respect it deserves, and I wouldn't advise anyone to do it, unless the alternative was working at McD's (and even that might be debatable, depending on the company).

Realistic advice: talk to other testers / former testers at the company, ask them to tell stories, read between the lines.  Believe what the company has done in the past, not what they say.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Take the testing job. If you want to move into programming later, there are two or three things you will need to do.

1. Learn about the whole development process. If you understand other people's job roles (even the salesman) you will do your job better. If you appear knowledgeable (note - don't be a smart arse) and are prepared to learn, then when the opportunity arises...

2. Keep programming, even if you do it in your spare time. Pick something that interests you. Alternatively, find a problem at work that needs solving that would never get dealt with normally and give it a go.

3. Learn how to deal with people. Testers and programmers can be adversaries, or they can realise they have the same end goal and both their jobs are necessary. Only voice well informed opinions, offer help, be pleasant.

Finally, just be in the right place at the right time. Keep your ears open, keep people sweet and when the opportunity arises, it won't seem such a bad idea that you could start programming.

Pete J
Friday, July 25, 2003

A lot of people like QA. You may like it. It's great
experience in any case. There's often opportunity
for development from QA because there are always
tools and other changes to be made.

Friday, July 25, 2003

There's no such thing as a dead end career move for a new grad except going to jail. QA is an excellent place to get introduced to the working world, and most of the best developers I've ever worked with started out in QA. It's only a dead end if you make it one.

Friday, July 25, 2003

It's definitely possible. I moved from tester to developer at my current company at the end of last year. I was also offered a chance to make the same jump at my last company, but that's a story for another day (let's just say QA can indeed burn you out - the ratio of sources of frustration to things to do about them can seem very high).

A few tips on making the leap  (sorry if these are repeates) - make sure your desire is known to those above, but in such a way that you're not percieved as not caring about QA (and indeed, if you don't, get out of that position as soon as you can.)

Learn from the developers - find out what they think caused the bug, how they fixed it, why they did it that way.

Get a look at the source code wherever possible - do diffs to see how the code was changed to achieve a change in behavior.

Note - be careful here, as I'm answering the question 'how do I go from QA to dev' not 'how do I become a good tester/QA person'. Much of what I've suggested above may lead to growing the same blind spots that the coders had.

If you're testing succesfully, you'll soon gain the knowledge that in fact, you can learn nothing from looking at what the dev group is doing, as it invariably wrong.

Friday, July 25, 2003

would it pigeonhole me as a QA type

Yes. No matter what you do, you will be pigeon holed by less competent people. Why would you even want to do QA work? If you want to program then get a programming job or a job that will let you program.

Friday, July 25, 2003

I start in QA and now I am a developer. I had the same worries about being pigeonholed or "writing the wrong resume" with my QA experience. Some testers are able to cross the divide to development, but many are not.

There are two types of QA jobs: test developers and test monkeys. Test monkeys are the goof-offs who get paid to run the test suites every morning in the test lab. You do NOT want to be a test monkey. You want to be a test developer. They actually design and code up the test suites and usually have CS degees. This is how a fresh-faced grad can get real programming experience. On your rseume, you can spin this QA experience as real software development... just for in-house test apps. But on your resume, do not pretend that this is not QA because employers will see through any "rose-tinting" of your programming experience.

Microsoft calls test monkeys STEs (Software Test Engineer) and test developers SDETs (Software Design Engineer in Test).

When interviewing for QA jobs, be very certain that the prospective job is a test development job!

Friday, July 25, 2003

Also, you may find that you like QA. As someone noted, good test developers get bored, so there is small supply of senior test developers. You may be able to fill that niche and get paid pretty well. My employer has been interviewing for a senior test developer. We pay well and have very cool, well-known products, but we can only find clueless wanna-bes.

QA has other benefits over development, too. QA people only have to find the bugs. The developers are responsible for fixing the bugs on deadline and that get be very stressful during crunch time. Sure, QA has to finish their test apps, but that is an ongoing process so the deadlines and code quality are less crucial.

Friday, July 25, 2003

If your primary love is coding, I won't disagree with the notion that a test development position is a good one to shoot for.

However, runtime is wrong in his description of testers who are not primarily also developers (i.e., software test engineers) as just being "monkeys" whose primary job is to execute test suites in a lab.

It is true that some testers (particularly entry level testers) start by being primarily responsible for running through pre-defined tests in a lab. That is just the entry point, however, and experienced test folks who really learn the discipline of testing quickly move on to all sorts of other fun stuff (test design, automation, programming, exploratory testing, spec reviews, code reviews, research, etc.)

Testing isn't for everyone (it requires a particular attitude and set of skills that most software folks don't have), but for those of us who do it for a living it's an unbelievably fun and rewarding job.

Mike Treit
Friday, July 25, 2003

Interesting responses. Bella's was the one opinion I assumed many developers had of QA.

Just for the record, I have not been offered a QA job. I will be interviewing during my senior year, so my question was really geared toward the possibility that a QA position might be the only thing I was offered.

I've always gotten the sense that QA's were much lower on the totem pole than developers. But on the other hand I've meet 3 from Intel with solid CS, EE, and CE backgrounds - one being a C/C++ contractor with over 10 years experience that had done plenty of both testing and development in his career. I didn't know whether to take this as a sign that programmers often crossed the line between development and test, or just that Intel is at a different level than most companies (which, I assume, it is).

Friday, July 25, 2003

In some Larger companies in that have large software/system projects they actually rather have some one with a "test developer" back ground.  In fact in 1995 Edward Kitt wrote a book called "Software test in the Real World"  where he stated that on he would keep two groups together for a number of projects and switch the roll of developer and tester.  In other words  Group A would develop and Group B would test during Project 1. In Project 2 Group A would Test and Group B would Develop.  Kitt's claim was that this made both groups more well rounded. 

Just another Opinion on QA Jobs.

A Software Build Guy
Friday, July 25, 2003

Testing is a CRUCIAL part of the lifecycle.  However, you are talking about your career path.  I assume you want to get paid a decent wage.  As said, QA doesnt get the respect it should.  (or the dollars).  QA is another case where one stellar QA guru is worth the weight of 10 mediocre ones.  But if you want to code, aim your guns at coding.  Code for free if you have to.  Get experience in where you want to be.    Yes., I am a proponent of "no experience is bad experience" except sitting on the couch.  Good luck either way.  And yes, QA COULD pidgeonhole you.  But some job is better than no job.  I'd take it, and keep looking for a real coder job. 

Saturday, July 26, 2003

btw, about the title thing...  I would not wish to give the impression I would jump ship as soon as I found a dev job.  So I suppose I'd only bring it up if I thought it would work, and if I could spin it as being excited about doing a good job for them.  Which should be true.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

To respond to the original poster's question: Yes, QA is a dead end, because the IT field in America is a dead end. The only jobs that will remain in America are those that cannot be performed from remote locations. Unemployment is never going back down.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Here's an interview question to you, Firebug.  Under what circumstance will US unemployment in the IT industry likely go down even if jobs increasingly move abroad?

A hint would be that it's in my best interest for you to discourage people from entering the field. ;P

Sunday, July 27, 2003

My response is more to firebug than to the original question.

I'm a 'self-employed' (mostly unemployed) technical writer with most of my experience having been in the ill-fated telecom field. I've been taking technical courses to try to boost my marketability. Having completed CCNA and SAS programming courses, I'm now taking a QA course.

QA seems like an interesting, vital part of the development process. Just like documentation. Question is, can you get a job doing either?

Firebug puts it in a nutshell. But my question is, if employers want to hire people in remote locations, why don't they hire Americans who can work from home? What are they paying these folks in foreign lands?


John King
Friday, March 19, 2004

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