When I was a kid I used to play ball out in the street in front of my house. The neighborhood kids, my brothers, and I would have a game going and then a car would turn on to the street and we would yell “CAR!” This would stop the game and everyone would walk over to the sidewalk and wait for the car to pass. Sometimes there would be several cars. Once the car(s) had passed then it was “GAME ON!”, and we would all take our positions and continue. In the area of software development and specifically testing and quality assurance I am calling “GAME ON!” The cars have passed and big companies are starting to do some major hiring especially in the Phoenix Metro area where I work. Companies such as US Airways, LifeLock, Insight, and others are hiring Quality Assurance Engineers, Analysts, Testers, Automation Testers, and the like. I personally have been contacted over thirty five times in two days regarding job opportunities. The fact is that these companies are hiring and now are in competition for the talent. If you are a skilled QA Analyst, or test engineer now is a great time to be open for opportunities. In the Phoenix area there is a high demand on good skilled experienced Automation Testers alone. John Lane at Insight says “80% of all candidates he has looked at hiring in the last year have been non-US citizens” the fact is that there is a lack of talent in the Phoenix area, which is why the jobs keep getting posted over and over again. Developers are feeling this as well, Keith Marshall at the same company told me in an interview that as a Developer Lead he gets “…85% of candidates from out of state and of those 90% are non-US citizens”.
A hurdle faced by the hiring managers of the non-US citizen applicants is that the schools and certifications are too difficult to verify. Recruiters can try and call these schools and Universities however the time difference, language barriers, and the fact that they do not understand the classes that were taken cause this information to be utterly useless.
It would seem that the local Universities and technical schools are simply not turning out enough talent in specific enough areas of this industry to help us garner student’s interest and meet the job market demand. Sure anyone can spend a weekend reading how-to online articles at websites such as http://www.w3schools.com and learn several basics and programming languages. However what is really needed is a more focused learning in selected skill sets. The fact that many Universities such as, ASU and U of A in Arizona, do not have a degree program for QA test Engineers, or software testing specialists leaves the industry with a lack of talent in these areas and thus results in a high demand in the job market.
According to ASU (Arizona State University) they predict a 13.14% growth rate for the jobs of Software Quality Assurance Engineers and Testers. The average annual salary for this job description is $77,010. This growth rate and an already existing talent supply problem will cause more compromise from the industry leaders and this will result in a decrease in software quality from these companies.
Software quality has a direct impact on society. Some software defects are major safety hazards. For instance at US Airways they have a system called Sceptre, and WebSceptre. This system tracks the time parts of a plane are used. Let’s say that the thermometer that tracks the temperature of the jet fuel has been in use for 2000 hours. In that time it has reported the jet fuel anywhere between 100 degrees and 900 degrees. Now while in flight this little meter can report to the pilot that the temperature of the fuel is over the 845 degree recommended limit. The pilot can press a button to over ride the notice and ignore it; he can log this event and ask to have this replaced before the next flight, or a few other options. Now let’s say that the software Sceptre has a bug that is not found. The bug is that the maintenance log of these parts only logs up to 2000 hours and should this be exceeded then the hours simply reset at 0. So if the pilot ignores the notice, and the 2000 hours is surpassed during a flight then reset when the plane is on the ground you have a bad part. If this part fails the pilot is not notified of the temperature danger and the engine and wing explode in the air. This is just one example, there are others like slats, flaps, rudder, and a million other parts that need to be monitored using software, hopefully tested by talented knowledgeable people at these companies.
A few of you may recall MacAfee’s blunder with their software detecting the svchost service as a virus and stopping the service on the machines. This had the effect of a massive shut down of corporate computer systems around the world. I guess “oops” doesn’t quite cover it.
So I say “GAME ON!” let’s get as many talented Testers, QA Analysts, Automation Engineers as we can and start requiring that Universities, technical schools, and colleges turn out some truly talented QA and QC people.
I would like to point out that some companies such as QAI (QAI Global Institute), and ASTQB (American Software Testing Qualifications Board, Inc.) are doing a very good job with getting QA and QC employees skills to a nice baseline. However, this is a baseline and would be far better if the graduates of the schools were better prepared for the job market.
How You Can Help
As a professional, you can help prepare tomorrow’s testers by getting involved in the educational system. Contact your local university and offer to be a guest speaker. Talk to students about the real-world of testing and the day to day activities you experience. As you build a relationship with the professors, they may also rely on your professional expertise to help them identify what the job market truly needs. With your industry knowledge, professors can adjust their curriculum to meet the industry’s needs.
I personally have worked with the faculty at the local universities, and I guest lecture as often as I can. Specifically I read through the degree programs classes (typically available online). I look for the class where the curriculum covers software testing. I contact the instructor and/or the dean and ask if I could come to the class and give a presentation on how our QA team and testing team work in the SDLC. You can come from the point of view of a junior tester or junior developer and explain what they need to understand when coming out of the University and into the job market.
This is also a very good way to get your name and your company’s name recognized on the internship boards where students and graduates look for “getting their foot in the door” opportunities with companies.
As the voice of the industry, you will not only help your resume but also prepare tomorrow’s workforce to have their “game on” and improve technology for our future.
About the Author
Bob Small Bob Small founder of the Quality Consortium of Phoenix has 14 years in the IT industry. Bob has been a developer for a Professional Senior care provider. Bob started as a System Tester for the number one domain registrar in the world. Bob continued his career in testing and advanced into Quality Assurance at a leading contact center solution provider. Bob is a Lead QA Engineer at a local Hardware and software company. Bob is a guest lecturing at local Universities and colleges. Bob has won worldwide online testing contests. He continues to learn Agile techniques and mentors those around him in testing techniques and methods. He has taught developers, and mentored junior QA analysts in testing methodologies. Favorite quote is: “Plan your work, work your plan.”