The world is moving fast towards realizing the true importance of software testing. Gone are the days where management was biased against testers or testing teams. Today, we, the testers, are being looked upon as an integral part of product development. Well, the previous two statements still don’t stand true for most of us, because most of us find ourselves working with not-so-great companies. With changing times, the expectations from testing teams have also been raised. The testers are now expected to test more complex scenarios with the intent to uncover more bugs than before. The world of testing is changing fast and the speed of change is no less for pure testers. By “pure” I mean “People who don’t do anything else.” While this may seem like a great career, and a cool way to get a first job in the business, the truth is less alluring.
More WORK, less PAY
Today’s working conditions are most demanding, with low pay and shaky worker morale. Though some boring and repetitive jobs can pay decently, software testers do not get compensated nearly as well as o their counterparts in software development. Even though the industry, on average, doesn’t pay well for entry-level positions, what about more seasoned QA testers? Are they in demand? No, I’d say. You will find most dedicated testers earning less on average than non-testing professionals with the same experience level. Why is it so? Aren’t testers also ensuring Quality of your product? Don’t all team members have equal roles to play? So why this difference in compensation?
Repetition is too boring, demotivating
Imagine your favorite movie. Now take your favorite 30-second clip from that movie. Now watch that 30-second clip over and over again, 12 hours a day, every day for two months. When you’ve done that, tell me if what you’ve been doing is watching movies all day. I’m willing to bet you’ll find that it’s not quite the same thing…You get an area of the application, that’s your area, and you test everything about that one area for months on end. Will you remain highly motivated to watch it again and again similar to when you first watched that movie? Not likely. The demotivated tester is a risk to the product’s quality. But nobody does anything about it. The worst case is that this demotivation is turned into frustration over a period of time when it is not handled properly. And that is not a good sign for: the employee, the project, nor the company, among others. But who is responsible?
Lack of Respect
While financial benefits are one form of compensation, respect is another which is also severely lacking. The test counterparts to a PM and developer who are all working on the same project with the same scope will tend to be a full career stage below his or her peers. Unbelievable, isn’t it!
“Yeah, but testing isn’t as difficult as development and program management”–at least that is the belief of all developers. Really? Try it sometime. Try writing automation that works every time, even as developers alter configurations and data. Try performing penetration testing that closes gaps that foil sophisticated hacks. Try producing injection testing that discovers failure modes, system testing that finds sneak conditions, or end-to-end scenario testing that validates the billion-dollar bets we make. And I’m just scratching the surface.
“Yeah, but our test team isn’t that advanced–they don’t do all those things.” Exactly! We don’t value the test discipline enough to advance our testing capability to the same levels as PM and development.
Harsh Working Conditions
Unlike typical nine-to-five jobs, the final months leading up to the release of a software company’s product have come to be known as crunch time. “They had us stay overtime for a particular release, but they never paid those extra hours worked.” For some, this meant mandatory overtime every other day. For most of us this makes maintaining a healthy family life extremely difficult. The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine, who is a Test Manager in a reputed company and he mentioned that he is asked to fill in office hours for his team and then he is expected to attend late night calls with overseas clients. “I just don’t get enough time to spend with my family”. The other test manager, who is good in automated testing, says that he is assigned to manage 5 different projects and never gets enough time to remain technical. Awesome! Are you hiring HUMANS or super-computers to manage your testing projects?
Too Many Expectations
On top of such harsh working conditions, the people belonging to the testing community are expected to:
- Remain Competitive
- Become Experts (of various domains, techniques, tools, etc.)
- Demonstrate high productivity
- Indulge in continuous learning
And Blah! Blah! Blah!
I was a witness at one team meeting where each tester was asked to talk about one new thing related to testing. Not surprisingly, most were blank and the rest just talked about stuff that they knew was not new. Wondering what happened next? They were lectured for the next 30 minutes to learn new things, to remain competitive, to continue learning about business, etc.
“We do not get enough time for ourselves and family. Our day is only 24 hours“. When do they expect us to learn all this?
Over and above all this, there are times, which we define as Crunch Time for any project during which the sudden flood of expectations arrives. In those crunch times, the management expects a pure functional tester to learn performance testing overnight and start delivering outstanding results. And if, which happens in most cases, you happen to miss anything, it goes directly into your performance report.
Pity you poor tester, but that’s life!
So who’s at fault?
Many companies I have worked in and worked with view QA with a suspect eye. They view QA as a necessary part of the project process prior to shipping a product, but have great difficulty trusting the work that is performed by the Quality Assurance team. This lack of trust is, unfortunately, not without reason. This view has evolved because too often companies fill their QA departments with just some computer literate humans that have the ability to launch software and follow basic instructions. They are labeled “QA testers” or “QA associates” or “QA engineers” for no apparent reason other than it must look better on a budget report or an account ledger than “warm body”.
Though there is nothing wrong with these people, they are by no means Quality Assurance Professionals. These people are certainly NOT quality assurance engineers. And I don’t even know what a “quality assurance associate” is supposed to be. These people are able to follow the steps in a test case – thus they perform “testing” and are therefore considered “testers”. Unfortunately, since many companies do not seem to truly understand the value a true Quality Assurance Professional can bring to a project, they may hire “testers” that are not at all qualified to wear that title. And when these “testers” are viewed by professional developers and PM’s, they appear (accurately) as not up to the task.
Testing is difficult! We need great people to do it well, and then we need to pay, develop, and expect them to be world class. Our treatment of the test discipline is astonishing and pathetic. Believe it or not, it used to be even worse until senior test leaders from across the company started tracking the numbers and driving promotions.
Yes, it’s true that testers do different jobs from PMs and developers. But we can’t design and construct complex systems and think that testing those systems will be less complex. You get what you pay for, and by spending less on testing, we create imbalance. We sacrifice quality, productivity, and efficiency as a result. The sacrifice in quality is obvious. The sacrifice in productivity and efficiency comes from incomplete and fragile testing that result in higher error rates, more rework, and higher support and sustained engineering costs.
At a time when we should be investing in test, we continue to demean the discipline. How can we allow a critical and central engineering discipline to be so disrespected and damaged? Are we that vain or foolish to think testers aren’t really needed or the problems aren’t really that difficult? It’s time we put our money where our priorities are and push testing to the next stage. We hire the best–let’s challenge them accordingly. Let’s lay out the test career path all the way through to vice president and technical fellow. Let’s start aggressively recognizing the talent we have and developing the talent we need. Testing deserves our respect–our customers, our partners, and most importantly our business depend upon it.
About the Author
Kapil Saxena Kapil Saxena is best described as a passionate tester who believes that “everybody tests”. He is currently associated with Magic Software Pvt Ltd. as Test Manager and enjoys working with testers on WEB and MOBILE automated test framework solutions. Kapil has honed his testing skills and knowledge base while working with organizations like GlobalLogic, HCL, BEL and NTPC. He shares this rich experience of over 10 years in domains like healthcare, government, e-commerce, mobiles, and eLearning, at weekend testing community sessions where he is
an active participant and at conferences where he is often called as a speaker. Kapil relies on cricket and spending time with family and friends, to unwind. Kapil tweets at @kapilsaxena