Archive for May, 2008

Why Would You Call Yourself THAT?

May 7, 2008

Scott Barber just wrote an amusing and insightful reflection on what sorts of titles testing professionals have, entitled Software Testers: Identity Crisis Or Illusions of Grandeur?.

I personally am inclined toward simple, descriptive titles, and think that ‘Software Tester’ (including variants like ‘Senior’, ‘Lead’, etc.) describes what I do pretty well. Several times at previous companies I’ve discussed changing the titles we use from Software Quality Assurance Engineer to Software Tester. I’ve gotten several interesting reactions, including:

  • “SQAE is a more impressive title. Why would you want a title that makes you sound low-skill?”, and
  • “But we want you to assure the quality here. Don’t try to back out of your responsibilities!”

Both of these objections seem to be compelling reasons to raise the conversation. Do folks around you not understand what software testing is, and why it’s a challenging, high-skill activity? Well, that’s a good conversation to get to have.

More concerning to me is when folks think that my team should “assure quality”. At this point I really want to make clear my perspective: Everyone in software development should consider quality to be there job. I am here to discover and communicate important quality-related information about the product and project – but I cannot and shouldn’t try to “assure quality”.

Rationales that I’m more sympathetic to for having high-fallutin’ titles include:

  • “SQAE is a form of shorthand to communicate to budget setters that testing is a high-skill activity”,
  • “It’s the standard for companies like ours. Job applicants will know what we mean”, and the related
  • “Some applicants might think that Software Tester is a lower-pay position, and so listing the job as such might turn off some.”

Scott ends with

Since there seems to be a prevalent desire for software testers to have fancy sounding titles, maybe we should consider “Software Quality Forecaster” instead. At least that would help our teammates better understand what we really do.

Maybe. I like Forecast way better than I like Assure. Perhaps “Software Quality Investigator”? For someone who doesn’t understand software testing, each title communicates what the job means imperfectly. To capture the flavor and variety of what testing can be, I expect that no title will be a substitute for a good conversation.

Certainly, I would love to see Software Tester considered an esteemed title, and to see the practice of mislabeling testing as ‘quality assurance’ fade away. For now I’m flexible as to what I’m called, but believe it’s important to consider what inaccuracies any given title communicates – and what biases it represents – and then to use the title as a springboard for conversation.

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