Sunday, October 3, 2010

I am a Tester...Why are you calling me QA?

I actually ask this question in a calm voice with a smile on my face. I make an effort to explain the difference between Testing and QA if the offender is open and willing to receive my message.

What I feel and what I hide from the offender is different from what I hope shows on my face and in my voice. It feels like my hair is standing up on the back of my neck. I feel that my evil tester twin wakes up and starts spewing fire at the offender. I feel like I am bubbling with indignation inside and will explode any second. I want to scream  "How dare you call me a QA? I am a friggin tester! I 'break' software. I don't monitor processes and methods to ensure its quality".
Did I say that I can't stand being called QA? It happened again this past week. Someone said - "We will finish coding, then qa it and then demo it to the client." "Aren't we going to test it??? (curse words flowing in my head)" I asked. "That's what I meant when I said that we would qa it." "I don't do qa, I test." "The same difference."

No one called me QA until this place. At my previous company we had the whole department dedicated to quality assurance work. We did not get along with QA. To me they were condescending and arrogant bureaucrats and Apparatchiks who valued large volumes of written documentation and reports over effective test results. Our team supported an application with over 2000 users worldwide. It was a pleasant work environment. The developers and testers worked well together. We made the company proud by passing the CMMI3 audit for 3 years in a row. We used Test Director (and later Quality Center) for traceability. Nothing we "traced" was detailed enough for QA.They were just never happy. Management and clients were happy but QA were hard to please.

Now I hear our group being called QA almost daily. I try my best to raise awareness about the goodness and value of testing and the difference between the two but there are days when I just give up, bite my tongue, think of Dilbert cartoons and pray that maybe one day things will change.

At least I no longer hear people say that I am like a plague of locusts or that "even a monkey can be trained to test"...


  1. Yes! I'm with you completely.

    It's an interesting phenomenom how Q-words and testing get mixed up - and used without necessarily thinking about it. The result is that after a time no one is really thinking about what they are saying - and there leads to confusion.

    I think it's part of our job as testers to highlight confusion (or potential confusion) when we see it.

    I reflected on the q-word vs testing mix-up - other people have done it and am glad to see we're thinking about it.


  2. Thank you, Simon! Your post is very insightful.
    'Quality is not a judgment that you as a tester can make about a product! Some fault-prone products may need to go out during a certain quarter to keep the cash-flow ticking over...'
    This is so right on the money.
    What rubs me the wrong way is the some testers don't think it's a big deal that we are labeled as QA.

  3. I would say that Testing is a part of Quality Control, which is directy linked to Quality Assurance (it is impossible to ensure quality without measuring it in Testing).

    I agree that this error could lead to confusion, since a QA Engineer and a Tester will do different stuff.

    I'm a Testing Engineer but I'm trying to move gradually into Quality Assurance :-)

  4. I think Quality Control and Quality Assurance are different things and can only be linked if
    "The tester's company does not employ any formal process improvement at all, so the Quality Control activities literally are the only source of process improvement by pointing out defects in what is produced."
    see 'QA or QC, What do you do?' blog by John McConda