Quality assurance professionals are a diverse bunch. We have a variety of different analytical and technical backgrounds. We have a variety of soft skills from the various markets and spaces we may have migrated from, and we, of course, have our personal stories that have impacted us as well.
However, one thing I’ve noticed over the last three years (speaking as a consultant here) is that the hiring focus for quality assurance professionals seems to be, well, a little behind the times. Speaking to a business colleague (and a very seasoned senior business analyst at that), I was told BAs were once mostly migrated out of the developer cadre. If one wasn’t first a developer, then one couldn’t be a BA. This paradigm, of course, has changed drastically.
Strangely enough, this evolution in thought hasn’t been applied to quality assurance testing professionals. And I question that. According to Dorothy Graham’s bio in Foundations of Software Testing, “… in the early 1990s, many thought of testing at best as a ‘necessary evil’…”. Time has passed, and QA is more important than ever, but it still seems to be largely in the hands of computer science degree holders.
Don’t get me wrong here: there’s a kinship between testing and development that keeps these two skillsets very close in peoples’ minds. And there are special skills within testing that do indeed require coding ability. Since hiring managers’ opinions of the BA role have since evolved out of the old mindset, though, I wonder when we’ll see the same progress applied to the QA role.
I recently attained my Foundation Level certification for quality assurance software testing from the International Software Testing Qualification Board (ISTQB) and there wasn’t a single learning objective in the whole of the preparation manual which necessitated the ability to write code. None whatsoever. However, the tools and basic knowledge necessary to manage the testing lifecycle and its manifold activities were all there.
So, if a world-renowned, international certifying body didn’t require coding to complete the certification, is being a developer a true pre-requisite to being a successful quality assurance software tester or merely a cost-saving measure that ensures QA isn’t being performed to top quality? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.