Quality means many different things to many different people — but to quality engineers or quality assurance engineers, it means “making sure it is right.” Quality is the product and, oftentimes, the process. Assuring quality is always foremost in the thoughts of anyone in this field.
So what falls under the QA engineer job description? The main role of QA personnel is quality assurance. A QA engineer focuses on improving software development processes and preventing defects in software, which is the product. In other words, they make sure the software development team is doing the right things the right way.
As an overview, the QA engineer job scope embraces a number of duties and overall, general job duties. We’ll talk about them in the following paragraphs but here is a list of typical tasks of the QA engineer’s responsibilities:
Checking whether the product complies with the requirements. This one is easy, as the technical writers and business analysts design and document what the business would like to have. Then the developers create the product, and the QA engineers not only ensure the process of creation but, also test the product before it gets rolled out to consumers.
Assess risks and plan ideas to improve product quality. In addition to assuring quality and function, pre- and post-rollout testing helps identify both potential risk factors and areas for improvement.
Identify flaws and essential fixes. This author believes the main goal of QA engineers is to prevent defects. Quality control specialists, in their turn, analyze the test results and find mistakes. They are responsible for identifying and eliminating defects in a product — or in other words, QA engineers ensure that product designers and developers get the results they expect.
An IT-specific specialization in the QA field is software testing. A software tester checks the finished product for errors (bugs) and to determine it complies with the requirements. Also, the tester documents defects and what must be done to fix them.
QA specialists can also execute different roles within certain projects. There are four main QA roles: QA Analyst, QA Designer, QA Executor — sometimes called “QA” in general — and QA Manager.
QA Analysts are engaged in static testing of requirements and check for completeness and consistency.
QA Designers create sets of tests based on requirements and plans configurations that are necessary for testing.
QA (aka QA Executor) performs pre-planned tests, describes and documents identified errors, and documents steps for reproducing or fixing them.
QA Managers plan and monitor work related to testing such as keeping track of deadlines, following a schedule, controlling requirements to tests, setting tasks for team members, and communicating with stakeholders. QA Managers run the overall “ship” when it comes to QA.
Of overall interest to any company — especially in the IT realm — QA engineers fill in a lot of blanks in the software development life cycle.
Most companies are primarily interested in a few key areas that QA engineers fill. First, writing test cases, testing, and documenting errors — depending on the phase of the project — is at the top of the list. Trying to reproduce errors or simply making sure there are none is the main job duty.
Next, companies need someone to check the bug tracking system for the fixed errors, so they can keep ahead of the user-reported bugs and get them tested, documented, and fixed.
Conducting meetups, learning the requirements and their clarification with the customer, communicating with developers, and writing test documentation, often times with the technical writers. are all functions that companies need, want, and assign to the role of QA engineer.
As a QA engineer may have a varied job description, so too they must embrace varied job duties. A software quality assurance engineer is involved in tasks that include software design, writing source code (oftentimes with the guidance of the developers), control of source code, reviewing code, configuration management, change management, program testing, integration of software, and release management process.
They will typically break up the entire process into goals such as verification, activities, measurements, abilities, and commitments. Every step in QA can be a different position or role within the company. By doing this, companies keep the task from becoming overwhelming while also maintaining complete control over the entire project as well.
Software quality assurance engineers must also be able to see to it that the final product not only meets with company and compliance guidelines, but also reaches the consumer market at the time appointed by the company.
QA engineers must have an incredible sense of urgency and meeting timelines. Delays can be very costly for the company, so the software quality assurance engineer must work closely with all departments to make sure the software project is not only on time but on budget as well. An understanding of finance never hurts anyone.
Stay in your lane
Software quality assurance engineers are sometimes confused with software testers. Software testers test parts of the software at different stages of development, whereas a software quality assurance engineer oversees the entire development process, which includes software testing, from start to finish.
The monetary success of a software product is largely due in part to the quality of the product as well as the product’s ability to hit the market on time. Both are the responsibility of the quality assurance engineer. Think “overall” process when you think QA Engineer.
On the cutting edge
The most important area of growth in QA engineering is testing automation. Quality engineers are sorely needed because test automation keeps growing more complex and more extensive to account for modern development architecture. Even the concepts around “testing” the software are very complex.
A required skill among quality engineers is being able to troubleshoot automation. One of the reasons organizations struggle to recruit superstar QA engineers is that the role generally requires a rare combination of technical acumen and soft skills.
This is due to the level of collaboration required: QA engineers need to engage with designers and developers, technical writers, and even customers. Soft skills are still required, no matter who you are or what role you play in an organization.
QA engineers tend to be QA experts who consult with developers and advise them on testing best practices and test automation. Many QA engineers, however, are also skilled coders who can write automated tests.
Background, education, and certification
There are quite a few background areas and skillsets that make a great QA engineer. Product manager or product management, in general is a good background to have, as you get to understand how the product is delivered and then as you move toward coding you can become a great QA engineer.
I tend to see QA engineer on the career roadmap between product manager and developer. A good background in communication, logic, math or science, or just an overall teaching degree can jump start you to a career in QA engineering.
For certifications, there isn’t a better one, in my humble opinion, than the CSTE or Certified Test Engineer. It is the gold standard of or Quality engineering, although exam candidates are required to have a total of six years of QA experience. (A combined four-year degree and two years of experience in the field is acceptable.)
At $420, the exam price tag is a little higher than the norm. The exam is well priced, on the other hand, to weed out those who are not serious. Seek this certification out if you are serious about proofing you up-to-snuff to a potential employer.