Just a bit of a grumble...nice to point out these things occasionally. Lots of quotes in there we can pull apart and moan about.

Got QA? It's the next tech apprenticeship

Quality assurance or QA is not one of the more glamorous positions in the tech world but it may be just the stepping stone necessary to bring in a new generation of programmers.

Now, on the face of it, the SummerQAmp website doesn't say much, and it may well be a great initiative.  Hard to tell from the lack of info at the moment.  My personal view is that the GIGAOM article hasn't been well written/investigated.


Current content on SummerQAmp website:


SummerQAmp is a new nationwide initiative to train a new workforce in high-tech skills and create tech jobs for American youth. Developed as a commitment to the White House’sSummer Jobs+ initiative, SummerQAmp is being led by Aneesh Chopra, former CTO of the White House, musician Jon Bon Jovi,Steve Martocci, co-founder of GroupMe, and Kevin Haggard, Vice President of Quality Engineering at Gilt Groupe. 

The goal of SummerQAmp is to introduce Quality Assurance (QA) as a potential career path to American youth (ages 18-24) who are unaware of the opportunity by allowing them to gain valuable work experience as summer interns at software companies. During the SummerQAmp internships, we will provide participants with fundamental understanding of how software works and give them access to an educational resource to assist them in preparing for a potential career in software development. 

We invite consumer internet application developers that have smartphone apps running on multiple platforms to join the roster of companies that are creating tech jobs in America this summer to sign up and commit to create QA internships at your organization, as well as non-profit organizations and youth who may be interested in filling these positions.

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I liked the comment from Michael Larsen ( TESTHEAD )

I’d actually like to see these organizations reach out to those of us who actually do software testing for a living and see what we would recommend. Who knows, they may find that software testing is a fulfilling career in its own right, and encourage people to become software testers as a career in its own right. If they decide to become programmers great, but remember, there’s a lot of us software testers that program, too

I thought we had got away from this sort of position. Reading the article was like stepping back 15 years for me. But despite the initial bad feelings I had over the way that Software Testing was positioned in the class stakes I remind myself of the following:

To those outside our field, development is always going to seem more "sexy" than software testing, I would love to think that was different but in my opinion its not. So if new blood is brought into the the filed because they were initially looking to be a developer then so be it. I am a perfect case in point. 15 years ago or so I wanted to work in IT, however I had no real qualifications (other than some basic college courses)  that would help me in achieving this.But thanks to my boss at the time I managed to get a job working in software testing because it was seen as a "stepping stone" by my employers; it was place for me to gain experience and show whether I could shine. 15 years later I am still in the testing field, and have never been a developer by trade because I discovered my love for testing. If my employer had not had that view, I may never have had the introduction, and could be doing something very different now.

So although I don't like the they way this is portrayed there may be a silver lining in my view.

Maybe we're just a bit sensitive about the term "stepping stone" ? I'm not offended by the concept.

Like Darren, I also come from a non-programmer background. In my case I fell into testing via being a system user expert. I never remotely considered programming as the next step in my career, I'm very happy with what I do, and I have instead sought to cultivate good working partnerships with devs more technical than I wherever our testing needs to be more white-box than I am suited to.

Others, however, do see testing as "stepping stone". Indeed, in our company we encourage devs to do a spot of testing on other dev's products periodically, so they can get a feel for investigating how systems work and improving their respect for the 'user experience', hopefully thus improving their own compenent-level testing approach.

Recently, I have been supplementing our test team with grads from the company rotation programme, all of whom consider that testing is just a phase of the programme and not their ultimate destination. But every one of them has enjoyed their stint here and some have volunteered to fill any resource need we have in future. (I'd like to think that's because working for me is extra-special :-) Or maybe it's the biscuits?)

So, even when we are explicitly a stepping-stone, that doesn't diminish our importance to the business or the way in which we're perceived by the wider software dev team. Or at least that's how it is here. And I can tell you for sure that when I first came here a couple of years ago the [outsourced] test team were held in very low regard indeed by devs! This culture change is partly to do with bringing the testing 'in-house', partly with re-thinking the software dev process and putting 'quality' at its heart, and partly by confronting any lingering us-and-them mentality head-on.

So, in summary, don't knock per se the fact that organisations are encouraging testing and QA as an entry into software development as a career. It gives newbies a sense of the importance of quality, an introduction to working with structured methods, and familiarity with the company's end-products.

Why do we testers always seem to delight in feeling unloved? Be proud of our place in the lifecycle...for "stepping stone" read "springboard".

And, you know what...? They might just never move on!

I'd like to mainly side with Darren on this topic.  I don't necessarily like the way that it's positioned in the article, but, so be it.  This is a chance to get people involved with software development and a develop a drive for higher learning that normally wouldn't.

Let's face it, QA/Testing is actually a great stepping stone.  We get to learn about almost every role within the software development process.  I've seen testers transition to development, BA, Project Management, sysadmin, Security, and about a dozen other roles based solely on what they learned and accomplished as a tester.

Despite how people may view it being positioned by Gigaom(myself included), I personally believe this to be a very good thing.

The problem isn't bringing new blood into the profession, it is the underlying premise of the entire approach: that software testing is a recognised black hole. What they propose is a path through software testing that they promise (cross my heart) won't be held against them if they decide to become "real" programmers. It's a jobs program, right up there with cleaning up highways.

Pay attention to what they don't say:

Its cool ...
It makes your parents proud ...
You can earn a good living (if you have the right social and technical skills)...
It provides stable employment during economic downturns ...

Hmm ... I missed "Allows you to go to exciting labs, meet exciting applications, and destroy them". What would happen if you put that on a software tester want ad?

I was just reading through this again and had a thought: What if they moved the focus away from the stand-alone QA industry and back to the development team?

Imagine if they created the summer intern program specifically for introducing new programmers to software testing by pairing them with software test professionals while they are working as intern developers for companies?

New developers with the ability to question what they are doing and how they are doing it right out of the gate. It gives me chills just thinking about it. :)

That's what will be happening at one small company this summer - Atomic Object take on a bunch of summer interns, they pair with the devs ( who I have to say are pretty good at testing ) and by this summer I'll be over there too so I'll be helping these newbies learn what a skilled tester can do

 

What about the company you work for - any interns coming in ?

Phil - Not any time soon. We are a small team and effectively one-deep in all directions. I am planning for the future, however, in case there is an expansion. I used to work in a couple of large (30+) teams that still had the "over the wall" thing going where I would walk over and track them down to have discussions. I called them "coffee cup ambushes". 

Hopefully, that is all behind me.

uhh, John Bon Jovi ? 

:D if at least it was with Joacim Cans ... :)


While this article did cause me to grumble a little, I am willing to cut it some slack because I think the program itself is pretty darn clever. Think about it - software testing is one of the few areas in technology where a bright young person with limited training can make a real impact. Innate ability and cleverness can be more important that education in some cases - a growing number of cases, given the vast amount of consumer targeted software out there.

It can be a real challenge to provide a substantive internship in technology, especially for someone who may not even be studying technology yet. How often do good intentions turn into menial tasks? I know I spent a summer calculating the number of light bulbs required in offices for IBM. Snooze. Here, young people have the opportunity to quickly contribute, learn something, and contribute some more! Hopefully some will get hooked enough to want to go off and learn more, whether it be self-taught or a technical degree, and come back and get any job in the building.

The article was not so politic in the way it seems to refer to QA as the equivalent of the mailroom in the hierarchy of technology business. And that does annoy me, as someone with multiple technical degrees, patents, papers, who can and has worked as a designer, developer, and marketeer, but who chooses currently to work in software quality. But I think the program itself (www.summerqamp.com) has its heart in the right place, and could make a difference.

Strange.

For me, testing feels like a culmination, a convergence of skills acquired before it found me.

I find it hard to imagine STARTING in testing.

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