Quality assurance (QA) serves an essential role in product development, improving the software for the customers, and reducing defect repair costs for the company.
As such, quality assurance jobs have become highly-valued positions in the tech industry. Yet, finding QA engineers with the right skills and qualities can be a challenge as these positions require much more than technical expertise.
From my experience working in QA teams of companies of various sizes and structures, I have collaborated with many dedicated QA engineers and learned the most important skills a team member needs.
Aside from possessing technical abilities, QA professionals must be prepared to work with several team members, communicate well with managers and developers, and dedicate themselves to improving products and development processes.
In this article, I will explain how a company can derive the greatest value from the QA team and offer the highest-quality products by hiring engineers with the following skills:
- A Quality of Process Focus
A Quality of Process Focus
As QA professionals, our work not only involves improving product quality but also requires us to pursue the quality of the process by which we develop and improve our software.
Issues that affect the process of software development and quality assurance will likely affect the final product itself. Dedicated QA engineers must communicate within the QA team and with other departments to find and resolve these process-related issues before they reduce product quality.
For example, in the early development stages, the QA team must work with the product managers and designers to understand the product’s requirements. However, if there is an issue with how the product managers and owners break down and define the requirements, QA engineers may misunderstand their responsibilities.
QA professionals must, therefore, communicate with the product design team to understand how they define and share the requirements and offer constructive feedback to avoid misunderstandings.
QA engineers must constantly communicate with other team members and departments. For instance, QA engineers must negotiate with product owners and project managers to compromise on QA tasks and their scope.
As QA testers, we want to produce the most accessible and highest-quality products possible by using a variety of testing, validation, and verification methods. However, project deadlines and budgets often limit us, and we must prioritize which QA operations to perform and when we do them.
Consequently, we have to communicate with the product owner or project manager to allocate the proper resources for the QA team and negotiate our responsibilities, given deadlines and the team’s capacity.
After discussing QA responsibilities and deadlines with product owners, QA engineers must negotiate their roles with the other team members. In team meetings, we analyze and assign the deadlines and tasks for every member. Members with communication skills contribute more value to team meetings by openly sharing their ideas for the best plan to test the product.
Communication also helps apply the previously mentioned skill of recognizing and resolving quality of process issues within the team. If we detect a problem involving another team member’s role or performance, we must communicate with them to determine how to improve their work. An effective team member needs to remain open, confident, and empathetic to receive, offer, and incorporate criticisms and feedback.
Because of many products’ complicated testing requirements, QA engineers often collaborate with other team members and departments (development, design, etc.).
Although it may seem obvious that employees hired to work in a team ought to have excellent team skills, I have encountered many QA engineers focused only on their individual tasks, ignoring the other members’ work.
Members who lack awareness of the rest of the team limit the group's ability to increase efficiency and quality of work through cohesive collaboration.
Good teamwork skills do not require QA engineers to have expertise in every QA-related field. As we have discussed in our article on building effective QA teams, the best teams consist of members who each have their own specialization.
However, QA team members must understand the responsibilities of other roles to work well with them. Understanding the entire development and QA process also helps team members maintain a broader perspective of the project and discover and address weak points to improve the quality of process issues.
Another important skill I’ve found very valuable in my QA team members is their ability to observe, not only the product to find bugs, but also how they work in order to improve themselves consistently. Effective QA professionals apply themselves equally to the quality of the product as to the quality of their work practices.
In my QA experience, I have often noticed a normalization of the testing processes. Members work out of habit, performing tasks in the ways “they have always been done” and ignoring inefficient practices. Although some habitual operations may be necessary, certain tasks persisting only from inertia may hinder the QA process.
Observant team members who question their work practices and recognize pain points in the QA process provide the most value to the company. QA testers who have noticed issues in our testing procedures and shared them in meetings have helped teams I’ve worked on improve considerably.
The roles and expectations of a QA engineer change at different stages of a product’s development and with every new product. So, QA professionals must remain willing to perform new tasks and eager to learn different methods of testing to ensure the product meets requirements.
Because QA is a team responsibility, testers must always be ready to adapt to the team’s needs. Additionally, team members must adapt to changes in work procedures if the quality of process issues arise. QA teams can only avoid the normalization issue I mentioned above if they accept feedback and readily improve themselves.
What to take away
Although technical qualifications and experience remain essential skills for QA team members, A global vision of quality, including an emphasis on the quality of the development and testing processes, differentiates great QA engineers from decent QA engineers.
With the skills detailed above, QA professionals will dedicate themselves to improving every aspect of both the product quality and the quality assurance process.
However, hiring professionals with the aforementioned skills is only one step in developing an effective QA team. Because modern software requires detailed and sometimes highly technical testing and verification methods, building a proper quality assurance team will help the company improve its products more rigorously than any QA engineer could.