Revisited: What's In a Name? Experimenting With Testing Job Titles

Our final talk for TestBash Home is one that I see referenced every time people start a discussion about job titles. We are joined by long term Ministry of Testing supporter @martin.hynie to revisit his talk “What’s In a Name? Experimenting With Testing Job Titles”.

Have you started thinking about what you’d like to ask Martin about what has changed since this talk was first delivered?

We’ll be adding all unanswered questions from the talk here so if we didn’t get to your question, don’t worry, we will find you an answer :wink:

Unanswered Questions:

1. Charles Penn (Tybar) - I work at a consulting company, and one thing we really try to focus with on our titles is how to pick titles that our clients can use to compare us to other companies.
2. Rick Fox - What are your thoughts on hybrid roles like Tester / BA that have become more popular in the last couple of years?
3. Varsandan Csaba - The job titles are misused in many companies for the roles they are advertising for a new position (job). Are they doing just to boost up their credibility or they just simply not get into enough the meaning of those titles/roles?
4. AndreasBerlin - You suggest the tester being the driver of the project setups, but could it not also done by any other group (smart developer or project managers), maybe you overstep just as “tester”, but would have done the same as Dev/PM
5. João Proença - With your ideas from this talk, and what you learned ever since, what would you say is the best name for a group of people driving the quality culture in an organization today?
6. Selena Davies - Having changed the team name and being invited to the meetings that you were missing out on, do you think people within the business saw you as different people with different skills than when you were known as testers?
7. Honey Chawla - With job titles, cognitive biases come up and it results in such situations. Could there be a team without any job titles and deliver a great product? Why not bring a complete change in IT industry where any name-giving doesn’t exist? Is this a crazy idea?
8. Abby Bangser - What are your thoughts on team structures and individual shapes (specialists/generalists etc) today?
9. Masha S. - How to get your manager on board about changing the title?
10. Sam|so - basically the title “tester” has a negative connotation generally speaking right?
11. Louise Gibbs - How does the existence of junior testers or senior testers change things?
12. Shailin Sheth - It is good that it all worked out. But what if changing the title and framing new team would have failed? What was the biggest challenge you faced?
13. alt (Guna) - | would you do more experiments like this?
14. Shivani - What would be a new title you would like to experiment now?
15. Roman Segador - Do you think that the presence of several people on testing that is them by accident, and sees it as a temporary role helps to this bias? What can we do to promote the fact that QA /testing can be a whole life career?
16. Marllos Prado - Do you think much of this misinterpretation about testers role and potential have to do with the confusion company managers make about general engineering and software engineering -In special, when the company doesn’t have software as their main product?
17. James - Do you think changing job titles could have as much of an effect in a smaller company?
18. shabbir @ CDL - What do you think about Quality Advocate instead of Analyst/tester etc…
19. Laura Bullen - How do you handle a title change that you don’t agree with?
20. Marissa - This conversation about language is so interesting, but I’m curious how that can work across cultures or do all cultures need a shared understanding at least on certain subjects?
21. LSauce - Do you ever find that BA’s are not invited early on because if they are doing their job correctly they will point out the flaws of a “pet project” someone is trying to push or points out how existing tools could cover the area a project is supposed to address?
22. Priyanka - Some companies may recognise the tester role but do you think industry’s bias against the role is changing? Today if u ask someone that I could be a tester vs another role like DEV or PM, do you think the recommendation would be a tester?
23. DefectHunter - If there are many different job titles like this then recruitment wouldn’t be a problem? In Uk


5 years on, it’s my view that the battle for a title in the team that conveys your contribution has only gotten hotter. I recall a time when I used to intentionally mess with people as a way to get down to a valuable discussion, but lately I just start with, “I’m the QA guy”, I then leave a pause, and use that to decide how do disambiguate.

Because for me, I have gotten less involved over time with things like unit testing, and more involved with all of the CI and all of the build scripts, and the release process. Depending on your strengths, you can do other things, but understanding my job in terms of the project risks overall is still as hard as ever. Knowing the cost of the million dollar bug, is still as elusive when I started testing about 12 years ago, as it is now. Don’t sweat the title, but have, an elevator pitch ready.

I’m basically in the same boat as @conrad.braam, doing more DevOps stuff to help increase my teams quality than direct testing, but I generally introduce myself as a test engineer.

For the speaker, I’d be curious about titles between and among companies, and if there’s any good way to share things besides good resume bullets? It feels like there’s a game of constant escalation:

  • no one wants a “lesser” title than their previous gig, so you have folks that are “Senior SDET” or similar with < 5 years experience, and they expect when they move jobs to have at least the same title, if not a bump
  • keyword bingo on resumes means everyone wants to get “senior” on their resume
  • wanting to show growth in your career also promotes title inflation (i.e. not getting a new title/promotion implies stagnation)

All in all, titles are super ambiguous, especially across companies. I get this isn’t unique to testing, and applies to many roles, just curious about what folks can do for this and make their resumes/CVs clear about their actual skills and abilities.

I usually describe myself as a test analyst; the reasoning there being that the most important part of testing to my mind is working out what needs testing and how to do it in the most efficient manner possible.

I was officially a test engineer in my last job, though on my email signature I had the job title of “caffeine pipeline engineer” as I tended to be the person who kept the office coffee machine running smoothly. No coffee, no workee…

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My dream job title, I kinda gave up on it, not sure why though. I want to first progress through “proficient practitioner” before I make the leap. Any recommended analyst training material?

Sorry but I can’t help with suggesting courses - I’ve never been formally trained in analysis, but I’ve ended up using bits and pieces from previous, unrelated learning coupled with a natural tendency to analyse things to do what I do. I often spend what may seem to others to be an excessive amount of time looking and thinking before actually doing, but there are two factors at play when I’m doing that: firstly, the Pareto principle so I spend the 80% of my time understanding what to do so building the automated tests needed only needs the remaining 20% as I’ve (hopefully) worked out how to optimize coverage while minimising effort; secondly the old adage “measure twice, cut once” to try and avoid having to rework anything at the last minute.

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Is QA really appropriate for testers? My dad was in Quality Assurance in the Electrical Industry for years and it seems to me a very different emphasis. Should we train in Quality Assurance to be appropriately named QA Engineers rather than Testers? If we have strong development skills should we be on a parity with developers?

Modern Testers seem to need skills in many areas including:

  • Business Analysis
  • Testing
  • Development (any sort of coding)
  • Quality Assurance (proper ISO:9000?)

But are we still really only testers?
Perhaps there needs to be skill levels that confirm competence in all these areas.

I read something interesting somewhere: As testers don’t decided which bugs will get fixed, they can’t assure quality.
Being called QA can give a wrong impression and put the responsibility on testers. Quality is something for the whole team.
So I’m glad that I’m a test engineer.

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This was the right talk for me at the right time when I first saw it (4 or 5 years ago). It crystallised some things that I was struggling to articulate and gave me something to point at and evangelise. Also, it’s really entertaining.

Great job!