Software Testing vs Quality Assurence - what is in a name?

Currently at PA Media my job title is “Software Quality Assurence Engineer” AKA QA Engineer and I am part of the “QA Discipline”.

We soon going to be working on a Discipline vision statement, and it got me thinking, is QA even the right name for the discipline? I think no, but am I worrying too much about a word? Spesifically, the word “assurence”.

In Ten Misconceptions About Software Testing - That Non-Testers Share, point 10 is “Testing Is Quality Assurance”. And I agree with this.

So it got me thinking, should I be pushing to change my role, job description and descipline before we come up with a Vision?

I would really like to hear from other Testers who:

  • Feel their job title/department is named incorrectly
  • Are attached to the QA name, and have good reasons why I shouldn’t be looking to move away from it
  • Have ever been part of changing the Test Depart ment name to/from QA, what did it end up as?

I am also interested in the term “Quality Engineering”, but I haven’t been able to find an article that describes it that I really like yet.

If you have any books/articles/blogs that discuss QA Vs Testing or similar topics that you think are worth me reading, I would really appreciate you sending them along!

Also, I want to hear from you if you think I am barking up the wrong tree and that it doesn’t really matter QA Vs Testing, as long as the company is investing in Testers, who cares?

4 Likes

Job titles can end up being a warren of fail if you think about it too much. In my previous org I had tester and QA in the title at various points (always with analyst) which really didn’t help the situation as other parts had analyst in their title attached to the word consultant as well which means several different things to different people. In my experience outside of tech teams the difference between a QA/Tester, a Developer and a member of the support team is difficult to be retained. I know people have strong feeling towards not being called a “tester” and not liking to have “QA” in their title as it implies quality is their problem/remit.
My title in my new company is “Senior QA Engineer”. I was mostly drawn in by senior part which was a sore point from my last org. I’m not doing anything different really from my previous job there is just only me and org uses Engineer in their title and I quite like it.

I guess what would you like for your title?
I’m not sure there is a title that would instantly help anyone understand it and there are a bunch that cause instant confusion.

3 Likes

My first testing role was as part of a QA team, because the organisation’s emphasis was on data quality and integrity; and indeed, my first tasks on the team were to work with external consultants on data collection methodologies and to work with specialists on data definitions, before we even thought about having an application to do the data handling, let alone writing any code. It was possibly two years before there was any question of having an application that needed testing, and even then I would sometimes have to switch tasks to do some data validation for a report, press release or a high-level keynote speech, checking that the numbers in those things were a) accurately transcribed, b) the latest and best data that we had, and c) quoted consistently within the document (‘text to tables’, or do we use the same numbers in the body of the text as in the tables in the report).

So for me, software testing has always been a separate discipline within an overall QA strategy. QA goes much further than just testing; it’s about advocating for quality across the whole range of work and making everyone responsible for quality in their own area. Testing is a whole separate strand within that. Of course, organisations, their work and their objectives vary, but this approach taught me useful lessons for later.

2 Likes

This is a debate that will probably never get everyone on the same page.

In my opinion a role with Quality in the name probably better reflects what it is that I do, but I have given a wider berth to QA as a title, not least because assurance isn’t a helpful terminology and I think it carries more baggage than is useful.

However I have also been a Test Engineer before and that also didn’t really reflect what it is that I was doing, as I wasn’t only engineering tests.

I guess Software Quality Engineer sounds nice, but then don’t developers also aim to engineer quality software too?

I’m definitely talking myself out of this as we go.

In a different thread, I suggested rather tongue-in-cheek that we should be called Test Ninjas, but in my context I have been trying to frame the remit of those who do testing and quality roles primarily, that we would call it Quality Practice. It’s not perfect, but I think it speaks better into what we do.

4 Likes

I love test ninjas.
I quite like Testing Tsar

4 Likes

I once had the official title of automation tsar, it was a great honour, but as we know you, metaphorically speaking, you either die a hero or live long enough to be the villain.

4 Likes

I just got referred to as a “Guru” quite a lot which I hated with an intense passion. It just makes me think of the very bad late 90s/ early 00’s Mike Myers Film which I’ve still only seen the trailer for. Not a compliment Ack

2 Likes

Yeah, it’s tricky. In this context, there really isn’t an industry standard that I can get on board with, Guru, Ninja and Tsar just don’t sound professional enough, and it’s not like we don’t sometimes struggle enough for legitimacy within our own business. We just want something that covers what we do, but also fits with our characteristics and more.

3 Likes

As some mentioned, the title is really up to the org., so don’t worry too much about it!

In one of the orgs that I worked, they gave me a title ‘Test Technologist’, I really loved it, and am keeping it even now after I became independent.

Funny thing is right about the time I came out of that org, ,they changed their titles scheme, all technologists became ‘Test Engineers’ however senior they might be! Sad for them.

Do the Testing, and you’ll be alright!

3 Likes

Perhaps we could claim (and rehabilitate) the word “Technocrat”?

3 Likes

That sounds nice, I also enjoyed Ard Kramer’s ‘Qualisopher’

3 Likes

I personally loathe that testing is called “Quality Assurance”, it’s total bullshit. No one can assure quality.

But, on the other hand, after having fought many battles to get people to call it differently, I can give you one simple advice (from experience): People will not understand why the title is so important and in the end it might not be worth it to pour energy in.

An easy compromise that comes at least closer to the truth might be to keep the QA in the job title, but tell people it stands for Quality Assistance.

On a side note, I think it’s a bit childish to call yourself “test ninja” or something along that lines, but that depends on the org you work in, I guess.

4 Likes

I once thought QA sounded better if the A stood for Assessment. But that’s probably a bit limiting for some places.

I’d much prefer the QA role went away to be honest as it carries the stigma that quality is only the concern of the QA.

2 Likes

I’m really looking towards something more like “Quality Engineer”. I think test ninja is great for a community name, but not keen as an actual job title.

In my case, and this won’t be universal, the Testers in my org are all developing test code (automation, tools, supporting script’s). So we are all Engineers.

Both terms are associated with the qa testing services provided by a testing company. We can understand each term in the following way :

Quality Assurance (QA): It is a term that can be used in a broad way for any type of service. The main objective here is to prevent any error or mistake in the manufactured products and the final aim is to provide a quality product to customers.

QA teams in IT companies ensure that the product is according to the specifications provided to the developer team.

Software Testing: As the name suggests it involves testing the software by executing previously designed test cases, either manually or via automation.

Software testing teams can have their perspective regarding the app workflow and can also suggest improvements to the development team.

So in the end, when a company is looking for a tester, they are looking for the one who posses the qualities of both terms mentioned above. Hence as long as the company is investing in testers you can have any of these titles.

1 Like