In developing products and services, quality assurance (QA) is any systematic process of checking to see whether a product or service being developed is meeting specified requirements. For a lot of people it is still not very clear what that actually means though, same for us!
What does a QA manager actually do? How does QA fit in a startup organisation? And how important is QA when it comes to growth of a startup?
We decided to sit down with an expert in the field to get answers on these questions. Denise Tham, previously working as QA manager at the cloud-based collaboration startup "Podio", has shared the following insights with us.
In your opinion, what should be the key responsibilities of a Quality Assurance Manager within a startup organisation?
In the beginning, you are most probably QA Manager by name and doing the leg work by reality. The leg work includes, understanding thoroughly, how your users perceive the quality of an application from start to end, the entire experience. It also includes understanding the best way to set the feedback loop from your users to the team, begin from your testing tasks to the team and how the value of an app reaches the hands of your users. While you get this leg work done (enriching your test cases, making sure they delivery value), you are also earning the trust of your team. Now then you can start thinking about building a team around you to support delivering value and quality to clients, scaling that understanding and serve your team.
A Tech startup may not require dedicated QA at the beginning, when do you believe it is the right time to think about creating a dedicated QA team?
At the early stage, software testing is spread across the team, i.e. your founders, your PM and your developers. To be honest, the right time is when you earn some experience, how fast you wish to push quality throughout the team, while already have an idea of the "definition of quality" through working with your team. A dedicated QA team may need to know how to teach software testing skills and risk analysis to the entire team while you foresee the need to get some testing done when a tsunami of features pour out from your efficient development team. When you are aware that you are, prioritizing "checking" above "testing tasks", you know you need to build a dedicated team because you know doing that will only harm quality. At this point, yes, your adrenaline is raising crazily and yes, do take a chill pill, start listing the competences that you need to add to the team, walk up to your CEO who you have lunch with daily, start selling the idea of a QA team needs to be built yesterday. You will be practising your selling skills on a daily basis to get to build the team
Do you believe testing is the full responsibility of the QA team, or should software developers do their own testing too?
Everyone needs to test, in one way or another. This will earn the team the chill moment of stepping away from their laptop and get a beer after the feature is shipped. I like to the draw this picture, i.e. build the product as if each of your users know where you live. The adrenalin to win the hearts of your users will get you going a long way. The moment your users brag to their friends/family about how cool they feel when they use your app is what your ego is chasing after.
What are the key things you have learned from mistakes in your position as quality assurance manager?
Hire the competences your team is missing and the ones who love to help. This new hire will not only boost your team's happiness coming to work, your team also gets to learn fast with the new person as a mentor. Be extremely quick in ramping up the speed of learning for your new hires, formulate a program for the new hire to pick tasks up quickly and learn fast. The speed of learning also makes sure you set the pace of how well your team help each other, that directly help your users by many folds. Be ready to iterate the new hire program, and hey, you learn fast too on how to build a team!
Many thanks Denise, it's great to understand how QA is applied in a Software Development environment.
Please be aware we might be picking your brain again in the future :)
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