Tech hotshots: The rise of the QA expert

Long undervalued, quality assurance is in the limelight -- and QA pros in demand -- following the disaster of the HealthCare.gov website rollout.

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"The profile of people filling the QA role has changed in the last few years to become far more sophisticated," says Kevin Haggard, currently director of quality engineering at online coupon site RetailMeNot.com, who's worked in QA for 15 years for such well-known sites as WeightWatchers.com, WebMD and Gilt Groupe. "We're looking for people who have a lot more of technical background and more programming experience than we have in the past. Before you would just look for people in any field and teach them how to do manual testing."

Not only are director-level QA professionals like Haggard seeking a different breed of QA engineer, they are willing to pay top dollar for their hires. In some markets, a seasoned QA technician can command a six-figure salary on par with top developers, Haggard says, and there's less competition for those jobs. "If you're great at [writing scrips for automation], you can probably demand a lot more than a developer competing in a division where there are 10 people vying for the job," he says.

A wide view of the organization

Michael Chapman, a senior QA analyst at Datacert, a provider of enterprise legal management software, says he's constantly getting queries from local Houston-based firms seeking out good QA talent. Chapman started out as a C++ developer, but after seven years segued into QA when a company he was working for merged with another and he sought out a position that would save his job.

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