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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As Chapman started to build out QA processes and set up automated testing harnesses, he got into the role, finding more satisfaction than in his previous job as a developer. "You get to see the whole map of software being built as a QA analyst -- whereas as a developer, I felt siloed to certain parts of a project," he says. "I became more of software expert in QA in terms of testing every part of the software from soup to nuts."

Zenoss' Bresnahan also likes the broad organizational exposure the QA role affords him. As QA manager, he guides the development organization as to where to focus limited resources; he hosts review meetings with representatives from support, services, sales and engineering to negotiate risk-based decisions for releasing new products; and he supports developers by providing good information on field issues and expectations.

With the QA director role in his sights, Bresnahan hopes to push his cross-functional focus even further. "The role of QA director is to be an information provider to their peers," he explains. "They are the source for what is and isn't acceptable and can help mitigate risk for the executives, assist peers in focusing on specific quality improvements, and shield the development organization from external FUD using quality metrics. They are the voice of reason when people start running around with their hair on fire."

As global IT quality assurance manager at Cytec Industries, Doug Gabel says he's not only the voice of testing at the specialty materials and chemicals manufacturing firm, but he's also the advocate for moving QA testing upfront in the development process. By doing so, organizations can catch potential system snafus much earlier, assuring a smoother rollout.

As part of that mission, he's pushed to make QA best practices part of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) and to champion the benefits of QA to the organization at large.

"It's my job to highlight the benefits of QA testing and to educate people as to what testing is and when the best time is to do it," Gabel explains. "I have to make sure testing is part of everyday operations. It's an ongoing challenge," he says, "but it's been a good career move for me. I've had the opportunity to gain wide business experience."

Longtime Computerworld contributor Beth Stackpole recently covered 10 trends in IT spending for 2014.

This article, Tech hotshots: The rise of the QA expert, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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