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  1. #1

    Hiring QA for the first time

    I am the software development team lead for a small startup. We currently have 6 strong developers, a very complicated client-server application, and no formal QA process to speak of outside of unit testing and some light manual testing.

    We are ready to formalize our QA process so we are looking to hire a senior QA person who can be the one to establish our QA department. Automation is very important to us and we tend to follow Agile methodologies for software development.

    I have very little experience with formal QA processes and automation tools. My question for the forum is what should I look for in a candidate to fill this role? Obviously this person would need to wear multiple hats, have experience with a variety of tools, be able to research and propose which tools we purchase/use, and be ready to hire more QA testers as the company grows.

    What should I look for in resumes? What kinds of questions should I as to find out what type of person is best suited for this position.

    Any help is appreciated.


  2. #2

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time

    Look for someone who has worked in a startup before, and has implemented processes and grown QA groups in an environment like yours.

    If you work with a headhunter he/she can help you fashion the kinds of questions you need, and help you with resumes.

    Alternatively, bring in a consultant/contractor to help get things started and help you find a new QA lead.

    Look through Monster or other on-line job search boards to see the kinds of companies like your seeking applicants, and to see the kinds of applicants looking for roles like you are offering.

    I've been in this type of position several times before - first QAer hired in a startup. It can be a very exciting and rewarding position! Make sure you hire someone you can trust, and won't need to micromanage. Make sure you hire someone with startup experience.

    Also, make sure your company is really ready to begin real QA processes.

    You say "Automation is very important to us". Make sure that you are willing to understand and accept the advice from your new hire concerning your company's readiness for automation. I'm a strong advocate for automation where possible, but there are some situations where companies are just not in a position to spend the time and money on successful automation. This decision takes experience to make correctly. Try not to simply impose this decision ahead of time on your new QA lead. Automation is a terrific help in the testing process - but it's not free, it's not simple, and it's not a silver bullet. "It's Automation, not Automagic."

    Best of luck!
    Joe Strazzere
    Visit my website: AllThingsQuality.com to learn more about quality, testing, and QA!

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Wisconsin, USA

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time

    Taking off of the head-hunter idea, you might want to consider a contractor with the same qualifications as Joe states, but on a contract-to-hire basis.

  4. #4

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time

    really advise to read what Joe write at the end. Are your "strong developers" going to listed to "some QA guy with a little to no development practice" what tools to use to do programming (automated tests)? Or do you assume him to write better code (automated tests) than your developers writes?
    I suggest to only hire QA person if you really want to have QA process (formalities, papers, defect tracking system, etc) and if you want him to overtake that little manual testing you mentioned.
    ?:the art of a constructive conflict perceived as a destructive diagnose.

  5. #5

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time


    I'm not sure I agree with your "formalities, papers" comments. And I don't believe the introduction of QA has to be confrontational with the developers, as you seem to imply.

    When I began QA processes in startup companies, I only gradually phased them in. In general I believe in "as few formalities as I can get away with" given the business needs.

    I don't think it's always necessary to have a drastic change in the envionment as QA is added to a startup.

    Just my $0.02, and just the way I like to do things.
    Joe Strazzere
    Visit my website: AllThingsQuality.com to learn more about quality, testing, and QA!

  6. #6
    SQA Knight
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Highlands Ranch, CO, USA

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time


    And this person should be able to walk on water? (being purposely sarcastic)

    Honestly, read what I just said and then re-read Joe's post. Don't expect miracles from this person. Implementing a 'Test' function (which is what you will get at first) for a startup company (or project) is a lot of work (I know, been there numerous times like Joe).

    Set your expectations/perceptions that this is 'testing' and then when that matures you will start to build out Quality Assurance (which is a lot more than testing, testing is one component of the QA puzzle). I am very adamant about this because that has been the main barrier I have come across while doing this type of work over the last 18 years. Ninety percent of the time when I have heard 'QA' it has really meant 'testing'. (okay, beat that dead horse long enough).

    I guess the thing to look at besides the resumes is your own company. Are you really ready for this and are you willing to 'buy-in' to it. It is a cultural change to do this. It will mean that your 'developers' will have to work with this person and treat them as an equal. If not then you will not keep test people long enough to benefit from the things they are trying to do. This is a serious business investment you are making, ready to do it?

    More food for thought? Best of luck to you.

    For all the general stuff to know about QA/Test go here http://www.softwareqatest.com/

  7. #7

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time

    Joe, you are right, I just wanted to scare Scott [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] Still defect tracking system is that formality without which there can't be two positions - testers and developers in a company, I believe. Defect tracking, build process and "how to organize/catalogue our unit tests" are questions developers typically asks me as QA when start new project. And well, sometimes help with performance test approach/methodology/tools.
    ?:the art of a constructive conflict perceived as a destructive diagnose.

  8. #8

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time

    Thanks to everyone for some great replies.

    We are not expecting miracles out of this hire, but walking on water would be a great party trick! We are definitely looking for a "Tester" for the immediate term, but the goal would be that a robust QA process would be introduced over time.

    As far as automation, I would defer to the QA person's best judgement. The reason why I said automation is important is that the software engineer in me hates to do things twice [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    Ainars - we are definitely trying to find someone to take on what little manual testing we do. The goal is also to build out the formality of the process. We also assume the person would be able to write decent code - at least at the scripting level. We are also looking to improve our build process, but what we have now is decent. We already have a bug tracking system, source code control, automated unit tests, automated installer building, etc.

    Joe - I definitely agree with the "few formalities as possible" theory. Ideally the QA hire would introduce new steps to the process as-needed and using their best judgement.

    So what would still be really helpful would be to know how to sift through these resumes to find the people that could really build a QA department from scratch, recommend tools/processes, and not be a "one trick pony" who has only ever worked with one system or tool set and is set in his or her ways. How do you find that star QA person?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Michigan, USA

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time

    I've a slightly different take on experience... Experience in establishing a department may *not* come only from a start-up software shop. There are a fair number or "established" organizations with development shops within the structure that may have launched their own QA effort.

    Also, I've found that sometimes old war-horses (or fire horses if that's more PC) are less fazed by things going pear-shaped than the young guns may be. Most of the stereo-types about the 20+ year guy waiting to retire are based on the ones whose reason for doing this stuff has been snuffed out - but there are plenty who still have the fire buring and love a good challenge.

    So, when sifting thru resumes - look for some one who has "developed", "initiated" or created processes, proceedures and methodologies.

    Most of the folks here know people who are qualified who certainly do *not* qualify as a "one trick pony" - although I know a bar that wants to grow up to be a resturaunt by that name... [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

  10. #10

    Re: Hiring QA for the first time

    I think the "one trick pony" aspect may have more to do with personality than on what you will find in the resume. If they've only worked for one company but were there for 10 years doing several types of work they may still be able to be flexible given the right opportunity.

    In addition to what was said about automation, it's very possible that the workload may be too high keeping up with 6 developers to do that work AND automate. If it does happen, it might not happen until the 2nd or 3rd tester is hired and one of them could be the automation specialist. So.. exposure to automation would be helpful but I wouldn't consider it a requirement. More importantly, the person should be able to juggle significant grunt work and process improvement/formalization. Some people have difficulty considering both to be a good use of their time.


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