In pop culture, QA engineers tend to be portrayed as pedantic folk, constantly on the lookout for faults or breaking everything in the application to test its endurance. Indeed, QA people like to “break” things, but they also love to “build”.
Quality assurance (QA) as a practice promotes better standards of product quality, improves the detection of defects in the end product, and prevents bugs from slipping into the later stages of the development process. QA engineers, in turn, have a strategic function of their own, complementary to the development teams. Here’s what a QA engineer does and why having this role on the project is important.
What is a QA Engineer?
Quality assurance engineers guarantee that the quality requirements for the end software product will be met.
They help establish quality assurance and control processes for the project. This process helps ensure that produced the code conforms with the quality standards and that the final result corresponds to the set quality expectations. QA testers verify that the software functions well, meets user expectations, and does not have technical shortcomings. To do so, they write test plans, perform different types of testing activities, write reports on defects and advise on how to solve them. Efficient quality assurance practices encourage the development team to address issues in time so that one tiny bug does not lead to a breakdown of the whole application.
Note that: QA engineer is an umbrella term that encompasses many roles, contributing to an efficient QA process. These include:
- Software test engineers create test plans and cases, assess possible risks, detect defects, and report them to the development team.
- Automation testers rely on various testing automation tools (e.g. Selenium) to streamline repetitive tasks, accelerate the testing process, and produce detailed reports on detected issues.
- Test leads define QA processes, estimate, prioritize, and plan testing activities.
- Testing analysts ensure that the development process, including test automation, aligns with the QA strategy and chosen development methodologies (such as Agile, Waterfall, Kanban). They also perform manual and automated testing if needed.
- Test architects are senior professionals who suggest different approaches and techniques for effectively assessing different product areas.
QA Engineer’s Responsibilities
According to the State of Testing Report 2020, half of QA engineers spend 75%-100% of their time exclusively testing software. Another 50% also takes on extra responsibilities such as:
- 51% perform technical writing
- 35% gather requirements
- 34% write user stories
- 25% help with customer support
- 20% write code.
QA specialists’ responsibilities also vary depending on their specialization. One person cannot perform all types of QA tasks, especially when working with complex software systems. The division of responsibilities, especially when we talk about midsize to enterprise projects, results in better outcomes.
QA Engineer Responsibilities: General Overview
- Create test cases — descriptions of requirements to meet when testing specific feature or functionality
- Write test scripts — step-by-step instructions of how to perform a testing activity to meet the requirements
- Report bugs and define their possible causes
- Identify places where automated testing can be implemented
- Review design and UI components
- Review product documentation
- Define quality standards, metrics, and scoring parameters, using existing best practices
Automation Tester’s Responsibilities
- Implement and perform automated tests using test frameworks and tools
- Write and execute automation scripts
- Generate automated reports and create alert systems
- Implement simulation tools that mimic users’ behavior
- Document defects and issues with the application tested
Test Lead’s Responsibilities
- Create the QA plan and communicate it to the whole QA team
- Define QA processes to be performed during each stage of SDLC
- Provide feedback about tests to the development team
- Prioritize testing activities, create tasks and assign them to proper QA professionals
- Create manual and automated scripts
- Manage dependencies among QA engineers
- Test coaching and consulting
Security Tester’s Responsibilities
- Plan and perform security tests (policy-based, risk-based, and standard-based)
- Simulate security threats to test a system for weak spots and vulnerabilities
- Create reports, based on the results of performed tests
- Consult developers on available methods that help fix the detected security issues
Performance Tester’s Responsibilities
- Review requirements, focusing on the performance aspect of the application
- Test the application speed under different load levels
- Monitor the changes in the product’s response to different load levels over time
- Define performance metrics based on project requirements
- Implement performance test tools
Acceptance Tester’s Responsibilities
- Design acceptance tests
- Perform beta testing activities
- Replicate user behavior to check if the system meets business requirements
- Model business rules to check if the system meets business requirements
- Compare results to the stated project requirements and create reports based on them
Essential and In-Demand QA Skills
The level of skills differs among QA engineers and defines their positions in the software development team. Just as with developers, in this role, there is differentiation by junior, middle, and senior QA testers. This differentiation is based on the level of skills and years of experience. It also defines QA engineers’ areas of responsibility, workload, and salary.
Here are key in-demand skills, important to a well-established quality assurance process:
- Knowledge of general testing methodologies
- Functional testing automation
- Web technologies and testing
- Test automation patterns, principles, and practices
- API testing
- Test/experiment design
- Performance and load testing
- Security testing
- Agile methodologies
Source: State of Testing Report 2020
QA engineers also use tools that automate their tasks, increase productivity and enhance teamwork. Among the most useful tools for testers are:
- Bug tracking tools (Bugzilla, Jira, Redmine), used by 76% of respondents.
- Agile Workflow tools (Trello, Jira Agile, etc), used by 56% of respondents.
- Source control systems (GitHub, BitBucket), used by 43% of respondents.
- Test or QA management tools (QC/ALM, TFS, PractiTest), used by 40% of respondents.
All in all, we can divide QA skills from the chart above into three types: general, niche, and soft skills. General skills are essential for QA engineers to fulfill their core responsibilities. It means they know basic testing methods (functional, smoke, end-to-end), can write test plans and scripts, and perform fixed validations. General skills serve as a strong base for QA specialists to build up their niche skills.
Niche skills help QA engineers perform more specialized testing activities aimed at checking specific deliverables. For example, penetration testing can be not required for a photo editor application but be vital to a banking mobile app. Security is more important for money transfers than changing the size of an image.
Soft skills (e.g. adaptability, listening, and communication) improve collaboration with the development team and enhance productivity.
Why is QA Essential for Outsourcing
Quality assurance as a practice promotes better standards of code quality and prevents defects from undermining the user experience. But do you really need to invest that much in QA? Well, let’s see what would happen if you decide to omit this process and go without QA testing.
Consequences of QA-less product development are as follows:
- Defects will emerge unexpectedly during the development, as there is no one to prevent them.
- Defects will accumulate, filling in the dev team’s backlog and taking away the priority from other tasks.
- Without QA, other members of the team will have to address unexpected bugs themselves. In this scenario, timelines get longer and the effectiveness of planning will dramatically decrease.
- The team is more likely to miss out on many security, usability, functionality, and compatibility defects. They will be noticed later by users, though. Even if packed with valuable features and enticing design, a glitching product will damage your brand and alienate customers.
- Your product will get negative reviews. Consequently, there will be a need for further redevelopment or upgrades with constant debugging.
If after these consequences you won’t hire QA engineers, the process will iterate and… (read the first item of this list)
Implementing a well-established QA process will not only give you confidence when releasing a product to the audience but also reduce the burden of redundant multitasking for your development team. After all, the only way you can replace a QA engineer is by another QA engineer.
Hiring QA Engineers
Still, we understand that the tech talent gap may impede hiring experienced QA testers. According to Capgemini’s 2020 report, over 62% of business leaders have issues finding skilled professionals to develop a continuous testing strategy.
If you struggle to find suitable candidates locally, outsourcing can be a great alternative. An external vendor can help you find the missing talent for your team through their access to a wider talent pool. Then facilitate team onboarding/integration and management (in some cases).
We deliver QA expertise as two service models: staff augmentation and managed team. Within the QA staff augmentation service, we provide you with QA specialists according to your requirements. After recruitment is finished, you can manage QA testers as a part of your team, while we provide them with the workstation and office space.
Within a managed team model, you gain access to a “pluggable” QA team, requiring less ramp-up time. In this case, management is our responsibility, so you will be able to focus on other aspects of your business.
QA engineers strive to correct defects and prevent them from occurring in the first place. In the long run they drive other advantages for your projects too:
- Higher software quality
- Faster time-to-market
- Less reworks
- Positive customer feedback
- Increased brand reputation
Considering the above-mentioned points, it is worth having a QA team working with your product. However, we understand how challenging it can be to find QA engineers.