Career Story: Software Quality Executive For A Large Software Development Company

Software Quality Executive For A Large Software Development Company

Job Title: Software Quality Manager

Type of Company: I work for a large, worldwide software development company supplying a variety of software products for manufacturers.

Education: BS, Computer Science, Northeastern University

Previous Experience: I started in college with four school-sponsored internships related to my degree program. Hired by Apple Computer research and development out of college (mostly due to volunteer work running a Macintosh user group), I worked for Apple for ten years before joining a startup that went public a few years later. I then moved to Ann Arbor where I've been leading onshore/offshore R&D teams for 4 years.

Job Tasks: I'm responsible for the overall quality of four software products used by thousands of technical writers and illustrators around the world. Our products provide a broad range of capabilities, much of which requires customization using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

As a software quality manager (SQA), my primary role is to recruit and mentor employees, define our software quality process, set team priorities/schedules, develop infrastructure to make us more efficient, and audit/review the work of team members. I work closely with software development managers and senior management to define project requirements, budgets, and schedules. Where possible I also participate as an individual test engineer.

Two-thirds of our QA department works in our Indian research and development center; the remainder are located in our US, UK, and Germany R&D centers.

My typical day starts with a review of our automated daily metrics report. This report summarizes the percentage of test cases completed, failure rate, pending bugs, and pending verifications of fixes. This is followed by a series of early morning conference calls with cross-functional teams (Software Development, QA, Documentation, Marketing). The remainder of the day is spent: - Following up on urgent issues - Planning emergency patch releases - Answering questions from colleagues - Providing suggestions for feature specifications - Writing test plans - Reviewing resumes - Interviewing potential hires - Meeting 1-on-1 with employees to provide feedback - Writing new test cases/code - Testing the products, reporting bugs, verifying fixes - Developing or improving our automated testing tools - Ordering new equipment/software - Learning new technologies

Most of the detailed planning work is delegated to our senior QA Engineers. They have 5+ years of experience, are experts in their respective features, and are given a fair amount of responsibility to make decisions and supervise the execution work within their assigned areas.

I work 40-50 hours a week in an office environment and travel 1-2 weeks a year. To succeed in my position, you need to have strong skills (technical, communications, leadership) and a strong team.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is being paid to be a critic and advocate for our customers. I get to dabble in a wide variety of technical disciplines, form theories, investigate/isolate issues, assist other engineers, and occasionally do some programming. As a manager, I also enjoy making decisions and delegating tasks.

The worst part of the job is dealing with customer complaints, writing process documentation, resolving interpersonal conflicts, and performing formal performance reviews.

Job Tips:
1.) Seek out internships or volunteer positions in your desired field.

2.) Experiment with different types of jobs...find your passion, then develop the necessary skills.

3.) Take a business communications course to develop your business writing and public speaking skills.

4.) To compete in the world market, focus on developing business skills where our culture provides distinct advantages/opportunities (creativity, flexibility, entrepreneurship).

5.) When you enter the job market, commit yourself, learn from your colleagues, treat everyone with respect, identify issues and provide solutions make your boss look good. Once you've proved your value, volunteer to take on more responsibilities

Additional Thoughts: After 20 years, I still love going to work every morning. My first big break came with a lot of persistence...I wanted to work for Apple Computer. I had a friend who was contracting there so I moved out without a job, lived off of credit cards, and crashed the weekly beer bash until I got recognized. After 3 months of temping, I got a permanent offer that launched a very successful career. All my job opportunities came from personal contacts. My last big break came by asking a friend-of-a-friend to submit my resume for an open position. Bypassing the normal resume submission system is a great way to get you noticed.

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