Choices, choices

Jumpstart your QA team

Kevin Dunne
© Shutterstock / Nochai

Growing pains are difficult for everyone, but especially for start-ups. Today, we look at whether it is better to hire testers first or a manager. Logically, it should be a tester, right? Nope. In this article, Kevin Dunne explains why your team actually needs a QA manager first.

Whom you hire first to build out your testing team could make or break success down the road. You should make a choice: hire a QA manager first or hire a first-class tester?

Let’s say you decide to hire the tester first. This might not be a bad decision if your company is going to stay small and only have team of two to three testers in the foreseeable future.

But if you predict the need for a much larger QA team, it’s less risky to hire the QA manager first. This individual will set the tone for the culture, required skills and processes for the QA organization and usually can help accelerate hiring to scale down the road.

If you hire a team of testers and then a QA manager later, he or she will have to adapt to the team and processes already in place. This doesn’t always work out, and could very well result in testers leaving or being laid off if they don’t fit with the QA manager’s vision. Worse, those testers who leave the company also take with them the knowledge they have developed on the job.

SEE MORE: Headhunting for DevOps: How to hire for a rising technology

Of course, sometimes a company grows quickly without any warning. So, if you must hire a QA manager after having a couple of testers on board, it’s a workable situation if the individual is flexible and an effective leader.

What’s worked for our company is to get A-level players on board and then assign them to a specific role later. Like developers, excellent testers and QA managers are hard to find. Here are some traits to consider when hiring:

QA Managers traits: Look for people who are flexible and can shift gears quickly. Too often, startups hire QA people too late or too early, so they must be able to adapt to a job that is evolving. Talented QA managers should understand not only all the forms of testing, but how to do testing documentation, work with customers or with sales engineers to help demo products and more.  It’s a plus early on when people can wear multiple hats. This individual should also demonstrate a collaborative mindset, enabling them to work with a team of testers as well as lead them.

Testing skills:  While the emphasis these days is on automated testing don’t make that your only filter for hiring testers. They should also have experience and skills in manual testing since applications are complex and there are times when testers must dig in and explore the application across many aspects. This is especially important at the early stage of a product. If your company has adopted DevOps, hiring your first testers with experience in these tools and methods would be a big plus.

SEE MORE: Developers rise against whiteboard interviews

Salary: As a general guideline, testers make two-thirds to three-fourths of what a similarly skilled developer makes. Then there’s location. Hiring offshore is always cheaper: a junior tester in a country like India can make between $30,000 and $40,000 per year starting out, while some of the best test managers here in the U.S. will command up to $200,000 a year. A sensible average budget per hire, therefore, is around $100,000.

Integrating testers into the team:  Testers are often the ones driving good business-facing documentation within their teams, so many testers can be shocked to walk into the largely undocumented world of most early stage technology companies. Teams can ease this transition by baking in regular documentation of important items like product features, architecture, design decisions, and so on. Therefore, testers can inherit a rich knowledge base to help them transition smoothly to the team and which they can refine over time.


Kevin Dunne

Kevin Dunne is VP of Strategy and Product Development at QASymphony.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments