Friday, 30 January 2009

"Don't call me a QA!"

I dislike the term QA when applied to testers in general. I dislike it more when applied to my team. I dislike it even more when applied to me. If you read this, and you use the term QA - stop it. 

Bad Trend towards QA

Unfortunately if I graphed the trend for verbal usage of this term I would see draw a line heading upwards.

I used to hear it more from the American staff I worked with, but now the disease has spread to UK staff.
I hear it more than I read it.  As demonstrated by the mighty Google Fight  - QA loses when faced with the overwhelming power of testing
Warning: I may have specifically chosen search terms to make the point
do not look behind the curtain)
Even in the 'Quality' books, Deming and Crosby class Quality as everybody's business (Crosby then blows it by recommending the creation of quality engineers).
Even if I mistakenly interpreted QA as "Quality Assistant" then everyone should have that as part of their title - unless of course some roles actually set out to not assist in the generation of a quality product.
So, if you read this, and you use the term QA - stop it.  I test things, I don't ka them. (QA is pronounced Ka when spoken as a word)

QA distorts your thinking

Use of the term distorts your thinking.
Even if just for the second that you say it.
Either you don't know what QA stands for. Or you haven't thought through the implications of your usage.
Could you possibly not realise that when you use the term QA you have just delegated the responsibility for assuring quality to those people. And you probably won't check that they have done it, and haven't defined what quality means, so you failed to effectively delegate something you may not even realise that you delegated.
If you read this, and you use the term - just stop it. 

Let me clear this up

Perhaps I can say this more clearly.
Stop using the term QA.
Say "tester" or "testing" or "performance testing" or "review" or "unit testing" or <insert whatever phrase actually covers the meaning that you have in mind instead of the generic, highly abstract, and incredibly open to interpretation (and abuse) QA>

Testers - stand together, we don't have to take this abuse

Is this a modern form of verbal abuse? Instead of racist terms do we now use pejorative role names? Should testers reciprocate with derogatory names for their team mates? Of course we testers would not do this because of our civilised, kind, gentle and forgiving natures.
Buy your "don't call me a QA" mouse-mats and T-shirts now and free the testing industry from this verbal abuse. Buy some for your code monkey and propeller heads teammates so that they learn that the use of pejorative terms is just plain wrong.
(Should demand warrant it I will happily create
"Don't call me a code monkey" T-shirt so developers
can get their own back on the QAs)
Related links:


  1. [...] Here is an interesting post on Evil Tester called, “Don’t call me a QA!” Fortuitous, [...]

    Mary has crafted some alternative definitions in case you want to change from QA.

  2. I started out as a Software Test Engineer but my official title at my current employer is QA Engineer. Thankfully, my teammates and I usually refer to ourselves as testers despite the title.

    When it comes up, I tell everyone QA stands for "Quality Assessment", and then they get a diatribe about how it is impossible for a test team to "assure quality". If the discussion is happening online, I usually include a link to Elizabeth Hendrickson's You Can't Test the Wings Back on an Airplane.

    Thanks for leaving the comment Marijane and the link.

  3. Mouse mats and t-shirts aren't enough, we have to start getting really evil

    I'll add your rant to the ever growing list...

    An old rant, but an important one methinks. Now I too can sit in such rarefied company.

  4. I wrote about it, here


    Thanks for the pointer Shrini.

  5. I will never call you a QA. To me, QA is taking random samples of service or product to determine an overall measure of standards compliance. It has nothing to do with testing. I would sooner be called a code monkey for all my days than refer to testing as QA. It just doesn't fit. Even though I am in the minority, I won't be swayed!

    Thanks Suzanne, hopefully others will emulate your sway free stance.

  6. Is the whole world confused by the difference? Testing and QA are NOT the same.

    Testing is about exercising the system to figure out whether it can be broken too easily, whether it achieves the things the customer wanted and whether it meets the standards set by the company.

    Quality Assurance, is ALL about whether, during the process of producing whatever it is, everyone involved followed the processes and procedures defined properly in order to have confidence that the quality required has been achieved.

    They are different things, utilising different skills (and different people), with the same objective - to ensure a system is produced that achieves the desired level of quality.

    Many companies employ neither, a few employ both, I suspect the majority employ testers, but think they have achieved both things by so doing.

    Hi Rachel, Thanks for leaving a comment. I suspect the majority employ testers too.

  7. Hi, I'm from the Philippines and I work as tester too... I also have the same rant like you regarding Testers being called as QA by other people. But here in our company, we are called testers and there's no problem but when I encounter other developers and even testers from other companies, when they ask me, "what's your role in you team?", I say "Software tester", then they tell me, "Ahhh, QA!".

    Ahhh, a common variant of Selective hearing. Sadly, as yet I have found no known universal cure.

  8. ColoradoTester11 June 2009 at 08:15

    Yeah - I find the term QA problematic for several reasons. Unfortunately, it is embedded in the parlance of clients, organizations, and teams. Trying to drop the term unilaterally means having to forever explain why you don't like the term, what it means, what's a better term, etc. The fact is, most clients show surprisingly little interest in confronting this semantic conundrum. "We've always called it QA." said one project manager I spoke with, "Hell, I don't even know what that stands for. Hey, did Jerry bring bagels this morning?"

    In addition, there were a few months back in 2005 when some people thought that software "QA" could make a difference by actually looking at development practices and finding ways to make improvements. When I think back on the dozens of emails, test plans, and other artifacts many of us produced in an effort to pursue this concept of helping "assure quality", it makes me smile, in a forced, painful way.

    How about all those meetings we attended, prepared to unveil some new idea/plan/procedure about improving requirements, traceability, unit testing, or some other aspect of the development process (You remember, the plan you worked on until two in the morning?) only to receive the standard introduction for any idea that originates with testers: "OK, I guess that's about it. Thanks everybody. Oh...I'm sorry, I guess QA had something they wanted to talk about?"

  9. I absolutely agree with you, never understand why are testers so called. When I was working at some customers thus called us. But I still love my job)