What To Consider When Onboarding A Quality Assurance Position

Denison Wright

VP Engineering at Sonatype



I started my career as an engineer and worked for many years in different companies and in different domains. I've progressed through the years working as team lead, engineering manager, a manager of multiple teams, a manager of managers, up to director, and eventually VP. When designing my groups I usually consider the position of QA. I ask myself why I need that person, what do I expect that person to do, and how can they plug into the rest of the organization. Here are some things to think about if you are considering onboarding a QA.

Actions taken

If you have an organization that is very light on QA people or maybe you don't have a QA person at all, then engineering should be responsible for quality. To what degree may vary per company but clarify where the boundaries lie and scale accordingly.

If you hire a QA that is very junior know that it may require a lot of your time. You will have to work with that individual to do things that you want and to have the outcomes that you desire. If the person is fairly experienced and doesn't need a lot of coaching then you can usually achieve more and work with them at a higher level. You can explain your assumptions, ask what they think, and get reliable feedback.

What will the QA be responsible for? How should they tie into your current group or current process? Everybody has a different perspective on this. Be sure to explain these things upfront so that everybody gets a clear picture and can work well together. Plan on spending time flushing this out with team members and potentially repeating the same conversation over until people adapt to the new model. If the vision is not the same then there will be misaligned expectations which may lead to some dysfunction. People are coming from different angles, so be sure to align the vision and responsibilities of the QA position.

Lessons learned

  • Whether you hire a QA or not, be transparent about your expectations to build high quality products. How do you achieve whatever level of quality you want to achieve while being respectful of people's roles?
  • When you are managing a team from a functional area that is not your core functional area, know that you may not be able to provide detailed feedback to those individuals or critique their work.
  • QA shouldn't be a tell-all and involve later case. It should be involved from the beginning of a project so they can start thinking about what needs to be modified or what new test cases they need to create.
  • Think holistically. As opposed to placing the responsibility of quality on the QA focus on rallying the group around the common mission of quality. Ask yourself how a QA can help. Everybody needs to own the process of quality but figure out where a QA can add the most value.

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Denison Wright

VP Engineering at Sonatype

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