What skills does a Quality Engineer need?


Based on a discussion with various Quality Engineers about what makes a Quality Engineer an excellent Quality Engineer and how the work activities of a Quality Engineer can be propagated or transferred to other team members and involved stakeholders, this blog is written based on what was discussed to be able to share it with the Testing and Quality Engineering Community.

With the publication of the revised TMAP handbook "Quality for DevOps teams" in March 2020, the importance of quality (and the pursuit thereof by everyone within the Development team) became clear once again. However, the debate about the precise definition of quality engineering (and the corresponding term "quality engineer") was already going on well before the book was published and still raises questions even today.

For example: to what extent does the job of a quality engineer correspond to simply being a "tester"?

The difference between testing and quality engineering

Quality engineering means that you are responsible for delivering quality at the right time as a team, so together with your stakeholders. You can apply various types of quality measures for this, of which testing can be one. As a quality engineer, you are also involved in other (preventive and corrective) quality measures and in promoting a quality mindset among the rest of the team. This mindset means that the team is always primarily focused on quality.

Skills of a quality engineer

As a quality engineer, you need more and different skills than a tester. During a brainstorming session about quality engineering, some experts identified several these skills. This article will explain three of them which were considered to be most important.

A quality engineer is never satisfied, because there are almost always improvements to be made.
Is a refinement session not going smoothly? Is the release process taking too long? A quality engineer wants to do something about this. And even if it is not immediately clear what exactly can be improved, a quality engineer can use for example "listening, summarizing and questioning" (LSQ) to find out what the bottlenecks are. As a quality engineer, you do not always have to personally implement solutions, but you do ensure that an improved result is achieved.

A quality engineer must possess social (soft) skills.
You must be able to consult well, with a proper balance of persuasion and adaptability. Because, as the definition shows, quality engineering is a team activity. And even beyond the team, a quality engineer must be able to switch quickly and accurately. Think of having to talk with managers, IT specialists, or key business users: each conversation requires a different perspective.

A quality engineer strives for fast and regular feedback in order to deliver quality faster.
A well automated test set that provides feedback with every change is indispensable. As a quality engineer, you ensure that this is high on the team's priority list.

“A team activity”: does this mean that everyone is a quality engineer?
So, does this mean that the entire team must be a quality engineer? When someone holds the position of quality engineer, that person makes time to guide others in the team by facilitating training courses, coaching and general support. This way, everyone in the team can grow into the role of quality engineer alongside their own expertise. Often, the person who performs the most testing work, takes on this position of quality engineer.

Helping others to adopt a quality mindset

But how do you get all your team members and involved stakeholders on board with this quality engineering mindset? Generally, in three successive phases: knowledge is first transferred, then tried out with support and finally applied independently by all team members.

The dedicated quality engineer has a lot of knowledge and experience and knows what is needed within the team for building and measuring quality during the development process. Through inspiring ‘leading by example’, training courses and workshops, the quality engineer can transfer this necessary knowledge in the first phase. The other team members follow the instructions and experience what this can yield.

After the 'standard' has been explained and taught, other team members will increasingly make their own (small) choices based on their own insights. The entire team applies quality engineering. For example, test-driven development or pair programming can be used. You can help your team by providing feedback and identifying areas for improvement. For example, are the unit tests of the correct quality and are they achieving the desired degree of coverage?

In the final phase, other team members also have a more consciously developed quality mindset and actively think about the necessary quality measures and improvements. The original quality engineer now only has an advisory role with respect to quality measures. Everyone on the team now has the role of quality engineer.

Quality engineer: something for you?

If you want to make the transition from tester to quality engineer, more is required than just a title change. If you do want to make that step, you’ll need certain skills, such as being dissatisfied with the status quo and proactively seeking improvements, being able to take on an explicitly professional social role and being supportive of a rapid feedback process.

Building quality is never the work of just one person; all other team members must also prioritize a quality mindset. A dedicated quality engineer knows how to ignite this mindset in others: lead by example, teach specific basic professional knowledge, provide room for application, and then accept quality responsibility to also be taken on by other people.

Are you up for it?

Published: 4 May 2023
Authors:  Jeanine Hoogerbrug
                   Amanda van der Meeren
                   Jacco Moens