Computer Careers for Quality Professionals
by Joe Conklin
Quality practitioners are continuing to increase their presence in sectors other than manufacturing. This is particularly true in the area served by my local ASQ section, 509, in Washington, DC.
At a recent meeting, two recruiters for a technical services firm talked to me about how quality professionals can enjoy successful careers in the computer software and systems industry.
Here is a Q&A that summarizes their thoughts.
Q. What is the market like for software quality professionals?
A. Our main market is the defense contracting industry. We’ve seen increasing emphasis on testing and configuration management skills in recent years. The ASQ software quality engineer certification is something our clients tend to look for these days.
Both government and private sector clients want to use their software systems to cut costs and reduce cycle time. We see long-term growth in our industry, but it is highly cyclical. Companies do more permanent hiring when the cycle is up and rely more on contract hiring when it is down.
Besides quality assurance skills in configuration management and testing, quality professionals can improve their marketability by taking courses in computer science or computer engineering.
It’s impossible to predict when the cycle will turn. Employees have to be prepared. Companies do, too. We encourage companies to treat their people as if they want them to be around forever, or at least for a long time. The market can shift just as suddenly to the employee’s favor as to the employer’s.
Q. How should software quality professionals keep their skills current?
A. We advise our applicants to keep their certifications, especially their ASQ ones, current.
There are also many short courses and college classes out there for software quality professionals to choose from. Check them out, especially if your company offers tuition reimbursement.
Besides refreshing your technical skills, it also helps your career if you build leadership skills through such activities as participation in your local ASQ section.
In our particular niche, we see a need for people who can show companies how to integrate the strengths of the internet into key business processes such as customer service. We see more and more companies looking at how to use open source code in their software systems.
Software that allows systems to adapt easily and automatically to the needs and expectations of individual customers is also a big thing. Any job experience or training software quality professionals have in these areas makes them more attractive to the clients we serve.
Q. How should quality assurance professionals stay on top of software industry trends?
A. If the local ASQ section has a special interest group for software, attend the meetings. Get involved in ASQ’s Software Division Forum. Subscribe to ASQ’s Software Quality Professional journal. Also, consider attending the meetings of other professional societies whose activities involve software issues and developments.
Software quality professionals can also find clues about industry trends by scanning the help wanted ads. Overall industry trends help to drive what companies look for when they hire.
Sections Can Help
Q. What can local ASQ sections do to foster career development of software quality professionals?
A. They can sponsor panel discussions from local recruiters, arrange presentations by HR experts, offer résumé writing workshops at section meetings, put on sessions about how to use the internet in a successful job search and continue the certification exam courses that have proven popular over the years. These will benefit not only software professionals but quality professionals in general.
I thanked the recruiters for their practical advice. Some of it was a good reminder of points I had heard before. It was clear career success in the software quality world, and in general, involves some creative application of old wisdom.
JOSEPH D. CONKLIN is a statistician with the U.S. Department of Energy, helping to assess the quality of its natural gas survey operations. Conklin earned a master’s degree in statistics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. An ASQ member, he holds the following ASQ certifications: quality engineer, reliability engineer, quality auditor, quality manager and software quality engineer.