I am a minority within a minority: I am a female, I am an Asian, and I am a QA. When I started my career in quality assurance, it did not take me long to realize there is a stereotype I was unaware of, which was that most developers are male and most QAs are female. What surprised me above all else was that people thought anyone can test, therefore anyone can be a QA. The message was that I was not very important and easily replaceable.
During my initial years in QA, I was naïve, I was young, I did not have enough courage to stand up to the stereotypes. I was often outnumbered by developers or by males in any IT organization I worked for. Even now in the United States, there are always more programmers than quality professionals on a team, and there are more men than women in IT. It is easier to agree with the majority than to disagree and to argue it out in an environment where some might respond aggressively or dismissively. I used to worry: if I raised my hand and I said I didn't agree, would they make fun of me? Would I be able to communicate my point across and influence decision-making? Would they respect my perspective?
It took solid years of work experience, some failures, and some great mentors to find the courage within me to always raise my hand and explain my position when I had a different and valid point to make. The more I kept doing it, the more comfortable I became being my professional self. I have come to the realization that when you articulate facts and speak with confidence, people do indeed listen.
We as QAs are valuable for how we think. Yes, maybe anyone can test, but a true QA’s mindset is unique. We have the ability to think about scenarios in a thorough, careful, methodical, and often out-of-the-box way. Let’s say that if the requirement was to build a house and the acceptance criteria only mentioned to put windows, a good QA would ask: how are we going to enter this house?
It is our mindset, the way we articulate, that makes us stand out. But we need to communicate more, we need to share our thoughts and ideas more. This is the only way that people will know and respect what we bring to the table, too. We need to understand and believe in the core quality assurance principles, then communicate with confidence. Once this is in place, when people believe in us, they will come to us for our perspective and suggestions.
Now, when I am invited to a meeting, the DEV-to-QA ratio and the male-to-female ratio are not what my attention is drawn to. Instead, I am engaged in the topic and busy expressing my ideas related to it, and this is liberating. Each one of us has the power to break the stereotype, so let's make the first step today!