Please, stop calling us QA ninjas!

A friend of mine asked me to check the site of a start-up company he is interviewing for as a tester.  The site of the company looks nice, they are in the social media arena and working on yet another way to link between companies and what’s been said about them by bloggers, tweeters, etc.

As I told him, these are the start-ups that will either make it big and noisily, or sink silently into the horizon…  But this is not what made me want to write about them, after all these companies are “a dime a dozen” today.

What caught my eye was that in their “Open positions page” (I was checking the job my friend was applying for) they were looking for a “QA ninja“.

Can someone please ask these guys to stop calling us names?

My first reaction was to ask myself “what where they thinking?!”

I guess the person publishing this position thought:
“We are a special, young, and very cool company; and we are looking for a special kind of tester!  If we call the position a QA Ninja, the candidate will understand his job is “a very cool job” and not the job of a regular tester!”

Even if this is not exactly what he thought, I am sure it was very close.  I mean these guys are not bad or anything, but they surely don’t understand how we testers see our jobs, or what are the things that will make us want to work somewhere or not.

About managers who think testers are anti-bug miracles.

My second thought about choosing to name the job a QA Ninja was that the hiring manager may not really understand what he is looking for in his testers.

To understand what I mean, close your eyes and think about a ninja (and I mean the idea of a ninja based on generation-X movies and TV shows).  You will come up with either movies like American Ninja or shows like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or if you are a current parent you may thing of the Ninjago characters by LEGO.

Ninjago by LEGO

In all these images a Ninja is a commando fighter that will enter a dark and dangerous situation and complete his noble objective silently, cautiously, and doing lots and lots of jumps and climbing along the way.

BTW, if you look at the meaning of the real Ninjas (at least based on wikipedia) you will see that they are defined as covert agents or mercenaries who specialized in unorthodox warfare, such as espionage, sabotage, infiltration and assassination…

What this means is that many managers simply fail to understand the concept of Quality Assurance and what they should be looking for in their testers!  We are not anti-bug miracle makers, magicians or ninjas for that matter.

A tester will not get rid of all the bugs in the system, and in the vast majority of projects they will not even find all the bugs in the system by the time it is released.

A good tester, will provide visibility into the project and product been developed.  A great tester will take this visibility and transform it into Testing Intelligence, or the information that will help the management team make educated decisions regarding their products and projects!

But in no case will we take a sword and kill all the bugs (although sometimes we will want to grab a sword and stab a couple of developers…)

If you are looking to attract top quality testers try this…

A good tester likes a challenge.

He will also like to influence not only how he tests the product but also how the system is designed and developed in order to make the testing more effective.  But above all he will like to know he will be heard when he has something to say.

You can advertise that you are looking for a tester that will improve the quality of the product and process, to introduce methodology and technology that will make these efforts more effective and scalable, and that will help the whole team take the the company to the next level regarding the stability, usability and overall performance of the product or system been developed.

Understand that we don’t see ourselves as ninja climbing walls in the night, but as professionals who have a lot to contribute to our projects.

Ps. About my friend and his job…

In the end, I recommended my friend to take the job, after all the company looks pretty exciting and he describes the people there as very open and nice to work with.

But I also told him he needs to have a good expectations-settings talk with his managers before accepting the job, to make sure they understand what he can provide as a tester.

What’s your take?

Have you ever seen a job posted under a weird name or worked under a manager who thought your job as a tester was something completely different from what you are supposed to do?

Share it with us!!

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  • http://twitter.com/halperinko Kobi Halperin

    On the other hand, we do have some common things with Ninjas:
    We will use any available tool to find the bugs.
    Hopefully we are versatile enough to find the right tools for the job,
    We will even “play-dirty” to do so :-)
    Most of us keep practicing to become better testers and keep our edge.

    Though I wouldn’t have used the term QA Ninja (as it’s not very clear to the reader and includes QA which is not Testing),
    If it caught your eye it probably did serve it’s purpose…

    @halperinko – Kobi Halperin 

  • joelmonte

    I agree we have versatility in common with ninjas, but we also have it with builders, artists, kids, etc.  Still you don’t see anyone looking for a QA Artist, do you?

    My feeling is that the people who use these definitions are not aware of the fact that we really love our job and we don’t need to be called names in order to make it look more attractive.  In a sense they are saying “come and work with us because here testing is really exciting and it even makes a difference” – would you work in a place more than 5 minutes after you realize your job does not make a difference?  I know I wouldn’t!

    I don’t criticize the intentions of this people, only the stigma they have about our work…

  • Joe Strazzere

    Nice article. 

    I view this sort of job posting as a red flag – not something that might rule out further investigation, but at least one thing to worry about.
    I feel pretty much the same way when I hear someone ask to “throw some QA at it”. Are they being funny? Or do they just not get it?

  • joelmonte

    I think the answer is that they just don’t get it.  This is when our job is to educate and not only to test.  And here we can run into another problem, what happens if the person doesn’t want to learn…?  

    This is the reason I told my friend that BEFORE agreeing to take the job he needed to “have the talk” with his manager and make sure they understand you cannot throw “some QA” at it in the same way as you cannot throw in “some usability” to an existing feature or throw in “some fitness” to a couch potato.

  • Brian Rock

    I feel the metaphor “Ninja” isn’t exactly how I would explain a great QA engineer or a great QA team.  Being an ex Army Calvary Scout myself, I’ve always viewed QA as a more of special operations team.  We have to be versatile in a lot of different systems and techniques, need to be able to operate successfully without a lot of support staff, operate under tight deadlines, and dealing with lot of constraints.  During all of this, we have to stay focused on the intent of the mission, to release great software. 

    All in all, I think their intent is ok with the “QA Ninja” comment, but just not a well thought out metaphor.  At least they are giving a little credence to the fact that QA is a specialized skill and not something that can be done by an intern beating on a keyboard :)

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  • http://twitter.com/rosiesherry Rosie Sherry

    It’s just a name though…another job title…it helps them stand out.  If you are browsing through jobs and all you see is “test engineer’, “test analyst”, “software tester”, etc.  It’s all a bit the same and doesn’t stand out in any kind of way.

    When I see a different job title. Whether it is Test/QA/Dev/Design Ninja it shows me that the company is most likely young, dynamic and flexible – not held down by company policies where they can’t use different words at their free will.  I would be more inclined to ‘click’ on the job link and find out more about it.

    Any smart tester can ask the right questions at the right time to see if the job is any good for them.

  • joelmonte

    I think there are many reasons why someone would use a metaphor such as Ninja, Commando, Scout, etc.  You are naming one, the one that comes from understanding the versatility required by the job.  

    But there is always the other one, the one that comes from not understanding the job required and trying to higher the wrong person for the impossible job…

    I guess that Joe (comment bellow) defined it correctly, seeing this name on the posting should turn a “red flag”.  Something that might be problematic about the job offered.  You should not automatically reject the job, but DO try to understand what where these people thinking when they described the work as such.

  • joelmonte

    My point exactly, what if it’s not “just a name” but the mindset of the person looking for a tester to “get rid of all the bugs” or make sure their product is “perfect” when it goes to development.

  • Fahad Suleman

    Applying for a QA job should be based on a challenge…the link is made available if the applicant finds 5 bugs in a practical problem. that would really make me want to aaply for the job. :)

  • joelmonte

    I remember in the Silicon Valley back in 1999 or 2000 where one company posted a job post that included a mathematical problem, and only if you could solve could you get the information required to contact the company.

    This could be a cool exam for a company, ask for a tester to find the 5 bugs in less than 5 minutes and if he manages then he can send his CV.

  • Fernando Severo

    Hey! whats up? Well first, I agree, they seem a bit confused, maybe they really wanted a ninja tester, someone who not only find bugs but actually fix them.. In Google for example they dont have Testers, instead, they call them QA  Engeneers, professionals who are in charge of finding and correcting bugs and also improving the product…

  • http://www.practitest.com Joel Montvelisky

    You see it in many places, more developers doing testing. But I am also seeing a large number of these places where quickly enough they understand testing is not an easy task, and it is one that developers are not really good at (there are many reasons and I wrote about some of them in this blog sometime ago. In this places they get testers to join their teams and not only run the test but also work with their developers in order to improve their testing operations and skills.

    I am not familiar with the way google works, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were doing something like this.