What’s in a name? The job title paradox

Test consultant

As a test consultant I get hired in lots of different environments and companies, which results in all kinds of interesting job titles I receive. This led me to start thinking about what the title of a job actually means and what the difference is between them. Why should I be a QA Engineer, Test engineer, technical tester, test automation developer, load tester, developing qa engineer or whatever else people can come up with. And why should I care what they call me, as long as I get to do my job and I do it well?

What is the difference between them, why would you call yourself a technical tester or a test automation developer or a test automation engineer for that matter?

Test professional

Within our company we are currently expanding the group of “professionals who are very capable in test automation or load and performance testing”, this raises the question so now and again of what to put on a business card, or an email signature.

Then today I read this (long) article on Harvard Business Review which sounds completely logical, I too in the past have often looked at what the title was on a resume before even reading what the job itself entailed.  At one of my past customers a group of people had the title “test managers” and instead of doing the traditional job of a test manager they were fully dedicated to executing product risk analysis and based on that give advice to other groups within the organisation. At some point during my assignment there, they started a search for a new “test manager” and found they had incredible issues finding someone who matched the job, since all applicants applied to the title rather than the job description. Those who did apply to the job description seemed to lack the “test manager” type role in their resume and thus were not interviewed. It took the company a while to realize this gap and change the name of the role to something more clearly descriptive of what the people in this group did “test risk managers”.

What the above story illustrates to me is that a job title should be descriptive of what you do, not what you want people to think you do.


A former colleague of mine recently received a promotion to something like Senior Vice President of something or other. I am very happy for him that he has a new title, however the job he does is still exactly the same as the one he did 2 years ago: he manages a group of developers and testers. So why not just call yourself that?

Performance tester

In my current assignment I have had several different roles, one being Test Coordinator, which effectively meant I was indeed coordinating the different parties involved with the tests to be executed. However when I switched to a different project within this organisation I started working fully on load and performance testing. The test manager raised the question on what my title should be and I proposed to adjust it to exactly state what I am doing for them at the moment: performance tester.

Getting back to the opening of this post, it is never really clear to me what the difference effectively is between a tester, a test engineer or a QA engineer. In the end, in my experience at least, they all do the same thing: they test software. So why not just call yourself a Software Tester? This makes it abundantly clear to potential colleagues and employers what you do for a living, it is a clear description for recruiters to find a person on and not send some highly inappropriate job offer (which they no doubt will still be doing cause they generally don’t read resume’s of people they contact). And most importantly, it clearly states what you are doing and thus helps you with a direct reality check whether the job you should be doing according to your title is indeed the job you are doing.

My point

So my view on job titles seems clear: just make it state what you do, what your charter within the organisation is and try to keep it clear, short and simple. This makes your life easier as well as that of your colleagues!

One year as a test consultant – a retrospective

Throughout my career I have mostly worked in house for a “software house”, with which I mean an organisation that builds software as a core of their business model. Even my times at Finalist IT Group and Quantiq X-Media, when working for external customers, and in the case of Finalist on site at the customer, I have always worked for organisations that create software to sell or sell the services of developers.

When I left Spil Games I decided I wanted a change in my career? or better said, i wanted to try different side of the business. I had spent the better part of the last 4 years managing people and processes and enjoyed it a lot and now it was time to move my skills to a different level making sure enjoying myself as a software tester is as well in scope as the managing bit. I really wanted to get back to what I like most: software testing, setting up a testing process, showing developers how things can be better when continuous testing is going on, in short “finding solutions by executing and not just managing”.
For the last year I have worked as a test consultant at Polteq Test Services. In this year I have touched a range of things in my work I am extremely passionate about, setting up test automation, attempting to help testers improve themselves and the product they work on, helped review a book, used my network to help companies deliver better products by having them tested, helping out writing commercial offers for potential customers of Polteq and probably more I don’t even remember.

So far I have quite enjoyed the variation in the work and quite enjoy being on site at the customers. The one thing I truly miss though is the direct interaction with my colleagues. When working fully in-house there are always steady colleagues, who share your thoughts and worries about the employer, the atmosphere etc. In consultancy however, quite often you do not have your own colleagues on site, you’re mostly working with the customer. So now and again you want to be able to vent frustrations, whether they are about work, traffic or your customer, it is not always easy to do that when on site.

A side effect of working for a company specialized in software testing is, that I am a lot more involved in the “community” and development of the trade. My twitter stream is a lot more active, I have started blogging about my work, I try to stay in touch with communities and groups on LinkedIn and of course on Software Testing Club.

Extra personal effect of me no longer managing people, I am generally a lot more relaxed at home, I have learned to leave my work behind me and not (well, ok, hardly) take it home with me.

Overall looking back to this year I can say that I enjoyed my new position as a consultant. My expectations were quite high to be honest and  I enjoyed it even more. So far it turned out to be beneficial for both my professional and personal life. I used my skills and capabilities in a totally out-of-box way, discovered new talents and potentials and tried out quite some new activities (book, big presentations, creating a whole new concept / theory, etc).  At the moment I consider this a very good step for my career as this kind of job keeps me motivated and inspired.