Software is increasingly becoming an integral part of modern telecom equipment, which has put a greater emphasis on companies finding qualified employees to keep up with this growing demand. Software is increasingly becoming an integral part of modern telecom equipment, which has put a greater emphasis on companies finding qualified employees to keep up with this growing demand.
RCR Wireless News: Can you provide an overview of A1QA’s current workforce?
Svetlana Pravdina(SP): Since its inception back in 2002, year after year A1QA has been experiencing rapid growth. For example, in 2011 we grew by almost 182%. Currently, A1QA has around 450 full-time QA engineers. They are spread around our global locations in Austin, Texas (headquarters); in several representative offices across the U.S. (Connecticut, Massachusetts, etc.); and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
RCR Wireless News (RCRWN): Can you provide some details into what a typical day is like for an A1QA employee?
SP: We realize that a flexible schedule increases labor effectiveness and helps to respond more effectively to our customers’ needs. Thus, for a long time, we’ve been following the approach where our engineers are free to work any time they feel most productive, as long as they consider our clients’ timetables. They have no strict schedules unless communication with clients requires them to be in the work place during certain hours. All working processes are organized in a way to allow every person do their best job. Everyone from interns to top management have their own schedules.
Nevertheless, the daily routine is pretty much the same: getting assignments from project managers; performing manual or automated bug tracking; communicating within a team; writing bug reports; and reading professional websites to ensure they are up-to-date on the latest happenings within the industry.Manual testers and “automators” have almost identical conditions in their working day organization. The only difference “automators” might have is that they are usually not assigned to do several projects at a time.
RCRWN: How important are employee-training programs for A1QA?
SP: A1QA considers employee-training programs to be extremely important. The way we see it, an employee cannot achieve optimal professional growth without the proper support from the company. Therefore, we’ve decided to support this view in quite a fundamental way by establishing seven “Centers of Competence” within our company – covering proficiencies and competencies in the testing of mobile, integration, security, usability, test automation, etc. Each Center of Competence manages its own timetable of events, providing seminars, workshops, roundtables and master classes. Each A1QA employee can join any event to extend their own testing skill set and obtain deeper knowledge. Launching those centers was definitely a challenge for us, and it is also a challenge to keep them functioning on a proper level. However, the positive feedback we receive from our employees makes it worth the effort.
RCRWN: What issues have been the most difficult for A1QA to deal with in terms of attracting/keeping employees?
SP: During the last decade, we all witnessed a growing demand in qualified QA engineers and testers. Still, software testing and QA is not a part of an academic education (B.Sc in SQA sounds good, right?). The point here is that at certain point we found ourselves in a closed loop of hunting for testers that basically got us nowhere. That’s when the idea of establishing our proprietary QA Academy was born. The main goal of the academy was to ensure a constant inflow of QA specialists to A1QA – and, of course, to contribute to the SQA industry in general. Two years ago, our QA Academy opened its doors for the first students, offering a variety of courses in domain-specific testing, software test methodologies, agile testing, security testing, mobile testing, tools and instruments, communication and teamwork, SQA in distributed environment, metrics, personal efficiency and more. Now we select the top graduates of the QA Academy, offering them a three-month internship with A1QA. This helps to recruit new employees who already have at least basic QA and testing knowledge. Besides the QA Academy, we also offer generous benefits, such as gyms and pools, family support, medical insurance, business trips and a chance to make a good career within the company. But still, the company is not protected from losing good specialists. If someone is intending to leave, potential losses are estimated, and if the specialist is really valuable to the company, we do our best to address their retaining requirement.
RCRWN: What workforce positions has A1QA found the most difficult to fill?
SP: Our QA Academy was established to ensure company growth and to fill vacancies. While general QA engineers are taught there, automated testing always needs “special” engineers, able to both test and code. This is the rarest type of tester you can expect to easily find on the market. In the past, the company experienced a lack of those specialists. As the company grew, it started developing automators in each department itself. For that reason, the company established internal courses on automated testing, which now provides us with the automators we need.
RCRWN: What impact has the rise in telecommunication operators looking toward software solutions had at A1QA?
SP: We have witnessed this trend for many years, and indeed the rise has been significant. Like many other businesses, we have been keeping an eye on the telco market situation. Anticipating the industry growth and everything it implies, we started building up our own telecom testing team, signing our first telco-testing contract with European telecom operator EMT back in 2005. Our telecom team has grown to be the biggest department within A1QA; it consists of about a quarter of all our engineers. After offering testing for the telecom industry for nine years, our service portfolio in this domain has expanded. Now, in addition to pure testing in this domain, we offer consulting, assistance in building effective QA department for telcos, professional training and more.
RCRWN: It looks like A1QA has a rigorous hiring policy? Can you explain the reasoning behind the process and the importance of that process for the company?
SP: We care a lot about the image we’ve been building for the last 12 years. One of the main values of A1QA is to put quality of services above all else. So yes, we focus a lot of attention on the kind of specialists we hire. Regardless of where the potential employee came from – from another company or from our QA Academy – they still have to go through our six-stage selection process in order to become an A1QA employee. Even if the company lacks some specialists, we never fill vacancies with random people. Quality of service always begins with the quality of people delivering that service.
The interview was publiched on RCR Wireless News.