I once saw a presentation at a conference with the same title as this post (or close – I didn’t bother looking for it). I went in with high expectations and was completely and utterly disappointed. You see, the message of this presentation was that even if testers have respect, that testing will always be a lesser job. This is, of course, idiotic, but many testers still accept this.
Rule #4 of the Test Test, asks if Testers and Developers have equal career paths. At Microsoft, the path is clear (at least on paper). Testers can grow to levels (and salaries) equal to that of their other engineering peers. Keep in mind, however, that rules on paper should never convince you of anything. If you want an accurate answer for this question, ask about roles for senior testers and see what you find out.
So, what do you do if the answer is no? Changing this one is tough, because you will probably need test management, development management AND human resources on your side, but I’m confident it could be done. This is one of those situations that may benefit from the “what if" game”. In this situation, the “what if” game would work like this.
After seeding the idea a bit with management, set up a meeting to explore the subject. Depending how your org is set up, these questions may vary, but the first question you ask is “What if testers and developers had the same opportunities for promotion”. Answering this may require you to lay out (or whiteboard) the career stages for your organization, noting where test and dev currently overlap. Then, point to a blank square in the test matrix, and ask “what if we had a tester at this level – what would they do?”. Brainstorm and fill it in. Repeat and sketch in a few more blanks.
You’re nowhere near done yet. Next ask “do we need testers performing those activities”? The answer may not be yes, but you could follow by asking if you will need testers performing those activities, and finally (and most importantly), ask “What If we had testers performing those activities”
Now, regardless of what you do, you have raised awareness about the roles that experiences testers can play.
You’re still not done yet.
Now you (or the Test Manager if that’s not you) should have a people review with the development manager. You’re not going to compare and contrast everyone. Instead, (and again, depending on how career stages are structured in your organization), pick 2 devs and 2 testers from each career stage / salary band / or whatever you use to show advancement. 1 of the 2 should be typical of the average performer at that level, and the other should be a strong performer). Have a conversation about what these folks do (in general), and the impact they have to the team. Senior developers and senior testers do different things, but the impact of what they do should be similar. Talk about the attributes they share. At some level, descriptions of similarly paid developers and testers should be almost identical. Now, in addition to awareness of what more senior testers could do, you’ve opened up communication about what the folks who are growing in that direction do, and you’ve put the test role in perspective with the dev role.
You’re still not done yet.
You need to keep on having these conversations – no less than twice a year, and probably not more often than quarterly. If you think it’s too much work, that’s fine. Just don’t whine about career paths for testers anymore.