QA Lead Job Description
Before a product is released to the public, it goes through a lot of quality assurance testing: the QA lead organizes and manages that testing. In fact, the QA lead is just as responsible for a successful product launch as the engineers or developers involved in that project. This is a skilled profession that requires previous experience in quality assurance, preferably in the same industry as the company posting the job, along with prior management experience. QA leads typically keep full-time hours, but they may experience periods of overtime closer to product rollouts. Candidates who enjoy testing products and working in fast-paced environments are a great fit for this role.
QA Lead Duties and Responsibilities
QA leads often hold a host of different duties and responsibilities, depending on the specific project or industry in which they work. However, there are a few key tasks that most QA leads perform on a regular basis:
Lead the QA Team
First and foremost, QA leads are responsible for leading their team. This often involves resolving conflicts between individual team members or even between different teams. QA leads also mentor their team and motivate them during both the stressful times and the slow times on the job.
Define Testing Standards and Strategies
QA leads define testing strategies to ensure the product being released is up to industry and company standards. QA leads create testing plans, including individual testing phases, and ensure the team meets the deadlines set forth in those plans. In order to maintain deadlines, QA leads also evaluate the team throughout the life of the project to identify areas where improvement can be made.
As there is always a certain level of risk involved in releasing a new product or service, the QA lead identifies risk and creates plans to mitigate it. QA leads also hold regular team meetings to identify new risks as testing phases are completed and create new mitigation plans on the fly. Leads also encourage their team members to do the same.
Since QA leads are often involved in every aspect of product development, they are always on the lookout for ways to improve the company’s current processes to make them more efficient. When problems with processes are identified, leads communicate their new ideas to the different teams involved in the project, including engineers and marketing departments.
Report to Upper Management
Throughout all phases of product development, QA leads report progress, plans, and problems to upper management and other involved parties. Leads also ask for feedback from upper management and implement the suggested changes in as efficient a way as possible.
QA Lead Skills and Qualifications
QA leads should be detail oriented and organized, able to track multiple aspects of a project simultaneously. The amount of education a QA lead needs depends greatly on the industry; some roles require a bachelor’s degree while others require certain certifications. However, in most cases, QA leads should have at least one year’s worth of management experience and three years quality assurance experience. Employers also like to see candidates with the following skills:
- Quality assurance experience – QA leads organize all aspects of the quality assurance process, and therefore, need to be familiar with that process. This knowledge comes from previous experience in a QA role
- Industry-specific skills/certifications – QA leads should have knowledge specific to the industry in which they are working. For example, software QA leads should be familiar with coding languages. Some industries, such as the food and health industries, also require industry-specific certifications
- Test plan development – the testing plan is one of the most important parts of quality assurance. QA leads should be familiar with creating and deploying quality assurance test plans
- Time and project management – since QA leads have to juggle multiple aspects of a product’s life cycle, they should be excellent at time and project management so they don’t delay the project
- Interpersonal skills – QA leads need to constantly communicate with upper management and other teams on the project. As such, they should be good at interpersonal verbal, oral, and written communication
QA Lead Tools of the Trade
Depending on the industry, QA leads may need to use the following tools:
- Project management software
- Microsoft Office Suite (especially Excel)
- Test management tools (JIRA, Redmine, Bugzilla)
QA Lead Education and Training
The education requirements for QA leads vary depending on the industry. Degrees are typically required in industries such as healthcare and software, while certifications are more commonly required in industries such as food. QA leads may also need to be licensed in their industry, depending on the state and industry
QA Lead Salary and Outlook
Since quality assurance teams are found in almost every field, it’s important to understand that the salary of a QA lead can vary greatly. According to Payscale, the median salary for QA leads is $75,309. The top-earning QA leads can earn upwards of $115,000, while the low-earning leads earn an average of $47,462. Full-time QA leads usually receive a comprehensive benefits package, including health/dental/vision insurance and sick and vacation time.
QA Lead Helpful Resources
Are you ready to take the next steps to becoming a QA lead? Check out this list of additional resources that can help direct you toward the right path:
James Bach’s Blog – James Bach is a software tester and trainer. He has worked for big-name corporations such as Apple and has written several books. His blog includes helpful articles about testing strategy, metrics, risk analysis, and much more.
Testing Excellence – This website is dedicated to providing resources and tutorials to tester and quality assurance engineers. It also aims to provide industry news and information about testing tools and conferences.
Juran’s Quality Handbook: The Complete Guide to Performance Excellence – This handbook is also known as the “body of knowledge” for the quality assurance industry. The book contains insights from industry experts and demonstrates the correct way to achieve excellent results from QA testing.
Quality Control for Dummies – Don’t let the name fool you. The “For Dummies” series is actually a great introduction to a variety of fields, and the same goes for QA leads. This book lays out a clear plan you can follow to improve quality assurance. This is a great resource for newcomers to the field.
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