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Archive - Quality Control Assurance Vital to Staying Competitive in IT Field

By Alice Adams, Employment Correspondent, Houston Chronicle

    The pace of technological evolution has promoted quality assurance and quality control to roles of new importance in information technology, and that pace continues to increase.
    "We are looking for people who can analyze systems and processes and determine how to improve them," said sherry Hill, IT staffing manager for Dell Computer Corp. "We want people who can tell us what's working, what's not and what we can do to improve processes."
    Derrik Deyhimi chief executive officer of EnterpriseWorks, a systems integration company based in Houston, said he was recruiting IT professionals with full lifecycle experience.
    "We want project managers who have all had testing and quality control experience," he said. "Testing is a good part of the methodology we employ in our business and all of our consultants have these skills and training."
    James Del Monte, president of JDA Professional Services, said in larger shops, there are needs for quality assurance people and quality control specialists and many times this function is the responsibility of entire teams.
    "In smaller shops, one quality control or quality assurance person could be leveraged among 30 to 50 programmers," he added.

    Quality assurance is work done on the front end of the developmental process and includes business and process analysis as well as redevelopment, understanding of policies and specific procedures.
    Quality control takes place after software has been developed and is in place to assure that programs are working to specification.
    "The role of the quality control specialists is to break the system, to find ways it will malfunction and correct these areas before the program goes into production," Del Monte said.
    According to the 1999 Salary Survey for Houston IT professionals, found at www.jdapsi.com, contract quality assurance workers earn from $42 to $53 an hour while salaried quality assurance professionals earn from $42,000 to $79,000 annually.
     Both roles require a high degree of technological know-how as well as experience. QA professionals require additional so-called "soft skills" to work with users and clients and within the business infrastructure.
    "From the standpoint of the QC role, it is much more technical and, consequently, communications skills aren't as important," Del Monte said, "although there is a certain amount of diplomacy necessary, particularly when you have to tell someone their program isn't working."
    Ultimately, it is important to have good people on both ends of the process.
    "The big thing right now, as we get into more of the Web's technology is the push to get programs up and into production quickly," said Del Monte who also chairs the Houston chapter of the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses, "and in the rush to get up and running, many of the standards and methods to catch 'bugs' are not being followed for the sake of speed.
    "The current philosophy is to get it up and running and then fix whatever's broken."

    In the face of this new philosophy, the role of QC professionals is changing, and could be a problem for business because many projects are going online without being checked.
    To become a quality control or quality assurance professional, IT workers evolve into these roles as their skills are honed and their understanding expands. Some companies said it is difficult to find individuals with the skills and training necessary to fill QA or QC jobs.
    As a general rule, these people come from the programming ranks and quality assurance and testing is viewed as a niche within the programming arena.
    To learn more about the opportunities for QA and QC workers, contact the Society for Software Quality. There are chapters meeting in West Houston and Clear Lake, which can be contacted through www.jdapsi.com.

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