A group of 20 companies in Northern Ireland have come together to encourage people to consider a career in software quality assurance, pledging to create hundreds of jobs between them in this field in the next few years.
Invest Northern Ireland brought the group together, which includes multinational firms such as Openwave, Deloitte, Allstate, NYSE and Liberty IT, as well as local employers, including Almac, First Derivatives and Replify.
In addition to experienced testing professionals, the 20 companies will be aiming to recruit both IT graduates as well as HND and degree students with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and maths and business subjects.
According local ICT trade association Momentum, there’s a global shortage of software testers; a shortage which is due partly to a growing emphasis on quality within the international software industry.
One of the drivers behind this is the need to eradicate the types of software problems that affected the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 three years ago and, more recently, ticketing procedures for the London Olympics.
Fallen under the radar
Richard McLaughlin, head of QA/software engineering at telecoms software firm Openwave Systems, believes software testing as a career has fallen under the radar for job seekers due to poor promotion of the importance of the role and the diversity of opportunities available.
The situation, he says, has been compounded by the fact that computer science-based courses in universities and colleges tend to focus on software development.
“In my own case, I originally graduated in accountancy before taking a conversion course that introduced me to a career in software engineering. My own mind was set on a development role, however, having been exposed to both development and testing in BT and Openwave, I enjoyed the system-level view that the testing role afforded me and chose that career path.”
Headquartered in Redwood City, California, Openwave employs almost 540 people worldwide. Its main development centre in Belfast hosts 130 employees, 30 of whom are software quality engineers in roles ranging from graduate level to software QA architect.
“Our testers work as an essential part of a multidisciplinary team covering areas such as functional, load, performance and device testing,” said McLaughlin.
“We offer a well-structured career path where individuals are encouraged to grow and are well rewarded for their efforts. There are also ample opportunities to travel; we have recently sent testers to support customer deployments in Jordan, South Africa, Canada and the US.”
Starting salaries for jobs in software testing are around £20k in Northern Ireland, which is on a par with software developers.