12 Lessons Learned as I Switched from QA to Dev

The following is an excerpt from a LinkedIn post I added recently. Click through to read the entire article!

On July 4th, as we celebrate our Independence Day, I will be celebrating my 2 month anniversary of a significant career shift. On Friday May 1st I was a Principal QA Architect working for a 3.5 billion dollar a year staffing and services company. I made my own hours, worked from my home in Philadelphia 90% of the time and made a healthy salary. I was a consultant and worked primarily on my own projects, and while I had managed small teams, I had never really been directly responsible for one. I had been in this industry for 10 years and had created a solid reputation. On Monday May 4th, all of that changed. On that day I switched career paths completely and joined the Ecommerce Development group at Under Armour as a Software Development Manager – a position in which I had minimal direct professional experience. I took this position in Baltimore with no real plan to move – 90 minutes from Philadelphia. Incidentally, I turned down an offer to be the Director of North American QA Operations (a fancy title indeed) for a competing company as well. Before I tell you anything else, I should tell, it was the best professional decision of my life, albeit a bit scary.

The world of QA had been good to me. I came to it through a company called QA Associates in 2004, fresh out of school with a Computer Engineering degree. With the help of a dedicated manager who I now consider a dear friend, I found my stride. I worked my way from Tester to Engineer to Architect. Beyond the tactical exercise of testing and the tools associated with that activity, I understood how to derive and apply the strategic goals of a testing organization. My job for the last 5 years had been to design testing organizations, often from the ground up – from people to tools to processes – and implement them in companies all over the US. And with humility I can tell you that I was one of the best at my job.

The problem was I wanted more. I didn’t just want to ensure the quality of another’s work, I wanted to participate in the process of creating commercial products. To do this I spent a year specializing in a specific technology stack (Node.js and JavaScript) so that I could comfortably begin designing and coding full systems. I then began building startup companies from scratch, both for myself and for others. My first failed but some of the others did well. None of this made me much money, but it was experience, and it was satisfying. It was also primarily done at night and on the weekends. Under Armour changed all of that. All of a sudden, I am being paid to do the thing I was doing for free on the weekends. At least that’s how it seemed at first. Very quickly I learned that what I was doing on my own was just the tip of the iceberg.