Software Tester and Technical Author – should the two roles ever be put together?

We’ve a client looking to recruit a Technical Writer/Software Tester, which they are having difficulties filling (see
#4084 Technical Author/Software Tester, Surrey, £25K-£35K)

As part of the process of promoting this vacancy, we posed the following questions in a forum on LinkedIn for testers (Software Testing & Quality Assurance) and in a forum for Technical Authors (Technical Writer Forum):

What do Software Testers feel about hybrid roles – where you’re writing the user documentation and conducting the testing? We’ve a client looking for such a person, which is why I ask.

What do you feel about hybrid roles – where you’re writing the user documentation and conducting the testing?
We’ve a client looking for such a person, which is why I ask.

There were a lot of responses.  In general, the Software Testers felt it should be two separate roles, whereas the Technical Authors felt it could work as an information hybrid role. They were more confident they could do both roles than the software testers. There were some concerns, however, over it extending the critical path of projects.

I suspect the roles are merged more often than people imagine, especially in smaller companies. What do you think?

7 Comments

Dee Elling

Interesting, just today I see this new listing for an Eng/QA/Writer: https://sjobs.brassring.com/1033/ASP/TG/cim_jobdetail.asp?jobId=372803&PartnerId=25196&SiteId=5146&type=search&JobReqLang=1&recordstart=1&codes=Indeed

A lot of small companies want people to wear multiple hats… that’s OK if high expertise in any of them is not required. Economics over quality.

A lot of tech writers wind up doing QA as part of the job of working on unfinished software; I haven’t seen that happen the other way around. I’ve had writers who filed more bugs than the QA team.

We opened our docs to authoring by Dev and QA; Dev outpaces QA contributions by far. I think this is because the Writer/QA “crunch mode” overlaps, whereas Dev has a bit of time at the end to look things over.

Regards, -Dee

Mark

Well, I can see why they are having trouble filling the role. I think they should be paying at least £10,000 more just for the technical author side of the role!

Warren Jason Street

I was dual-hatted in the role of software tester and documenter (triple-hatted, if you consider that I was also trying to update the system with badly-needed data as well) and it didn’t bother me a bit. I was able to manage the roles without any one area suffering. I also had to do it in two different locations (distance between facilities, 5 miles).

What was missing from the equation were planning and documentation. The company didn’t have anyone adequately performing these tasks prior to me being brought in two years after the startup. So, when I started questioning things, I ran into problems with the contractor was brought in to fix what had not been done properly.

It can be done, and done well, but if a project hasn’t been started properly, there will be issues.

Shweta Hardikar

Have done that for a project. Have reviewed the application from the perspective of the user. There are things which testers sometimes miss out. Language, ease of using any functionality, consistency especially in a huge application where each tester only looks into a part of the application. It was my job to look after the application as a complete picture and test it from the end-user’s perspective. As a technical writer we can do that job in a slight better manner.

Christina Eftekhar

I did software testing in two of my technical authoring jobs. I enjoyed it because I was able to put on my user and author hats at the same time. I tested for usability, adherence to disability regulations (in the United States, this is referred to as “Section 508 compliance”), and bugs.

As a technical author, is always better to get involved in the development as early as possible, and I find testing an effective way to get in much-needed changes before the product is released.

Soumen Purkayastha

Technical authors can always test a software from a usability perspective. Since they are groomed to think with the user’s hat on, they will do good at it. However, if a technical author has an excellent grasp on technology and knows a bit of coding, then the author can also do other forms of testing like Unit testing and White Box testing.

Jen

I agree with Mark. This is the salary that I would have expected to earn when I stopped technical authoring in 2004.

In respect of the joint roles – as a technical author you essentially end up testing the software in order to write about it.

Most of my technical author roles included a certain amount of testing, whether formally or informally.

I must say that I enjoyed this aspect of software development which obviously appealed to my more anally retentive side, which I guess also helped me to be a good technical author (attention to detail). However, I also annoyed the hell out of the developers:-))

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