Richard Faulise had a fairly simple career plan: "I wanted to do something fun and nerdy. I was that guy who saw Star Wars way too many times."
He got a degree in Management Information Systems at Iowa State University and "had an awesome time -- it played to all my strengths: math, science, the business world. It was a really good universal degree." He also enjoyed working as a teaching assistant.
His first post-college jobs involved writing code, but he realized, "What's intriguing me is not the code but the physics of what's actually happening. That's more the Quality Assurance side of the world."
As it happened, his brother had started a consulting company. "He said, 'Hey, there's money to be made. You should consider joining us.' Over time, he talked me into it."
Faulise earned the title "Principal Consultant" as the first full-time employee of TAP QA. Then, two and a half years ago, the company started a program called TAP Lakeshore, which brings entry-level workers into the QA field at rates competitive with what clients would pay for offshore resources -- but without the culture, language and time zone issues. Faulise runs "boot camps" for the new employees.
"We've been going gangbusters," he said. "We started with just me, and now we have 70 employees. We're starting to get clients outside Minnesota. We thought we'd do boot camps every quarter. I've needed to do them almost monthly." (For more information, fill out the contact form on tapqa.com.)
"I love Minnesota," Faulise said. "I wanted to be here. Now I'm helping bring back jobs into the area, and I have an outlet for teaching, but I'm also a billing consultant, doing load testing, automation, management. It's a very strange niche, but I wouldn't pass it up for anything."
What does a QA person do?
We're trying to ensure that a software application works the way the user wants it to work. With a lot of the problems we find, it isn't that app isn't working -- it's just not doing what they want it to do. On one of the systems I've been working with, you can sign up to get emails. If you'd select one, you'd get them all. Yes, the system is sending emails correctly, but no, it isn't weeding me out of the ones I didn't want to get.
What's the ideal background for QA?
I don't think we've had a background that hasn't worked. An interior designer who got laid off heard about us in a roundabout way. She is a rock star -- just a machine at documentation and testing. We're taking people right out of college. We have someone who worked 15 years in development and left to have a family.
What skills are required?
Good communication and documentation skills, a good head on their shoulders. During the boot camp, I bring up scenarios and have them try some random thought tasks. ... Being in Quality Assurance is 80 percent documentation, research, tracking people down for information. Beating on the application is only about 20 percent. Some people decide it isn't for them.
Why is QA such a hot field right now?
The industry is starting to realize that you can't have a good system without good QA. Ten or 15 years ago, QA was an afterthought. There have been enough studies to show the return on investment in good QA activities up front.