I often get phone calls from recruiters asking me if I want to do contract testing jobs for third-party vendors. I guess I put it out there that I play games and that I have done so for over 30 years, so that stands to reason that I know my way around games and consoles enough to work on them.
Now, I know that I’m very fortunate in my current position. I’ve had internal promotions, and gained experience and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have had in other contract positions. I’m also now working in a specialized area of testing that pays a little bit more than the average grunt tester wage.
Which is why I’m often surprised when I get calls–often unsolicited from agencies and whatnot–telling me about these great testing opportunities which turn out to not be so great. The conversation usually goes something like this:
Caller: “Hi, I’m [whoever] from [Company A] calling. I saw your resume and want to offer you a fantastic testing opportunity. It’s a full-time position and you would be working at [Company B]’s location in [whereever].”
Me: “Okay. Please, do tell me more.”
Caller: “Great! You’ll be testing some really cool technology and you’ll gain experience doing it!”
Me: “Cool. What’s the rate?”
Caller: “Er… the rate is set by [Company A], but you’ll be working on new [games/apps/whatever] before it goes out! And you’ll get experience!”
Me: “Sure, but what’s the rate?”
Caller (who usually sounds a lot more hesitant by this point): “er, uh, it’s $10 per hour.”
Me: “I currently get paid more than that for testing. I also work in [specialized area of testing] and would be interested in advancing my career with positions such as test lead or project management. Do you have any of those?”
Caller: “So does this mean you’re not interested in the testing job?”
The rate is bad and everybody knows it’s bad. Now to be fair, rates aren’t the be all and end all of a job. I would accept a low rate from the right company, where I had opportunities for advancement and whatnot. But most contract positions I’ve come across are not like this. There is no room for advancement, and you’re there to fill a chair until you quit or you die.
This seems to be common throughout the industry. The high turnover of testers means that it’s hard to organize, and collective bargaining is hardly even a concept in the testing world. It should be though; since QA is often an entry-level job where everyone is expendable, and those are the people who need the most protection.
I don’t know how to fix this problem, but it’s one that needs fixing.