Tales from The Trenches Archive

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The Politics of Meal Time

What many people don’t know about QA is that “tester” is actually an umbrella term that describes a whole host of different quality assurance roles. You could almost think of them as sub-classes in the world’s worst RPG. The one specialty that every new tester aspires toward (and immediately regrets upon attaining it) is that of the “embedded tester.”

You see, most of the time, developers don’t like being near QA, and they ESPECIALLY don’t like eating around them.

It’s a little like having a four star meal surrounded by starving Ethiopian children. It’s just not classy, RIGHT? So, as a general rule, QA testers are kept away from the core development staff. Either they’re held in a separate room of the studio, another office, or another country altogether. The one exception to this rule is the embedded tester. The embedded tester actually gets to sit with developers and for many QA testers this is a ray of hope, potentially leading to a real design job in the future.

But it never actually does. Mostly the embedded tester just sees his weekly hours double as he tries in vain to impress the fickle development staff, most of whom won’t bother to learn his name.

One weekend, our QA team was called in for an extra shift. For most of us, this meant a jump from forty hours to over fifty, but for our embedded testers this marked the beginning of an eighty hour work week. As lunch rolled around the guys downstairs had to come up with a meal plan as the development team wasn’t interested in springing for food for the test team. The developers, however, did order a massive Indian buffet for themselves which was delivered upstairs for the ravenous designers to feast upon. We assumed our embedded testers would be lucky enough to join in, but that wasn’t the case.

As the testers stood in line to grab a plate of food, the development director flatly told them that the food wasn’t for testers, just for the development staff. They would have to fend for themselves or sit at their desks while everyone around them ate. Behind them was a third younger employee, who moved passed them and started piling food onto his plate. The director almost slapped the food out of his hand and yelled, “What did I just say?!”

Stunned, the young man just stared at her and said, “Um. I’m your audio designer.”