Is QA a good stepping stone?

I’ve always heard that it was difficult to move from QA into development (game design/programming/art/production). I thought this was smart- QA people should be there to be QA people, not doing a job only because they hope it would lead to something else.

And at some companies, it works. My previous job was at a well-regarded studio, working on a huge game and IP, in a wonderful city, and lots of developers were looking for work (and we had the money to hire them, if not keep them after ship…). People really wanted to work there (I once interviewed someone as I was near the end of my tenure there, and told him pretty clearly, “you won’t like programming here.” And of course he took the job anyway). It didn’t make sense to spend effort training QA people when you could just hire the people you wanted directly.

However, I now work at a place that is much more difficult to hire for. Outside people respect the company and know the game, but the audience is smaller than one of the biggest IPs and most successful game studios of all time. And especially, it’s in Iceland. Iceland is a wonderful country, but we’ve had several people turn down offers or on-site interviews because their family said “no way” (myself almost included).

In my opinion, it makes more sense to hire QA people (often out of the EVE or local Icelandic community), and set them up on a career path that leadsĀ outside of QA. There will never be a serious shortage of applications for a QA job, but it can take a year to hire and relocate a senior person (and you are taking a big risk on that time and expense!). And to a large extent, this is what we do (and while we have sometimes failed at providing career paths, I still think it remains the goal).

I quite like this new strategy- not only does it produce good results over time, it also seems to have more integrity- QA people are too often treated like second class citizens, rather than devs-to-be. I’m not sure if my mind will change if I move on to another studio, but it’s at least how I feel now. I wonder how other studios approach this issue?

(Side note- I am not saying there isn’t a need for senior and permanent QA people, I’m just saying, there are lots of people in QA that don’t want a career in QA. There should also be career development inside of QA, but that shouldn’t be the only career development)

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