A little while ago I got an e-mail from Karen N Johnson, asking if I would mind replying to her survey on job titles. I never say no to a chance to express my opinion, especially not if someone might actually pay attention, so here is my post.
The problem with picking a job title for myself is of course that I do not get to pick what that title will mean to others. A specific title might seem appropriate to me, but yet send all the wrong messages to someone else. In life in general people are unfortunately prone to making assumptions without asking "What do you mean by...?". This goes for titles, testing, relationships and most other things I can think of. At the same time, assumptions help keep us alive. If a bear charges at you it is reasonable to assume it might hurt you, and asking questions about its intentions is probably not the way to go.
So what do I want to be called? I like to be called "Tester", or possibly "Software Tester". It is nicely vague and non-descript and gives me plenty of opportunity to explain what I do, whether I am being asked or not. It is also true - I test software. In order to do a good job testing I do a lot of other things too, but the end-goal is to test a software product.
What I do for a living is to collect, process, evaluate and present information. That is what I see as my job. I am driven by curiousity - I want to find out how things work, and I have a never-ending need to just learn: to increase and refine my knowledge base. I think the title "Information Collector and Evaluator" - ICE (appropriately enough the international abbreviation of In Case of Emergency) - has a nice ring to it.
Personally, I prefer to avoid all titles with the words "Quality" and/or "Assurance" in them. I present information, I do not decide how it should be used, and I do not have the power or possibility to assure quality. You cannot assure quality by finding out how something works, you can only point out behaviours you have noticed that might reduce the quality perceived by people.
So, what do I want to be called? I stick with "Software Tester", a title that is at least more understandable to people in general than a lot of other titles, and leaves the least room for misinterpretation.
For the record, my official title is "Senior Tester" at PQA in Vancouver, Canada, a title which has the word "Tester" in it that I like so much, as well as the word "Senior" which is just irresistable. And I am the kind of person who cares more about what people do than what they are called.