Why I'm a QA & Not a Dev (or a Cashier)

Why I'm a QA & Not a Dev (or a Cashier)

I'm just a dude with ADHD who figured out way too late what to do with my life.

I'm still figuring it out.

Read on to learn how I got into QA in the first place, and why the QA life might be a better fit for you than the Dev life.

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How I Got Out of Retail & Grunt Jobs

There was a time when I wanted to be a web developer. In fact, it was the shining light in my little pit of despair back in late 2017. I was packing boxes at an Amazon Fulfillment Center, and it sucked. I worked overnights, it was repetitive & mind-numbingly boring, and if that wasn't enough, I messed up my wrist from all the repetitive stress from packing 85+ boxes per hour.

Somewhere in the middle of that mess, I did a self-assessment. A true soul search, if you will. If you want to be super cool like me and change your career, follow the same steps I did:

  1. Create a 2-column list on a piece of notebook paper -- Strengths + Interests -- and go to town on describing what you're already good at and what activities you like enough to do for free

  2. Search in Google (or ChatGPT now, you nerd), "entry-level jobs that pay at least $40K and don't require a college degree"

  3. Find a listicle like this one in the top 10 search results

  4. Stumble upon "Web Developer" in the list

  5. Look up what that thing is & how I can get a job doing it

  6. Make a learning roadmap based on job descriptions, blog posts, and any available, seemingly credible information

  7. Start learning & building. Follow the map.

  8. Land a job as a developer or die trying, because at least I'd have a good story on my gravestone

I spent 2 years going after this while I was finishing college, building a relationship with my now-wife, being a dog dad, working as a Walgreens cashier and shift manager, and other stuff. Living life.

But it turns out, life had other plans!

I failed 3 whiteboard interviews, received many more rejection emails, build over a dozen apps and websites, finished 2 rounds of #100DaysOfCode and 3 certifications on freeCodeCamp, completed some Udemy courses, and I still couldn't land my first web developer job.

It wasn't just me anymore. I had a partner and a future we were building together. I had to face the possibility that I just wasn't excited enough about it to learn everything I needed to know to be job-ready, at least on my own. I decided that something was better than nothing.

I was never going to meet any developers while cashiering at Walgreens, but if I could work at a tech company, no matter what job I'd have, I would be able to potentially network my way into a developer role. Or something. That's what I was going with.

So, I changed my strategy. I started looking for jobs that blended my customer service & tech skills, and I found my first email support job at Fetch Rewards, a mobile app startup based 45 minutes from my apartment at the time. Not even a couple of weeks later, they hired me onto their Support team. I was going to be emailing users to resolve their issues, and it turned out to be twice as easy as my Walgreens job making $4 less.

My wife got a job doing the same thing 2 weeks after I started.

We had a magical ride through this company, filled with plenty of ups & downs. She eventually left for the Girl Scouts and I left for Trek Bicycle. Not long after we started in Support, we moved to different departments & finished out our time at Fetch Rewards in our respective areas.

Mine, of course, was Quality Assurance.

I started as a QA Analyst doing manual testing on APIs, the native iOS & Android app, and a little bit of website testing. I moved into QA Automation after a year and spent another year and a quarter writing automated e2e tests in Python for APIs and Ruby for mobile.

I found I was passionate about the work, and I wanted to keep growing as a QA. I also started to wonder why I'd never heard of this career option before, considering I'd been trying to be a web developer for 2 years before joining my first tech company. That thought sent me down a rabbit hole on social media trying to find prominent QA accounts like the dev ones I was familiar with.

I came up mostly empty-handed.

QA presence on X was limited, and YouTube channels that talked about QA were few and far between. Most of the videos were boring or low-quality, and of the best QA channels on YouTube, the top ones had subscribers in the 100K range, never topping 1 million as the most popular developer channels do.

This felt like a problem to me, so I asked Bard for the top 3 reasons why QA wasn't a popular career. This is what it told me:

  1. People think QA is less technical than dev

  2. People think QA is a less visible role in a company

  3. People think QA is boring

I have proven through my work and seen through experience that none of these assumptions have to be true.

Why I Chose QA Over Dev

During my 3-year run at Fetch Rewards, and the time I've spent thus far at Trek, I've learned a lot by watching the developers and talking to them about their day-to-day work. I even did a 6-month apprenticeship with Fetch's front-end team towards the end of my time there.

By the end of that apprenticeship, I was convinced that Dev life was not something I wanted to pursue as a full-time job. I'm still building stuff for fun, like this temperature blanket app that helps my wife do less math, but as a career, I've officially left it behind to pursue QA.

I want to be fair, so I'm laying out my personal view of both careers to help you understand how I arrived at this decision.




Higher Salary Potential

On-Call Duty

Higher Visibility (by default)

Fixing Bugs/Crashes

Make Stuff People See & Use

Sometimes Work Nights/Weekends To Meet Deadlines

More Jobs Available vs. QA

Everyone is Knocking On Your Door (stakeholders)




High Salary Potential w/ Automation Skills

Lower Visibility (by default)

Better Work/Life Balance

Sometimes Repetitive Work

Improve UX by Finding Bugs Before Users Do

Sometimes Blamed for Bugs Found By Users

Lower Barrier-to-Entry

Less Job Security vs. Dev

Dev is an attractive career, don't get me wrong. I hope I outlined that in the tables above. Without question, you'll have the opportunity to increase your salary to ridiculous heights, especially at MAMATA companies where exceptional people can make 500K+ in the most senior developer roles. Your contributions will be appreciated more often by more people, and there is always demand for software developers. You may be hustling more than QA and your job may impose on your life outside of work, but overall, if that's not a problem for you, you may find a lot of joy in a developer career.

QA is a different vibe. It's not as flashy, it's not quite as lucrative, but it's got plenty of benefits.

First of all, it's far easier to learn the skill stack needed to get an entry-level QA job because you don't have to know how to code. You'll want to, for competitive & salary reasons, but it's not a requirement for being a QA Analyst (we'll get to QA Automation in a minute).

You also get to go home at 5 pm, because if we want to be brutally honest, your work isn't holding anyone up. Only devs can truly block the business because the only way a feature can't be shipped is if it doesn't exist.

Finally, you get to focus on breaking the application, without having to care how it gets fixed. This means you can fully put yourself in the user's shoes. What will they do? How will they think? What will they expect this thing to do when I click that? You are the last line of defense for the user experience.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find any issue a user might encounter so they never have to experience it.

I fell in love with QA because at its core, QA is an act of love, because love improves everything it touches:

  • Business Analysts write more comprehensive AC

  • Designers make more usable, frictionless designs

  • Developers make more reliable features

QA Automation - My Favorite Job

QA Automation scales the QA mission by giving time & energy back to the QA Analyst so they can do the high-impact work that makes QA so valuable.

For me, helping the teammates I interact with every day is way more exciting than helping users I'll never meet. I also like to write code, even if it's never seen by anyone but me and a few other QA engineers.

If you take the 2 together, it's a sweet gig to be able to write code that helps my fellow QA Analyst do more impactful testing work.

I've learned so much since starting my journey as a QA Automation Engineer:

  • MacOS (I'd always been a PC user til then)

  • 2 programming languages (Ruby & Python) + TypeScript

  • 4 automation frameworks (RSpec, Pytest, Playwright, WebdriverIO)

  • CI/CD Pipeline creation (for running tests automatically)

  • Reporting & Analytics (for making test results visible to the team)

Many think QA is a less technical career option compared to Dev. That can be true, but only if you stay in your comfort zone with a familiar set of tools & technologies. There is so much new technology being created every day for both manual and automated QA, and there are plenty of angles you can take when testing an application. Be open to a lifestyle of continuous learning.

Many think QA doesn't pay well compared to Dev. I personally know several QA who make $100K+, and they don't all know how to code, but many do. Automation is not required for a good salary in QA, but it makes it easier to get there faster. At the end of the day, employers value QA who:

  • Find high-impact bugs

  • Save the company money

You can do this either with automation or manual QA. I'm a little biased as you can tell, but I've seen folks equally happy in both lines of work. But if you're anything like me, you're also looking at a 3rd option.

A New Path - QA Entrepreneur

These days, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to be satisfied with any job, unless it's the one I create for myself.

I have QA to thank for lighting the entrepreneurial fire within me. As a QA Analyst, I created a web app that automated test data creation and saved my team hundreds of hours of manual testing effort during my time at the company. I saw firsthand how excited all of my teammates were to have a solution that improved their lives.

That was the spark for me.

I wanted my job to give me that satisfaction every day. What I had done in that moment was create a solution to a problem I identified. Before that day, I never realized there was a difference between delivering my solution and delivering my employer's solution.

QA Automation has given me a "home base" for my entrepreneurial endeavors. I have the work/life balance I need to have sustainable effort going into a side project. I have an income that provides for my needs & allows me to save for the future. I'm also constantly learning new technologies as a part of my job, which is to create & maintain test automation solutions.

Since that day when I created the web app in QA, I've been inspired to teach others everything I know along the way. I left behind a heap of internal documentation that I still get messages from ex-coworkers about, almost a year after I left. This whole idea of raising people to a higher level of performance has been the central theme of my entire career, including my customer service days.

It seemed, then, a natural progression would be to make that central theme into the career itself. I want to give people the knowledge & training to succeed in a QA career. In order to best do that, I'm starting down the path of content creation and online education. Unlike the documentation or automation I create at a company, anything I teach or share with the online community can reach an unlimited number of people.

If this sounds like an interesting path, you're ahead of the curve. The creator economy is still young, and the QA space within it is very small compared to the Dev creator space. Most people don't believe the creator economy is a viable career path, but I've benefited from too many creators to believe that. I owe my career to the contributions of independent creators who decided to make it easier to break into tech.


I'm not going to say QA is better than Dev. It is for me, but it may not be for you.

What I can confidently say, however, is that without QA, I don't know what I'd be doing for work right now.

I've got an outlet for my detail-obsessed brain to solve problems for a business in a way that feels 100% natural for me, and I don't have to stay late to work on problems for people I'll never meet. And I still get to write code.

I'm living the dream. And I'm working on a way to make that dream accessible to everyone.

Is it your dream, too?