November 16, 2016
Working in QA for Defense was different than other domains. These are some of the key differences I learned.
Having worked in other government QA departments for just over 4 years prior to joining the defense department as a civilian, I thought I had a fair idea of what I was getting into. I didn’t quite understand just how different the testing environment can be in Defense. From security check points to background checks, everything in Defense has a process and a purpose.
The first thing I noticed was that nearly everyone, from support staff to managers, were career military. Some were Secret Squirrels (lingo for Top-Secret-type people), others were moving to “cushy desk jobs” for their last years before retirement. I, however, was a civilian. It’s a very different atmosphere than the other departments and has its ups and downs just like anywhere else.
So here are the 3 things I learned from working as a tester in Defense:
1. Military-style efficiency
Working within a predominantly military group means that everything runs like clockwork, and nothing less is expected. Everything had a routine, even the coffee! While it seems overwhelming at first, you start to realize just how valuable good structuring can be in your life. We also had the 15% rule. When getting supplies or resources, order 15% more for unforeseen circumstances. Our teams always had the resources to be effective and productive close to 100% of the time.
2. Non-disclosure is common
I had to sign a number of documents about not disclosing ANY of the details of what I would be working on. I wasn’t even allowed to say who I worked with. I couldn’t talk to my previous co-workers about anything to do with my new project or team. The security is understandable and at times can be a hassle. Only after joining defense did I realize how often people casually ask what you do quite often and how at times I’ve even had to lie about being a receptionist.
3. Security above all else
It starts with a comprehensive background check. I was even asked about jaywalking citation I had when I was 15. Your finances, relatives, travel history, everything is investigated. After all of the interviews and paperwork was over, I was issued my first official security clearance. I felt like Bond, James Bond. Everything had security. If I ordered lunch from the local Thai place, they couldn’t even get into the parking lot to deliver. There was security everywhere, but I always felt safe at work, which is a huge plus.
Although I no longer work in Defense, I’ll always have fond memories of the unique way things ran. As a test manager now, I always try and bring structure and to never stop experimenting and learning new ways to optimize anything I do.
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Elle Gee – Delivery Manager
I’ve been in QA for over 20 years and I love testing and the impact (or non-impact!) our work has on users every day.