QualityWorks finds sweet spot in software testing

BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

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QualityWorks Consulting Group LLC, a software test consultancy firm based in Los Angeles, which expanded operations to Kingston, Jamaica, in 2015 from its home base in Los Angeles, has added clients in the United States, UK, and Jamaica in one year since hitting the outsourcing market. Founder Stacy Kirk is of Jamaican parentage.

The enterprise addresses a growing deficit in the US software Quality Assurance industry.

Computer science graduates and American Quality Assurance (QA) professionals with programming skills are currently leaning towards careers in software development — but few are considering the field of testing.

This looming deficit has made it increasingly difficult for companies to hire and retain experienced QA developers. QualityWorks CEO Kirk saw the opportunity and moved to fill it.

QualityWorks provides manual and automated testing services of web and mobile applications. This includes DevOps and Agile Coaching. The company also has a product called QualityWatcher.io which provides leadership, developers, and testers with a CI integrated, actionable Dashboard of the quality of other software products.

In early 2015, Kirk, a Stanford University Computer Science graduate, identified the growing need to launch a services solution involving painless outsourcing.

QualityWorks Consulting Group Jamaica was registered in March 2015, while its parent company in the United States has been in operation since 2010. Kirk is the sole shareholder.

Kirk’s background includes work with industry leaders like Ericsson, NBCUniversal, Fandango.com, nearForm, Symantec, Movies.com, Fourth Wall Studios, FedEx, Remedy Corporation, Advancive Technology Solutions, Comcast Interactive Media, Investment Technology Group, Zynx Health, and Looksmart.com.

The professional is a Certified Scrum Master, a Certified Scrum Practitioner, and a Certified Manager of Quality/Organisational Excellence. A scrum master is the facilitator for a product development team that uses scrum, a rugby analogy for a development methodology that allows a team to self-organise and make changes quickly. The scrum master manages the process for how information is exchanged.

One year after launch in Jamaica, Kirk’s clientele includes Ericsson, Swagbucks, H2 Wellness, Dynamic Parcel Distribution (DPD), Jamaica Money Market Brokers Ltd, Aktary Tech, and nearForm Ltd.

The company has also acquired local clients including working on Digicel Play and JMMB.

"Our current marketing plan is to target financial institutions in Jamaica while continuing to grow our US and UK clientele," Kirk says.

Kirk notes that her company’s competition is other offshore/outsourcing companies internationally that focus on testing services. "This is a US$3-billion industry internationally and will grow by 11 per cent by 2020," she states.

The company’s technical team of consultants specialises in designing continuous integration (CI) automation frameworks for performance, database, API, and mobile test efficiency.

When an outsourcing base was needed, Kirk says that Jamaica, being the third largest English-speaking country in the Western Hemisphere, with shared time zones and integrated US/UK culture, emerged as a "clear destination" for nearshore operations.

Kirk said she has so far been able to attract and hire some of the "most talented and brilliant consultants" in the country.

In Jamaica, the company has set up shop in the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) on the UTech campus with 12 full-time employees, not including contractors on special projects.

To date the entrepreneur has invested US$100,000 in the project, with sales for 2015 totalling more than $40 million.

Kirk disclosed in an interview with
Nearshore Americas that the savings on using talent in Jamaica are enormous. While mid-level programmers and developers in the US earn around US$80-100k, Jamaicans take home significantly less at US$20-30k. Kirk said that she paid employees in US dollars to counter the effects of the falling Jamaican dollar.

Further local benefits, she says, include close time zones, Jamaica being the largest English-speaking country outside the US and also common technologies.

Kirk rated the computer science programme at the University of Technology highly at preparing their students to start working right out of college, noting that most workers were sourced from that pool.

Year to date, operations are profitable. However, the CEO says that a challenge has arisen in "wearing too many hats from finance, HR, Sales, and technical leadership. Ensuring there is the right balance between mentoring your staff, increasing sales, and personal time".

"Most challenges come down to people", the CEO states. "As we find the right people, we’ll be able to delegate more responsibilities based on their strengths. We have a high bar in terms of hiring, so it takes time and effort to find the right person with the right combination of fearless ingenuity and tact."

Steps to improve market share include the launch of an international marketing plan that brands Stacy Kirk, QualityWorks, and Jamaica through Social Media as well as a featured presenter at well-respected technical conferences in the USA.

Kirk states "Our Jamaica staff launched nodqa.io this year asserting our expertise as the international leader in Node.js testing. We also launched a new software as a service product, QualityWatcher, that revolutionises how tech teams view the quality of their applications."

QualityWorks, she says, can become a high-growth entity with more exposure. "We have the talent and the methodologies that have pleased all of our clients so far. We’ve built alliances and partnerships with similar companies, organisations, and universities in Jamaica to ensure we have the support, resources, and talent as we rapidly scale."

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