Let’s talk about the Dev/QA divide

For decades, an antiquated divide has existed within the software industry—devs and QA marooned on opposite sides.

Devs looking to ship code by any means, QA the obsessive gatekeepers. This siloed, “throw it over the wall” mentality? Even today, it breeds dysfunction and poor outputs. Anna Fiofilova took aim at this counterproductive dynamic in her Programmable 2024 talk “Over The Wall or Do We Still Need QAs?”

Heavy on wit, wisdom and chord-striking anecdotes, Anna recounted how she evolved from a code-focused Developer disdainful of testing into a Cash App Engineering Manager who sees quality as the key to building trusted, human-centric software.

QA literally behind the wall

Anna opened with stories from her early days at RealEstate.com.au. QA was separated from Developers by a “wall” of screens and books. Devs would toss code over the wall to QA to test, with little interaction or shared ownership of quality. Her tales of releasing broken software due to lack of cross-browser testing were met with laughs of been-there recognition.

Lisa the Revolutionary

Then Anna met Lisa, a QA who pushed to break down those walls. Lisa would invite the actual end users into kickoff meetings – unheard of at the time – to truly understand the use cases and meticulously question every assumption. Devs like Anna? Skeptical. But Lisa’s revolutionary approach planted seeds for a fresh user-focused approach to quality.

Quality as a shared mindset

Anna’s experiences evolved further at her next role working on the company’s auction results website. With a public-facing product and tight deadlines, she was forced to prioritise quality in ways she hadn’t before—further reinforcing the need for quality as a shared responsibility across dev and QA roles on her teams. Surprisingly, despite the strict testing processes, they still managed to deliver software faster. 

All hail the quality dictator?

At her next gig on the RealEstate.com.au rental team, Anna met “Monica the quality dictator”—a QA leader who relentlessly enforced processes like weekly bug bashes to instill a quality-centric mindset across the whole team. Under Monica’s watchful eye, quality became part of every step. Clearly, this had a profound impact on Anna and the team’s way of working.

The modern age of quality

Anna touched on the current state of software development, noting that dedicated QA departments are becoming less common. At Cash App where she works now, Developers are expected to think holistically about performance, usability, accessibility, and more. Nowadays, Anna sees quality as crucial for user trust—doubly important when handling people’s money. She doesn’t view QA as separate, but a vital mindset every Developer needs.

Anna’s talk made a powerful case for integrating quality practices throughout the team and development process. Our question: how can organisations keep pushing to instil this mindset at scale? As more teams adopt Anna’s approach, tried-and-true methods for building quality skills into diverse engineering groups will likely develop. For now, it’s clear those old walls between QA and dev are a’crumblin’, creating a space for a new era of teamwork and shared ownership of quality.

For those who missed Anna Fiofilova’s talk, listen to it here. Want to hear more from Anna? Her book “Survival Guide for Women in IT” is available on Kindle.