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PQA @ 18

There are many great things that we want to accomplish here at PQA and there are some big changes taking place to help us reach our goals. I would like to let you know some of the recent ideas and changes, but first I would like to take this opportunity to tell you where we have been.

PQA has been, in many ways, the result of 18 years of fortunate events. Founded in 1997 to provide test automation expertise, PQA has survived and for the most part grown through Y2K, the dot.com boom, a 70 cent Canadian dollar, 9/11, the dot.com crash, Indian outsource boom, the banking fiasco, a 110 cent Canadian dollar and now an oil price slump. We started testing on windows 3.1. Tomorrow we will test on a watch.

In those 18 years, more than 375 people have worked at PQA. One girl lasted 3 hours, went home for lunch and didn’t come back. Neal was the first person I hired at PQA and he is still testing software for clients today. Kevin started in 1999 and has left and come back twice. So has Michelle. Jenn isn’t family, but it sure seems like she is. Two nephews have done co-op terms here. Two nieces. A son and a daughter. My brother-in-law worked here. My wife works for PQA. She is still my wife, but she doesn’t work in the office any more.

PQA is a family business with offices in 5 cities across Canada and as many as 125 employees. Like any family, important members have grown and moved away to other, hopefully, bigger and better things. Mike was the first person to come in and help PQA move beyond a local service company to sell on a world stage. Nat expanded the automation and performance teams. Sarah helped start content QA and elearning. Stephen was a great manager. Patrick started the sales funnel in Vancouver. Amer, Mark, Mous, Jennifer, Eiron, Brad, Larry, Harpal and too many others to name, so many who made important contributions and great memories at PQA. That is why this summer we are looking at how to start a PQA alumni organization. This is a way to give back and a way to give forward. It will be a network of friends, opportunities for career growth and learning and to simply keep in touch. Sort of like the Hotel California, you can check in but you never have to leave (unless you really want to).

In addition to all the wonderful people who have worked at PQA, I have also been afforded the opportunity to meet so many others through conferences, companies PQA worked with and an ever-expanding network of friends and friends of friends. All of these people have great skills, unique skills, ideas and opinions to add. Some of them are testers working on individual contracts, some are testers working within other organizations, some are leading testing projects, a few work for testing companies like PQA and some are looking for their next opportunity. Of course they are all welcome to come and join us at PQA, but that isn’t always possible. Part of PQA’s goal is to advocate the value of testing and to help the testing community at large. We should be able to leverage PQA’s market reach to bring work to other testers, help companies gain access to special testers with special skills and hopefully use the network of the community to bring work to PQA as well. This summer, we are rolling out a Friends of PQA program to provide a way to connect the job opportunities we see and these people to provide smart solutions for tough testing challenges.

I like to think that I learn from my experiences and get better. Some people might say I am not always as good at that as I like to think I am. In the past, PQA has reached a certain point and not been able to grow beyond that. It has been said that at a certain size, the founder, me, cannot do everything. I heard that and acted on it but I am not sure that I believed it.  Now I do. Operating in four time zones out of fives offices, needing to expand into more offices, with 100+ highly motivated people expecting strong leadership and good decisions requires more than I can offer alone.

Jon Duncan has been a tremendous help over the past few years and will continue to be an important part of the management team. Jon and I are very much alike. We like to solve problems. We do things immediately. We can do almost anything that takes hard work, smarts, and determination. But it isn’t enough. We needed someone to compliment our strong points, not scale them. Going forward, Jon will be the CTO of PQA. He will focus on test automation, performance and security testing, mobile testing and our test lab activities.

The big change in PQA leadership is that Christin Wiedemann has agreed to be Co-CEO. Through shared leadership we aim to broaden our capacity, and take full advantage of each person’s strengths. As Co-CEOs, Christin and I complement each other’s skills and have different focus areas. I will remain the visionary lead, focusing on business development, finance and growth. Christin’s primary objective is achieving delivery excellence, which is closely coupled with her continued efforts to drive PQA’s research and method development.

The next big challenge in PQA’s evolution is the need to expand into the USA market. This is the number one priority that Christin and I will be addressing this year. We have engaged a consultant to develop a business plan, assigned a team to identify possible locations for our first USA location and started the process of engaging lawyers and accountants to make sure we cover all the necessary bases. We have an aggressive timeline and hope to be operational in the fall of 2015.

As we grow, it is important to remain connected to our communities. The Friends of PQA program is one such effort, as is the PQA alumni program. I also want us to remain an important part of our local communities. PQA in Fredericton will once again sponsor the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. In Fredericton, we have had a fund raising program to provide Christmas support for needy families for many years. Last fall we had a workshop day to talk about how to improve PQA. This fall we are going to use that time to have a workshop to find ways that our team would like to see PQA giving to our local communities.

I think it is appropriate now to thank the great team at PQA for the hard work they have done to get us here, the clients who have given us so many opportunities and challenges to solve over the years and the many friends and family members who have supported us. And to ask them to stick with us and watch where we go next year. It will be exciting.