This is a follow-up to Contacted company asking if there's an iOS software engineering role, and they responded saying QA would be a perfect fit. How can I navigate this?.

After an interview loop with the startup and rejection for the senior iOS role, the CTO said he would be interested in hiring me for a QA role (which is still a fair amount of iOS in that I would be building automated tests). I'm leaning toward going forward with this and have a tolerance for risk, but I do have a couple of questions.

How do I ensure as much as possible they don't use it as a way to lowball me? For the iOS role I initially quoted the Stack Overflow Developer survey's (https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2021#salary-comp-total-usa) market rate of of $120,000 for a mobile developer in the U.S. as my target, but he said they wouldn't be able to meet it until they wrap up their series A funding, and then floated equity as part of compensation. I was thinking of using the survey as well for the market rate of a QA role in the U.S. since it's not that much lower, but I'd be open to any guidance here.

Also, if I do take this role, how do I ensure that I'm on track to transition to a fully iOS role? For what it's worth I did state clearly over the phone that this is my intent, and he was on board with the plan.

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    They can't make you take an offer for less than you are willing to accept. If they lowball you, you walk away and find someone paying what you are looking for.
    – Seth R
    Jun 2 at 19:13
  • 2
    An SDET role is significantly different in terms of compensation and duties than a classic QA manual tester role. Its not what I would call a classic "QA job". Jun 3 at 3:34
  • @MarkRogers I asked the CTO if it's really a "software engineer in test" role and he said "we don't have divisions." The startup has 12 employees and no QA team. Jun 3 at 4:22
  • Your "500 point bounty" is admirable. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone has a magical answer that will ensure the company will move you from QA to development, and will grant you $120K salary. If the CEO does not sign any paper to guarantee that you will get your 2 wishes, then there is virtually a zero chance he will grant any to you. It's just business, nothing personal. Jun 4 at 23:16
  • “Ensure” is probably too strong a word. More interested in maximizing my likelihood of going back to full iOS engineering in a reasonable timeframe if I take this job, and not derailing my career. Jun 5 at 0:09

3 Answers 3


How do I ensure as much as possible they don't use it as a way to lowball me?

You come up with a number that you need and stick to it. Nobody ever has to accept a lowball offer.

Also, if I do take this role, how do I ensure that I'm on track to transition to a fully iOS role?

You don't. There's no real "track" here to stay on. Since you didn't mention it in your question, I'm assuming the CTO made no concrete promises regarding a move to the full iOS role you desire, and certainly nothing in writing.

Maybe you'll get an iOS role after whatever time you feel is appropriate. Maybe you won't. There's no way to ensure that you will ever get that role.

Your best bet would be to work hard at your assigned role, keep asking when the transition will happen, and hope for the best.

I've inherited QA teams in startups that had angry, unhappy wanna-be developers on it. It was unpleasant for them and I had to find a way to get them out of QA as quickly as possible. Some got jobs within the company. Some did not.

In response to your previous question, I answered "Unless you actually want to be a professional QAer, don't take a QA position. That wouldn't be good for your career, and it wouldn't be good for the QA Team. I speak from over 25 years of leading QA teams."

I still strongly believe that. And I strongly believe you would be far better off finding an iOS development role somewhere. But I wish you well if you do decide to accept the QA position. Good luck.

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    @Austin Conlon, if you take the job offer, you may have to assume the worst-case scenario that is you won't ever be re-assigned to work in the development team, and your salary won't reach your desired level of $120,000 either for a very long time or forever as long as you work at that company. Jun 2 at 22:13
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    I disagree with this part: "That wouldn't be good for your career". If I were to get a decent programmer with 2 year QA experience, I would consider that a big plus! That would improve overall stability in releasing code :)
    – Martijn
    Jun 3 at 11:45

As somebody in a software QA role, I don't think this is a good idea. If the company makes a habit of sidetracking what they believe to be underqualified developers into QA and then transitioning them into other roles when they are "ready," you will find that the QA team consists mostly of people with little experience and little interest in their work. (That is, not a fun place to be.)

Quality assurance/engineering and software engineering can both be programming roles, but beyond that, the competencies are very different. Things like software architecture are important to software developers, but are not in my wheelhouse; on the other hand, I know about a lot of things like test automation, structuring, and design that would not be relevant to a software engineer.

What would you think if their iOS team was made up of backend programmers that were promised positions on the backend team as soon as they demonstrated competency programming iOS? If you don't want a QA job, don't "settle" for a QA job, whatever they're paying. It's like applying to a restaurant to be a bartender and "settling" for cook. They're not the same job.

  • +! This was pretty much going to be my answer. I've been offered QA or CMS jobs instead of the full stack dev job I interviewed for, and for considerably less money. I didn't take them. If it's not what you want, it's a side track to your career that you don't need and will likely regret. Jun 3 at 19:34

@MarkRogers I asked the CTO if it's really a "software engineer in test" role and he said "we don't have divisions." The startup has 12 employees and no QA team.

That would be a huge red flag for me. This is a company that is so focused on making their money that they will cut all corners, including quality to (supposedly) get there. Large companies that fire their QA teams (as unnecessary) fail.

Nine out of ten startups fail in good economies for reasons that don't even have to do with how well they execute. Startups that do cut corners like this ...

I've worked for several startups in my career, many of which had the attitude that "we'll fix it later". None of those that did this on essentials lasted. You are right to have misgivings.

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