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How I Got Here

Moss Drake

Rachael Lovallo - Award for 3rd Place PNSQCThis is the first in what we hope becomes a series of blog posts from people in the PNSQC community about how we navigate careers in Quality. 

By Rachael Lovallo

My career as a tester began with quitting. 


In a hard, messy decision for a 20-something overachiever, I stepped away from a mathematics graduate program. I had never quit before. Coming of age at the end of the great recession, I felt terrified about trying to land a fulfilling job that paid the bills with a 4-year math degree.

Getting Started in Testing

A local financial services software company took a chance on me as an entry level software tester on their product development team. My supervisor taught me a fundamental rule of testing: "You cannot find all of the bugs. It is impossible. Think critically and strategically to find the ones that matter." 

Fast forward a few years and I switched companies, but remained a tester. I have a photo of myself taken shortly after joining what I’ll refer to as “the big company.” In it, you can see I'm excited about the perks, right down to the free professional headshot. My new employer was the biggest tech company in the area, and had over 100,000 employees worldwide. 

Before I took the new job, something happened that became important later. Because a coworker recommended me, I had coffee with the head of engineering at a healthcare startup looking for an initial hire to craft a culture of quality at the company. We had a memorable conversation, but with only 3 years as a tester under my belt, I was not the right candidate.

Leveling Up

At the big company, I had an annual review process and defined technical and leadership career paths for the first time. My manager introduced me to SMART goals (which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, & timely) and empowered me to set them and keep a written record as I reached them.

A mentor once told me, "You need to think bigger." This adage runs through my mind while making most decisions. These five short words can really shake up a life. Over the next couple years, “thinking bigger” led to aligning my job with making a positive difference. The idea felt so giant and nebulous, I had no idea how to start realizing it.

Not long after the big goal crystallized in my brain, a mountain-biking friend knew of an opening at a local start up. It turned out to be the same healthcare tech company I’d learned about 2 years before. And that same head of engineering I’d met for coffee remembered me. Long interview process short, I became hire #53, senior test engineer.

Reflecting on the Journey

I've been at the startup for 4 years now, and honestly it’s changed everything. While I cannot quite say that every moment of every day is fulfilling joy, my values and career feel aligned. We wear many hats in startup life, so I have been able to broadly grow my skills. 

To sum up, my career in quality evolved due to that first company giving me a start, that mentor who advised me to “think bigger,” and that coworker who recommended me to someone in her network. Through it all I remained open to change — from evolving on long-held plans, to chasing big goals.

How did you find your way to a career in quality? We’d love to hear from you! Please drop us a line at