poor promotion prospects for testers? (dirty MS laundry)

As a result of my last post, I got this email from a Microsoft tester whom I work with fairly regularly and admire deeply:

"Yet how many Partner or Distinguished Engineer ICs in test do you see? How many testers get onto bench programs vs dev/pm?

Throughout my career at microsoft I've seen the cream of the crop of dev and PM rapidly rise through the ranks, but the cream of the crop in test gets shafted every time - even on teams that do covet innovation and provide leeway to discover and learn."

My last post was aimed more at keeping junior testers in the discipline and I still think innovation and mentoring is the answer to that. This comment is aimed at the higher levels where promotion concerns come to the forefront. Is there a glass ceiling for testers that doesn't exist for managers and developers? If Microsoft, who has a reputation for celebrating the test role, has such a ceiling must the prospects industry-wide be that much worse?

I'm not the most qualified to discuss this since I earned my level outside of Microsoft and did not rise through the ranks. Plus, talking publicly about our promotion policies is sending alarms bells through my head, I can hear HR rumbling now. So let me say this: we testers have a second class legacy to overcome. We are hampered by a history of not being appreciated. This is going to be one of the most important trends that we have to reverse as a group. All any of us can do is look down the ranks and make sure we are pulling people up behind us.

Before you stop to complain about your own promotion path, ask yourself how many people below you have you helped get promoted? Are you doing everything you can to ensure that the ICs two and three levels below you are getting noticed and getting promoted?

I think we're doing this pretty well at the lower ranks of Microsoft because promotions occur pretty briskly for the talented. But to get past that glass ceiling, we're going to need people at the higher levels to take mentoring more seriously. I wonder if those people are reading this blog ... if so, the guy who wrote the quote above is waiting to hear from you!

I posted some additional comments about this at the uTest blog in case you'd like to read more. Mentoring an promotion are important topics. I'd like to get others in the community to share their ideas around this.