Leading The Next Generation Of Testers
Every parent, coach, counselor, manager, mentor, teacher, or advisor, has experienced the complexity of guiding others in the right direction. If you’ve been one or more of these, then you have likely felt the desire in your heart and your mind to be part of a positive change in someone else’s life. This becomes the core of your passion. The joy of knowing that you were part of helping someone else grow is usually more than you can imagine.
If you’ve been in IT for long – especially if you’ve been in software testing for long – then you have experienced the exponential growth in technology over the last few decades. You’ve seen the world move from large mainframe computers to desktops, to laptops, then to smartphones and mobile devices, and now wearables. Everywhere we turn there is a new software package that can “help you test better”. The strategies for software testing are changing. Yet, as with the roles listed in the introduction of this article, we must understand the core values and goals of our craft. And we must instill this knowledge to the next generation of testers that are joining the workforce every day.
At the time I am writing this article, the top news in the United States is around Zappos. The company has moved to a new organizational structure called Holacracy (www.holacracy.org), in which managers have been removed and the team is empowered to work together. Zappos CEO, Tony Hseih is quoted as saying, “Think of every employee as a mini entrepreneur. Which is not really for everybody; some people like to be told the 10 things to do”. He’s absolutely right. In fact, it was proven this week as 14% of the staff accepted a buy-out to leave the organization because they didn’t like the new structure.
I’m honestly surprised that it was only 14%, because I would think many of us want to have some direction and guidance. In fact, even if you’re a CEO, you look for direction from your board members, customers, and supporters.
If you’re a test manager or a test leader in your organization, your responsibility to the community is heavy. And below are just a few of the things you should consider as you lead your team:
1. First Things First
The responsibility of a leader of a testing team starts with ensuring that everyone is in sync and that they are speaking the same language. Nothing will kill an organization faster than having a team that is divided on how they plan to leverage the testing practice in your organization. Talk with your team. Get to know what they believe, how they think testing should be done. Understand their ideas, philosophies, and beliefs on the goals of a strong team. If they are not aligned, then it is your responsibility to ensure something is done to sync the team and align the organization.
A strong testing team is one that is not satisfied with coming to work every day and practicing the same thing day after day, year after year. If you’re a parent, you want your kids to have the best education they can get. If you’re a coach, then you want your players to study and learn their position on the team and you want to ensure they are studying the right methods. If you’re a teacher/advisor/mentor/counselor, you feel compelled to instruct your students on the best suggestions you can think of to ensure success for them. The same applies to leading a testing team. It is your responsibility to ensure that your team understands the schools of testing, understands which work, as well as which may not. It’s important that they study in the testing community. They need to know why one practice is not the best for your team, and why another needs to be followed. They need to understand the value of testing and why your team is following a certain set of goals, methods, and guidelines. Give them the direction. Show them what they should study, where they should study, and advise them on what you think works, and what you think will not work.
3. Play Well With Others
If you’re a parent, you’ve likely had that moment when your child is having difficulty connecting with other children. Or maybe they are debating with another child and you have to step in. If you’re a coach, you want your players to win, but you want them to win fairly and by playing with respectful conduct. Sometimes the best parenting and coaching comes with leading by example; by showing those that we are leading that we, too, can do the same and we conduct ourselves in a manner that they can imitate. This same philosophy holds true with testing organizations. As a test manager, you need to ensure your team sees how you want the testing group to interact and engage with sponsors and stakeholders. Show them the best way to engage and seek support from their customer. And most importantly, place them in situations where they are able to show that they are learning this practice, and give them opportunities to grow their engagement.
4. A Fool With a Tool is Still
A Fool Over the years, we’ve seen teachers on the news complain that kids have become so dependent on calculators and smartphones that they have lost the simple core concepts of doing things on paper and using their brain to solve problems and answer questions. As parents, we’ve watched as our children no longer open a book made of paper, but instead, they use their mobile devices to read books. There’s something to be said about remembering the basic concepts of using our most powerful tool (our brain) to accomplish things. As a test manager, you have surely heard all the debates over test automation, testing tools, and new software and services to “improve your testing organization”. But it is important Teatimewithtesters.com June 2015|25 for us to remember that while tools may simplify a process, and they may even be the best fit in certain contexts, a good testing team understands the core concepts of testing without the need for a tool. Drive your teams to understand and believe that before any organization can invest in a tool, they need to have the processes and practice in place before that tool can add any value.
5. Send Them To Summer Camp
When I was growing up, every summer, there was a summer camp for kids. Parents would allow their kids to spend several weeks at the summer camp, learning new things, having fun with other kids, and returning home with new ideas, skills, and understanding. This may surprise you if you know me, but I was a very shy child, didn’t socialize a lot, and didn’t want to be part of the camps. I never attended one. My parents were willing to let me go had I wanted to go, but I was not interested. I spent my summer breaks elsewhere. As a test manager, I strongly suggest that you give your team this “summer camp” opportunity by suggesting them to attend conferences, testing meetups, workshops, and extended training. This gives them an opportunity to meet people from other cultures, other companies, and other disciplines. It gives them the opportunity to engage with leaders in the industry, build their skills, and, most importantly, bring back those skills to help your team.
6. Nothing Fails Like Success
The first time I ever heard the phrase “Nothing fails like success” was from Stephen Covey. He was holding his arms so that his fists are facing each other, and then as he said those words, he moved his right fist upward, leaving his left fist in the same position. He said that what works today may not be good enough for tomorrow. I’ll never forget those words because it reminds me daily that even if you’re successful as an organization today with a set of practices, it may not be good enough tomorrow. The world is changing daily. And it is our responsibility as test managers to not only keep up with the change, but also to coach, mentor, and empower our testing teams to recognize and react to those changes as well.
7. Share With The Whole Family
Teach your team to “share with brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents, and elders”. What do I mean by this? If I learned anything about mentoring and coaching, I learned one important fact…in my lifetime, I have almost always learned more from those I mentored and coached than I ever expected to teach. Encourage your team to not be afraid to share their ideas with their peers, their bosses, their stakeholders, their business partners, and other organizations. We can all learn from one another, and the more we can influence in every direction, the more aligned the organization will become. Some of my best ideas have come from those that work for me. And I hope that in my career, I’ve been able to influence and guide peers and senior management to think differently about an approach to testing.
8. Find What You Love
In a memorable address to the graduating class at Stanford University, Steve Jobs said,
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle”.
Seek testers who live, eat, and breathe testing. Seek testers who are curious and want to be part of a quality product. Seek testers who are Teatimewithtesters.com June 2015|26 passionate about their career in testing. For those that may not seem to love testing, work with them, inspire them, give them opportunities to fall in love with the practice. Sometimes you have to accept the fact that not everyone is built for testing. We know that testers are a special breed of people. You may have to help them make the decision to stay or go. Would you want your favorite sports team to be filled with players who want to win the championship or would you want it to be filled with people who are just happy earning a paycheck for each game? We want winners. And if you are a great leader and test manager, you will find them, motivate them, and win.
I have so many other suggestions, ideas, and thoughts on leadership. I plan to release a book on leadership itself in the coming year. Keep your eyes open for it. It has been a pleasure to share this information with each of you. Please reach out to me anytime.
Mike is an international keynote speaker, IT Director, and Author of the motivational book, “The Drive-Thru Is Not Always Faster”. Know more about Mike on his website https://mikelyles.me/