Putting Together a Testing Team

David Tzemach

Posted On: November 14, 2022

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Read time7 Min Read

[2023] - Putting Together a Testing Team

As part of one of my consulting efforts, I worked with a mid-sized company that was looking to move toward a more agile manner of developing software. As with any shift in work style, there is some bewilderment and, for some, considerable anxiety. People are being challenged to leave their comfort zones and embrace a continuously changing, dynamic working environment. And, dare I say it, testing may be the most ‘disturbed’ of the software roles in agile development.

One of my goals as the transformation leader is to create a circumstance in which the engineering group (focusing on the test group) will no longer require my assistance. I appreciate being there, being useful, removing impediments, and aiding as needed. When I’m pulled into another project meeting, I need to be sure that the team members can continue without me, no matter what happens.

The greatest aspect of team development is that you can improve your people, technical, and leadership abilities while also helping your team flourish. First and foremost, have you walked a mile in the shoes of the testers? Could you fill their jobs and be successful with minimal disruption if they resigned today? How do you intend to help them develop if the answer is no?

To assist individuals in developing, you must first understand where they are. Are they junior, middle, or senior testers? Junior testers, in my opinion, require the greatest training in practically every aspect, but they must have the appropriate mindset, be intelligent, and show potential. They might also be someone with a couple of years of experience that isn’t immediately applicable to the present context—they could go through improper processes or have the wrong views about testing.

Junior development requires educating them on the fundamentals of testing. What exactly is a test? How do you tell when something has passed? They require the detailed instructions that everyone else on the test team takes for granted. Juniors must be allowed to think for themselves. You must instill notions like “trust but verify,” how to break down an issue, and technical skill acquisition in them. Do not spoon-feed them; instead, provide them with training resources. The objective of growing junior testers is to have them rely on themselves and their capacity to learn rather than on you. On the same assignment, I’ve had success teaming a junior with a middle or senior.

Middle software testers, in my opinion, are the workhorses. These folks execute their tasks well but rarely go above and beyond the call of duty. These testers can occasionally be left alone and will do an adequate job, but they cannot be effectively forgotten. Middle levels are the most difficult because you did not train as a junior. You will very certainly need to untrain the mindset of “I need you to tell me everything.” Middles can also be corrupted by well-meaning seniors who don’t understand how to allow them enough space to dip their feet in the water without drowning them. Senior-level members of my teams are the ones that push themselves, thus assisting them in their development might take a significant amount of time. Giving them the freedom to challenge themselves is typically all that is required. Some of them, however, require assistance with specified constraints, such as time, a project aim, or technology to apply.

Motivation, passion, and determination

Do you know what motivates each of your employees? As a leader, you must develop this skill. A team’s success is determined by each individual member as well as how well they work together. Understanding what motivates your employees is the first step toward a fruitful individual development endeavor. When you question self-aware individuals about their motivations, they will tell you things like, “Retire before 50,” “More time with my family,” or “No more eighty-hour workweeks.” Direct observation is beneficial for people who are less self-aware. Testing, in my experience, draws more “I’m not sure what I want to do” people than those with a testing career objective. Only one out of every ten testers I know has a real desire to further their careers as testers. The majority of them are quite pleased to work forty hours, go home, and forget. You can try to force professional development on them, and some of it will stick, but is it the best way to spend your limited time?

This is why, during interviews, it is necessary to explore for critical thinkers with drive and excitement. They want to know, so when they don’t, they spend a lot of time and effort attempting to figure it out. How do you inspire such people? I have four examples of conventional incentive strategies and one unusual one that was accidentally displayed. This is not a five-step program; they are independent strategies that may be adapted to specific needs.

First, I usually encourage people to enhance an existing ability or acquire a new one. Second, I delegate particular duties. It’s not about the expertise here; it’s about completing a task in a unique way that allows people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily try. Third, I’ll assign them a complicated topic. Fourth, I strive to offer them freedom, which may be scary. Many individuals can’t deal with independence unless they trust you as a leader, and autonomy might imply success or failure. The final tactic I found when I left my previous work is to create a vacuum. Someone I had been trying to get to step up and be a leader eventually did so, but only after I had departed and there was a leadership void.

My ideal technique is for one of my employees to initiate the process by asking, “What areas can I improve in?” or by initiating their own development. These are generally the folks that provide the greatest return on investment. They’ve already completed step one: admitting they don’t know everything. This is the group of folks to whom you may casually remark, “Hey, I was thinking about x. It appears to have promise “and they will begin investigating, examining, and attempting to see how they might employ it.

Unfortunately, most of the time, the process is led by the management. When a tester does not recognize that he is ready to progress, you must be direct: “I believe you have potential. Would you be interested in discussing how you can take it to the next level? What do you want to achieve in the next two to three years? Would you like me to assist you in developing a learning strategy?”

It is critical to match a candidate with a mentor who has a similar personality. People who match are easy to coach, but people who clash can occasionally work, but only with a lot of effort on both sides. I was attempting to assist someone in learning her next steps, so we sat down to go over an agenda I had prepared for what we would cover in the following session. I assumed she’d simply pick it up and we’d both return to work. But after fifteen minutes, she was on the edge of tears, and I was so irritated with myself for not being able to articulate the notion that we never worked effectively together again.

Conclusion

While forming a team of ten testers is substantially different from establishing a team of forty, assisting each tester in his career progression is essentially the same. You must be aware of the various levels of testers in the team, the competencies of each level of testers, and what motivates each person. Equally significantly, you must be able to recognize when a tester at any level is ready to start gaining the skills and mindset required to advance, and you must give the mentorship necessary to help her get there.

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David Tzemach

The founder and owner of the Agile Quality Made Easy blog (25K followers). A platform that he uses for teaching and coaching others, sharing knowledge with people, and guiding them towards success while giving them the inspiration and tools to discover their own path.

Blogs: 55



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