QA Management – Tips for leading Global teams

Toyer Mamoojee

Posted On: October 31, 2022

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The events over the past few years have allowed the world to break the barriers of traditional ways of working. This has led to the emergence of a huge adoption of remote working and companies diversifying their workforce to a global reach. Even prior to this many organizations had already had operations and teams geographically dispersed.

Leading teams in an ‘in-person’ setting can have its challenges but these challenges and complexities can be multiplied once you work with, lead and manage global or remote teams.

From a personal perspective, co-incidentally over the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to have been given opportunities to grow, lead and manage QA teams across continents, countries, and cities at different size companies operating in multiple industries. Naturally, through these experiences, I have picked up key aspects and tips around what to focus on or consider when faced with a chance to lead and manage global teams.

QA Management - Tips for leading Global teams

When people think about moving into management, the first thing that comes to mind is the extrinsic view or focus only on the outward parts of managing. However, it’s always important to start with yourself. It’s vitally important for one to firstly focus on the intrinsic view as one’s self, key aspects like self-awareness, your individual skill set and knowledge, leadership traits, and so on come to mind. Then as we move to the external or extrinsic view there are the discipline-related focus (like the QA or Dev-related disciplines) and also the context-driven focus (like the company-related setup, tech, and process where one works within). There are many of these internal and external focus points and would be way too many to go into detail about all of them, but I will summarize a few below by grouping them into statements and then expanding on each:

It starts with YOU! Be a role model

A leader and manager with experience and knowledge in any given area that they are leading in is way more trusted and respected by the individuals and teams they lead. Within the QA space, having diverse knowledge both technically and analytically is one such example that comes to mind. For example being able to practically engage with your team members on the detail of test scenarios or test cases, practical context-driven testing (and agile) process interactions, and also mixing that up with the technical aspects of test automation, performance testing, system architecture, and more. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to be the expert in all of the above-mentioned (or other QA/Test related concepts) but rather be able to know about it, where it fits in and what’s needed to get there.
Within the internal focus, there are also important bits like:

  1. Resilience-Things are bound to get tough, how do you lead through a storm and be prepared to do it all over again if needed.
  2. Courage-Speaking up and representing your team in situations where it’s needed. Even though it’s uncomfortable or an uneasy situation have the courage to for example highlight the need to pause or delay a release because your team is not comfortable or confident with something leading up to the release.
  3. Good listener and be present-you have to be there to hear your team’s concerns, be present, listen and then respond/act if needed. The members of your team are exposed to situations and information which you cannot always be part of, letting them be your ‘eyes and ears’ sometimes is what you need to lead and manage effectively. For example, setting up regular 1:1s or catch-ups with members of your team could help uncover trends or problems that need attention. Practically something like team members highlighting that there is very little time to focus on test automation with the current delivery pressures could assist you as a leader/manager to plan on how to strike the perfect balance by either moving personnel around, cross-skilling others, setting up a cadence for when to automate or even focus on in-sprint test automation.

People dynamics

When managing teams across different geographical locations there is an added dimension that is thrown in compared to a single location management style. A few key factors are important in making sure effective outcomes are gained.

-Building and maintaining the right team structure
When working in remote and global teams the element of team dynamics and balance is an added angle to cover (I might add it’s still key in any context too).
Making sure that as a manager you have the right skill set in the right region can be a challenge. So understanding the market and region that you hire and retain team members would go a long way in building an even more effective team. It could be that within a specific geographical region the supply of strong QA engineers with great experience in Performance testing is thriving, you might want to make sure your hiring efforts target that region (if it’s within the company’s plans of course)

-Growing trust from afar
Employees usually give their best when working for a manager that they can trust. As a manager leading from a distance, you need to find creative ways of building trust between you and your team, and also create a platform to build that trust and support between team members. Ultimately this also builds a degree of comfort and a safe space where the results are bound to yield compared to a ‘low trust’ surrounding.

-Everything else that comes with management/leadership
As a manager you need to be prepared for some extra admin work. Aspects like dealing with performance reviews, leave applications, some uncomfortable discussions and so on are some of the normal responsibilities within a manager’s focus. Once again, these tasks become slightly trickier when your team is across locations and most importantly when you are not physically present. Building your organization skill set and time management would add some more to your armory to be even more effective.

Company context and delivery focus

In addition to all that was mentioned above, which in a way can be directly transferred as you move across different companies, however, the added bit of effectiveness as a manager/leader is most relevant to the current company/organization context that you are currently in and serving.

-Gain industry, system and process knowledge of the company,
To be able to walk the talk, as a manager you need to instill the confidence that firstly you operate effectively with the system that the organization operates in. As a QA manager, you often have to get down to the nitty-gritty when supporting and leading your team. Then showing this upwards to senior management including C-level is where the perfect balance needs to be struck. So in a way, having a 360 view of everything and not being afraid to get stuck is important. A few examples come to mind in this section:

  1. As a manager, do I know how data travels through the systems so that when test planning comes around, the correct QA can be allocated or involved regarding making sure that all areas are covered. Or even that you can review some high-level test scenarios to make sure that coverage is gained effectively in this area.
  2. From a process perspective, how can the QA discipline be used effectively to drive QA metrics that would ultimately lead to a refined team and better day-to-day processes?

-Involvement in delivery and release deliverables
Being a driver from a QA point of view either directly or indirectly (via team members) related to delivery and releases. Pushing in features and functionality that ultimately lead to a competitive edge, financial gain, and growth for an organization is mostly what Information tech/Information systems/Engineering departments are there for. As QA transformation is key within this dynamic it’s a massive differentiator for a QA manager to set his/her goals on being a key player in this space.

To sum up

A modern QA manager needs to be an all-rounder, especially given the challenging and dynamically evolving landscape that surrounds us. Striking balances around people skills, technical knowledge, process know-how and so much more is where massive gains can be made especially when managing and leading global teams. My experiences have allowed me to learn (and continue learning) to make an agile, change and adapt mindset approach when tackling the many complexities within the QA space.

Evolve, adapt and act!

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Toyer Mamoojee

Toyer Mamoojee has 18 years of Testing and Automation experience across many industries in the Software space. Originally from South Africa, but now based in Dubai, UAE, Toyer works as an Engineering Manager in Quality at a Global CPAAS Company. Toyer continues his drive for the QA and Agile space by also contributing to the International Testing Community regularly through Conference presentations, webinars, podcasts, blog posts and other methods in order to drive testing and QA practices.

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