Journey of a Tester to a Test Lead

Pricilla Bilavendran

Posted On: June 10, 2022

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Read time12 Min Read

How long have you been in testing? You might be deeply in love with what you do right now, but change is inevitable. One day you might get the opportunity to lead a team. You might have to take a step back and look at your role and the team from an aerial view. Does this resonate with you? Or are you in a dilemma about whether to proceed with the promotion? Are you confused if you will be the right person to take up the new role? Are you not confident enough to run a team?

Okay, we got this. I am not going to break the entire suspense for you. But this will not just list the perks of being a leader, it is more towards the tough days one needs to go through as a leader. Many of us talk about the good/motivational part of being a leader/manager, but you need to be aware of a few facts which might shake you up but will nonetheless help you grow as a leader.

We will also try to suggest some mitigation plans as well. So, things may or may not go wrong, but, It is better to have a plan, right?

Let’s get started!!

Let’s get started!!

As a new leader/manager, you might not be so confident with your decisions and acts. So let’s go through some common hardships and see how we can mitigate them together.

Fear of taking the new role/responsibilities

“It doesn’t matter when we start.
It doesn’t matter where we start.
All that matters is that we start.” ― Simon Sinek

It’s time and the opportunity knocks at your door, and you are thinking about whether to take it up or not. This is a very common challenge. When we start new things, we will have challenges. But we cannot conclude before even trying it. So if you are interested in the new role of leading a team, go ahead. Push the fear away. You can try to see the brighter part of this. You can support your team, you can mentor your team, you can try to provide the perks for your team and you can be a leader who you needed during a crisis.

So the new role would involve working more with documentation. You might need to work with your test strategy/test plan, resourcing, estimation, etc. You will also have to look at your testing applications from 30,000 ft.

We need more testers to climb up the ladder. We need them to be part of the management. When a person with a testing background reaches and is part of leadership they can represent the testers. Who else can understand the pain points of the testers?

So, if you think that the time is right, go for it. Moving up doesn’t mean you are leaving everything behind. All your previous experiences are what built you. Trust yourself and proceed.

Fear of making decisions

“You have to be willing to be misunderstood if you’re going to innovate.” ― Jeff Bezos

Once you step up and take a new role, you’d have to take a lot of decisions as well. Sometimes you need to make a quick decision and at times you need to decide for a group of people. This is where you should seek help/support. If there’s a problem and you need to decide, please go and talk with the team. Try to understand the depth of it. You can connect with your peers (leads with the same role in other teams) because it might have happened to them already. This way, you can get the solution easily.

Also, you can try to think about your past experiences, they will help you decide better. Sometimes you got to trust your gut feeling. Remember that this fear is nowhere helpful to you.

For instance, you might need to select the list of countries to be tested among different regions. It’s tough to cover all countries, so for better and more efficient testing, you could select a few countries per region.

Be part of the hiring process

“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” ― Henry Kissinger

As a leader, you need to be part of the interview panels to help the recruitment team. Some days will be overwhelming. You can’t expect a perfect candidate.

So, sit and analyze what are your expectations from the candidate. It should be realistic. Pass on the clear JD to the HR team. Your JD should list what are the most expected and the least expected. A perfect JD will do the first level of screening. Once you provide it, you will get the list of selected candidates from the HR team and the scheduled interviews. Now run your interviews to get to know more about the candidate and not just ask the questions from the questionnaire you prepared. Every individual is different and the questions should be tweaked based on their profile and current skill set. Every tester is different. Based on their experience with different tools and technologies tweak your questions. Focus on software testing basics and the analytical skills of the candidate. Try to test their automation skills.

Based on my personal experience, being part of the interview panel gave me a lot of experiences. I learned about many tools and technologies, interact with different people from different parts of the world, got to know more about the testing process, and so of course, this is a tiring process when you are not prepared well enough.

Best of luck with the hiring!!

Meet “Mr. Perfect”

“Nobody has anything perfect. We don’t have perfect lives. We’re not perfect beings.” ― Gladys Knight

We are all humans and we make mistakes. Don’t think that as a leader you should be perfect. Working towards perfection is fine, but it is not accepted when you blame yourself for not being perfect.

We can learn from our mistakes. So ensure that you and your team are not repeating the same mistake. That’s where we need to keep track of “what/why did we miss?”, “what could have been done better?” and “how can it be avoided in the future?”. These retrospectives will provide you with better clarity and you can work towards becoming better. The truth is, bug-free software doesn’t exist. Even if there is a production leakage, work on the fix and do the RCA and add your regression tests to avoid the same in the future. The blame game doesn’t help here.

Handling the work pressure

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” ― Tony Blair

At work, not all days are the same and equal. Some days are really good, some days are exhausting and tiring. Try to find a finer balance within that.

Have you ever thought about why is it so? There are a lot of reasons to contribute to it. So, to avoid it, how can you plan better? For instance, there is a time crunch and few applications need to be tested in a short span. As a leader, you should be implementing a few pointers to avoid stress or overloading the team.

  • Being proactive, and foreseeing things will reduce the after-storm effects.
  • Delegate the tasks, to do this you should know the details of your team (who is best at what)
  • Say “No”, when you have too much on your plate. You will feel stressed which in turn affects your team. And it affects the quality of work too
  • Prioritize your tasks every day. Revisit the priority if the task is extended for days

Trying to make everyone happy

“People have got their opinions, and you can’t please everyone.” ― Rachel Riley

As leaders, we need to communicate with many stakeholders on a day-to-day basis. Every individual is different. Try to maintain a good rapport and relationship. Sometimes, things don’t pan out well. We might have some clashes, but try to handle them professionally. It is important to maintain good relations, but not at the cost of your peace. Also within the team, it’s better to be fair instead of being biased. We might have disputes with the developer while handling a few defects, might have a squeaky discussion with business regarding an odd requirement or we might have differences of opinion with other stakeholders. Remember that these are part of a software tester’s life.

Not all days are good, some are bad and some are bad

“A bad day doesn’t cancel out a good life. Keep going.” ― Richie Norton

Oh yes, it happens. You can’t expect a smooth ride as a lead. You will have a rollercoaster ride, which can be controlled. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day, don’t let it affect you too much. It is all a part of life. So, please try to foresee the risks which might help to mitigate the problems.

For instance, your scripts will fail in bulk, a defect might be retested “n” number of times. So, keep in mind that those days will have a lot more learning than the usual ones. The bad days will make you stronger and stronger.

Miscommunication / Communication gap

“Good communication is a bridge between confusion and clarity” ― Nat Turner

Communication is the key part of your new role. You need to have a list of contacts who should be communicated with or informed in specific scenarios or situations. Not just communication, you should also be aware of the mode of communication to be followed as well. For instance, emails are not always preferred. For a quick response, we might go with other modes. Informing the right people at the right time will avoid conflicts.

Following some better practices within the team will also help in avoiding the communication gap. So, it is better to have a Trello board or some trackers to maintain the things that have to be communicated to different sets of audiences.

Handling team disputes

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Multiple brains form a team. They might not agree with all the ideas, but, well, it’s not needed also, right? We all have our views/perceptions. People with different backgrounds and different skill sets might have different opinions as well.
It’s good to think in others’ shoes. But it is not possible every time. Listen to the team, don’t underestimate anyone. Only when you listen to others, you could decide wisely.

When it comes to a decision for an Automation tool, people might throw different options. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to listen to the options and decide wisely. Make sure to conduct team-building activities to develop the emotional connection within the team. We should care for each other.

Accepting the failures

“Failure is a part of the process. You just learn to pick yourself back up.” ― Michelle Obama

We are all working towards the same goal. If the outcome is not as expected, we name it a failure. But we learned a lot during this journey right, it should be cherished. We should be able to understand and interpret in the right way.

For instance, not every release will move as planned. One might even encounter a production incident, where we need to accept if it’s our mistake.

As a new leader, you might be depressed, but this is where you need to stay calm and focused. Because this way of handling failure is what defines your leadership. Anybody can handle success, only a matured leader can handle the failure. Now is the time to use your strategies. Your team is watching you, so handle it meticulously. Encourage the team to learn from the failures.

Missing what you were doing previously

“There is nothing permanent except change.” ― Heraclitus

Once you get promoted to the new role, it’s obvious that you miss your old days. Even I miss my testing days. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot do justice to your current role. Connect with your team frequently, work on some best practices like code review, and code refactoring which will help you to stay close with what you love.
You should spend every minute wisely. You can invest some time in learning new tools and technology. This helps to stay on track. Keep learning, it’ll make you a good leader.

Losing cool

“The first job of leadership is to love people. Leadership without love is manipulation.” ― Rick Warren

Sometimes we might be angry with what is happening around us. Don’t give up. We might not think straight when we are angry. Think about what can be done to mitigate the issue. Don’t be hard on people. Being empathetic matters. Finally, it’s your team, your people. So keep this anger and hate away. It builds nothing. Don’t speak when you are angry. Being polite and kind doesn’t cost anything.

Of course, building an emotional connection with the team is important. But we should know the difference when things are handled personally and professionally.

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Final words:

It’s a pretty long list, right? It is not easy to play a new role. But when you are prepared enough you can handle it well. Being a leader in driving a team, emphasizing the processes, mentoring them when needed, not to mention, nurturing and educating the team.

You can always be the leader you wanted to work with. This is a wonderful opportunity to explore and learn more about yourself. You will find work satisfaction. Doing something for someone will make your day brighter.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln.

So it doesn’t matter what role you play.

I wish you the best in your new role. Cheers to the new beginnings!!

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Pricilla Bilavendran

Pricilla is a Passionate Test Engineer with more than a decade of experience in Quality Assurance. She has experience with different flavors of Testing like Functional, EDI, ETL, Automation, and API Testing. She is a Postman Supernova and speaks at various events regarding APIs and Postman. She is passionate about Cloud computing and is an “AWS Community Builder.” She strongly advocates for diversity and inclusion. She believes in coexistence and harmony. She is a certified mentor and helps many test engineers through her mentoring sessions. She is an active community contributor through her blogs, webinars, and workshops. She staunchly believes in Karma!

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