Learning more about the test manager role

Lately, I’ve been thinking about managerial QA-related roles and I got an opportunity to maybe become a test manager for a project sometime in the near future. I’ve been watching some older TestBash talks, reading a few blogs on this topic, and watching many Pluralsight courses on soft skills lately.

I know the test manager role is a bit of an old-school role, but sometimes a potential change does sound nice, I don’t see myself reporting bugs and writing tests till my retirement. :sweat_smile:

What advice do more seasoned testers have and what resources would you recommend?

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Good luck! I hope that you find a managers role.
This is a book about leadership that is a great help: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leaders-Handbook-Making-Things-Getting/dp/0070580286
Demings 14 Points are really useful too: Dr. Deming's 14 Points for Management - The W. Edwards Deming Institute I am working on something that shows how the 14 Points relate to testers.
I’ll try to think of some more resources

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Thanks a lot @mikeharris I’ll look into these!

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Hi Mirza, this is a great question and I’m happy to add my thoughts.

Contrary to popular belief the Test Manager role lives on, even in an Agile world. There are very many different interpretations of what a TM does though, as a role called Test Manager, Quality Engineer Manager or Head of Testing can mean different things in different organisations.

Its a good thing to have career aspirations, and managing can mean two things - people and processes. I have been a manager of both, and my job prior to this was not directly line managing but more of a coaching type role. It depends what you want to do, what you enjoy etc. So thats the first thing I would do - outline the sorts of things you want to be doing, whether its people management, coaching, more technical style leadership etc.

I’d then advise you to look at loads of job specs as they will all be different, and look at the role outline and expectations to get a sense of what appeals and what doesnt. You can apply that to the upcoming TM role in your org, if you are able to help define the scope of the role. At the very least you’ll know which aspects excite you, which you are less sure of, and any areas where you will need training and support.

I cant think of any books off-hand that I can recommend, but by asking here you will hopefully get more replies, and you can then decide you next steps.

Good luck, and please come back if you have any questions, happy to help if I can.

Steve

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Thanks, @sjwatsonuk that sounds like some good applicable advice!

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I don’t think a test manager role is old school or outdated!

I’m in a director position now but have held mid-level manager spots too. IMO the biggest value proposition for this role is as a roadblock remover. I’m able to work proactively to resolve problems and facilitate improvements for the testers–and their entire teams. (Note that this is a fine line, as part of a manager’s role is to help those testers get better at solving problems themselves.)

A good test manager also helps the entire team with skills and capabilities uplift. I have a look at what’s going on across the various teams, then figure out what sort of training, workshops, pairing, etc. can help. (I also have to push myself to stay up on current practices and trends so that I don’t fall behind!)

As a manager, I’m also spending time across several delivery teams to help them better understand testing practices and how more collaboration could positively impact the teams. I’ll do workshops with PMs/POs, devs, scrum masters, leadership, etc. on what good integration of testing looks like.

On the people-management side, test managers do much the same as other managers: take care of their folks. If you’re interested, I wrote a small book with a number of practical exercises that might help you decide what sort of management style you want, and how to approach acting on that. It’s free on LeanPub: The Leadership Journey by Jim Holmes [Leanpub PDF/iPad/Kindle]. (Feel free to ignore it, too. :slight_smile: )

For being a manager of testers, some resources could be the books

  • Engineering Management for the Rest of us
  • Leading Quality
    both are easy quick reads. PErhaps also dig up stuff from the #TestBashLeadership conference :slight_smile:

All the best for you managing endeavours /Jesper

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Thanks, @jesper and @jimholmescc thanks I will save all of these - I’m in the process of collecting resources and going through all of them whenever I find the time.

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Thanks Steve @sjwatsonuk !
In agile teams the day to day business often prevents you from from doing long term work in regards to testing, eg. evaluating new tools, writing process descriptions etc. Apart from coordinating cross team testing events or writing the overall time table these seem to me to be the most valuable tasks for a test manager in an agile team. Which tend to be neglected in my experience.

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@mirza I personally enjoyed Lessons Learned in Software Testing: A Context-Driven Approach Amazon.com

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Thanks @testrigor this goes to the list of resources I’m gathering on this topic :nerd_face:

I wonder how someone can gradually work their way up to becoming a QA or test manager role. My gut says that this person should at least have mentored a few testers before becoming a manager. I have seen and heard of companies where the QA manager had little to no experience in QA or software development. The quality of management was bad and the quality was “managed” by the underlings. But surprisingly, such managers often hang around for a long time.

One of the good ways I noticed is to have the future manager shadow a more seasoned one - to work closely with them, go to meetings together, and slowly take on some of the responsibilities of the experienced manager. One of the product owners I work with got trained that way and after about six months he become an excellent PO - he was in the company for several years prior to that and he knew the product quite well, so I’m sure that had a big impact too.

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Hi there! A book that I found really good is “The manager’s path” by Camille Fournier. I recommend it for individual contributors as well, not just for managers.

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I’d suggest “Turn this ship around” by David Marquet… focus is on trusting people, balance between autonomy and control and delegation

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I would suggest you take up a managerial position only if you are inspired by leading people towards a common vision. This would include managing situations.

Remember: manage situations, lead people.

If you are not interested in this, you can continue on a technical role becoming test architect, test technologist, and eventually a CTO.

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Thanks, @testervenkat I thought about this long and hard, doing technical stuff can be interesting but it gets a little tiresome over time.

I thought that management wouldn’t be for me since I’m a bit of an introvert. This changed when I get to meet one of my managers better, who’s also an introvert but was very empathetic, and very assertive when needed and everyone loved being on his team.

I noticed that I get along with people really well and also noticed that I care about people more than I’d admit. :sweat_smile:

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Awesome. I also know that you had ‘Quality Coach’ in your mind, and I hope that you have made up your mind on which one to choose - management or quality coach. All the best!

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I think if you were to apply the approach you take with how you are with the testing community and apply that to how you could be as a people leader, you’d be absolutely amazing! :100:

The testing community have got your back in your adventures to become a people leader/manager.

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Thanks for the kind words @simon_tomes it means a lot to hear something like that! :grin: