I recently moved from a crew that had 4 QEs to a new one that has 1 QE…me. I am completely overwhelmed by not just the different capability, but also the fact that I went from having a team of QEs with me, to now being in charge of the QE for this crew. I have only been a QE for a year and a half, and I mean I was very green from the start. My learning of software testing was right here at MoT in the dojo courses - and it’s the best career I’ve ever had. The thing is though, I don’t want to move up in the career. I want to stay a QE, I don’t want to be a QE lead, or anything else. I don’t really want to have all this extra responsibility like I’m being given. I had this in another profession and it was a stress I never want to experience in my life ever again (work-life balance gone, etc).
Does anyone else have experience here? Is there anyone else who doesn’t want to move up and just wants to get their work done without all the stress/pressure of leading? I want to talk to my manager, but I’m actually afraid for my job’s sake that if they see I don’t want to progress in my career.
I would appreciate any advice at all. Thanks for reading and apologize for a gloomy topic on a Friday!
This is a difficult situation to be in for sure and I am sorry to hear you were pushed into it with what sounds like little notice. Can you elaborate a bit more about your previous 4 QE team experience (your role, how you got this) vs. the experience and expectations of this new role?
Does your org have an individual contributor track vs people manager track? Is the expectation of the new role that you will have a team under you and be the lead?
I was barely a year with my company and new to testing when the test lead for the project left and I had to replace her. It was rather stressful but I managed. So it is possible to rise this fast.
As you said that you would like to stay at your current level maybe look into technical progress. I agree that stating you don’t want to progress in your career will likely not be a great move. Why not rephrase it to lateral career progression? It’s totally valid to not want to become a manager. That’s a different path. Growing as a tester is an option as well.
Welcome to my life, @matt10l . I’ve been a solo tester for the last 10 years, mostly as the only tester in the company. I also don’t want to be in leadership: a technical lead I could do, but I don’t have the personality or skills for management-style leadership.
That said, you can progress in your career by becoming more skilled in your role. Depending on your preferences you can do things like improving your testing skills, learning/improving your automation skills, learning/improving your ability to read code (this can help a lot when it comes to tracking down bugs and working out what to target), learning aspects of business analysis… The possibilities are endless.
I’d say your first priority is to work out where you want to focus first, and speak to your manager about that. There’s nothing wrong with stating that you don’t particularly want a management level career goal as long as you’re pointing out that you want to improve your skills in your current role. If your employer does job banding like QE1, QE2, etc, you can aim towards becoming a senior or MVP (titles in this industry can be a bit… fuzzy).
The main thing is making it clear that you want to keep learning.
I am a team of one too. Please reach out if yo would like to have a chat. I wrote this about one way in which I deal with it: How a lone tester can work across teams – TestAndAnalysis
I am unable to offer advice as I’ve not been in those boots. But instead I’m really keen to use this as a chance to welcome you back to the MOT crowd where, nope you are not alone, you are a quality hero. Find any manager or leader who you are comfortable with and talk to them instead, we all appreciate and grow when we get help. Best wishes @matt10l .
Have you’ve communicated this towards your company already?
To reassure you a bit, you can be a solo tester on a team but not the QE Lead as you mentioned.
There can still be a Lead above you who does some check ins with you weekly/bi-weekly/monthly
All I can say is, communicate this towards your company. Tell them your expectations so they understanding on what you want.
Been there done that, and after a career in sw including managerial roles of different kinds I’m now winding down being just that 1QE. I really love it too!
But I have seen countless young programmers and testers over more than three decades starting their young careers, have also been a manager for them too.
Leading is not for everyone. And everone do not have to become career guys too. I did and I know what it´s all about. You can very well make a career out of being a “tech guy”. For sure, jobs arent always stable, so one have to be prepared to move to other employments. But one do not have to “move up”.
First of all, just keep your cool, keep on what you are doing as long as the situation looks stable at wherever you are working. You have on ly worked for a year, let some more time pass. You might just see things differently in a year or two. Sharpen the saw in testing skills, possibly learn automation skills if that is required and if you have the programming bug. Thats pretty much what I can say, just reading your text.
This post resonates with me.
I had that talk with my old manager a long time ago. Basically, it boils down to “individual contributor vs management” tracks. I think both options are valid.
Personally, I have been in “lead” role before and my main gripe is how your performance is measured. When you are a lead, your performance is reliant on other people; when you are an individual contributor, your performance is reliant on yourself.
Best of luck.
If you have a scrum master or BA or Product Owner on your team, work with them to prioritize the work. There is finite amount of time so it’s impossible to do everything.
I’d spend some times every week or 2 week to re-prioritize. Maybe slot in some easy tasks between difficult tasks.
Hey Matt, I have been in these shoes before. I was a team of one for 3 out of 4 years at my last employer. I feel your stress and I see you. My best advice is stay calm and create a plan. Each project you work on have a plan written out. Being organized and having a plan is your best friend in these interesting times. Things will come up and your timeline on the plan will get messed up, don’t fret roll with it. Adapt and move. Keeping your Boss updated with your progress is key. Give him/her weekly updates of the state of the project, risk, areas being covered, bugs found, and test plan completion that type of stuff. Dont worry about being a lead, focus on the job at hand / project at hand. You can do it!
I feel the same, Matt! I managed teenagers at a retail store for years, and never want to lead people ever again I’ve only been testing a couple of years, as well.
So here’s how I describe what I want to my manager (of course every person’s needs are different):
I would like to continue advancing my career, but not in a “management track”, more of an “individual contributor” track. This would allow me to focus my time and energy on my learning journey, instead of doing other tasks which would fall to more of a management role. Then, I can increase my skills/specialties and hopefully share that knowledge with my peers, and collectively grow the knowledge of the team (whatever that team dynamic looks like for you).
Hope that gives you some ideas to start a conversation
I just wanted to thank everyone for taking part in this discussion with me. I apologize it’s taken me some time to respond. I saw the responses via email and believe me, I felt each reply with great relief and thanks for taking the time.
Without getting into too much detail, we had personnel changes in the crew, new devs, project managers, POs, etc. I am still a crew of 1 and the last week or two has really put into perspective of just how much I don’t want to be on this QE lead track.
The problem I’m having is that it’s not just about testing anymore, it’s about all the admin stuff such as getting strategies reported, reports being reported, all the office/clerical issues that I never had to even think about before. I spent two hours (online, I work remotely) after hours each day in the last release because I needed approvals on said reports by EOD. Reminded me of my days as a Procurement Rep where I’d wait outside “big wigs” offices to get a signature by…EOD.
Unfortunately, my manager has been out of town, so I will be asking them next week about possibly moving me out of this role/track. I’m just not happy and most recently my work-life balance has been impacted with hours after work plus additional hours for weekend release support. I’m not someone who gets stressed about anything, let alone work, but this move has completely brought back the individual I never wanted to be again (laptop open at all times, headset at the ready, etc).
I’ll try to keep the thread updated. Again, I appreciate all the responses and support. These are first-world problems that I’m very aware of, so the last thing I want is attention like this, but regardless, it is much appreciated.
Matt, I see you’ve gotten some great suggestions and feedback. I just wanted to come in and affirm your feelings, they are completely valid and management vs IC are completely different career ladders. Also, you’re still relatively new in your test career to have this kind of responsibility put on your shoulders, you deserve the space to continue developing your testing skills before being expected to do the big picture and leadership work that managers need to do.
All that being said, being a team of 1 quality person can be a great opportunity for learning if your manager is supportive and willing to step in and act as a lead for you and take on all the admin/manager kind of stuff. When you’re the lone tester on a team you get to jump into more quality coaching and quality enablement shoes. This means more pairing with devs to influence quality practices in the team. It also means that you get to experiment with new things all the time. When I was the lone tester I ended up having to teach myself API testing for instance.
And I hope that you’ll stay open to idea of your feelings towards leadership changing in the future. Right now you don’t want it, but one day you might and it’s okay to decide that you’re ready to change paths in the future.
All that being said, staying IC is a valid career path and I know amazing testers who have spent their whole careers at the IC level.
I think it depends on what you mean by “leading”. If you mean people leadership, I think there are many companies where that isn’t the only career path. If you mean technical leadership, being able to grow your skills and teach/help others is going to be an essential skill and expectation in most companies and professions. I really like what @katepaulk said about making it clear that you want to keep learning, and I think a corollary is that the more you learn, the more you have that can and should be shared, even if it isn’t in the capacity of managing people.