TestBash Home: Coaching and Management Panel

On 1st May, our fabulous host @tristan.lombard will be joined by 3 exceptionally experienced panellists with years of experience in coaching and management for the TestBash Home Coaching and Management Panel.

Of course, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions live at the time for @amcharrett, @testertested and @aaronhodder. However, if you know the questions you’d like to ask in advance, add them here and Tristan will ask them live during the panel.

Unanswered Questions

  • Griffin Kimbley and Keziah: How do I ‘find’ a mentor; and, should this person be a co-hort on my team / in my company, locally based, remote, or someone within the QA / Automation field at all?
  • Lance Rogers: How do you help coach someone to become a leader when they are reluctant to assume leadership responsibilities? Helping them realize their potential?|
  • angel wlliams: How do you become receptive to a mentor?
  • Laura Kopp: Do you adjust your approach when coaching someone with a very different skill set or area of responsibility from your own?
  • Dave: why do some companies prefer player/managers rather than full time managers? (applies for both dev and test roles)
  • Rachel Gilbert: What is the best way to counteract bad coaching? How much of this is matchmaking coaches/mentors and mentees?
  • Connor Munro: Have you encountered a situation where you don’t have an immediate answer to a question from a developer/QA when coaching them? How did you go about researching and answering that question?
  • kamaldeep kaur: When should One transition from a tester to test lead?
  • Sahar: What’s your suggestion to setup the quality coaching culture in an organization which is new to this concept?
  • Christian Dabnor: Is coaching more difficult when working remotely? We’ve recently, like many companies, had to make a quick change, and I find it harder to coach.
  • Shailin Sheth As a Software Test Engineer how can one grow from being a Test Engineer to Product Owner?
  • Guy Mason How do you sell the value of a common language across a team?
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**Griffin Kimbley and Keziah: **

How do I ‘find’ a mentor; and, should this person be a co-hort on my team / in my company, locally based, remote, or someone within the QA / Automation field at all?

Mentors often pop up where you least expect it. Sometimes its only on hindsight you realise you had a mentor! In the past I’ve boldly asked people to mentor me but don’t take it personally if they are busy.
Ministry of Testing is a great place to try. Another place is tech voices - they offer a mentoring program for speaking at conferences. Be open minded to learning new things, be self motivated to follow up on ideas. Mentees who demonstrate enthusiasm typically continue to be mentored! Good luck!

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Lance Rogers: How do you help coach someone to become a leader when they are reluctant to assume leadership responsibilities? Helping them realize their potential?

First why are they reluctant? Is it because they lack confidence or is it they don’t want to become a ‘leader’. Try and understand what they do value and what they are interested in? Also there are many type of leaders. When you say leadership responsibilities, ask yourself is this in your interest or is it in their interest? It could be they could be leaders in a different type of leadership.

Lets assume they are interested in team leadership but they don’t have the confidence. With anything I would break tasks down into 1) something that interests them 2) Small achievable tasks that you can have regular catch ups on. 3) Have catchups to provide feedback on.
Another approach may be to try pairing, so that person can observe how you do things.

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Dave: why do some companies prefer player/managers rather than full time managers? (applies for both dev and test roles)

There’s the concept that unless you remain a ‘doer’ you can’t effectively manage technical people. While I understand that and empathise, I feel it ignore the fact that people management is incredibly difficult probably more so than understanding technical context and requires a unique skill set. Personally I’ve always found this player/manager balance really hard to achieve and typically one suffers on the account of the other.

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Laura Kopp: Do you adjust your approach when coaching someone with a very different skill set or area of responsibility from your own?

Yes very much so. Check out situational leadership https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_leadership_theory

So if you are coaching a junior tester then maybe more directive than say a senior tester. Coaching a team requires more facilitation skills than perhaps coaching a testing skill.

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Rachel Gilbert: What is the best way to counteract bad coaching? How much of this is matchmaking coaches/mentors and mentees?

Such a great question. I had not thought about this before, so thank you for that. I guess there’s many reasons for bad coaching. There’s always going to be personality clashes and people that you struggle to get on with. But I sense that many are given the role ‘coach’ but don’t really know how to coach. Coaching requires the coach to make a big effort to understand context. That includes your aspirations and also your expectations (of yourself and of the coach). It also means you understand that the student has a story of who they are and how the perceive themselves that can play a part in how receptive people are to being coached.

How to counteract that though? If its your boss, that’s going to be tough (unless you get on really well with your boss). If its a peer, a little easier. For a peer, I would encourage ‘learning together’ to become better coaches. For a boss, maybe an approach you can take, is “teach me how to coach”? In doing so perhaps you will encourage the person to think a bit how 'what coaching is" and their coaching style? Also do some of your own reading and then perhaps share. “I read this book on coaching, what do you think about it?”

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Connor Munro: Have you encountered a situation where you don’t have an immediate answer to a question from a developer/QA when coaching them? How did you go about researching and answering that question?

Hey Connor!

Part of me is reluctant that you go and google the answer and provide that answer to him, when the developer is perfectly capable of doing this themselves. However there is nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know. Approach it as, that’s a great question, I don’t know the answer to that, lets work it out together

kamaldeep kaur: When should One transition from a tester to test lead?

That’s a bit like asking, when should I wear size 9 shoes? Probably when your feet are near enough to size 9? :nerd_face:

The sorts of traits I look for in a test lead are people who are self starters. By that I mean, they don’t wait to be told to do things, they go out and find and do stuff, and check in from time to time to make sure they are on the right track. I also want to see them take initiative. Does the team need a test strategy? How about I put that together? Why are bugs not getting fixed? Is there something the team can do to work out how to improve? I also want them to be collaborators. If you are going to lead people, I want them to want to be near people and enjoy it. I also like to see people not afraid of diving deep into complex issues when required (but maybe thats just me). I’m sure the others will have loads to add on this so I’ll leave it there.

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Sahar: What’s your suggestion to setup the quality coaching culture in an organization which is new to this concept?

Hi Sahar, I bet you work for an awesome company :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

In my head there are two types of companies that want quality coaches. Those that start with that culture and those that transition to that culture. I feel its much easier to transition a company to a quality coach model that has never formally had testers, than one that has had testers.

If developers are going to take on the role of software testing where they haven’t done so before, they need time to build up skills. What I’ve done in the past is rather than jump to quality coaching, I jump to having a tester in each team, that’s focused on doing the testing, but working to shift testing left. Its a team based approach and each team may work on slightly different things, but they are working on things that matter to them which I feel is important if you want a team to take ownership. When you are at the point where teams are confidently testing without a tester and you begin to wonder what you’re doing there, you can start looking at quality coaching.

Christian Dabnor: Is coaching more difficult when working remotely? We’ve recently, like many companies, had to make a quick change, and I find it harder to coach.

I feel a lot of things are harder remotely and you have to make an extra effort to communicate and collaborate. I feel its harder to sense people;s context and read people, so from that perspective I agree. My preference in coaching 1:1 is to pair on a specific task. So if that’s harder to do remotely again yes coaching is more difficult.

As I said during the panel, sometimes using slack is good as it allows the whole coaching process to slow down a bit, giving you some time to think about the answer.

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Shailin Sheth As a Software Test Engineer how can one grow from being a Test Engineer to Product Owner?

Things you can do on your own would be to learn as much as you can about what it takes. Speak to Product Owners in your company and ask them what skilsets are required and how would someone go about becoming a product owner. If you can pair with product owners and make an effort to build friendships with people. Chances are critical thinking skills are just as useful for product owners and they may appreciate your systems thinking.
I would also ask your company about a career path into this area.

Guy Mason How do you sell the value of a common language across a team?

I ask people to think (or draw) a dinosaur, and then get people to share their images/descriptions of what they were thinking. I then explore the concept that we were all thinking the same thing but look how different the 'same thing" was.

In the same way, we can be all thinking the same thing, but all thinking different things when it comes to software. Maybe share some war stories where this caused confusion for a team… (nothing like a discussion on “thats not a bug”).

Any suggestions on a good way to provide the negative feedback?

Often the sandwiching can end up overly soft and the person does not notice that improvement is required.

Recently some gave me feedback and it was excellent. What stood out was examples were provided of how the behaviour.

Hi Guna, There’s a whole lot of depends in answering this question. Is the person your senior, peer or junior? Do you have a good relationship with this person? Are they comfortable with you and vice versa? Also what’s the nature of the feedback? Is it personal (like you have bad breath) or is it work related (feedback on your tests).

Personally, I"m not a fan of giving feedback unless its asked for. I try to make it clear that I’m open to providing feedback if its asked for. Recently, I’m trying to make more of a point of asking for feedback from others, so I’m setting an example and I’m getting feedback.