TestBash Leadership 2022 - Panel Discussion: Becoming a Better Leader with Niranjani Manoharan, Jim Holmes & Farah Chabchoub

In this session, our host Laveena Ramchandani @laveenaramchandani01, a Software Testing Leader herself, is joined by three other leaders to discuss ways to become a better leader.

Niranjani Manoharan @ranjani born in India and now living in California, is an accomplished software engineering leader in building tools, test infrastructure and improving quality and developer productivity for industry leaders. Check out Niranjani’s blog to find out a bit more about her.

Jim Holmes @jimholmescc , a leadership expert in many ways, Jim has experience working with teams across many disciplines (sports, IT, community organizations), which led him to write The Leadership Journey, a practical handbook meant to help you learn how to find a leadership style that works for you. Find out more about Jim by checking out his blog.

Farah Chabchoub @farahch is an active speaker and member of several tech communities, Farah is also an experienced head of QA and a strategic productivity driver. Learn more about Farah by reading and signing up for her newsletter here.

We’ll use this Club thread to share resources mentioned during the session and answer any questions we don’t get to during the live session.

Resources Added in Advance

  • @jimholmescc mind map of reading material he’s used for his own leadership growth, and to help others grow: MindMup 2
  • @ranjani Book Suggestions:
  1. Leading Quality: Leading Quality: How Great Leaders Deliver High Quality Software and Accelerate Growth: Cummings - John, Ronald, Peer, Owais: 9781916185807: Amazon.com: Books &
  2. An Elegant puzzle systems of engineering management: https://www.amazon.com/Elegant-Puzzle-Systems-Engineering-Management/dp/B07SH1DXXM/r[…]4&s=books&sprefix=an+elegant+puzzle%2Cstripbooks%2C335&sr=1-1

Questions Answered Live:

  1. @rjstewart77: Scenario. I’ve just moved into my first leadership role, advise for a beginner leader?
  2. @EvaPodbrdska: How do you balance being a great leader with keeping your technical skills up to date?
  3. @samecjiri: Jiri Samec How many people person can effectively mentor and if we have big team how to chose which ones we should mentor.
  4. @KaneHutchinson: What metrics should you be tracking as a leader?(either direct reports or yourself)
  5. @shalinigt: As a leader, how would you want someone who reports to you to express concerns or disagree to your new ideas? how will you handle the situation?
  6. @cupcake_tester: Any suggestions for managing people who have a different role than you, especially when it’s something you’ve never done?

Questions Not Answered Live:

  1. @testerfromleic: How can someone lead without having a job title to match? Should they even try?
  2. Anonymous: To become a better leader, you would want to know better at what… So how does a leader measure his/her effectiveness?
  3. Anonymous: When do you know you have failed?
  4. Anonymous: Do you agree you are a leader without falling up the ladder?
  5. @testerfromleic: Is there a difference between leadership and management? I get the impression that management is a little sneered at (at least in software circles).
  6. @brandon.conley: How do you find a good mentor?
  7. Anonymous: Jim, what model is behind you? (rocket, not a person)
  8. Anonymous: Leaders must give feedback, but often do not get any from their reports. How do you / could you get this insight?
  9. Anonymous: Manager isn’t necessarily a leader. How do you spot the difference and bridge the gap from being a manager to being a leader?
  10. @trangbt278: How do you find a mentor in testing leadership outside of your workplace?
  11. @ElizabethHurley: What are differences between a mentoring or a coach relationship?
  12. Anonymous: What is your advice for middle management? When you cannot always lead the way you’d wish because of leadership higher up?

@testerfromleic Yes, everyone should be able to lead without authority - it means you will need to influence the right set of people to bring about a change. You do not need to have a Manager/Director title to do so.
You can read about it here: Stories of reaching Staff-plus engineering roles - StaffEng | StaffEng - it is part of a book called Staff Engineer Leadership beyond the management track by Will Larson - @jesper also spoke about it earlier in today’s session. Check it out!

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A leader’s effectiveness can be measured in different ways:

  1. How they help grow the individual contributors reporting directly to them?
  2. How they showcase visibility of their team’s efforts/projects?
  3. How they manage up to their boss ?
  4. What value do they bring to the table?

Anonymous: I have several LEGO models behind me. The tall rocket is the Saturn V. It was a terrific value, and a fun build!

@trangbt278 : Finding a testing mentor outside your workplace can be a challenge. My recommendation would be to start right here in this community! There are a lot of great people here to learn from–you might find that more of having good “models” versus a more active “mentor,” but it’s a good place to start. Other conferences or meetup groups, in-person or online, are also good places to find that sort of help.

Regarding middle management and having to adapt leadership style based on those above you. That is a very challenging situation, especially when one might be early in their career and may not have confidence and authority to push back on upper leadership.

I think it’s important to set upward expectations. @farahch and @ranjani both spoke of this during the leadership panel, and I think it’s a critical part of one’s success as a leader.

This shouldn’t be a confrontational conversation, rather something positive along the lines of “Here’s how I’m going to run my team. I’m looking forward to you setting our goals and the outcomes you need from us. I will work with the humans on my team to meet those goals and outcomes in the best way we determine. Thanks for your support.”

I don’t pretend it’s that simple, but it’s a good starting point. It may also require you spending some emotional energy training your leadership in modifying their own management style. That’s not easy, but setting some boundaries with them around micromanagement or poor leadership can reap great results over time.

It’s not easy, but it’s worthwhile.

Sorry. Long response. Thanks for listening to my TED talk. :slight_smile:

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