TestBash SF 2019 Live Blog: Growing Test Managers

And now… my partner in crime and excellent friend Eric Proegler. I love this man. Little known fact, he is also the baby whisperer

Lets start: Context.
Member of a large company with lots of silos. Regulatory and scrum… but at scale. Growing managers internally to scale

What does he look for while looking for a future manager? (professional skills… not soft skills --> Gets an applause)
huge matrix of skills:

  • planning… everything is deadline driven. But can they keep what is important to the company and maintain relationships?
  • thinking… command of detail, problem solving /critical thinking/ tolerance for ambiguity (a lot of testers really want things spelled out. Managers do not always have this luxury)
  • communication… speaking and listening, writing and story telling/presenting
  • collaboration… can you influence and build the relationships, how is their empathy and emotional intelligence?
  • supervision… you need to be accountable for the team’s work, but you need to be able to delegate and grow your team. coaching and feedback is essential. PM/detect and solve problems/results oriented feedback and measurement.
  • leading… be humble, honest and motivating. Be human. Help them align with the org with what matters to them
  • exemplify… Humility, and help people be willing to be wrong, and learn from that. Welcome feedback, and create a space for it. This needs to be constructive, patient and honest. Need to respect diversity.

So what to look for: Positive signs include

  • Humility
  • Willing to be wrong
  • Effective Pairing - This is interesting. If you can’t pair, then you likely do not have the ability to demonstrate the professional skills needed to lead
  • Trust and Relationships across functions
  • Effective Communicator - Clear and brief
  • Nimble Mind - See multiple angles and articulate 1 point of view

Red Flags

  • Enjoys exerting power
  • Thinks being a manager will help them fix things
  • Wants to have last word or cannot be wrong.

Nurturing Potential

  • Debrief them on projects and meetings - what are they seeing? what are you seeing?
  • Share decision making with them. Some decisions are yours to make, but for the majority, share your ideas, seek out their ideas and make decisions together.
  • Build confidence and counsel patience. Tell them about their potential. Work to understand how they want to work with you? Help them better understand what the steps are and what they can learn to get ready for the opportunity when it comes.

Helping New Managers

  • Give them space, and let them lead.
  • Find ways to let them know feedback is available but not force it… let them request. Do not inflict help
  • Do not wait for 1:1’s But, have 1:1’s with a rolling agenda. Allow both to contribute to the documentation.

So… what if YOU want to be a manager?

  • First up… why? You get a lot of problems you cannot solve. You have to work with others to solve them. You could make more money as an IC quite honestly.
  • Things can go all sorts of bad ways, re-orgs typically impact managers first. Coach gets fired before the team.
  • Risks of technical skills getting stale

How to prepare for mgmt

  • Get good at coaching. Get good at accepting coaching. Not just positive… build trust and ability to help with constructive coaching
  • Practice reporting. Know how to report back on how projects or tests or whatever went. Get feedback on reporting. Get feedback from multiple sources.
  • Ask for general feedback on how to prepare and really listen to the answers even if you do not like what was shared. Also, pay special attention to what matters to them,.

“Do you feel about IC and Manager role combined?” - I feel it is really tough to do and discourage it?
“How involved are you on the day to day as a director?” - I try to keep this with the managers. I keep my connection to my managers to see how they are handling the day to day and know if they need support. Not be there helping them solve them.
“What is the different of a test manager vs an Eng mgr?” - Have not actually had the title of eng manager, but I feel that in testing we have the luxury of having more diverse teams, and testers tend to be required to work more independently collaborating with others, but not tied to the code alone.
“What about managers who also lead technical direction” -> it is super hard to both lead technical direction and build these skills in the team. I have seen some excellent people do this, but it is a rare skill