What can testers do to become great Engineering Managers?

@claire.reckless delivered an inspired talk “Why testers can make great engineering managers” at the brilliant Leeds Testing Atelier.

Career paths for testers aren’t as clear as they used to be. There used to be way more Test Managers and Test Leads. So it’s difficult to know where to go next if management is a direction you’d like to get into.

Claire was keen to not conform to the dated stereotype of “woman in tech gets into management”.

Her path took her to leading a team of six testers and it was safe to fail if it wasn’t for her. This was an important step on her journey to engineering management.

Claire enjoyed supporting her team and people and fortunately, the company she works for was exploring a new type of role called “Engineering Manager”. Tech and Test Leads were stretched to support both tech and people. So it was important to provide a consistent level of support to engineers (particularly with their career progression). Engineering Managers were there to support the team and improve processes. It was also hard to move folks around teams due to siloed tech.

Claire built a new function with three other new engineering managers. Focused on career planning for engineers, recruitment and onboarding, building great teams and supporting delivery. They also focused on how to build an internal community and connect with external communities. Plus apprenticeships.

What can testers bring?

  1. Build relationships with key team members in different contexts and temperaments – including the ability to deliver bad news
  2. Asking all the questions – being assertive enough to use exploration and clarifying questions. Feeling ok not having all the answers and knowing everything
  3. Knowing what good looks like. Beyond finding bugs this includes great working practices (Agile/ShiftLeftRight) and the experience for customers
  4. The ability to adapt. Leveraging the breadth and depth of technical knowledge. Testers tend to move around between a lot of stacks. Gain confidence to move around when leading different teams

Important to make it happen

  • Identify your support network (Direct manager, Engineering Manager collective, External community – to share ideas and experiences)
  • It’s ok that you can’t do it all. Just do the things that are really important
  • You don’t need to have all the answers. It’s not about teaching engineers and leaders how to be better. It’s about supporting them and giving advice and guidance where possible. It’s all about supporting good behaviours.
  • Feeling good about feedback and encouraging feedback

How about you? Are you an Engineering Manager with a background in software testing? Or perhaps your career ambitions are lining up towards an engineering manager, if so what are you working on to get there?


Thanks for the write up Simon! I’m impressed with how you catch all the info whilst watching the talk - I can’t keep up at times in a meeting, let alone a talk!

Thanks for sharing @simon_tomes