Where did all the Test managers go?

As I’ve progressed in my career over the last 10+ years, I’ve worked in a number of team contexts and ways of working. I started off working in a System Test team, with a Test Manager, and Project Managers. I was generally put on projects, and assigned work. I had some freedoms in how I did my work, but they were within clearly defined boundaries.

The advantages of this, especially as someone freshly graduated and new to working in Software Testing. I got a bunch of training, I did not have to justify or choose how to spend my time on a day to day basis.

As my career progressed, I’ve taken on more of the responsibility for identifying what work is important to be done, justifying my choices. I’ve also moved from clearly defined structures of progression, to much looser structures where I get little constructive feedback. I have to be self reflective, self motivated and self leading to grow.

This has hit some extremes, being a “sales person” for my role, introducing teams not only to myself, but to the role I and how I fit into the team. It’s also been a long time since I’ve had a line manager who both knows anything about Testing and works in the same team as me. It’s either an Engineer Manager with Dev experience that works with me in a team, or sometimes a Principle Tester who doesn’t work with me day to day. Although there was that one stint, when I was the manager. That was fun.

There are major advantages of being self sufficient, and self leading, especially when I have access to peers from other teams who I can learn from and bounce ideas off. I get to set out my stall, run experiments and figure out what works best for my team. I can mould myself to what is needed in my context.

There are also struggles. I struggle get meaningful feedback, that constructively gives me a nexternal perspective on how I’m doing and what I can do to move forward. And this impacts my motivation. I also have more stress and anxiety, although I’m not entirely sure why, I do have my theories.

I would love to hear from you, do you have a Test Manager, or Quality Manager? What about Test roles that are further up in the structure, like a Director of Test? Maybe you ARE a Test Manager, or you’re an Engineering Manager, managing testers.

What models do you prefer? What do you like, and what are the struggles? And, where did all the Tester Managers go??


We have one. I kinda wanted the job, but I’m not a people person, I’m jealous still, but it’s not for me. We have a “chapter” or community of practise (COP), so it’s not a people manager role, but does involve managing upwards for us. And requires all the planning and probably a lot more meetings than I would like. We span 5 teams as a COP, with an average of 3 per team, so QA is pretty big.

I’m lucky that our dev team is our line manager role and manages the testers in the team pretty well with a very good grasp of what we do. He has even found a 3rd tester to add to the team. I am chuffed to bits, but the moment you have 3 people, one of them becomes the “organiser” and I can only imagine what it becomes like if that grows because I already spend 10% of my day just worrying about and doing admin to keep things rolling. Our QA manager has a lot of stress. I don’t envy that part of the role. BUT i mostly forget to give them positive feedback. This has been a useful reflection today actually, for that one action alone. support your managers and team leads more!


Hi @fullsnacktester I think the QA Manager role progression is Director of QA → VP
And, directionally, it comes down to, I believe, two main directions:

  1. Best Practices in tools and processes. What is on the market and how to apply it to make the company more effective in QA
  2. Business Value (this will help you to progress further to VP level). What can the team/division/company do to achieve its objectives/improve within given constraints (budget/people/etc) and how to do it effectively?
    And, of course, being able to execute effectively making everything happen effectively.

My observations with such a hands-off model: tester has more freedom (pro), tester has more freedom (con). It’s a challenge going day-to-day with no feedback, you have to find some other method of growing your own skills, publicising your achievements and avoiding imposter syndrome


In my experience, many companies simply don’t have Head of, Director or VP roles in Testing or Quality.

But it can be very helpful when they do exist.


There are people who advanced to VP of Engineering from Director of QA role. Since the job is essentially the same.


I haven’t worked with many test managers; I’ve mostly had QA team leads who were team members + people managers with some administrative duties, and some of them did process-related stuff. The test manager role seems interesting since it’s not solely focused on managing people. Still, you also get to deal with setting up and improving testing processes, planning and organizing resources, work on documentation while still being in touch with the testing craft, to a certain degree.

Most agile shops don’t have a test manager role, at least from what I’ve observed, but for example, certain fintech companies, or in other regulated domains, still have this role present. I think it has something to do with enterprises and more regulated industries that stay more traditional for longer periods of time. That being said, a lot, if not most, of the stuff that a traditional manager does, would still have to be done by someone. Usually, instead of a role, test management is viewed as an activity that is divided among the team.


Hi Ben,

From what I understand of your context a test manager is the manager of testers. that is not a universal construct. Some use it along with an Engineering Manager (a manager of engineers). It seems to me to be mostly in agile software development shops.

My experience based in northern Europe with many public, regulated, and enterprise companies is that Test Manager is a role similar to a specialized Project Manager. If the delivery has a project manager, then for a certain size a dedicated person needs to lead the testing. Could be what some call a test lead … (?)

What I see in my shop is that people refer to a Line Manager, who then refers to a Director. A line manager can have all kinds of people in their org: Senior Testers, junior developers etc. The org is more and more a stream team in the Team Topologies sense. The hierarchy is for org structure and delivery, not split by capability - say all testers refer to the same manager.


I thought I’d add my experience here, in case it’s useful.

My title is “Senior QA Manager” and currently, I line manage 9 people (mix of SQA and SDETs) who are spread across 6 agile** development teams. Each of those teams has a Development Manager, who line manages the developers in the team and the overall development work, along with a Product Manager.

I line manage those who test and provide direction and guidance on all things test, while also helping out with industry specific knowledge that I have accumulated over the years.
My boss is Director of QA who reports to the VP of Software Engineering.

I’ve always been a strong advocate for QA to not report to development managers. This gives us more autonomy and prevents some situations where QA may not want a release to go but are overruled by their line manager who happens to also be the dev manager. I had this in a past company, it was deeply unpleasant.

My team is given direction and guidance, but is ultimately responsible for the testing of development work on their team. I of course help out here and there, especially with onboarding, but generally leave them to it.
I have either 30 minute 1:1’s every week or 60 mins every other week, their choice which so as to keep abreast of everything going on. They can and do reach out at any other point in the week too.

I do all their goal setting and annual review process. As I’m not in their teams, working with them day to day, I rely heavily on 360 feedback tools (something my company actually makes and sells) to get a good view on how they’re doing. I really cannot stress enough the value of open, honest feedback from the people you work with every day. The more regular the better.

The rest of my role is as an SME, general neigh-sayer and management botherer. Not just as a QA individual but as someone who’s been around a bit (9 years at this company at the moment). I spend time in meetings, high level planning or reading documentation/specs so that my team don’t have to. I grease the wheels, remove blockers, problem solve etc. And if I’m lucky, I get to lose myself deep in a Postman collection on occasion.
My logical progression would be to the Director of QA role, and then possibly a VP role? Something that may happen at some point, but I’m not in a rush.

Hope that’s useful in some way :slight_smile:

**each team is a slightly different version of someone’s interpretation of agile/Agile.


Great to get this level of insight into your role, @geoffd. Nice one and thanks for sharing.



Moderators Edit using Google Translate:
Many things have a life cycle, and each thing has a relationship between them, and after testing and developing the core knowledge, many things are not so complicated.

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Career progression in QE is something I’m still not clear on, maybe that’s due to my personal surroundings but i also noticed that we kinda did away with Test Managers but now they seem to be making a comeback… albeit with very old fashioned ways of doing things

I thought this was an interesting read - https://club.ministryoftesting.com/uploads/short-url/twgWmTW2S3ypBZeVXrJne3Vfznq.pdf - nice little insight in the QE structure and role types within the Dunelm Group


That’s a super handy resource. Thanks for sharing it here, @becky.stirk.


This is very similar way of working to how one of my preveious companies was set up. I found it particularly valuable to have a more exerienced tester to deffer to when I felt uncomfortable about situations that were occuring that with dev teams/Product Owners. Especially when it came to environment management or choices to release etc.

I later on have moved to work in 2x places where the testers are line managed by someone with dev experience as well as Product Owners managing the teams work. Depending on the personality of the manager and the testers and the type if business it may be able to work.

But im going to say on the balances of averages its setting the testers up for failure with that approach. Mainly because it results in the testers having to work a lot more like a dev than a tester.

While that might not inherintly be a bad thing in the day and age of automation (I personally enjoy it). Im just acknowledging its a different thought patternt and skill set. And ive seen A LOT of adequate testers struggle with this part. Generally only those id say that were great to excellent testers manage to overcome this situation.

And to be brutally honest we are here to test the system. Not to spend weeks working out how to run some of the wierd franken-enviroments Ive seen cobbeled together devs that are thought to be sufficent shudders

So by ensuring the head of a testers reporting line comes from a testing background, it allows all testers to preform to the best of thier best ability.


I kind of agree here, @xiaoxiao not all testers need a special test-manager. Testing can be simple and lightweight from special test managers if we let a product owner or a release manager do their job instead.


What I miss is not support managing testing, but having a line manager knowledgeable in testing who can coach me in my career growth.

With no test management, comes a lack of support for tester career growth, and that sucks.


Can we expect the line manager to be knowledgeable of all specializations in the team? Obviously, they have to support career growth in general - but perhaps the specifics of role can come from another person.


I’m saying, I used to have this when I was managed by a tester, and now I miss it now I’m managed by Devs.

As a senior, I have the experience to grow myself, and find peer support.

But I worry for how we bring up the next generation of skilled Testers.


I’ve been thinking about your questions in terms of my career progression and it’s worked like this:

  1. My first job I worked for a big insurance company. I reported to a QA Manager and I think that position went all the way to VP. I don’t ever recall seeing a career ladder but I know people held higher positions.
  2. Second job was for a bank. I reported to a QA Manager and I know there were Directors and VPs of QA.
  3. My first startup I reported to the VP of Professional Services because the CTO thought it would be safer / I wouldn’t get overruled by all the developers if I reported to him. First time I was on my own but like you @fullsnacktester I learned a ton being self sufficient.
  4. A big telecom company. My first startup got acquired and I think I reported to a Product Manager. Most of the testers were in India but they had Test Managers within their groups. I remember it being pretty siloed
  5. The next 2 places I worked were both startups where I reported to the CTO or other Engineering Managers. I worked with one or two additional testers on occasion but was mostly the lone tester like at my other startups.
  6. The last place I worked was a startup and I also reported to the CTO. I eventually became a Test Manager and hired a bunch of testers.
  7. Today I’m a Director of QA at a startup.

So that’s 2 companies out of 8 in which I’ve had Test Managers. For me, they’ve just not really ever been part of the equation.

The vast majority of my career I’ve been in your position: not getting a ton of useful feedback on how to develop my testing skills. No disrespect to my early test managers but I didn’t learn much about testing from them.

I always had to look outside to develop my testing skills. Most of the good places where I’ve worked knew that and supported my development in that way. I’ve learned a ton by being alone and having good CTO / Dev Managers who have challenged me. Which I guess goes to show that what I’ve really needed are places that are challenging and supportive to grow the most.

It’s also worth noting that until my last 2 jobs, I wasn’t aware there was a path or career progression outside of management. The last 2 companies had 2 ways to grow: into management (lead, manager, sr manager, director) or further into specialization (staff, principal, architect).

I hope these data points help.