Brain dump: Being a test lead

I’m grooming a team mate to become a test lead. What makes this role different from being a tester?

As a tester, your focus is on your test assignments. But as you become more senior (and not just when you become a test lead), you need to start looking at the bigger picture. Not just in terms of functions being tested e.g., you become more concerned as the system as a whole. But you also start seeing your purpose in the software engineering process i.e., you’re an integral part of it and what you want to deliver aren’t test cases or bugs but rather an application that has been fortified by your testing, an application that the target end-user will actually want to use. Software isn’t made to just make jobs for us who are in the business of delivering software. Software is for helping people do the stuff they need.

I guess I’m getting ahead of myself with that explanation and that might be too much to take in.

So a simpler answer…

  • As a test lead, you need to be able to coordinate test tasks among the test team.
  • There’s also a lot of admin work like you need to be able to note attendance or how to contact folks just in case they don’t show up.
  • You also need to watch out for risks, dependencies, assumptions, constraints (or basically anything that could go wrong), and for issues (when things went wrong), and capture lessons learned. As a tester, you already do this but it scales up when you’re the test lead.
  • You also act as a representative of the test team — if there are concerns that they hesitate to raise, you have to either encourage them to raise it or raise it yourself.
  • You need to be able to initiate creation of templates, standards, guidelines, workflows that will help the test team do their work.
  • You need to be able to review other testers’ work — be it test case drafting, test execution, bug reporting, status reporting.
  • You need to be on your toes in case something tricky or complex comes along so that you can suggest options or strategies on how to go about with it.
  • You also need to be able to take the blunt hits for your team when something doesn’t work out, because in a way you are more accountable if you’re the “lead” in general. You might think leads or project managers have it easy because most of the time it looks like they’re just doing reports or asking others to do the work. But when shit hits the fan and the team doesn’t deliver, someone’s going to look for a neck to choke and often it’s theirs.

Ok. That’s about all I can write this morning. Till my next brain dump.

Reads: Creating a Modern Mentoring Culture by Randy Emelo

I finished a couple of books last week, though I’m not sure if the 20-page “infoline” counts. So anyways, one is this infoline I read on “Creating a Modern Mentoring Culture” by Randy Emelo over at Books24x7. Here are just some of the stuff that I’ve highlighted for myself and for sharing:

Modern mentoring is connecting people across an organization to share critical knowledge and skills. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach, regardless of age or title, and people can be both mentees and mentors at the same time.

Key Pillars of Modern Mentoring

  • Open and Egalitarian
    • everyone has something to learn and something to teach
  • Diverse
    • different perspectives within mentoring communities and relationships help novel ideas and approaches arise in answer to organizational problems or issues people are facing
  • Safe and Judgment-Free
    • people don’t want to show perceived weaknesses by asking for a mentor
  • Independent and Autonomous
    • no need to try to control the amount of time people spend engaged in mentoring, the topics they connect around, or the people with whom they connect.
    • Too much rigid control will only create unwanted barriers to knowledge flowing from those who possess it to those who seek it.
    • Once you have created an enabling structure for modern mentoring, let your employees take the reins of their own learning.
  • Asynchronous
    • technology-enabled communication (email, online communities of interest, business social networks, mentoring and social learning software) is only on the rise and is a key enabling structure that supports modern mentoring
  • Self-Directed and Personal
    • Self-directed learning also allows individuals to learn what is applicable to them right now, gain skills that can help them with their unique work context, and make them more productive.
  • Technology-Centric
    • means to connect with others and a space to collaborate and communicate
  • Flexible
    • allowed and encouraged to shift in and out of your mentoring program and of the mentee-mentor roles themselves, as learning needs and knowledge strengths evolve

If the open nature of modern mentoring is compromised by too much organizational involvement, the quality of mentoring connections and the caliber of learning that takes place as a result of these connections will be degraded.

Creating a Modern Mentoring Culture

  • Re-Educate Leaders
    • need to help organizational stakeholders understand the expanded and broad vision of modern mentoring and its associated benefits
    • must be re-educated to understand that modern mentoring is a productive activity that won’t detract from employees’ effectiveness, but rather will help to strengthen it.
  • Get the word out
    • webinars or e-briefings, various media (podcasts, webinars, or newsletters), brief “commercials” at other training events
    • Sponsor roadshows or lunch-and-learns where mentoring participants share their experiences. Offering a venue for mentoring participants to meet and mingle can help energize your program and provides another opportunity for people to network and make learning connections.
    • Leverage employee resource groups, town hall meetings where a brief presentation could be followed by a question and answer session, Leverage your program’s evangelists.
  • Modernize Current Mentoring Programs
    • expanding your current mentoring programs and making them modern
    • Onboarding – new hires
    • High-potential development
      • brightest talent pull from an array of mentors and knowledge resources [instead of just one mentor]
      • allow high-potentials to be mentors themselves and share their knowledge with others while concurrently learning how to be a leader
    • Augment your formal training initiatives with mentoring cohorts
      • alumni of training programs mentor and advise a group of people currently going through training
      • Peers going through the same training can also connect and share stories around application of concepts learned in class to help cement the newly attained knowledge.
  • Amplify Using Technology
    • Let employees use technologies you have available to communicate and collaborate.
    • Make online employee directories or other skill profiles available to help participants see who would be a good mentoring connection.
    • Allow people to join your mentoring program at any time.
    • Acknowledge the efforts of those in the program.

The toxic mentor

Here’s someone NOT to emulate, along with some stuff he does gives him that discredit.

The toxic mentor…

1.  Expects his mentee to render overtime.

A 10+ workday should NOT be considered as the norm.  Overtimes should only be considered as a last resort, or as something to get into when you’re feeling productive or enjoying what you’re working on.  And as uncle bob martin (no actual relation) tweeted, the tenet of professionalism is to work 40 hours for your employer, and spend 20 hours on improving yourself and increasing your own value.  Now, you can’t do that if you’re slaving away and putting in all those 60 hours at work.

Excessive overtime also tends to burn people out, or it can make people slack off.  One can already do so much (especially if uninterrupted) during the normal 8 hours of work.  What you should do is push yourself to be more focused and productive in those 8 hours.

2.  Thinks UAT without overtime is impossible.

That’s learned helplessness in action. Don’t try to poison young minds.  And if you think it’s impossible, then you wouldn’t try to attain an OT-less UAT. Management ought to provide an incentive for teams to not be on OT’s or ON’s during UAT. Maybe that would push the teams to improve the quality of their work during CUT and System Test phases where the problems are less costly to fix.

3.  Undermines his mentee’s estimates.

It would be best for the one who’d actually work on the task to provide the estimates. Don’t jump the gun and tell your mentee that the task can be done in just 4 hours when you haven’t even picked up on the requirements of the task. That will just pressure your mentee to do the work within the time you stipulated at the risk of quality.

time_to_do_things_right

4.  Causes delay and does not bother to apologize.

Don’t be too proud to say you’re sorry when you’ve inconvenienced your mentee. Just because you’re the mentor and she’s the mentee doesn’t mean she’s not entitled to the same respect and courtesy.

5.  Keeps making promises he can’t keep.

Stick to your word. Keep on breaking it and your mentee will learn to distrust you or, worse, respect you less.