Starting something new is always fun, nerve racking and equally challenging whether it is a new job or place or routine. One needs a lot of drive to start it and then need consistency, grit and perseverance to keep it going. This is one such story about me starting a QA Guild with my fabulous crew and I think it is worth sharing. Much like life, it is filled with ups and downs and its fair share of surprises. Before we dive into the details of how we kick-started things and got the guild going, let’s first explore whether there is a real need for communities like this within a company. If the pandemic has taught us something, it is that we all crave for a sense of belonging, need social connection and have our efforts appreciated.
In our company, we were all broken down into 26 small feature teams and working on our respective sprint tasks in an Agile setup. Though the communication within the scrum teams was great, it didn’t cascade down with the rest of the other teams or other stakeholders for that matter. Another big one was the team being responsible for quality instead of just the tester. What a welcome change, but sometimes the stellar efforts of the tester in a team doesn’t shine through as much as it should do. As a tester, one is supposed to have a holistic view of the feature under test, bring the customer perspective to all the discussions, drive the test approach within the team, ask the tough questions and much more. Usually, these teams have one tester, and they experience burn out being the all-rounder of the team. These items fuelled the idea for a QA Guild to make sure the testers in the company can come together, motivate each other, have a safe place, talk about their challenges openly and learn from each other.
I was supremely excited about this idea, but starting a community is too big a task for a single person. So, I reached out to the wonderful testers in the company. We had a couple of ice breaker sessions to warm up all to the idea of spending some time each sprint for learning and growing together. This was a hit given the work from home situation along with the onsite and offshore model. We started with 1-hour sessions every sprint where we discussed about our current roles, top motivations as a tester, strong traits, areas to improve and so on. We identified 4 main pillars which aligned with our test strategy and decided to focus on them. They were:
1) Test planning- start testing even before a single line of code is written
2) Test automation- reduce manual testing and make our frameworks robust
3) Empowering people- invest time to improve people’s domain and technical skills
4) Non-functional Testing- pay attention on non-functional requirements too during feature testing
We were quite a big crowd, so to tailor our sessions and efforts, committees were formed with their respective onsite and offshore leads for every pillar. Each committee came up with their own initiatives and worked in a group of 3-4 members. The groups had a 2-hour collaboration time every sprint and reported back their progress in the main QA Guild meeting. The committee leads kept an eye on whether the initiatives were running smoothly and to figure out if any support was needed. Me and the leads would have a catch up every week to align ourselves on the committed goals and to iron out any issues. Also, made sure these efforts put in by the testers can be showcased as part of their personal development plan (PDP) and add up to their year-end ratings
Once, we were all settled in our Guild roles, we extended the forum to all our stakeholders. Quality is everybody’s responsibility, after all! A big announcement was made, and we communicated with the rest of the development, what we were the doing till now, who were involved, the next steps and how can others join the Guild.
Mission of the QA Guild was to promote collaboration between various stakeholders and improve visibility on how we test our products.
The finished initiatives were presented in the sprint demos to other stakeholders. Some examples of those initiatives are creating test plans for the feature under test, parallel execution of the automated tests on Jenkins. Success emails were sent to the whole software development group as and when we hit a goal. This turned heads and even developers, architects, product owners, and salespeople started attending the Guild meetings. We called them ‘The Collaborators’ as they either worked on the initiative with the committee or provided their valuable feedback
As the Head of QA, I had the wonderful opportunity to bridge the gap between the QA Guild and the senior management. Most importantly, shine the light on the people behind the scenes creating a positive and inclusive environment for all the stakeholders. Based on these efforts, we were able to prioritise and bring forward a few technical debt features in the backlog and work on them. Settings milestones, ROIs and tracking them panned out naturally and got buy in from all the relevant parties too
Personally, I have experienced the power of a community and being in a positive inclusive environment. No matter the size of the group, if we bring in our perspectives, embrace our differences, share feedback, we can certainly grow together and achieve success. Hoping you find some inspiration or ideas to start a guild in your company or support someone who is venturing it!
Kiruthika has over 14 years of experience in the IT industry, working as a Developer, Tester and Tutor. However, testing is what she is really passionate about because one gets to experience the best of both worlds, from understanding what the customer really wants, through to seeing how the magic really happens. Also, a big advocate of Women in Tech initiatives. When she is not working, Kika loves spending time with her kids and enjoys writing short stories.