The journey of Leadership is exciting, but not easy. When I was promoted as a QA lead last year, I wondered what qualities or training I should undergo to become a successful leader. I was a little nervous about my new role. Am I suitable for this position? Many questions arose in my mind. There were training sessions conducted after being promoted. But I felt I want to learn and read more about leadership and there is something that can fill the missing gaps.
Then I looked back to the last few years of my career. I have observed my lead and learned how he handles things when I need a leader. He is ideal for my team.
Every human being is unique. We cannot imitate anyone. But we can always follow them by learning the good qualities from them. Observation is the best learning. We have heard about observational learning. This is one of the perfect examples of observational learning.
So I was confident and sure that I am in good hands. I have a new opportunity and there is a strong support system at my workplace. Lucky me, isn’t it.
Everyone might not be as fortunate as I am. New leaders have so many challenges in their path. There might not be anyone to whom we can look.
So I thought of writing this article to share a few qualities of my Lead which I have observed in the past few years and will be helpful for any newbie in this position.
It is undoubtedly the company and its work culture which gives freedom to its employees to make any decision that is best for the company. But then a leader has to support this. He plays a vital role in this.
I have seen my lead encouraging team members to explore any test tool or any new process which is best for the test team and the organization. He encourages the team to learn new test techniques or any test strategy and implement them at work wherever feasible. I strongly believe that productivity in work increases when we can make the right decisions freely and without interference from other people.
At times, we experience people in the team might not like the existing process or tool. There are always people who will oppose many things in the process and find out loopholes in the system or it might be any test tool.
Now, what should the leader do to keep the team in harmony?
One of the important qualities which I have observed in my lead is he won’t stop someone from giving feedback or criticizing. He believes that these categories of people are sometimes good for the organization and the team because it brings improvements. He keeps his calm and provides freedom to the people. He asks them to find new solutions to the existing problem or tool. If better solutions are provided or replacement is made, we can stop using the traditional one. Till then and at the same time, he is strict so that everyone abides by the existing process and toolset.
A tester has to deal with so many things other than testing the actual product. Much of the time is consumed while creating the environment for testing, appropriately managing the test cases, reporting a bug, explaining the issue to the developers, and so on.
Setting the environment for testing is not a one-time setup. Every day testers have to start the day by setting the right environment and toolset for testing. It might be launching a test machine, installation of an application, or connecting a device with the system and launching all the required configurations.
I have seen my lead taking initiatives to ease the tester’s work by implementing the right tools, executing good plans, automating the repetitive tasks so that the team can focus on the testing. He also explores and implements various tools for debugging, checking logs, and reporting issues, tools for capturing logs and screenshots/ videos which make the work easier for a tester and they can focus on the testing part.
Change Management is the set of tools, processes, and techniques that are used for helping individuals in transitioning from an existing state in the organization to a new state.
I still remember when my lead joined my company, the QA processes and techniques were not very stable. Being in the early growing phase, it was difficult to adopt a new process or technique in the organization. Even if there were processes in place, the implementation was not very strict. It was not easy to bring changes and make people abide by them.
He introduced a few new QA policies and strategies for the overall growth of the company. It was not adopted easily by the team members as well as the management. We know that Success does not come overnight. Patience is the key. So good processes have to be introduced but we have to be patient to bear their fruits. The good thing about my lead is being patient. He introduces, implements, and acts on the changes to make it fruitful. The organization and the team need time to get accustomed to new changes. Eventually, good processes were followed by everyone. The important thing is to stick to the good things, good will come to you.
A QA lead no doubt has to guide his team. He has to lead the team from the front. He has to work constantly to improve the QA process and provide the necessary action items to the team. Whenever a new testing concept or principle needs to be introduced in the organization, he has to act and find a solution according to the problem. Understanding in-depth the testing concepts and techniques is a must for a QA leader. Thus he has to be a test enthusiast. My lead is a test enthusiast who is a constant learner, implements the learnings, shares the learnings with the team, and can proactively give guidance.
The trust a lead builds and the trust he shows on the team are very important. When you do good for the team by empowering your teammates, good comes back to you. Trust is established when everyone feels important in the team, even the newest member. The importance of giving recognition and rewards, and also seeking opinions and ideas, and giving credit are very important for motivating the team members and also building trust. The importance of doing what’s right in nearly every situation and acting consistently can create respect for those around us. From this respect, you will gain the trust of your fellow team members. This is one of the important qualities which I have observed in my lead.
While managing a team, especially when a team grows in number, it becomes difficult for a lead to track releases and ongoing projects. He loses track of the work of his team members. When it comes to giving any feedback or before meeting for an appraisal meeting or the success of an automation suite or it might be a nomination for an award, it becomes difficult for him to make the right decision. He has to be very particular and should have evidence for truth for any decision made by him. So having proper data for each team member, an automation suite, project, and release are very important. The use of project management tools like Jira and tracking proper data is very important for a QA lead. He can have a clear and transparent vision on projects, releases, issues raised by each member of his team, and tickets raised by clients for each feature.
The next quality which I have observed in my lead is he always listens to the teammates first. Before being quick to judge someone for their actions, you should always try to put yourself in their shoes. Everyone is human, after all. In 1-1 meetings or team meetings, listen to your teammates. Understand what might be the problems they are facing. Sometimes it becomes important for you to be involved in testing so that you can understand their problems better.
Many times a QA engineer is blamed/questioned for missing an issue or taking extra time for testing or allocating a resource. In these situations, a leader has to make decisions and prove their points to the managers, developers, or stakeholders. It is always important to not argue unnecessarily. At the same time, it is important to stick to your points. My lead does a proper analysis of why the team is questioned. He validates his points with clear reasons and also positively takes the learnings.
Becoming a lead we often do not update our testing skills. We just know what are the products released, but we do not know them in detail and how to test them. It might not be always possible for QA Lead to find time for going through each feature in detail. But it is always helpful to organize group sessions, KT sessions, and bug bashes. A QA lead can actively participate in those sessions and test them and give feedback on the product. Test case reviews are another important part of testing. A QA Lead can always be part of a test case review. He will be knowing what are changes happening and he can give valuable feedback and can fill the missing gaps in the test cases. This will be again helpful for him to get the product updates and can get to know if any improvement is needed in testing.
A good leader can always show the right path to the teammates. Team members always look to their leader. We know actions speak louder than words. The good actions or paths are shown by the leaders are always followed by the team members. The leader plays a vital role in empowering the team member and guiding them in their professional growth.
A leader’s role changes depending on the team, culture, organization. We have always heard about being focussed, mindful, deliberate, consistent, strategic, which are a few of the qualities needed for being a successful leader. But how can we achieve them? In this article, I tried to recollect a few strategies and ways how things are handled by my lead. There is a long way for me to go in the leadership path and many things to learn. But I strongly believe my few learnings and observations might be helpful for any newbie in this position.
Geetima has around 7+ years of experience in the Software Testing field and has experience testing various features and handling multiple releases independently. Has exposure to API testing, load, memory testing, security, and power testing of devices. She is presently working as QA Lead at MoEngage and playing a role in improving and managing QA processes. Previously worked with Huawei Technologies and has tested various android devices and applications. She enjoys doing coding/ scripting and explores the right tools kit that can ease her testing projects. Have hands-on experience on applications like Postman-Newman, Cypress, Katalon, etc Originally from Guwahati in Assam, she currently lives in Bangalore with her husband & 3-year-old kid. In her free time, she loves reading books and sometimes writing. She is a fitness enthusiast & practice yoga& cardio. She also loves to tour with her family & friends