What does “Leadership in Testing” mean to me? — A perspective

From the start of my career, I have always tried to pave my path to success however, I’d sound ridiculous if I say that it’s only me who has been instrumental in shaping my career. I have had peers, mentors, coaches and leaders who at various stages in my career helped me to become a better tester, a better human.

Talking about leadership, there are certain skills we all look for in our leaders. Now as a tester, I always look for certain traits in a leader

- Non judgemental — As a tester, I have always believed that I should express my opinion freely. But at the same time, I was always conscious of being judged. This at times made me hold my words. However, I was fortunate to have worked with a few leaders who helped me break the barrier and gave me the confidence to call a spade a spade. These leaders let me express my ideas without any prejudice or being judgemental about my ideas. I was provided with opportunities that the freedom to experiment, fail and learn.

- Empathy — Probably one of the most important traits of a leader if not the most important one. It’s simply the ability of leaders to step into the shoes of their team to know where they are coming from and thereby having their back all the time. It’s a really tough thing to do and only those who do become great leaders. As a tester, I have always wanted my leaders to understand my perspective. Whether it is a bug that I am talking about and the developer is not convinced about it or a tool that I have chosen to augment my test approach and the management has reasons to reject my idea, a good leader would always know what’s my background and support me gather more data to put my case forward and in the right forums fight my case too.

- Make me feel safe- One of the major challenges that testers have is the lack of a safe environment. Unfortunately, the testing is a profession constantly fighting the battles for redemption not only in the industry but in society too. “What do you do as a tester more than a few mouse clicks?”, a question I have heard so many times. It breaks my heart and shatters my confidence. A good leader would listen to me, and would make me feel safe. I would feel happy in confiding with my leader and discussing my challenges, apprehensions and aspirations.

- Empower — Testing is all about feedback. Good testers are great at providing feedback. And one of the essential traits of great leaders in testing is that they encourage and empower the testers to provide honest feedback. They make sure that the value of every feedback is realized. I was always encouraged to provide feedback and supported with all the tools I would need to do my job better.

- Shape careers — Quite often we see testers talking about their career path. Some of the common questions are. — Does testing have a career path? Is manual testing dead? What will happen to me in an Agile project because there are no roles for test leads or managers? And more… Leaders in testing must help address these questions and encourage testers in their career journeys. Everyone wants that promotion, that swanky title for himself or herself. A good leader will help pave the way and build a roadmap for the testers to get their dreams fulfilled. They support their teams with their aspirations. Help create opportunities for testers to learn and grow.

- Culture of trust — Good testers are often seen by businesses as trusted partners. These are the people businesses rely on to help improve the product quality. In order to become a trusted partner, it is important that a culture of trust is fostered within the team and it is the leader of the team who drives it. All high performing teams are built around a culture of trust and is the hallmark of great leadership.

- Invigorate passion — Great leaders are driven by passion and so are great testers. Great leaders invigorate passion in their teams. For example, testers are empowered to experiment and propose ideas. Great leaders encourage experiments and allow room for failures. This gives confidence to the teams to work better.

- Foster collaboration — Collaboration is central to the success of teams. A great leader is one who foresters the culture of trust and collaboration. Great testing leaders enable their teams to work collaboratively with their counterparts in testing. For example build a culture of involving testers, developers, architects, product owners and stakeholders

- Educate – With several misconceptions, testing remains an afterthought in a lot of organizations. It becomes important that leaders educate testers and other stakeholders to learn and uphold the value of testing. These stakeholders may include folks from senior management who have no background in testing.

This is of course not an exhaustive list. Apart from these qualities they should have the other qualities of a leader as well. So what qualities do you look for in your testing leaders?

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Brijesh Deb

Brijesh Deb

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In God we trust, everything else I Test! Views expressed here are personal.