Are you planning to move up to QA Lead position?
Or if you are recently promoted to Lead position and thinking how to improve yourself?
If the answer is yes for any of these questions, then this edition will be for you.
I have gone through this role.
Based on my experience & hard learnings, I will share some actionable tips. These will help you to become a great Test Lead. You don’t have to learn from experience. You can learn from my experience.
Easy right ?
I have nearly 2 decades of experience.
All of this experience is in testing domain. I have started my career with Software Engineer-Testing. That was the learning school for me. That is learn on the job. I knew nothing about testing. So all I learnt is by doing.
Get your hands dirty. You will learn.
A Test lead plays dual role.
He does testing himself. That is he is hands-on. He writes test cases, executes them. He writes automated scripts, does code review and also executes those scripts. Reports bugs. These are all done by junior tester as well.
With these tasks, he does additional things.
These will be lead specific tasks.
He assigns tasks. Does effort estimation. Prepares different documents like Test strategy, Test Plan. Communicates with other teams like development, IT, Product, Customer support teams.
And he makes sure that tasks assigned are completed.
He is accountable for testing.
He is answerable for any slippages in estimation. So, he carries lot of responsibilities.
He is a sandwich — between Management and his team !
So, as I said, following are the actionable tips you can follow.
Let’s dive it:
Set Clear Expectations:
Clearly define roles responsibilities.
And set expectations for your QA team members. This ensures everyone in the team knows their tasks and helps maintain accountability.
Do not leave any room for assumptions. You know what, if people are given responsibility, they feel proud. They own it and make sure it is executed well.
As a lead of your team, you can assign responsibilities based on their level of expertise.
Create Detailed Test Plans:
Prepare the test plan.
Develop a comprehensive test plan. It should outline testing objectives, scope, methodologies, and acceptance criteria. It should include estimation, schedule, resources, risks and mitigation plan.
This provides a clear roadmap for testing efforts.
Share this test plan to other stake holders.
It is the way of communicating your testing plan, efforts to other teams. Example: Development, Product teams. These documents help your testing and its plan to be transparent.
100% testing is not always possible.
Therefore, identify critical features and functionalities that need rigorous testing. Focus your team’s efforts on these. Also, concentrate on the areas that have the most impact on product quality.
Testing high priority features helps you in getting confidence in the quality.
Automate Where Possible:
Automation helps in faster execution.
Implement test automation for repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Automated tests improve efficiency and help catch regression bugs in the initial testing cycle.
Automation should support the manual testing.
It can not replace manual testing.
Be aware that automation is not task. It is a project in itself.
Do proper analysis and study the returns before you decide to automate.
Encourage Knowledge Sharing:
No one is perfect.
Testing is a team effort. Since you have assigned different responsibilities to team members, they would be experts in those areas. They might have little idea on other tasks. Example, person who is performing manual testing is strong in testing fundamentals.
He/she might not have idea on automation.
So, organize regular knowledge-sharing sessions. Here team members can discuss challenges, share best practices, and learn from each other’s experiences.
As a test lead, you ensure that all are getting benefited from these sessions.
Implement Code Reviews:
Automated testing is a project in itself.
It has analysis, development, testing and release phases. In the development phase, code reviews is important activity.
This ensures that potential quality issues are caught early in the script development process.
Robust scripts help in quicker execution and bug identification.
You can do peer review individually or do it in team meeting together.
Use Test Management Tools:
Test management is crucial.
You need to manage requirements, test cases, plan and track execution, report and track bugs and generate appropriate reports based on the need.
There are lot of tools available in the market.
Leverage these test management tools to organize test cases, track progress, and generate meaningful reports for stakeholders.
In the distributed teams, it is a must to have great tools.
Monitor and Analyze Metrics:
Metrics are important to measure quality.
Keep an eye on testing metrics. For example, defect density, test coverage, execution reports, and defect trends.
Use these metrics to make informed decisions and track improvements.
Also, share the required metrics to stake holders. Frequently.
Caution here: Do not share unwanted metrics to other stake holders. This can have adverse effects !
Testing in silos in dangerous.
It is a team activity. So, foster a collaborative environment. Where QA, development, and other teams work together. This collaboration helps to address quality issues and enhance the overall product.
Not only with the external teams, collaboration is important within testing teams.
Make sure that, as a Lead, you drive this.
Document is super important.
Maintain well-organized documentation. This can be for test cases, best practices, procedures, and findings etc. This ensures consistency and helps team members access information easily.
This documentation helps new joinees as well.
You can revisit these documents in future and revise, evolve from where you are.
As an aspiring great QA lead, you need to lead by example.
You yourself make documents and involve other team members so that they can also inculcate this habit.
This one is my favorite.
You need to keep learning. Learn new soft skills, technical skills. Always. You need to unlearn old skills, learn new skills. Master them.
Stay updated with the latest testing tools, techniques, and industry trends.
Make learning a habit.
This habit is contagious. The learning habit encourages your team. They keep learning and you will grow together.
You can nominate team members to to attend workshops, webinars, and conferences.
Ask them to share the learning, once they are back.
Emphasize User-Centric Testing:
You are building product to solve user’s problem.
So know who is the user of the product. Know what problem the product is solving. Understand user’s requirements-both documented and un-documented.
Focus on testing from the end user’s perspective.
Consider usability, user experience, and real-world scenarios during testing.
Think like you do not have any idea on the product. Keep exploring.
Keep uncovering bugs.
If possible join the Requirement gathering/product discovery workshops. There you will get first hand data about user and his/her requirements.
Practice Risk-Based Testing:
Generally, you will not have sufficient time to test everything.
So, you need to have some strategy to test. I suggest risk-based testing strategy. Identify and assess risks associated with different features. This you can also do by setting the priority to features and/or test cases.
Then, allocate testing efforts based on the potential impact of defects.
Usually, I do impact analysis.
Make a list of impacted features bases on the code fix/new feature. Then I set priority for each of them. This is based on many factors like most impacted feature, most critical feature, most used feature by user, etc.
Then I allocate testing of these prioritized features tasks to team.
This helps you in getting the confidence of the quality.
Provide Constructive Feedback:
You are working with your team. Daily.
You know who is who. How each one is working. You are the person who knows the strengths and weaknesses of each team member.
Meet team member who needs improvement.
Let him know where he is lagging.
Ask him what are his challenges. Help him to understand what are the expectations from him. Guide him, if required.
Make sure that you are support him to achieve more.
Because, your growth is teams growth.
Team’s growth is your growth.
Stay Calm Under Pressure:
Being ‘QA Lead’ is not easy.
Generally there will be tough times. You often face tight deadlines and high-pressure situations. Sometimes you may not get expected support from your team.
Maintain composure and be cool.
Smooth sails do not make a great sailor !
Guide your team effectively through these situations.
Your great qualities will be known only during challenging times. Do not react to the situations. Take time to analyse and arrive at the decision. Do not jump to conclusion.
Achievements are achievements.
Recognize the effort put by team mate. Congratulate and appreciate in the group.
Achievement can be a certification, development of challenging automation script or some initiative that save time, anything.
Acknowledge and celebrate milestones, successful releases, and improvements in the QA process.
Throw a quick party- a coffee treat, or a Pizza treat.
This boosts team morale and motivation.
Be Open to Feedback:
As a lead, you are always a learner.
Learning comes from feedback. As you give constructive feedback to you team, be open to accept the feedback. Ask feedback from your team on your leadership and the QA process.
Use their input to refine your approach and make necessary adjustments.
More than this, you need to get feedback from your manager.
A good manager assesses your strengths.
He makes sure that you perform to your capabilities. So listen to his feedback. Work on it. Do not argue.
Also request feedback from your peers.
Learn from developers you work with, get comments from product manager, development manager, basically from all your internal stake holders.
You will get 360 degree feedback about yourself.
Work that and it ill create wonders.
You are supporting product team to deliver quality product.
So, cultivate positive relationships with stakeholders, project managers, and developers. Help them unconditionally whenever there is need for them.
Provide required data so that they make informed decisions.
Effective communication and collaboration are key to success.
These tips are purely based on my years of experience in software testing. My learnings and observations. You can use them so that you do not have spend time in learning all of these.
Keep learning, motivate the teams, help them grow. You too can grow with them.
If you need my further guidance, please reach out to me on linkedin