Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Keep Your Hand In

I'm a manager now, for all intents and purposes. My primary job is to build a team, help them grow their skillsets, interface with the rest of the company (how's that for management speak!) on behalf of QA, etc.

But I always test every release.

It's important as a manager to keep your hand in, to stay involved with the actual work your employees do.

There are a lot of advantages to making sure you're still a tester, just like you're also a manager:
  • Timeliness. If you can still test, you can be the hands that help your team through a crisis. If you're the one who caused that crisis by overpromising or misestimating, this is particularly important - you broke it, you darn well better help fix it. Even if the crisis is externally driven, your testing can make sure that your team still comes in on time and with the level of testing you need.
  • Respect. Your team will respect someone who can walk in their shoes, who understands the ins and outs of testing. This is why I'm not a big fan of having a manager come in with no test experience. They don't have to have been a tester, but they need to have worked very closely with testers.
  • BS Meter. You hope this never happens, but sometimes one of your team members will try to lead you astray. Often this is saying something was tested when it wasn't thorough enough, or overestimating how long a test will take. If you still test, your skills and instincts will be fresh enough that you can call them on it.
  • Keep Current. Testing, like all software engineering, changes fast. The techniques, the tools, the languages, the sensitivities of the systems under test: all that will be different in two years. The best way to keep up is to keep testing.
There are some disadvantages to being a tester manager, however:
  • Longer Hours. Keep in mind that testing is on top of managing your team, not instead of. You'll find yourself doing most of your testing off hours.
  • Bailouts. If your team feels like you'll bail them out to make a deadline, they may decide to let you. Make sure that you're not letting them slack off while you do their work for them.
All in all, I prefer to be a manager who still tests, not just a manager.


  1. I admire you if you can find the time to keep involved in actually testing whilst doing the other management tasks. I find it almost impossible, althought this blog makes me want to challenge that impossibility...

  2. There are days it's not easy, and if I had to do it every day I wouldn't be able to. Every week or every release is more viable for me; it's up to you to choose your own frequency. So I block out meetings with "the lab" and work some extra hours because if I'm going to say it's important, then I'd darn well better do it!