Tester’s Diary: Reluctant Leadership, Part 2

This is a guest posting by Carol Brands.

The part of leadership I look forward to the least may be the meetings. This is a strange feeling for me, because I used to love attending meetings. They felt like a break from a busy day. All-hands meetings felt like a time to sit quietly, listen and contemplate instead of busily working through test charters. They were an opportunity to “turn off” for a while and just be still.

I enjoyed attending product meetings, too. They were a good time to speak up and collaborate with my coworkers. At a time when the test team didn’t have much interaction with the developers, project meetings felt like a great opportunity to learn about upcoming development and share our insights directly. The meetings I attended as an individual contributor felt immensely valuable.

But I’m learning that it’s entirely different to attend a meeting in a leader capacity.

Recently, my manager experienced a medical crisis in his family. As a result, he hasn’t been able to attend all of the meetings for our current project. I’ve been asked to sit in on those meetings, both to report the testing status on the project and to be his eyes and ears to keep him in the loop.

However, these meetings are challenging to sit through. Unlike most meetings I’ve attended before, all stakeholders are included. This means representatives from development, product management, project management, test, support, consulting, sales and marketing are all present.

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Learning to Make the Most of the Meetings Where Possible

Product meetings, Leading meetings, Leadership, Test Lead, Challenging meetings, Making the most of test meetings, Collaborative leadership, Leadership role, Leadership style.

In each meeting, we listen to the status of each group, then examine the project plan to determine whether we are on target or behind. I’m fairly comfortable listening to the status of the development team, and I have been working on ways to deliver a meaningful status for the test team. Initially, I focused on numbers: the number of accepted stories, the number of completed test charters, the number of hours spent testing. However, I soon realized that this wasn’t really telling the story of our test status.

I began focusing on telling specific stories of what was holding testing back. Bringing up that an environment problem was slowing us down increased the prioritization of fixing the environment, compared to just bringing the problem up in our daily standups. Once I began talking about testing stories instead of testing numbers, this meeting became much more valuable to me — and I was providing more value to the stakeholders as well.

The hardest part of the meeting is sitting through the financial projections. While I realize my work is a part of these numbers, I don’t have much control over them, and there’s nothing I can offer to this part of the conversation. It’s just long and boring. I’d hoped that over time I’d start to understand this part of the meeting a little better, but even with asking questions and listening as best I can, it still feels a little opaque at best, and like a waste of time at worst.

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The Highlights of Moving into a Leadership Role

Product meetings, Leading meetings, Leadership, Test Lead, Challenging meetings, Making the most of test meetings, Collaborative leadership, Leadership role, Leadership style.

So far, the best part of moving into a leadership role has been participating in a series of training sessions designed by my company for upcoming leaders. Through this class I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about myself and how I interact with others. I love working with other people, so learning about effective leadership methods has been interesting and helpful.

In one course, we learned about our leadership style. By taking an online test, I discovered that I am a collaborative leader, as opposed to a passive or more aggressive leader. I guess that explains why I used to enjoy meetings so much! The webinars have also touched on things like giving end-of-year reviews, managing personal stress and handling conflict. I’ve learned techniques that I’m really looking forward to using as a leader on the test team to help us be effective and efficient.

Overall, there are both aspects of leadership I’m really looking forward to and aspects I’m dreading. I’m hoping that being able to help my team be successful and fulfill their individual professional goals will be motivation enough to overlook the struggle of endless meetings.

This is a guest posting by Carol Brands. Carol is a Software Tester at DNV GL Software. Originally from New Orleans, she is now based in Oregon and has lived there for about 13 years. Carol is also a volunteer at the Association for Software Testing.

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