Why Test Managers Need to Stay on Their Toes

Advanced Topics — Published June 12, 2017

Back in 1959 to 1964, there was a popular TV show in America called “The Twilight Zone”. Over these five years, the show would release more than 150 episodes. It would continue to play in syndication for several decades to follow. In the 1980s, I was obsessed with it. Each episode was a different type of genre, one of which the viewer would either be frightened, confused, or excited, but always leaving with a “moral of the story” from the host, Rod Serling. I’ll jump into how “The Twilight Zone” connects to testing and test managers later on, but for now, a bit more background on the show. 

It’s easy for me to select my favorite episode out of the 156 episodes that aired. Mine was Season 1, Episode 8 which was entitled “Time Enough At Last”. The lead actor in this episode was Burgess Merideth, who played a humble, timid banker, with SUPER THICK eye glasses, who loved to read books (his poor eyesight comes into play later in the story). His wife, friends, and coworkers made fun of him for his love of reading, and he tried to find ways to sneak around and read every day. At the climax of the story, he was hiding in the bank vault where he worked when a nuclear bomb exploded. As he steps out of the vault, he realizes that the world is desolate, and he is the only survivor.

At first, the banker is sad and lonely, and then he finds the holy grail… a library! He begins stacking the books and celebrating, mumbling to himself that he will read one stack this month, the next stack the following month, and so on. And just as he sits down to read the first of many books, he stumbles, and his eye-glasses fall to the ground and they break into pieces. The man is faced with the painful realization that while he was finally left alone to do as he wished, he could no longer simply accomplish his desire to sit and read books without his glasses. He was now left without the ability to see clearly or read. He sits alone and says the following:

“That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all.
There was time now. There was all the time I needed.
That’s not fair.”

The show host leaves us with one final thought when he describes the banker as “a small man in glasses who wanted nothing but time.”

How does this relate to the purpose of this blog? The world is changing around us. For the longest time, technology changed in decades, or years. Today, things change daily, sometimes even hourly. And to keep up with the changes of the world, test managers and leaders must stay relevant and not become complacent.

I experienced this first as a manager in software development. I was a developer for almost 10 years before I became a manager. The experience of being a manager was fulfilling and amazing for me. However, by removing myself from hands-on development work, I was only able to fully understand the detailed technical code discussions while the languages they were using for coding were languages that I had used myself. As the landscape changed, and new coding languages, tools, and practices were introduced into development, I found myself less familiar with the coding work that was being done by the team. I had to then depend on their expertise for success within the team.

This is also happening in the software testing world. The landscape for products and applications is becoming widespread. We have the need for responsive web testing to ensure products work in every platform. We need cross-browser testing to ensure that regardless of what browser or operating system platform the customer or client uses, the project will work as expected. The speed of continuous delivery places tremendous need on test automation and visual testing, to enable more work to be accomplished in the background while testers work in the foreground.

The role of the test manager or leader is changing for many organizations. It is likely that most organizations would have used the test manager role the same as a development manager or PMO manager role – one where many day-to-day tasks are textbook PM roles.

In today’s world, test managers will be called on to roll up their sleeves, be more involved in the individual contributor tasks, and most of all, be technical savvy in those roles as well. Keeping relevant, as changes take place daily and monthly, will be critical. It will benefit the test manager to follow other leaders that are sharing their experiences, research for new tools and methodologies, and spend time with the testers to understand their struggles, their practices, and their ideas.

If you’re reading this article, then you are at least taking one of those steps. Congratulations! But there is more to do. Join social media networks where testing is discussed, share your inputs, learn from the others, and increase the community. Attend local meetups and testing conferences to share experiences and learnings with other testers and test managers. Read, read, and read some more! Keep up to date with new technology, new requirements in IT, and new advances in testing. Understand the technology, such as test automation, cross-browser testing tools, and visual testing tools, which will compliment your practice. Learn the latest trends and practices that will enable you to coach and mentor your teams on how to be more efficient and successful.

But whatever happens… DO NOT GET COMFORTABLE! DO NOT SIT DOWN! ACT NOW! Don’t be satisfied when you look around you and find that others have left you alone, where you are, doing things the way you have always done them in the past. You may be fooled into believing that you have all the time in the world to grow later and that you are safe surrounded by your “old books” (e.g. old practices, approaches, tools, methodologies). But you may soon find that you are unable to leverage them successfully anymore.

The last thing you want to do is to be so settled and relaxed with the same old things, only to find that you are now blind and unable to visualize the future anymore.

To read more about Applitools’ visual UI testing and Application Visual Management (AVM) solutions, check out the resources section on the Applitools website. To get started with Applitools, request a demo or sign up for a free Applitools account.


About the Author:

Mike Lyles is a QA Director with over 20 years of IT experience in multiple organizations, including Fortune 50 companies. He has exposure in various IT leadership roles: software development, program management office, and software testing. He has led various teams within testing organizations: functional testing, test environments, software configuration management, test data management, performance testing, test automation, and service virtualization. Mike has been successful in career development, team building, coaching, and mentoring of IT & QA professionals.

Mike has been an international keynote speaker at multiple conferences and events, and is regularly published in testing publications and magazines. Mike’s passion to help others improve and grow, in the field of testing, leadership, and management, is his key motivation. His first published book on leadership will be released early next year.

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