First Days as a QA Lead: Dos and Don'ts

April 26, 2019
John Kensinger
John Kensinger

Traditionally, roles in software enterprises were pretty clearly defined. As a QA manager, you could direct your team to test software and find defects, which were reported back to developers. But today, many enterprises are moving toward creating a DevOps culture. Lines between the QA teams and developers are less defined because everyone is now working together to focus on overlapping efforts, such as user experience, and ultimately, efficiently creating high-quality software. A DevOps culture emphasizes strong communication and collaboration between departments. Whether you are joining an enterprise that already has a DevOps culture in place or one that is looking to implement that change, there are some Dos and Don’ts you’ll want to consider as you take on your new role as a QA Lead.

According to Lena Katz, in her article, “Do We Still Need a QA Manager’s Role in Agile Organizations?,” there are a handful of best practices to guide you in your first days as a QA team lead:

  • Do build your QA team with care, employing the right number of people and defining their responsibilities and roles on the team.
  • Do set a few basic ground rules, such as which testing tools your team will use, how you will define defect statuses, and the methodologies you will use.
  • Do establish how you plan to measure the quality of delivery.
  • Do be flexible and willing to move testers and developers around when it’s necessary.
  • Do look at the big picture and work as a bridge between test and development.

Because a DevOps culture emphasizes everyone working toward a common goal, you’ll also want to be cognizant about how you conduct yourself and your team, not just initially, but on a regular basis. Your goal as a QA Lead should be to facilitate cooperation and strengthen relationships between your testers and software developers. Consequently, in addition to implementing the best practices above, you’ll also want to avoid common pitfalls early on that can create issues later down the road:

  • Don’t take on an “us vs. them” attitude in regard to developers. Remember, everyone should be working together for the greater good of the build.
  • Don’t assume that developers know what your team is focused on, unless you have brought them into the full picture.
  • Don’t just test to test. In an agile environment, your testing should be centered around your customers’ needs and improving the user experience.
  • Don’t fight over every defect. By defining early on what your standard threshold is, it should be clear when you shouldn’t compromise and when you need to let things go.
  • Don’t punish developers over a defect. According to Ori Bendet, this is the worst thing you could do as a QA Lead because it can “alienate the developer.” Rather than completely stalling the project, consider releasing just part of the new feature to see how users respond.

Ultimately, your first days as a QA Lead can start you on the path to successful software releases. Our CEO, Phil Soffer, tunes in on Quora where he mentions:

“You will build credibility with your manager/management team by understanding what their goals are, and what numbers they’re managing to, and then helping them move those numbers. For instance, if they’re trying to ship faster, there are things a QA Lead can do to help achieve that.”

It’s not enough anymore for a QA Lead to just keep up with the latest testing trends, implement tests, and manage testers. By communicating your standards and expectations, by facilitating communication between testers and developers, and by showing your dedication to improving the product, you play a vital role in creating and maintaining a DevOps culture (a culture that is not just agile but also recognizes the significance of positive user experiences). It really comes back to the importance of seeing the big picture and remembering that you all have one goal: To produce high quality software that people can trust and use time and again.

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