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arnabroychowdhury for LambdaTest

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Top 13 Skills of A Good QA Manager in 2021

I believe that to work as a QA Manager is often considered underrated in terms of work pressure. To utilize numerous employees who have varied expertise from one subject to another, in an optimal way. It becomes a challenge to bring them all up to the pace with the Agile development model, along with a healthy, competitive environment, without affecting the project deadlines. Skills for QA manager is one umbrella which should have a mix of technical & non-technical traits. Finding a combination of both is difficult for organizations to find in one individual, and as an individual to accumulate the combination of both, technical + non-technical traits are a challenge in itself.

Here, I will be talking about the top 13 skills for QA manager which will help you be the leader of an organization’s “dream team”.

Having An Effective Communication Skill

Excellent written as well as verbal communication is the most pivotal skills for QA managers. As a QA manager, you need to:

  • Effectively report the overall status of his team to higher management.

  • Ability to communicate properly with non-technical as well as technical people, especially explaining the technical challenges to the management team.

  • Should be able to diplomatically deny any request from higher management or the development team when the overall product quality is not perfect for release.

Conducting regular meetings also falls among the duties of a manager.

  • If the team is large, formal meetings should be conducted regularly where the agenda should be discussed prior to the meeting and a MOM should be sent to the team members after the meeting.

  • If the team is small, pre and post-meeting MOM is not necessary, a basic stand up meeting will be perfect.

Problem Solving

Once I worked on a project where the testing team faced a fast transition from manual to automation. Initially, when the team worked on manual testing, the test cases were not that much detailed since testers understood what they needed to do in each test cases. But when automation testing with Selenium came into play, multiple problems surfaced. Automation testers who were hired did not understand the test cases as they were not detailed enough. Here are 17 lessons for writing effective test cases. The tool they used could not support the bulk export of test cases and finally, the team had to answer to the management regarding where their work was blocked.

Problem-solving ability is a crucial skill for QA managers to deal with such unprecedented scenarios effectively.

If your project is developing a web application, the most common issue often faced is cross browser compatibility testing. If your project is in Agile, cross browser compatibility may not be specified in the requirement but may come as an enhancement request later on, once a demo is scheduled and the stakeholder finds out that the application is failing to render on the certain browser running on specific devices.

It is a best practice to incorporate the execution of cross browser testing in every sprint since it will take a lot of effort to do the testing of the entire application if cross browser compatibility comes later on as an additional request.

You can deal with such situations with such unprecedented scenarios by:

  • Training the testers from the beginning to follow standard procedures to avoid less detailed and bulky test cases.

  • Use mind maps and checklists which can replace the test cases.

  • Sort the problem according to complexity, start by solving the problem with minimum risk and complexity and move up higher.

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Hawk-Eyed Gaze Over Analytics

Another critical skill for QA managers is the ability to analyze the data with a keen eye for monitoring granular level details. Instead of only proving that an application is working fine, a QA manager should guide his team and in fact, work himself to recognize errors that are hidden. As a QA manager, you should be able to detect anomalies and guide your team on how to resolve it along with formulating a resolution strategy. Not only that, having a keen eye for details will also require him to take a quick look at the overall application and check if anything looks off when compared to the requirement specification.

Be Adaptable + Influential

People don’t like change, especially when it comes to the way they are doing things and having no problem while doing their job. However, you must adaptability and influence, are counted as a highly relevant skill for QA managers. As their job is to find out ways that make the team’s work easier and faster. Especially, in the current age of Agile when the stakeholders expect faster delivery, you must bring in a change to ensure that your team does not lag behind in comparison to others. As you bring something new on-board, it is important to encourage your colleagues and teammates to adapt the same for better productivity, individual output, and collective delivery.

  • Conduct an audit to find out if anything is wrong in the existing process, for example — the team may be facing a problem to maintain test scripts which are quite similar.

  • Discuss with the team and find out their opinion regarding what needs to change, for example setting up data-driven tests.

  • The final step is to implement the change and convincing the higher management why this change is required.

Visualization & Prioritization Of Business Scenarios

A test manager must be able to get an abstract idea from the client provided specs and visualize a real-time business situation. He must also be able to be ready for a knowledge sharing session with either his team or higher management if the situation arises. In short, the manager must also be able to play the role of a business analyst.

Apart from analyzing complex issues, visualization and prioritization of business scenarios are indispensable skills for QA managers. As a QA manager, you must also be able to anticipate a complex issue fluently by taking a look at the requirement. System simulation should fall among the qualities of a good QA manager. He should not focus on a particular defect, instead, he should focus on how a particular defect will impact the bigger picture. Since it is not possible for the entire team to block time for a brainstorming session, the manager should always be ready to help any resource in terms of sharing business knowledge as required.

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Time Management — Crucial in the Agile World

If you want to become a good QA manager, you should be able to adapt yourself as well as your time to keep in pace with the Agile world. You must always be ready to deal with the client whenever any critical change in the requirement arrives.

If your team is not able to deliver the work within the deadline, the blame will come upon you. Time management is a definite skill for QA managers, especially in the current world of DevOps and Agile. You along with your team should always be ready with the deliverables so that the management does not face any need to extend the deadline.

My suggestion to you would be to go for a good project management tools such as Jira, Asana which would offer a dashboard to help everyone understand what every member of the team is doing and when? Using a custom IM(Instant Messaging) web app such as Skype, Slack etc. would also help in collaborating better to pace up the project delivery. Here are top 19 collaboration tools for your software testing team.

Have a Strong Base in Programming

Programming languages are a must-have skill for QA managers. With the growing usage of automation tools, QA managers must also have a strong programming base to keep up with their team as well as understanding what the client needs. What programming language you should learn depends on the automation script used by your organization. For example, if your team works with Selenium WebDriver, you should have knowledge in JavaScript. On the other hand knowledge of Java or web services is needed if your project is using UFT. Apart from that, knowledge of SQL is something that every manager should possess no matter what automation tool your company is using. Apart from that, you should know the core fundamentals of BDD and object-oriented programming. This includes practical knowledge of Python, Ruby, and Perl as well. Here are top programming languages helpful for testers.

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Strong Negotiation Skills

The situation may often arise when you need to convince the stakeholders or higher management that their expectation from your team is not possible in real time. Let me explain by giving an example.

I’ve faced situations when the delivery deadline was getting nearer and some critical defects were not fixed yet. The development team’s priority was always high to the management and the testing team started getting emails to “cover it up” and pass the test case.

Often the same thing happened when stakeholders used to pick a “defect” even when everything was working fine as per requirement.

In case of the first scenario, a good QA manager should be able to diplomatically fight with the management explaining why his team is doing the right thing and how letting a critical defect go unfixed will impact the product or company’s reputation in the long run.

In the second scenario, the manager’s negotiating skill as a BA will matter most since he will be required to discuss with the stakeholder and point out how everything is working fine as per requirement. Remember, negotiating well is a skill for QA managers that all companies seek to have.

Be A Team Player

Quality of a good QA manager is to build up a “dream” team where the members, besides being skilled, appreciate each other’s work and behave more like a family where they cooperate, help each other and appreciate others as well. To build up a great team, you must

  • Organize budget-friendly events that involve team building activities and games.

  • During the lunch hours, take out your team together for lunch and have discussions on non-technical topics so that the team members become friendlier with you as well as among themselves.

  • Encourage your QA team to help and cooperate, other teams, especially the development team.

  • The most organization allows a quarterly or half-yearly budget to the project that is to be spent on events or parties. Even if your company does not have that, encourage your team to organize parties or outings where they can have a good time together not as colleagues, but as friends.

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Willingness To Help Your Team Members Grow As An Individual

This is one skill for QA managers that is often missed out by many. Stress is always going to be a part of your SDLC, due to narrow project deadlines. However, you should not stop individual growth for any resource who is working under your team. As a QA manager, you should remember to help your team members grow in their career. So that eventually when they become a manager, they follow you as an inspiration and help their resources, the same way as you did.

  • Start by spreading the best practices which you learned in your overall career as a quality analyst or a QA manager.

  • Organize internal as well as external training. Motivate your team members to attend those training by explaining how it will help in their career.

  • Work in a group to share the competencies among the entire team.

  • Also, don’t keep your team members too busy. Allow them some time and let them learn a few things by themselves. Especially if one of your team members is a fresher, start by keeping his workload light with no hurry or deadline so that he can learn to complete the work by himself without taking any help from the seniors.

Be Bold and Confident

Confidence! A primary skill for QA managers around the globe. A manager acts like the leader of the entire team. And self confidence is the base of leadership. Be bold and confident whenever you are about to express your opinion to your superiors or your team. Let’s suppose the stakeholder of your project is making a sudden change request just when delivery time is getting closer. If you are not bold enough to politely refuse his request thinking that what the management or the client will think about you, your entire team will suffer because of the unnecessary work. Even the higher management will not like it that being a QA manager, you accept whatever requests the stakeholders make. Yes, the person on the other side may be superior in terms of designation, but if you think that your decision is right, you must not be afraid to act on it.

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Be Skeptical For Traditional Prejudices

A good relationship between different teams in a project adds a lot of value to the company’s overall work culture. As a QA manager, you can either contribute to an inspiring environment or foster a pessimistic work culture.

A criticized product of the traditional waterfall model is the conventional “testers vs developers” mentality, that separated the process, timeline and role among developers and testers. This mentality still exists with the advancement of continuous testing in DevOps and Agile.

If you keep on fostering this superstitious mentality, a barrier gets created between testers and developers, resulting in conversation barriers in the worst case, which can impact the quality of a product. Discourage if you spot any team member behaving like this and try to find out the root cause of why this belief is existing in your team?

Read The Situation — Know When to Step in or Step Aside

You must trust your team and know what your team members are capable of. They must not always depend on you to guide them and sometimes, they should be able to figure things on their own. A team that is high performing does not need any tool, process or person standing in their way. Those teams always take the initiative and are self-directing. If you step in too often, the testers will get a message that they are required to come to you before taking any decision and ask for permission. This will reduce the team’s moral and impact their work.

However, if you don’t step in when required, the work will definitely be impacted. Use your intuition and take a situational approach to decide where your presence is needed, and thus, help your team accordingly, instead of depending on contemporary procedures.

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So, What Makes A Good QA Manager?

Is it is technical skills, the certifications, years of experience in software testing or keeping up with the current testing trends such as Shift-left testing, IoT, Automation testing and more! Well, you need all of that, but most importantly you need an ability to create and work with a creative team where each and every member are equally valuable and irreplaceable for the organization. You need to understand your role as a manager as well as how to effectively use your leadership skills which will not only make our team stand out, but also make you inspiration in the eyes of your team members. All the best!

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