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In some organizations, individual contributors have the opportunity to interview their prospective manager. What should testers look for in a testing manager?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

A good test manager has a number of key attributes. I tend to think that the best managers are like good, professional sports coaches.

  • They have played "the game", at the highest levels, they know what is required to be successful and achieve the results you are after. Translated, they should be a great tester themselves and be able to test hands on if required.

  • They should inspire others to greatness. A good manager should be able to motivate and inspire the team to function as a team, as opposed to a group of champions.

  • They should provide the best equipment. A good manager will ensure that the team has the tools that it needs to do the job, and do whatever is required to buy, build, beg, borrow or steal them. (Stealing not recommended).

  • They need to protect the team from outside influences. A good manager will act as a proxy for the team, and be their voice or fight the fight on their behalf, to clear any obstacles, allowing them to just get the job done.

So I would ask the question, "If you had to say you were a sports coach, or a military leader or politician, which would you pick and why?"

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I think your first point is one of the most crucial, all other leadership skills are quite common good for team managers. But imho for a testing team it is really crucial the manager has been a tester him/herself some time in the past. The discipline is underrated and uncared for enough as is. –  KillianDS Jun 22 '11 at 9:28
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I agree with all of your points except the first, Bruce. Managers need to be able to manage, just as testers need to be able to test. If the Manager knows what is required to be successful and achieve the results you are after, there's no need for them to also be a great tester. If your team is looking for occasional help, it's up to the Manager to find that help, not necessarily to be that help. (Know of any great sports coaches that aren't also the best athletes? I do.) –  Joe Strazzere Jun 22 '11 at 11:38
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@Joe Strazzere My experiance is the Test Manager is typically more Tester than Manager. So I think having solid experiance in the domain of testing is a must. –  Jeff Jun 22 '11 at 17:37
    
I would add that they also need to be detail oriented, have really thick skin, strong personality (stands firm on what has to be done), very good communication skills and discipline –  Jeff Jun 22 '11 at 17:38

Picking the right answer from the excellent advises given here also depends on the size of the team, a manager for a 2 person test team is different than a group of 300 testers.

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Agree with the above answers few more points based on my experience.A manager should be like a role model in every aspect. I would want the manager, 1. To be more patient and understand our problems. 2. Take good suggestions from the team members and implement the same.

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I would look for a leader rather than a manager. A leader who can inspire me and others on my team by sheer weight of his knowledge and work.

I agree with whatever has been said by Bruce and probably some of points below might look like rephrased sentences (still I would give it a shot)

  • One who enables the team to realize its potential by providing the support it takes
  • Someone who is like a breath of fresh air; bringing new ideas,insights and ways of working and thinking.
  • One whos is not afraid of getting his hands dirty with the real job every now and than.
  • Who can exert influence not only on the team but across the organization.
  • Who not only solves a problem for the team but puts in place proceses/systems which prevent similar situations in future.
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+1 for leader rather than manager –  semaj Jul 13 '11 at 15:54

I envy those organizations!

First, I'd think a testing manager would need to have experience working with a testing group - not necessarily as a manager, but certainly with some level of administrative experience.

I'd look for familiarity with a range of software development methodologies, particularly how the methodologies impact testers.

Willingness to advocate for the testing team even in the face of hostility from other aspects of the organization is a big plus - in a developer-centric organization, someone who's willing to fight for the need to test and to schedule regression is a massive plus (this kind of situation tends to be kind of rough on the poor sod who ends up there, though).

Flexibility about how things are done is essential: testing is one of those "there is no one, true way" kind of things where the right answer is the one that best fits the situation at the time - a person constantly trying to push those square pegs into every hole regardless of what shape the hole is isn't going to do well.

Technical expertise is nice-to-have, but without it a willingness to listen to the people who do have the technical knowledge (be it domain knowledge, tool knowledge, current skill-sets, or anything else) is essential. It's essential anyway, but becomes more important when the manager doesn't have the expertise themselves.

Probably the most important thing I'd look for is the ability - and willingness - to say to the team "This isn't working. I'm out of ideas. What do you all think?" And then listen to the responses and act on them. Because sometimes no matter how good someone is, they get it wrong.

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Yes to add few are team handling exp., superior thoughts in tackling things respect to QA. Ability to handle client pressure. –  Balaji Kothandaraman Aug 18 '11 at 11:24

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