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I have 7 years of experience in testing and recently I have assumed the role of test lead. I have to manage a team of 7-8 testers and our work is mostly comprised of Manual Testing.

I want to know in order to become a competent test lead what skills and technologies I should learn or acquire so that I can get the best out of my team & also improve the overall process?

Any suggested books or blogs or tools?

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3 Answers 3

First off, everything I say here should be checked against your job description - that's going to tell you what your employer expects of you.

As a lead, you probably don't have hire/fire responsibility (that usually goes with the manager title), so your employer's expectations will probably fall into these areas:

  • resource management - making sure that all of your team members have sufficient work to cover without overloading them.
  • mentoring - guiding your team members and helping to improve their skills.
  • evaluation - assessing how well your team members are doing, most likely linked to whether or not they're going to get a pay raise.

What you actually do should include those areas, but add:

  • acting as the buffer zone or "Speaker to Management" for you team - a big part of what you do will be taking whatever heat is coming from management so your team can get on with their jobs. You'll also be phrasing test outcomes in ways that your manager (who probably doesn't have a background in testing) can understand and more importantly support.
  • acting as the team go-getter - if one of your team members needs something to do his or her job more effectively, it's up to you to make sure they get it and get it quickly (Expect arguments about what constitutes 'need' - many places put a low priority on tester equipment, so chances are you're going to have to make a solid financial case).
  • providing or building tools to enhance team productivity - this can be as simple as arranging for team group email lists and as complex as setting up and maintaining reporting tools, test hardware, automation systems, and in some cases a complete dedicated test subnet. You don't need to do it all yourself, but you're likely to be the driving force behind making things like this happen.

For useful websites, my first recommendation is always Joe Strazzere's All Things Quality. Joe has a wealth of solid, useful information in his blog, most of it from his many years of experience in the field.

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Good answer (and not because you mentioned my blog!) Some Leads also have Scheduling and Estimation as part of their roles - if that's you, you'll need to acquire that as a skill as well. And while you may not have hire/fire responsibilities, you may have performance review/assessment responsibilities. That may need to be added to your skill set. –  Joe Strazzere Apr 7 at 20:33

Lot's of good suggestions. Summarizing few more one liners for Senior QA / Lead's

  • Self Organized
  • Challenges the Environment, Raise testing standards by experimenting new processes/Adopting new Tools
  • Aware of Test Automation Framework Design and Development (Learn if you are not aware of Automation practice)
  • Sound Technical Skills, Selfless, Volunteers/mentors team in terms of process/sharing best practices
  • Good Listener, Actively involves/drives meaningful discussions and implements best practices
  • Takes calculated risks and delivers products meeting quality bar
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1  
Especially agree with "Challenges the environment" and "Selfless" –  Sam Woods Apr 12 at 6:36

I have over 15 years experience in QA and automation, and am in my first role as a lead, where I have been for less than a year. I have tried to emulate some of the good qualities that I have observed in leads that I really looked up to and respected. I'm not going to repeat other answers, so I'll list a few things in addition to the other answers already out there:

  • Know the challenges and problem spaces of your team inside and out. You will not only need to communicate - sometimes at a very low level - about these things to those above you, but your team will respect you for understanding. If you don't understand the challenges your team has, your team will feel like they're in it without support, or that you're out of touch.
  • Roll up your sleeves and help out whenever you can. This will raise morale, build a mutual respect between you and your team members, keep your skills and domain knowledge sharp, and help your team feel like you will do anything to support them, including getting down in the trenches with them. Not doing this can make you seem disconnected, or not supportive.
  • Seek input and consensus. DON'T MICRO-MANAGE. Give your team and team members an end result that you want. Offer ideas, discuss their ideas, but ultimately let them own the implementation of getting to that result. Don't be afraid to get involved from a time management perspective, and to point out flaws in a constructive way, but also don't force a solution on them. In the case of different opinions on the team, be the tie-breaker, but be diplomatic and give some logical explanation for your decision.
  • Praise your team. This one seems self explanatory, but is so often overlooked. A simple thank you, or great work, or awesome job can go a long ways towards keeping people happy and motivated.
  • Recognize and promote your team. Do not take credit for what your team does, be humble and give credit by name where credit is due. Your team will love you, and your manager and upper management will love you.
  • Assign tasks with purpose - I'm bad at this one :-). When you ask someone to own something, be clear on what exactly you expect as the end result, and what the timeline is. Check in with them part-way through (or multiple times depending on how long of a task it is) to make sure the task is still on time, and on track. Also allow people to finish the task and not switch context on them a hundred times in the middle.
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