I recently decided to take a break from managerial roles and return to life as a simple tester. I assumed the stress would be less, I’d attend fewer meetings, I could just concentrate on my test assignments and go home at the end of the day and leave work at work. Yeah right! The bottom line – I really missed getting my hands dirty and doing the actual testing. My role as a test manager was much more “conceptual”. Providing test estimates, writing test plans and strategies, giving my “expert opinion.” And seemingly endless meetings! When I wasn’t in a meeting, I was in an office all by myself. Rarely interacting with anyone. It killed me. I absolutely hated it! I know – I’ll be a consultant!
As a consultant it’s easy to shift gears a little, I just had to modify my resume and remove all the managerial stuff and replace it with hands-on testing stuff. Then cast it into the water and see what bites. I got a lot of bites. But in spite of my best efforts, I was typically found to be over-qualified. A bit more tweaking was necessary. So I reworked my resume again and took a look at some of my responses to interview questions and revised them. It worked – I’ve been able to land a couple of pure testing roles. This is usually where the “and he lived happily ever after” line usually comes in. Not so much.
I found it really hard to take off my test manager’s hat. I was pretty successful as a test manager. I’ve written about test management, spoken about test management and taught test management, I know everything there is to possibly know about test management. I thought to myself – these people don’t know how lucky they are to get me. I could assume my “tester” role and at the same time help them improve their testing skills, test planning, defect management etc. It didn’t quite work out that way.
I learned a few things about myself though. First, that I can be a little over-bearing. OK – a lot. I’ve had to learn to just “shut up and test.” After all, that’s what they hired me to do. Not improve their test management. But it’s hard. After 20 years of doing this I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Whenever I saw something about to be implemented that had failed for me in the past I spent more time raising the “this ain’t gonna work” alarm rather than helping the team move forward. I admit it, I was somewhat of a whiner. That’s OK though – I’d just save up a big “I told you so” to use at the first opportunity. I rarely got that far.
Second – my opinions were rarely wanted. Just test! But you don’t understand – I am after all…me! People pay money to listen to me (sorta) and I’m giving it to you for free. What’s wrong with you people?
So what I’ve learned is this. Just because they don’t do things my way, it doesn’t make them wrong. They’re just different. Give ’em a chance. If I don’t like something or disagree – discuss it as a team member rather that crashing down on them with my “vast testing knowledge and experience”. People appreciate listening to ideas rather than having them shoved down their throats by “the consultant.” Consult – don’t dictate! Tell them your experience, offer suggestions, be there to help. I now tell test managers that I may disagree with something (I probably will). Take it for what it is – an idea. It’s me. It’s what I do. You don’t have to agree with me, but at least give me the opportunity to stick my two-cents worth in. Let me share my ideas and opinions – in private! You don’t have to agree with me – just listen. At the end of the day, we may disagree behind closed doors, but once they make a decision, I’m their biggest cheerleader.
Is it easy? No. I still struggle with it – everyday. Much of it is just my personality. Most of my previous consulting gigs were aimed at process improvement. Analyze, and make recommendations to improve. That’s not my role anymore. I’ll be honest, maybe it’s time for me to return to a test management role or a problem solving consultant role. But until then – with the exception of this blog and my quarterly “Last Word…” articles in The European Software Tester (T.E.S.T) magazine – I’ll just “shut up and test.”