Whether due to a recent company reorganization or business as usual, being a solo tester comes with a unique and demanding set of challenges. As a community builder in the software testing industry, I have heard my fair share of customer stories from solo testers, as well as lessons learned about moving quality forward as a team.
Read on to learn more about how to set realistic expectations, effectively juggling business and testing requirements, as well as how to build and leverage your own influence framework.
Identify the limitations of your team
As a solo tester, you may have found yourself in a hybrid role as part scrum master, part automation developer, part software quality champion, and team cheerleader. Finding the rhythm of successfully training your developers to successfully perform their unit tests, while maintaining test coverage is no easy task.
The secret that I have learned from past customers and effective solo testers has always been consistently clear communication of all team priorities. If everything is a priority, nothing is, right? As a solo tester, you can become a quasi quality manager for the entire team, but as I learned from one of my favorite past customers, the first step to managing a team without a title is to understand their limitations both in private and a group setting. Make the clearly agreed to shifting priorities centrally visible across channels as much as you can, while maintaining effective communication and smart time management, all crucial for successful team management as a solo tester.
Create an influence framework that works
Maybe you have been a solo tester at another company, but the same strategies are not working for you in your current org? No surprise here, but have you stopped to think about what your influence framework is for scaling software quality across your team? What are your three key leadership superpowers as a solo tester in your past role that made you successful?
For one of my former customers and automation developers, it was trust, flexibility, and visibility. Trust is not easily earned with your software development teams, but laying a foundation of time and consistency can help you build the trust that they need from you to effectively manage team output. In the same way, being agile and allowing for flexibility in constant reprioritization helps rethink monolithic and rigid value-based stereotypes that can be placed upon QA leaders. And lastly, for this leader, creating a space of visibility across the team and organization to shoutout their development teams key efforts were all cornerstones for effective leadership as a solo tester.
When you are struggling to champion quality, stop, and ask yourself what your three leadership superpowers are and how you can champion them into an influence framework that works for you and most importantly, your team. To be effective and visible, it's important to participate, put your voice out there and gather people for conversations, propose and be open to changes. It may take time and effort, but it's important to be visible and heard within the company, even if you're just one person.
How to leverage your new influence framework
Two common characteristics that I have seen in highly effective solo testers? Authenticity and self-awareness. The two must go together because while the company is aware that you are just one person, have you stopped to address your limitations as a solo tester? It’s easy to ride the early morning caffeinated-train of brilliantly proposed testing strategies, but only to get your ideas crushed by your team. But while you may feel that you are working solo, you are a part of a team, and as a servant leader, your ego has to go. The influence framework that you have created for you and your team is not fool-proof, but it is adaptable when you need it to be. Gather the feedback and carry on, but I am also always reminded by those successful solo testers from diverse lived backgrounds that championed quality across their team. The other secret? Authenticity.
We know that our ability to be our authentic selves helps build effective relationships of trust and influence with our cross-functional teams. When you lead with authenticity, you lead with inclusion, which helps drive results by way of best communicating internal buy-ins. This is especially important when you are one QA to 12 developers, and you are balancing writing test cases, participating in cross-functional teams, building automation frameworks and maintaining them, and management has no immediate plans to send you back-up. Understanding the team's limitations, while leveraging your influence framework is no silver bullet. However, with the unique challenges that come with being a solo tester, it can help with your planning of long-term solutions to long-term problems.
Maybe you are still building your own influence framework or perhaps you are looking for new ideas to effectively champion quality on your teams? Sometimes the best way can be learning from professionals that have been in the industry for longer than you and have some new ideas to share? Why not come to Agile Testing Days USA, an inclusive, continuous learning conference with 40+ international leaders to help you build your own influence framework?
💡If you want to join me and experience the Agile Testing Days USA yourself, make sure to use my 20% discount code Tristan_20, to be added at the last step of your registration.