9 Steps to Becoming a Great QA Lead

Mush Honda
Vice President of Testing at KMS Technology

At some point in their career path, don’t all Senior Testers want the responsibility of being a QA Lead?

Becoming a QA Lead isn’t just about how good of a tester you are. Once you’re a great tester you need to develop specific skills to be effective in a QA Lead role.

First, let’s look at the typical expectations of this role:

  • Effectively manage a test team (usually 5 or more)
  • Understand the testing process
  • Implement a testing process
  • Define scope of testing in projects
  • Deploy and manage test frameworks
  • Implement and record QA metrics
  • Manage and select QA tools & processes

It is important that you work on the following mindsets, in addition to testing skills, as your career progresses. While doing so will help you attain your individual goals, and also benefit your projects. If a team is working with these mindsets together, collectively, they’ll deliver higher quality work.

1. Learn how to influence project members in a positive way

Build enthusiasm and team morale with non-work activities and recognition, engage in discussions of technology & test approaches/solutions with the team, identify strengths of the team members and leverage them within the projects, build a positive attitude and learn from past mistakes, establish team vision and objectives with a team charter, provide responsible autonomy where possible. Creating this positive team atmosphere demonstrates both leadership and management capability.

2. Report your findings in context of its business value

Focus on the data that is being communicated back to stakeholders, from your findings as part of testing – the data should be in context of “how” the behavior observed is detrimental to the objective of the feature or application being developed.

3. Be a provider of information and service, rather than a process enforcer

Identify as much information about your findings that help track the root cause of the issue, and learn to offer your validation and analysis services as frequently as possible to the developers on the team.

4. Learn to provide and identify information to make informed decisions versus simple “bug notes”

Rather than appear as a “gate-keeper” of quality, learn to present findings and recommendations of its impact to the end goal of the application or feature under test – this will allow the project stakeholders to make the correct decisions, as well as help the developers isolate and resolve identified errors.

5. Focus on exploring and learning about the products that you test

Build your domain knowledge about the product, along with understanding the business objectives of the product. Exploring the product will help identify new features that may not have been clearly designed or implemented. Questions raised by testers often help product owners with better workflow designs and developers with better scenario implementations.

6. Learn to identify items that slow down testing

Analyze how testers spend their time on most working days. Pay attention to the effort associated with setting up the test environment, test data, test prerequisites, etc as these are the best candidates for reuse and streamlining. Tracking effort and time on these will also let you evaluate where actual ‘testing’ time is being spent on a project, and help improve on tasks that are slowing the team delivery down.

7. Recognize the extent that automation offers to your project, and also identify its limits

Understanding scope of automation framework will enable you to establish a balanced test approach, allowing you to leverage the benefits of automation testing, while allowing you to balance the creation, execution, and maintenance effort associated with automation for delivering the maximum ROI from testing.

8. Sharpen your technical, testing and business skills

A great tester never stops learning. Continuing your education as a tester is critical to a long career that advances in leadership. Be sure to stay on top of the industry’s latest trends, attend educational training, and study great leadership styles.

9. Share your experiences – successes and failures

Attending local testing and QA meetups allows you to share your experiences and receive advice from others in similar situations. If there are no local meetups in your area, forums on Software Testing Club or LinkedIn are a great start to find other testers to network with.

Remember, even if your goal is not to be the QA Lead, mastering these mindsets is critical to becoming the best possible team player and ultimately, a better tester.


KMS Technology blog.

About the author

Mush Honda is the Vice President of Testing at KMS Technology. He is a driven IT leader with over 15 years of experience in software testing and practice management.

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