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Test Managers Who Were Never Testers November 9, 2009

Posted by yvettefrancino in Uncategorized.

There’s an active thread on the SoftwareTestingClub site asking if Test Managers who have never tested can be effective.  This is an extremely relevant topic for me because I, in fact, want to get a job as a QA /Software Test Manager, yet I’ve never been an individual contributor with the sole role of testing.  I’ve found this to be a major obstacle in getting a new job.  Hiring managers want to see years of experience in the role for which you’re wanting to manage.  I just got an email today saying I didn’t have the “depth of experience” necessary for the QA management job to which I’d applied.  I can understand how hiring managers would want evidence of test experience, yet it’s frustrating because (here comes a shameless plug) I know I’m an excellent Test Manager.  My best reviews at Sun were those I’d received as a QA Manager even though I had never been in QA.

I think what made me such a good QA manager was

1) I’d been a developer and a development manager for 17 years, so I was very familiar with development and test processes, even though I’d never been a tester.

2) Having been a developer, I understood the dynamics and the importance of a strong relationship between development, test, and the business.

3) My primary job was about managing the project, empowering the staff, and looking out for the needs of my team… not about the nuts and bolts of creating and executing scripts.

4) Not having a background myself in QA, I learned how to network and learn from experts, including my staff.  As a manager, we need a broad knowledge and know how to find the subject matter experts to consult with when we need them.  We should actually learn how to step back and let the experts do their job rather than trying to do it for them.

In reading through the 31 responses listed to the thread, here are a couple of opinions of what’s needed in a strong test manager.

satish kumar penisetty notes these skills that a strong test manager should have:

  1. Should have excellent knowledge of software development process
  2. Should always promote a positive atmosphere in the team
  3. Must promote teamwork to increase productivity
  4. Must maintain enthusiasm of team
  5. Must have preventive approach to the problems
  6. Must be able to promote cooperation between software, test, and QA engineers
  7. Should have the ability to promote improvements in QA processes
  8. Should have people judgement skills for hiring and keeping skilled personnel
  9. Should be able to organize meetings and keep them focused
  10. Good communication skills to communicate well with technical & non-technical people, engineers, managers and as well as with customers.
  11. Ability to say ‘no’ to other leads / managers when quality is insufficient or QA processes are not being adhered.

Iain McCowatt notes these attributes of a good test manager:

1) Test champion – responsible for educating the wider stakeholder group on the benefits and challenges involved in testing.

2) Test architect – responsible for analysing context, determining a strategy, identifying tool requirements, identifying suitable techniques.

3) Test coach – responsible for first implementation of the testing solution – leading by example – and then mentoring less experienced testers.

I feel confident my years of experience in development and QA management have provided me with these needed skills. But how do I prove that to employers?  Will additional education help? Do I need to get some contract jobs as a tester? This has been a dilemma for me since I’ve been job searching.

So the question becomes not whether someone can be a good Test Manager if they were never a tester (I know this to be true), but how does one prove this to potential employers?



1. Jim Hazen - November 9, 2009


Welcome to the world of employment in testing. Employers nowadays want someone who “has it all” (look at some postings and all you see is a shopping list) AND can manage too. Sucks… but that is what is happening now.

They want a “hands-on” manager and not “just” a manager. Meaning… we will give you the title of Manager, but you’ll be doing everything else instead.

Sorry for the bad news, way it is right now. But I know you’ll find a way around it. You have too much experience and knowledge that some company will wake up and bring you onboard. At least you have managed a Test/QA group before and have had direct experience with the business side. Show how that can be a benefit and how you can shore up the technical side and you’re golden.

Best to you.


yvettefrancino - November 9, 2009

Hi Jim, Yes, that’s what I’m finding. I’m hoping that my social media experience will help me stand out from the others. After all, I’ve found it’s not just what you know but who you know. That’s why I like to hob-nob with all you gurus! 😉


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