Personal Insights: From Tech Expert to Team Leader, Navigating Managerial and Product Challengesby@shad0wpuppet
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Personal Insights: From Tech Expert to Team Leader, Navigating Managerial and Product Challenges

by Konstantin SakhchinskiyJanuary 25th, 2024
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Firsthand experiences of a tech expert's transition into leadership roles, managing managerial, product, and technical challenges. From transforming testing practices to addressing bugs and security vulnerabilities, discover strategic decisions and leadership actions that drive success in engineering teams. Learn how proactive approaches, transparent QA practices, and fostering a culture of excellence lead to more frequent, stable releases, and enhanced product quality. Explore the importance of QA responsibilities in IT consulting and problem-solving within software development teams.
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In my personal experience, I've learned firsthand how tech experts can seamlessly transition into leadership roles, effectively managing both managerial and product challenges.

I would like to share with you my leadership experiences as an example where certain situations presented unique challenges and opportunities for growth. While these examples can’t serve as a template for answering leadership or strategy questions in interviews, they do illustrate how engineers can encounter such opportunities and challenges requiring a non-technical skill set using their domain knowledge. I'll share some examples, highlighting not only technical achievements but also strategic decisions and leadership actions that have driven success.

The Transformation of Our Testing Practices.

In a project, we faced the common challenge of expanding test coverage while reducing testing cycle time. Recognizing the limitations of manual testing, I proposed an obvious strategy - a shift towards automation. However, implementing this strategy was not a task I could undertake alone. It required a collaborative effort and technical expertise from the entire team. Through meticulous planning and coordination, I developed the design of the strategy and test plan, outlining activities and sprints, setting priorities, and crafting checklists. With approval from stakeholders, we embarked on the journey to implement auto tests covering a wide range of entities and actions. This initiative yielded remarkable results, with a notable 15% reduction in testing cycle time and a significant increase in test coverage.

Improvements, Bugs, and Security Vulnerabilities.

We encountered numerous hidden bugs, including major security vulnerabilities, which prompted a deeper dive into exploratory testing. By leveraging the technical expertise of my team members, we uncovered these elusive bugs, fortifying our products against potential threats. I made security checks mandatory in the dev cycle before shipping any major changes or new features. Despite the fact we lacked expertise, I constantly consulted with cybersecurity professionals and formed a security checklist with the additional usage of automated vulnerability scanners. As a tech guy, I learned a lot while organizing this process. This proactive approach allowed us to fix issues at earlier stages, preventing damage to the product and expediting security audits.

Integration Bugs.

Despite our best efforts, integration issues persisted, threatening our development timeline. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, I introduced and enforced a KPI for the implementation of unit tests covering 80% of the codebase. Furthermore, we strengthened our testing infrastructure with integration tests, ensuring early bug detection. To address the gap in testing coverage for UI components, I suggested a similar approach to my team - to implement unit tests for 50% of UI elements, developing our testing framework. The challenge was to convince the team to do this, then drive and control these activities, and get approval from stakeholders because this strategy took more resources and caused delays in shipping. However, with the higher quality of our products, this experiment showed that the strategy was worthwhile.

Culture of Excellence Within Our QA Team.

Through mentorship and professional development initiatives, I empowered team members to take ownership of their work, fostering a sense of accountability and pride in their contributions.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my leadership challenges was the transformation of our release process. By establishing transparent QA practices and prioritizing bug backlog, we achieved more frequent and stable releases (1-2 times a week instead of 1 in two weeks). This strategic approach resulted in approximately 70% fewer medium and high-priority issues in our production environment. Moreover, the number of bugs reported by end-users decreased by about 80% after feature shipping, demonstrating the effectiveness of our testing strategies. Additionally, the speed of fixing known bugs improved by up to 300%, ensuring swift resolution and minimizing disruption to our customers.

More features, less bugs.

By alleviating bottlenecks in testing, we achieved a more balanced workload for the team, earlier bug detection, and significantly fewer bugs found after release. Efficient communication with stakeholders, managers, and product teams facilitated the successful delivery of many projects and features within deadlines. Additionally, through constant contact with the FO and BA, I led initiatives (wrote some specification-like documents) to suggest valuable features and UI improvements, enhancing the overall user experience and product quality.

These initiatives underscored my commitment to driving not only technical excellence but also fostering collaboration, efficiency, and innovation within the team. By empowering team members, streamlining processes, and fostering open communication, I laid the foundation for sustained success and growth, both for the team and the organization as a whole.

QA responsibilities extend into the realm of IT consulting, involving the facilitation of improvements, active participation in problem discussions, and keen issue identification. While QAs may lack certain technical skills for direct implementation, their responsibilities lie in guiding teams in the right direction and suggesting viable solutions. This consulting skill, often overlooked, is crucial in contributing to a smoother development process and quality end product. A good QA isn't someone with perfect technical skills who can implement solutions but someone who can identify the root cause and guide the team effectively in fixing it. This is the mindset I prefer to adopt as a QA and IT professional in any software dev team.