What are the traits of a good QA Lead?

Software tester image

Quality assurance (QA) has become an indispensable part of software delivery. And no wonder: it is often perceived as the last line of defense before a product hits the market. QA teams bear a huge responsibility because it is their role to prevent final defects when delivering solutions and to meet clients’ high demands. By detecting and fixing any issues and bugs early in development, they help to save costs. And that really counts a lot! So from this perspective, it’s obvious that being a QA specialist is a much more challenging and fulfilling role than one might assume. In fact, QA is an important “third branch” of the development process.

QA specialists spend hours exploring every aspect of the user experience. All of this to make sure that customers are satisfied with the product and service they get. Such a job surely involves great technical and analytical skills, a lot of patience, and an eye for detail – especially as the whole process is repeated every time the product gets updated.  But becoming a QA Lead requires much more than that. In other words, being a good 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.

We know QA specialists are very important in software development processes and we take them really seriously. The following tips have been written based on our experience and knowledge and taking into account the ideals we strive for.

 

The importance of QA Lead

Typically, QA Lead manages a team conducting quality assurance testing within a software development company. His or her duties involve establishing QA processes and procedures and then overseeing the testing of a product or a service. QA Lead develops testing plans, ensures adherence to the company’s standards, maintains QA documentation, and communicates with development teams and clients to suggest improvements.

To put it short: QA Lead has to make sure that quality goals are always met. But achieving this is not only a matter of technical knowledge and establishing proper metrics and processes. It requires a mixture of different skills and predispositions. Surely, it is a challenge to oversee the team consisting of employees who have varied expertise in various subjects, different temperaments, and pace of work – and to make them all fit the agile way of developing software. But it is possible! However, in order to fulfill oneself in the role of QA Lead,  you cannot be a stranger to the following predispositions and personality traits:

 

Thinking outside the box

Being a successful QA Lead (just like any leader) often requires thinking outside the box. It is not enough to simply find out whether the implementation matches the specification or not. A motivated QA Lead should challenge all his/her team’s assumptions and not be afraid of asking hard questions about why things are done this way (and not the other).

 

Understanding your customer

QA Lead should never forget about who their end-user is and what they need. When you know why a certain feature is being used, you can make better decisions about what to test. That’s why it is important that QA Lead always listens to the feedback received from customers and tries to advocate for it. And afterward, he or she should always be able to pass all the necessary information to their team.

 

Communicating with your team

 

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For a good QA Lead, being able to communicate all the information and ideas to their QA team is crucial. Firstly, you have to work closely with them to determine who will test which parts of the product. There should be no questions and uncertainties in this area – the distribution of work is critical for employees to be aware of their roles and what is expected of them. Then it is equally important to create a positive work atmosphere wherever possible.

 

Boosting team morale

Good communication also presents itself in the ability to build a positive atmosphere among team members. Praise the testers whenever they do something well, provide them with guidance and feedback when they need it. Also, think of challenges you could give them – in order to help them believe in their potential and become more creative. This may, in turn, result in better effectiveness of the whole team – when people discover a better way of doing things, they will stick to it!

 

Being partners with PM

For sure, one of the most important steps of a QA Lead job is to put together the master test plan for the release. Then it is necessary to ensure that you are in agreement with your Project Manager on what exactly will be tested,  how it will be tested, and by what date. When needed, an effective QA Lead should not be afraid to argue with the PM about requirements, design, or usability issues. You should always present recommendations on how the best quality impacts the end goal of the product under test – this will allow your PM to make the correct decisions and lead the team to identify errors.

 

Taking responsibility

Clearly, you have to distribute tasks among your team members. But eventually, you’re the one to be responsible that there are no holes in the testing and you deliver a reliable product to customers. If there is a crucial mistake, such as a bug that makes it into production, it is the QA Lead’s role to take the blame on the behalf of the team. Remember that it is always your fault if you did not check whether the team did this or that. Sorry, but that’s the role of the leader ;).

 

Wearing many hats

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A good QA Lead has to be passionate about his/her job. In fact, about many different jobs. Multitasking should be the skill that you master to perfection. Especially in smaller companies, where you may have to work on different projects simultaneously or where you have to take on different roles (e.g. building, testing, and deploying release ).  If it’s possible, you may even try to learn how to fix small bugs or work on coding small features. In this way, you will explore the product thoroughly – and, by doing so, understand its objectives better.

 

Always learning

QA Lead should never stop sharpening his/her technical skills. Or to be honest: any skills. Everything that will help you stay on top of the industry’s latest trends and testing strategies is worth its weight in gold. Listen to podcasts, attend webinars, read blog posts – satisfying your hunger for knowledge will surely pay off in the future.

 

 

Conclusion

Playing the lead role in any team brings on many responsibilities and duties. QA Lead is additionally challenging as it is a person who is responsible for the quality of the project as a whole. The consequences of quality failures may be too much for any company or organization to bear – that’s why it is important to realize the full weight this job carries. But if you feel that moving between projects, getting challenging testing tasks, and mentoring other testers is what you want to do in your professional life, go for it. With a proper set of skills and characteristics, you may find it to be a really exciting journey!