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SmartBear Talks | 7 Steps to Leadership in Software Testing - Mike Buczko

Software testing is so important nowadays. The industry is looking for more efficient and effective approaches for setting up, managing or analyzing tests. As a result, software testing leaders are in high demand. In this interview, we will review the major steps you can follow in your life to become a leader. Mike Buczko, a Test Manager from SpyroSoft, will be our guide to this interesting topic today.


Watch the video (find the transcript below) and post your comments:


Mike Buczko

My „Business as Usual” is varied and exciting. I am a Test Manager in SpyroSoft where I am the advocate for great and efficient testing. I give my insight in design of the test harness and solutions for customer cases, the definition of the scope of testing and work with Security Community of Testers. I try to be responsible for sharing „new-fancy stuff” with others and helping people grow as individuals. I am involved in various activities including testing, security, business analysis and taking a step into the world of the Product Owner. Now sharing my experience as an automotive test manager."

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Hello! I'm welcoming you in SmartBear Talks. Where we're discussing exciting and trending topics with software testing experts.


And, today, we will talk about leaders and leadership. I'm sure all of you are great technical specialists in your area, you know many technical aspects and can successfully implement them in your work. But how about leadership skills?


Today we will dive into the leadership topic with Mike Buchko, a test manager from SpyroSoft. And, we will try to cover and identify the major steps you'll need to follow in order to become a leader.


Hi Mike! How are you today?



Hello! Nice to meet you! I'm really happy that I can talk with you about this topic and to have the opportunity to share my ideas with the whole SmartBear Community!



We're very happy that you are with us today. So, let's talk about leadership. You have huge experience in it, I'm sure that you heard many times that software tester say that they feel the lack of experience to be a leader. They are good at technical aspects of software testing, but when it comes to becoming a leader or managing a project, they do not feel all that confident. At the same time, I see that these people, they are ready to take control over the project or even lead the team. From your experience, why does this happen, and how to overcome this kind of a barrier?



I think it's an internal fear of the people. So, usually, in the projects, there are a lot of opportunities to grab and to start being a leader for your team, for your project. And, those people just need to have the courage to try it. They have the skills, but they don't feel secure to try to use them, so when there's a question from a project manager or from a customer about searching for a person who would rise up to the challenge, usually, they stay in a safe corner, and they are just quiet, and I think that they are very focused on the technical aspects. So, they are great technical experts, but they don't try to jump to like this deep water of being a leader from the start. They would love to be like a part-time leader to just make sure they got all the capabilities, but they just need to believe in it and just grab the opportunity. And, that's the moment when they need to believe in themselves, like, they are leaders of their own lives, and they believe in themselves and their own decisions. They should be feeling confident to try doing the same in a project: I know how to make it work, I know how to do it in the best way. Just say it loudly and try it.



Okay, I like that you said that we are all leaders of our life. So, what should people do first? And, which steps would you suggest they take to become a leader?



Yeah, so, I always try to divide the idea of trying to be the leader or rising up to be the leader into seven steps. Like, seven core activities that you can learn or try on a daily basis in your project.

So, for me, the first step is having an open mind for learning, hearing other people's opinions, being open for all those pieces of advice, not always being so critical as a tester, sometimes, you need just to hear the customer out, what they need, what they want, how they will use our software. Because, sometimes, we feel that this software is meant to do something, but customer expectations are totally different, so we need to have the open mind for these discussions.


When you want to be a leader, or you try to be a leader, there will be a lot of meetings, and the two main things, I would say, this is step two, is to have effective meetings and to control the emotions. You don't need your ego in that meeting to taking all the credit, you need to discuss things with people, you need to be open for criticism, you need to be open for challenges for your ideas, maybe, sometimes, switching the direction.

And step three, for me it is a very important step, is to learn. To start and continue conversations during the meetings. Usually, when you are the person who is responsible for that meeting, it's very common that there's a lot of people just being quiet, and, sometimes, those are the people who have the best technical knowledge. And, you need to start a conversation with them, you need to try to ask them a question, or, if they ask you a question, you shouldn't answer with just a simple yes/no answer, you need to open a conversation, you need to give your answer that is encouraging the second person or other people on that meeting to give their thoughts not to only say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.


And, the fourth step is you need to be confident in your leadership. Even if you are not sure if you can handle this, or if you are not feeling safe about being the owner of such a meeting or the owner of such a subject, you need to say to your manager that you feel confident about it, that you can drive this subject to the finish line. That you can find the solution for the problem. When you present your proposal or your solution, then you must be confident in what you are presenting. You cannot do it in a way that maybe that's the right way, or maybe we should do it another way.


The fifth step for me is effective learning. Because there's a lot of meetings, because there's a lot of conversations, a lot of discussions with different people like business side, the delivery team, there will be a lot of new ideas, a lot of new propositions, a lot of new points of view. So, you need to be connected with this open mind for growing, and you need to be effective in learning, but also effective in taking notes. It will be very important because, usually, at those meetings, you will have like tens of conversations and many decisions, and you need to be able to take notes for your usage that will be useful for you in a months’ time or in three months’ time.


And, step number six. I call it being open to challenging everything you see. So, you need to be open to challenge the rules and restrictions. If somebody tells you that something cannot be done this way, or we cannot apply this approach to some sort of testing, or we cannot use this environment or any other thing like this, you need to be brave enough to challenge it and ask to describe the reason behind this.

Step number seven - you need to be an effective team member. You need to understand the whole dynamics of your team, expertise of your team. Sometimes, during the meeting when you try to ask somebody a question, you need to know who to point that question to. Because you will have to understand if there are five developers which of them is great in doing the front end, which of them is the expert around the database, or the expert on the back end. It goes the same way with testers. So, if you've got two or three testers in your team, or even all of your team is build up from testers, you need to understand who of them is the best at doing exploratory testing, who is the best at doing the automation scripts, who is good at doing test designs. And then, you combine it together, and then different questions can be assigned to different people who are the experts in the domain.


I feel that when you use these seven steps on a daily basis in your project, they will help you build a solution for being a leader for the team that is assigned to you, for a subject that you propose to take over. And then, you will be able to go and do those things on your projects.



Thanks a lot for these steps. They are so great! They're so simple, and, at the same time, it's kind of very difficult to follow them, but, please, community members, give it a try! Try to follow them, be open, try to always ask. As far as understand, it's one of the requirements - always ask and always speak up. Because, in this case, you can follow your vision.


At the moment, you know that there are many learning courses, some certificates that everybody can get. Will it increase your leader qualities if you get any documents that will prove your knowledge?



From your opinion, yeah. So, I think that certificates are really good when you are trying to prove that you are aware of different testing processes, or that you are familiar with particular tooling. You can have a certificate in being an expert in any sort of test automation tools, or programming languages. But in case of leadership I think it's the best if you will be just active in your project because even if you've got the certificates, if there is a project manager asking if there's somebody volunteering to take ownership of that matter, and you will not rise up to the challenge, then you will not use your certificate in a way that it should be. But, sometimes, if somebody doesn't have like a school finished or any other trainings in being a leader, but they are always active, and they are always like raising their hand, and every time they will commit to those things, and they will deliver them, then they will be automatically promoted to being a team leader, or a technical team leader, or a test manager, or any other management role. And, nobody will ask them how many trainings or certificates they got. So, I think that practice is a better way to show off what you can do, even if you are not a certified manager or certified leader.



Okay, I see. Thanks a lot for this video. I'm sure that the SmartBear Community members will start using your great advice on a daily basis in their work and will try to develop the leadership skills to become a leader.



Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

SmartBear Alumni (Retired)