Today was an interesting day. Having a dose of economic reality hit close to home can be just what you need to refocus and rethink things. All is well with my team, but the weirdness of the day made me think again about what I do and how I can bring the most value to my employer.

At the 10,000 foot view, I really only have 3 responsibilities: Test Leadership, the Test discipline, and my team, the Test Excellence team (the three T’s). If you’ve read – or are about to read How We Test Software at Microsoft, we talk extensively about the makeup of the test discipline in chapter 2, and the test leadership and test excellence teams in chapter 16.

For the test leadership team I function as sort of a “chief of staff” – organizing and running the meetings, making sure the right people are at the meetings, making sure action items are noted and followed up on, etc. If the group is unsuccessful in their efforts, it’s largely my fault. Conversely, if they are massively successful, I get to congratulate them :}

I, of course, can’t scale to the 9000+ testers at Microsoft, but it is my job to try to keep a pulse on what tools are being used by which teams, what things are going well, and what areas of skills or knowledge need to be improved. I need to make sure testers are getting the training they need, and have a way to both recognize and learn what they don’t know.

I also manage a team and have all the responsibilities associated with being a people manager. Given what we do, I have a team of superstars, so management has a slightly different set of rewards and challenges than in a product group. The test excellence team has a huge role in shaping the direction of testing at Microsoft, and a lot of my role is functioning as orchestrator – making sure everyone on the team is leveraging their strengths in the most advantageous way they can. Of course, I need to do what I can to help them manage their careers as well.

My challenge – if it’s not obvious – is to balance the 3 (plus whatever other stuff comes up – e.g. writing books, speaking at conferences, speaking internally, helping other internal leadership teams, etc.). Sometimes I’ll find myself focusing too much on one area then suddenly notice I’m neglecting some part of my job. It’s too easy to focus on what’s fun and interesting at the time rather than balance my 3 ts and ensure that all of the Ts are reaching their full potential.

I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think of what a cool job I have. It’s hard, challenging work, but I enjoy it immensely. I’m lucky, and I know it.

Now, back to work.