The Colorful and Gray World of Engineering Management

Embark with me on my journey through the colorful situations & challenges and the (gray) ambiguity of management in the software industry.

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  • Blog Post: It Doesn't Take Muscles to Use Your Strengths

    But it does take a manager that understands how to leverage strengths. Many managers say they do this, but I'd question if they really think this way, if "leveraging peoples' strengths" is really part of their DNA. The reason I question this is because many companies have defined roles for people to...
  • Blog Post: 97%

    Anyone who knows me knows that metrics are very important to me. I mostly focus on QA metrics, but I like seeing metrics for most of the things we do to ship products. For QA metrics, some of the most important ones are around # of test cases, % automated, % run, % passing, and % code coverage. But recently...
  • Blog Post: Transformers are Leaders, not Toys!

    {EAV:fb71307c644189ca} I was recently asked ‘how do you take a team mostly focused on manual testing and turn them into a team that writes solid automation?’. And as I thought about my answer, I realized this doesn't just apply to testing, but any team that is reforming can follow these...
  • Blog Post: What are Testers Thankful For?

    When I think about all the issues my QA team has to deal with to ship projects, I wonder as we get closer to Thanksgiving what they are thankful for. What makes their jobs easier or fun? Two things come to mind. Testers are thankful when their developers produce quality builds. Getting a build that...
  • Blog Post: QA or Test - does the name really matter?

    I've been the manager for many different teams. Some call themselves Test and some call themselves QA. Personally, I've found it easier to just use those terms interchangeably. But for many, there are two very distinct schools of thought about what a Test team is and what a QA team is. Maybe at some...
  • Blog Post: There's No Room For Watermelons

    I have noticed a problem lately that needs some focus. I heard a statement that sums it up nicely. "Don't be green on the outside and red on the inside." Now if this was a joke (What's green on the outside and red on the inside?") I can think of a few answers like a frog, an alien (of course, maybe they...
  • Blog Post: Everyone Wants To Test

    You are new to testing. You are sitting in front of your computer staring at the software you need to test. What do you do? Let's look at testing from a very basic level and maybe this will help you make progress. If you don't "get it" at this level, you should consider if being a tester is the right...
  • Blog Post: Me, My Car, and a Thump

    I have a neat story to tell about something that happened last week and how you can apply problem-solving skills to almost anything in life. Actually this example will show what happens when you don't apply these skills properly. Those who know me know I have a nice sports car. It sits low to the...
  • Blog Post: Play with fire, but don't get burned

    Instrumenting your product's source code to get an indication of how much of the code was covered during testing is a really, really smart measurement to get. If you aren't at least measuring this number, you should be. Visual Studio provides features that continue to make this easier. What does this...
  • Blog Post: Do Whatever It Takes!

    I had a test lead years ago that did a great job at setting expectations for his people. But for himself, his main goal was always stated as "do whatever it takes to ship the product". This was really difficult to measure him against. But the concept is an interesting one. Many teams fall somewhere in...
  • Blog Post: Commitment Calibration

    At Microsoft, we set commitments regularly for all employees. These are basically goals and focus areas that are written down to help employees remember what to work on and to clarify how their work is being measured. Here are some guidelines on verbosity that help when I review others' commitments:...
  • Blog Post: Action-oriented vs. Results-driven

    In many project teams, I see people mistaking actions for results. One of the best inputs a manager can give to a team is to evaluate when the team is too action-oriented and guide them to be more results-focused. If a project team is always really busy and working long hours but then they keep missing...
  • Blog Post: Test is not a landfill

    I heard the statement "Test is not a landfill!" today from one of my leads and thought it was a great way to describe what Test is striving for. Test should not be like a landfill. When I picture a landfill, I see a fenced in area that garbage gets dumped into. The garbage is the low-quality builds or...
  • Blog Post: Should BVTs pass 100%?

    This is the gray part of testing. Should the goal be that BVTs pass 100%? On every build, all the time? The right answer is YES. But is that really the right answer for all cases. Well, of course not. I do believe it is the right answer for most cases. BVTs (build verification tests) are tests that are...
  • Blog Post: Successful growth of a tester

    Many engineers, especially testers, ask me how they can grow their careers and how I know when they should be promoted. I've learned over the years that there are really three key focus areas that show that an engineer is growing. These are in addition to the standard skill set that all engineers need...
  • Blog Post: Guidelines for writing good individual review comments

    It's that time of year again at Microsoft where we get to write our reviews. I find it helpful as a manager to go over some guidelines with my team as a refresher on how to write good reviews. These are my opinions from what I've learned after doing reviews for the last 15 years. Some of these guidelines...
  • Blog Post: The perpetual state of being understaffed - does it really exist?

    The last few months have been a staffing challenge for me and my team. I lost a quarter of my team in a 3 month time period due to reorgs….and I couldn't replace any of them. Due to the economic climate, things are tight and that includes headcount. Then, my team was affected by lay-offs and I lost some...
  • Blog Post: Downward, upward, and sideways

    As a manager in an organization, there are different directions to apply focus and communications - downward, upward, and sideways. Test Managers who focus downward spend most of the time dealing with their team, with testing issues within the team, and generally push results through their team. If this...
  • Blog Post: Clones don't make good testers

    A few weeks ago, I attended a presentation about diversity and it was enlightening. I personally always think the word "diversity" is very corporate and used as standard manager terminology. For me, I instead think about diversity as " differences " between people. Everyone is different and it's not...
  • Blog Post: Automation maturity - what should a Test Manager focus on?

    Automation is frequently a passionate debate, usually around how much and whether it is effective. But are test managers prepared for the effects of automation as it grows? Instead of focusing on whether or not to automate or by how much, let's focus on what having automation on a test team means for...
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