Phil's recent threads about surprising conversations with test managers has got me wondering: how often do test managers come from outside testing?

How many of your test managers, past and present, had never done hands-on testing themselves before becoming a test manager?

And - the key question - did it really matter? Can you become a good test manager without having tested yourself? If you did have test managers without testing experience, how did their role work? What did they do? How did they tend to work?

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Interesting question - I have an other question - "Will a good tester be a good test manager?" - I am not sure, he could be a great manager or an mediocre or he might fail to be one. It happens a lot in sports, not all great sportsperson went on to become great coaches for their country teams or even leagues, some have failed miserably.

I feel a good test manager is one who is able to adapt/learn practices, approaches, thinking based on the project demands and the team available instead of trying to push the same ideas in all assignments. I also feel there are a lot of other skills a manger should have and not just testing abilities, of course it always help if the manager is from the same school :)

There is no one answer. Could somebody be a good Test Manager without having tested? Sure. Could somebody be a bad Test Manager without having tested? Sure.
Could somebody be a good Test Manager having tested? Sure. And etc.
You have to take into consideration what kind of role it is and what kind of person they are and the kind of people they are dealing with.
Generally speaking, based on absolutely no research or facts, I would think that you would tend to find Test Managers with no test experience would be from internal moves.
I think that a Test Manager with no experience who is trying to be hands on, doesn't listen to his/her team, answers on behalf of the team, etc would not be a fun experience for the team and more then likely not very good for the orginisation.
A Test Manager with no experience who listens to the team, manages the people rather then the work, uses the people available could work.
Good question, and one I've been wrangling with for a while...Years probably.. (and something I've been wanting to blog about for an age) As a tester I have long felt that a test manager has to be tester, I mean how are they going to know what we testers are doing? How are they going to understand what testing is all about, remove blockages for us etc etc..

I have also been a Test Manager myself and there are lots of non-testing stuff that seems to go along with that (team energizing, plans, meetings, management shmoozing, people stuff)

Reluctantly I may have changed my view slightly (well very very slighty, well this is where I stand today) The 'Test' part can be misleading sometimes, howabout the 'The Manager of Testers'? Does this make any difference?

I think Managers who don't know about testing can still be good at somethings (and in my experience they normally have a 'test lead' who knows the testing stuff...although this can be a problem in itself...)

For me if I'm playing a Test Manager role I just like to be 'hands on', I just think there's more I can give to the team that way, coaching, mentoring, I can feel the pain from the trench and see things for myself...

Tony, are you saying it depends on your context? :o)
Indeed I am! I could have saved myself all the typing and just written 'Context'.
I have been managed by someone who had no understanding of test management or test analysis. This caused a number of problems because 'testing' was not properly represented at meetings (a fact which he did not see). The repercussions of this are probably self-evident to most if not all of us here: unrealistic timeframes being agreed, test effort required not communicated, unsuitable entry/exit criteria being set, defect ping pong, etc...

On the other hand I have also worked for people with a keen understanding of the processes involved in testing and my job as a test manager has been made so much easier as a result because they understood how testing fits into the whole cycle.
I never worked as a test analyst. I went straight into testing as a test manager. The reason was simply that my employers were setting up testing for a client from scratch for Y2K. There were no testers to promote into test management, and recruitment from outside was ruled out because they wanted test managers that knew the client. I was told I was picked because of my deep knowledge of the applications we were fixing, my experience in development and project management and also because my experience in IT audit meant I'd ask the right sort of questions. We all ended up learning together because the new test analysts weren't any more experienced than I was, and so I wasn't able to concentrate on the management and leaving the actual testing to them.

Do I wish I'd had experience as a hands on tester first? Yes, it would have been nice. I still wish I'd had some. However, I value the other experience I've had as a programmer, analyst, auditor, project manager and information security manager. I'm glad I don't have only narrow testing experience. On balance I'm happy enough with the experience I've had. I do think it helps to understand the bigger picture and how testing fits into it, but I'm not sure it really does me any favours in the marketplace. I think most companies value in depth specialism in one particular area rather than wide experience.
What is a Test Manager? How do you define their tasks and responsibilities? What differentiates a tester from a test manager? What differentiates a test manager from a development or project manager?

I've seen projects where only a junior tester was working and the Project Manager took over the Test Managers tasks and responsibilities and it worked well. They couldn't help with testing questions but is that automatically a problem?

I think that problems arise when a test manager, who hasn't been a tester before doesn't recognise that they don't know enough about a certain area to be of help but think they need to give advise anyway.

Of course it's desirable to have a test manager who has "felt the pain" themselves. If they are not but are good MANAGERS though they will be able to get around this, at least for a limited period of time.
I think it does matter on the context as Peter and Tony have said. Sometime if the manager is good then usually they can work their way out of anything even if they do not have hands on testing experience. However, I think it bothers the testers more if their manager doesn't have hands on experience. It is almost like they don't give too much attention to what the manager tells, thinking what would they know!
I have worked in a team where some of the test leads did not have hands on experience (nor were they expected to) but the testers struggled to work with them or go to them for advice, and when I had to manage them it took them a while to accept that I'd had hands on experience and could actually help them.
Think it also happens a lot due to people moving internally in organisations, where they are already a manager and they change departments, so you can't really blame them for not having the experience. Something organisations need to consider may be.
Wow - you had test leads with no hands on experience? What's the point?
Well that just shows that people are able to progress across different roles in an organisation without having hands on experience. Also, I think the actual title does not really could be senior testers as well! What also happens is if they come from a business testing background with little testing knowledge any ways!
I guess I need to check my assumptions and ask - what was their role? What did they do?
Well the role was to lead the project, plan the testing, manage the resources, ensure all test planning was completed etc etc....I suppose the point is that a lot of times people can alter the role and responsibility so that it fits with their lack of experience..
I suppose it could go on and on, and I can understand why you are shocked :-)



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