Here at Yodle, we use the idea of a QA Guild to spread the knowledge of quality practices among all the teams (similar to Spotify’s concept of a squad, discussed here: https://labs.spotify.com/2014/03/27/spotify-engineering-culture-part-1/). As QA Guild leads, we have the challenging tasks of helping other team members develop and setting the direction for the group.
Rather than leaving each lead on their own to figure out the best approaches to being a lead, we decided to get all the QA Guild leads together for a QA Lead Summit. We wanted to take a few days away from the usual daily distractions to discuss how we can improve as leaders and to decide on goals for the year. We also noticed that there was a conference targeted at technical leaders happening in New York City. We thought that would be a great compliment to our summit and planned our event around it.
Lead Developer Conference
We kicked off the summit attending the one day Lead Developer Conference (http://2017.theleaddeveloper-ny.com/). The conference had a variety of presentations on topics for leads as well as several 10 minute talks introducing a wide variety of technical topics. Some of the things we took away from the conference were:
- Discussing the different roles and levels of team members – Having a good description of the roles and expectations of the different levels of team members is very valuable, but also very difficult to define. Rent the Runway has created a template for their levels that they have shared. We took a look at this and compared it to the expectations we currently have. (http://dresscode.renttherunway.com/blog/ladder)
- Mixing up retros – There was a good presentation on retrospectives that went over some various ways to change up how to do a retrospective. We definitely want to try out a few of them and see how we do. (https://speakerdeck.com/madtypist/retrospectives-look-back-to-move-forward)
- Using culture to influence change – One of the talks focused on culture and diversity. This got us thinking about how we could use our culture to help influence change. (https://speakerdeck.com/anjuan/lending-privilege-the-lead-developer-new-york)
- Spider maps are cool, how can we use them – The talk on finding the right ingredients for your perfect team used spider maps to demonstrate a way of looking at team dynamics. We had the thought that this could be a valuable tool to help us get a lot of different perspectives on how teams are made up, what strengths and weaknesses teams have when it comes to quality, and in lots of other places. (https://www.slideshare.net/kevingoldsmith/finding-the-right-ingredients-for-your-perfect-team)
The next day we met up to learn from each other and discuss future goals. We had decided to meet outside of the office to avoid the usual disruptions that we deal with and to provide a different environment than we were used to. We met up for breakfast at a small coffee shop. Then we headed to space we had previously booked. Prior to the summit, we had brainstormed a list of potential topics and each lead had signed up for topic to research. We went through all the topics and the lead who had researched the topic led a discussion on that topic. We discussed the following:
- Coaching / Mentoring
- Managing Up and Down
- How to measure success
- Team Engagement
We spent the last hour using some of ideas from the previous day to come up with a direction for the year and set goals. We had decided to use OKRs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OKR) to drive that discussion. Each of us wrote ideas for objectives on sticky notes and put them on the whiteboard. We then tried to cluster the different ideas. We found that all our ideas fit into four clusters. We labeled those clusters and made them our objectives. Next, we went through each objective and defined some Key Results to help track and drive them.
After we finished with our OKRs, we headed down the street to relax, have a few beers and talk about all we had learned.
Involving the conference as part of our summit proved valuable. We were able to discuss things we had each learned from the conference throughout the rest of the summit. We also were able to see almost immediate benefits from the conference as we started to apply some of the things we had learned in our discussions the next day.
Getting out of the office was also incredibly valuable. We all tend to be very busy and being able to get away from our typical environment gave us an opportunity to really focus on the topics we had chosen. That focus allowed us to come away with some key insights that typical distractions would have hindered.
Our first QA Lead Summit was a great success. We were able to learn from each other and from industry leaders. We had lots of discussions about what we wanted to accomplish as a QA Guild and how we could accomplish those things.