Why everyone who works in testing should develop leadership skills

Working as a consultant in digital assurance and testing requires great communicational and leadership skills. Our Senior Consultant Tomi Ukkonen shares his favorite leadership book and why he considers this an excellent book for testers.

In testing, we often talk about how to improve technical skills and how to learn methodologies. And developing testing skills is definitely worth your time (here you can read my book recommendations on that area). But in addition to technical skills, I find it useful to read and learn about leadership skills too. As testers, we are highly quality focused people in the projects and it is our responsibility to make sure the organization understands its importance and value.

In this blog post, I present a leadership book that has helped me become a better tester and consultant. Bill George's classic leadership book True North is a collection of 125 leader interviews and it emphasizes how everybody's own life story and experiences help them find their own authentic leadership. The name of the book, True North, refers to your inner compass which guides you successfully through life: values, motivations and what’s important to you.   

Your story is unique

The leaders covered in the book have made a big impact on global business (e.g. former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz). They all have found their own path to success. They haven't mimicked anybody else's style. Instead, they have found their purpose by doing business that they believe in which has eventually turned out to be life-changing for themselves and their employees. That’s authenticity. If these super successful people achieve success by being themselves, it probably works for all of us.

You may not consider yourself a leader, but in the client projects it is us consultants that are helping our customers: all of us need to be ready to create value, provide the service and show that we can and want to help. We can all lead and step up to the challenge and make a difference. Finding our own authentic leadership means getting experiences by testing our own values and beliefs. In True North book one of the interviewed leaders conclude that leadership is leaving something lasting, whether it is how you treat people or how you deal with a problem. We can do that in all roles.

Test manager (too) needs self-awareness

As a test consultant, you may be a test manager (a sort of generalist, like me), test automation expert, performance test specialist or e.g. an agile testing specialist. You enable your customers’ success by providing with your expertise in their projects. Whatever our role may be, we all have our unique way of working in teams as well as own strengths and weaknesses. In getting the best of these, self-awareness is primary in skills development, like Bill George states in True North.

In testing, there isn’t often just one way of doing things right so completing tasks our own way (and most of all, of course, listening to what clients want) is the key to success. That's the way to contribute to projects which are often multivendor environments with a lot of dependencies. I see that it is the variety of tasks you get to do that makes testing and test management so fulfilling (take this with a grain of salt as I may be biased but I believe most people who work in testing do enjoy what they do). It is an environment where you need to do your best often with incomplete and insufficient information. We all are influenced by others but there's no need to try to be something that you are not or pretending that you have all the answers. That's what finding your own True North is about, finding your own style.

Testing and testers are important

After almost two decades in testing, it is easy for me to say that often our role is paramount in whether the project is successful or not. We’re there testing, coordinating activities, organizing meetings, checking if preparations are done before test sessions, reporting defects, solving problems, working with vendors, following and reporting progress and so on (as a test manager all these could be your responsibilities). Luckily, seldom a client’s project team wants to risk business by neglecting to test. We’re there to make sure required testing aspects are taken into consideration. We should be proud of our impact and importance. 

Working as a test manager, or testing consultant is about finding your own style, refining it and taking ownership of the quality. It helps if you learn what is motivating and driving you. Then your inner compass keeps you focused on your True North.


A career in testing? Join Sogeti!

If you are passionate about unleashing the true value from technology and you are analytical, curious and a great problem-solver, then a career as a professional tester might be good for you too. Check out our opportunities and apply to us. 

  • Tomi Ukkonen
    Tomi Ukkonen
    Senior Consultant
    +358 50 577 2655
Fact Block

Name: Tomi Ukkonen

Role: Senior Test Consultant

Education: M.Sc. (econ.) Economics & Finance  

Hobbies: roller skating, swimming and reading books.

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