Overcoming the Challenges of Test Management: An Interview with Mike Wasielczyk

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, Michael Wasielczyk explains how to overcome challenging situations in test management. Michael shares the value of management support, tailoring best practices to the situation at hand, and understanding what battles are worth fighting.

Jennifer Bonine: All right, we are back with another interview. I am so excited to have Mike with us today. Mike, thanks for joining us for the interview. Mike, why don't you tell us a little bit, for the folks out there who didn't see your presentation and what you did, a little bit about what you are talking about here at the conference?

Mike Wasielczyk: Sure. The situation that I was in was a new test manager within the organization, started a new job. There were no testing practices in place, there was no corporate culture for professional testing. The development process was pretty chaotic, and we had a particular date that we needed to hit in order to deploy the product. My talk is really talking about the things that I relied on over those 205 days to get to a successful deployment.

Jennifer Bonine: When you came in, really ... You were almost ground zero, right? You needed process, you needed a way to go about doing it, you needed everything.

Mike Wasielczyk: We needed everything. In fact, the team that was coming in to do the testing, was a consultant. They actually started the week that I started on the job.

Jennifer Bonine: You really had to map out ... We were just talking about big projects and big testing. You really had to map out, what's my road map, and how do I get from where I am to where I'm going in a very quick amount of time, which involves culture change, and it involves getting people on board with what you're doing.

Mike Wasielczyk: One of the big things that helped us was having senior management support. My manager saw the need to have good testing practices in place, and she was the one that fought the battles around corporate culture to get us accepted, and also get things like a test environment. Corporate culture was everybody testing development.

Jennifer Bonine: Really fighting to get that to happen, and now when you look at that ... You completed those 205 days, I'm guessing it was successful, people felt good about it?

Mike Wasielczyk: Yeah, we deployed on time, met the quality goals that we were trying to achieve, and it was really a testament to the team itself, because they were really the heroes in the story. I helped them and guided them along the way, but they were the true heroes.

Jennifer Bonine: Where, in terms of when that occurred, you've obviously moved on from there, what were the next steps after you got past that point, and where are you at in your journey now?

Mike Wasielczyk: I think the next steps that we're having, of course, in this situation, we were focused on one project. Now, one of the things we're trying to do as the organization grows, is try to get our feet in the door to help support other projects and to make them successful. We're still working with the PMO, the development teams, the analyst teams, to really help solidify their practices, because we can have the best practice in the world from a test standpoint, but if the good development practices and project management practices aren't in place, it's always going to be a struggle.

Jennifer Bonine: You need to loop all of those components in. That is really interesting. What do you think was the impetus for having that project all of a sudden drive a change in what they were doing, and drive bringing quality in? What was the reason?

Mike Wasielczyk: I think a lot of it had to do with my manager. She had ... She was new to the company. She had only been there about a year when I got there, and actually, it's interesting, when I got there, I was the fourth employee in the company that had a tester job title. It really was a situation where testing professionals was a foreign concept. Thankfully, through her support in bringing in the consultants, we've actually been able to grow the team. We're now up to, at least on my team, five associates including myself within eighteen months. We're just ... We're making progress slowly. I think, ideally, I would love to be much farther along than we are, but we are making strides, and we are being successful, and I think that's the important thing.

Jennifer Bonine: I would have to say, we've all ... For those folks out there who struggle and have been through some of these things, you look incredibly calm, resilient, and happy.

Mike Wasielczyk: It's funny you say that.

Jennifer Bonine: You don't always see that.

Mike Wasielczyk: It's funny you say that, because at the end of my first week, when I met with my manager, she looked at me and she said, "Can you be ready to test something in a month?" I went back into my office, and I thought of two things. The first thing I thought of was, I should've asked more questions in the interview.

Jennifer Bonine: "What didn't I ask? Oh, shoot."

Mike Wasielczyk: The second thing I thought of was, I'm glad my office is on the second floor, because if I decide to jump, I'm not going to hurt myself too badly.

Jennifer Bonine: Exactly, I'll be okay, I'm only on the second floor. Oh, my gosh. Leading into that, I had the pleasure of having you in the session I did on Tuesday around Leadership IQ, and different types of leaders, maybe talk about your experience with, in an organization like that, and trying to manage that change, understanding the type of leader you are and your style.

Mike Wasielczyk: It was really interesting in your tutorial, which was excellent. I think I landed in the green or the blue, the blue category. When I looked at that, it so optimized me, because I'm very numbers oriented, I'm very we got to follow the rules, we got to follow the process. Taking your tutorial, I learned a lot more about the other types of managers, and now I have a better idea of how to work with them, and how to interface with them, because you do find that no matter what color you are, there are managers that you deal with, or peers that you deal with, that really struggle with that type.

Jennifer Bonine: They do. It's just natural, right? There's certain ones we struggle more with.

Mike Wasielczyk: It was really ... It was really interesting.

Jennifer Bonine: One of the things we talk about, which I think is really important ... For people out there who are struggling with a particular leader, or someone in their organization where it's just not connecting and your styles just don't align, is getting some information and trying to see it from another viewpoint of what their style is. Interesting ... It would be interesting to know now, having gone through that, do you think the leader you have, the one that's removed the road blocks, supported you through this transition, is she similar to you, or is she a different type of leader, would you say?

Mike Wasielczyk: I think she's different, to be quite honest with you. She has this charisma about her, and she just does such an excellent job of rallying the troops—

Jennifer Bonine: And selling ...

Mike Wasielczyk: To work together and selling the vision. I guess that's probably more of a yellow or green right?

Jennifer Bonine: I was going to say, that persuasive type that can do some of that, hey guys, this is exciting, get on board. Get them bought in, which is helpful.

Mike Wasielczyk: Every time we go to a team meeting, and she gets up and talks, everybody leaves the room, and they're just ... They just have an energy about them. They feel like they can conquer the world.

Jennifer Bonine: Exactly, and I think that's important. For those of you out there too, if you know there's something that's a weakness for you in your leadership, or a blind spot, understanding who has that, and who has that as a strength, and leveraging that strength in them to help you become a better leader, because we all have it, right? We all have these things that we're not as good at, and it's nice when you compare someone who has a lot of that detail-orientedness, how to get stuff done, the process can think through it, and that blue like you talked about, with someone who's great at selling. Who can get people really rallied around sell the concepts and ideas, help partner with, to make it a success.

Mike Wasielczyk: I'm excited to take back the tools that you gave us, because I want to give it to my leads, and see what kind of leaders they are, so I can work better with them.

Jennifer Bonine: And understand it, and really encouraging and embracing differences as opposed to being frustrated that people aren't exactly like us, or don't do it the way that we do it. Embracing that difference I think is awesome when you're going through this. Advice for folks out there that may be in a similar situation to you, but aren't having the same level of success. They're not ... I'm sure in your class, you got people saying, but it's not working for me, or how come you're so lucky? What do I need to do? Any tips?

Mike Wasielczyk: One of the things that I talk about was ... I think two things, or actually three things that helped me. One was relying on best practices, or at least, I'll say good practices. I'm pretty seasoned. I've got 33 years in the business. From my past experiences, I knew the kinds of things that should be done. We focused on them, things like test automation, and performance testing, and test planning. Another one had to do with guiding principles. Again, based on my experience, I had a set of guiding principles that led me through the process, whether it's being flexible, or being process oriented, there were a number of key principles that I relied on. Finally, it was really a topic I like to call pick your battles. We're in this very difficult situation, and you have to come to the realization that you're not going to win every battle. You got to pick the battles that are worth fighting for, and the other battles, you either fight less vigorously, or you put them on the shelf and wait to fight another day.

Jennifer Bonine: Exactly. I think a great point. I think sometimes we think we have to take on everything, and a lot of times, people especially in testing, I think are, not only detail-oriented, but somewhat perfectionists, right?

Mike Wasielczyk: Exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: We think it needs to be perfect, and a good learning probably is, don't fight all of those battles. You can still know they're there. Table it, put it on the shelf, as you said, for later, but you don't have to fight them all. Fight the key ones you need right now. It doesn't mean you can't come back to it at a later time. For some context, do people know about relative size of your organization, can you give them just ... I know you said you've got about five folks?

Mike Wasielczyk: At the time, at least for this project, we had a total of about ten and a half testers. The testers were primarily onshore and offshore. I had about four, four and a half people onshore, and the rest were offshore. Today, the team is still there. They continue to support the maintenance releases and things like that, but we've been fortunate enough that we've been able to add to our T row price team. That's the exciting thing.

Jennifer Bonine: For being in the ... When you talk about the industry you guys are in, did you also face some data security types of issues, things like that?

Mike Wasielczyk: No, I think the data security challenges ... We didn't really encounter any data security challenges. The other challenge that we really had was the fact that A, I had never worked in the financial sector. That was new to me. I came to the table thinking, I've never tested or ran a test ever for a data warehouse. I was a little leery there. The interesting thing there was it didn't take long to realize that testing is testing is testing. The main hurdle for me was learning the financial and the business processes and testing a warehouse was really the least of my worries.

Jennifer Bonine: What's interesting is, I talk about sometimes, the three components that a lot of companies and organizations look for in testers, right? It's the QA skill set, and the QA practices, just that practical knowledge of how to do what they're doing. Then it's the technical aptitude. What technical skill sets do they know? What technologies are they familiar with? What does that look like in their background? Then the business knowledge. Those being the three main components of what people need, and what you touched on, I'm seeing a lot more trend towards, if people have the QA knowledge and skill set, and good foundation, best practices are good practices, that they understand. If they have a base technical skill set and knowledge of that, then that business component, they can pick up. Like you said, testing is testing is testing, you may be in a different industry, but you can apply concepts from your past to the new industry or whatever that you're in.

Mike Wasielczyk: That was really eye opening. When I first came into the organization, and saw that all of these systems were being developed and tested by business analysts and developers, put a fear in me. We're managing people's money, and yet, they're being tested by BAs. I really came to appreciate the knowledge, the business knowledge that they had. It really became a partnership. We came to the table with the testing knowledge. They came to the table with the business knowledge, and we worked together to make it happen.

Jennifer Bonine: To collaborate. It amazes me that we're sitting where we are, in a time where testing's been around for awhile. Lots of people have been in the industry a long time, and you are still finding companies, even large companies, right? We're not talking about a start-up for you.

Mike Wasielczyk: No. I think we've been around for seventy-five, eighty years.

Jennifer Bonine: Right, seventy-five, eighty-year-old organization, that's a large organization, that is thinking about how do we inject these types of principles and practices, and it's not just you. There are other companies at that stage. Pretty exciting to be a part of ... You think sometimes, oh, we've done everything. There's nothing new to invent, right?

Mike Wasielczyk: That's right, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: You still can. You still can, even in large companies, provide value in bringing those good practices to the table, and putting those disciplines in place, and helping show them and guide them as we move into the new things that are coming down the road. Our time goes quickly. We're already out of time. If there are people who say, I love what you said, I need to know more, I want some more details, how do I find you? What is best way for them to find you?

Mike Wasielczyk: Probably the best thing to find me is on LinkedIn. I'm certainly out on LinkedIn and through the conference notes, the speaker list. They have my email address.

Jennifer Bonine: If you want to give them your full name for LinkedIn, because I don't think I did that so they have it. The last name's a little hard, so you may have to spell it.

Mike Wasielczyk: It is. First name is Mike. Last name is Wasielczyk. That's the hard part. It's W-A-S-I-E-L-C-Z-Y-K. It's a nice Irish name.

Jennifer Bonine: Exactly. I was going to say, that must be Irish. That's how you can find Mike on LinkedIn. I'm guessing there isn't a whole ton of those out there, so they should be able—

Mike Wasielczyk: I don't think so.

Jennifer Bonine: We should be safe that you'll find the right one.

Mike Wasielczyk: You're good, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: If you want to talk to Mike, find him on LinkedIn, probably reference that you saw his interview, so he knows you're not just some stranger. Let him know where you saw him. Thanks, Mike, for being here.

Mike Wasielczyk: Thank you. I really appreciate your time.

Jennifer Bonine: Thanks for taking the time. I appreciate it. Stay tuned, we have another keynote, and more interviews later.

Mike W.CTFL Michael Wasielczyk has thirty years of experience in the areas of software testing, quality assurance, metrics, process improvement, and project management. In his current assignment at T. Rowe Price, Michael is responsible for establishing the testing practice and building an organization to support system integration testing for all investment data systems. Previously, he spent fourteen years at UPS, responsible for the successful implementation of the software testing practice across UPS’ Customer Technology Portfolio, and fourteen years as a test analyst/test manager for companies including CSC, Nichols Research, and TRW.

User Comments

1 comment
Emeka Emmanuel's picture

good advises learnt from this interview to overcome many challenges in the projects which am working on with my team. thanks Mike.

December 26, 2016 - 1:18am

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