Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Awesome Flatness of Teams

For a long time, I've known that benchmarking our practices with other companies is a great way of mutual learning. But a lot of times these benchmarks teach me things that I never anticipated. Today was one of these and I wanted to share a little story.

Today, I found myself sitting on Skype facing three people just as agreed. One of the three introduced themselves as "just a quality engineer", whereas the others had more flashy titles. I also introduced as "just a quality engineer". Turns out those words have fascinated me since.

The discussion lead me to realize I have yet really not given much credit to how different from most places out team structure is. Our teams consist of people hired as "software engineers" and "quality engineers" and there's somewhat of a history and rule of thumb on how many of each type you would look for in a team. We share the same managers.

When you grow in a technical role, you move to senior, lead and principal in the same family of roles. And usually the growing means changes in the scope of what you contribute on, still as "just a member of a team".

As a lead quality engineer, I'm not a manager. I'm a member of a team, where I test with my team and help us build forward our abilities to test. With seniority, I work a lot cross-team figuring out how my team could help others improve and improve itself. I volunteer to take tasks that drive our future to a better state. I'm aware of what my team's immediate short term goal is, but also look into finding my contribution to the organization's long term goals.

Our teams have no scrum masters. The product owners work on priorities, clarifications and are a lovely collaborator for our teams. I'm not allocated a technical (quality engineering) leadership, I just step up to it. Just like the fellows next to me.

So I'm "just a tester", as much as anyone ever is just anything. But much of my power comes from the fact that there's no one who is anything more. Everyone steps up. And it's kind of amazing.