I left out a couple of obvious things in my career post yesterday and thought I’d write them down before I forgot.
Yesterday, I wrote about the non-management career path for testers at MS. There is, indeed, a career path for managers – I just tend to talk about the non-management career path because that’s where I’ve tried to keep myself. We have two titles for people managers at Microsoft. We call managers who manage a team of non-managers Leads, and call managers who manage leads Managers. In other words, a Test Lead manages testers, and a Test Manager manages test leads. Got it?
Generally, Test Leads are in the Senior band, although it’s somewhat common to have leads in the upper ranks of the SDET IIs. The level of knowledge (and more importantly, amount of different testing experiences) testers have by the time they get to these levels gives them the confidence, ability, and credibility to be successful. Leads are expected to get some “real” work done in addition to managing their team. Test Managers are typically Principal or higher (although, as with Test Leads, may be in the upper bounds of Senior).
Something else to note is that the Lead role does not necessarily need to grow to the Manager role. If you are a lead, but never want to manage a large team of leads, you can grow to Principal+ levels as a lead. Or, you can be a lead for a while, bounce back to being an individual contributor, and bounce back to being a lead if you desire (and if the opportunities and business needs are there).
Another take on career stages
I recently re-read Spolsky’s Smart and Gets Things Done. That (the title, and the description from the book) is pretty much what SDETs and most of the SDET2s do. Senior SDETs (and SDET2s who are on their way) move to a stage of Smart, and Makes Stuff Happen. It’s one thing to know how to do stuff really well, but leaders are able to make stuff happen through influence (and the help and support of others). We expect Principal’s (and those about to be Principal) to think more about How Stuff Happens. Strategy, decision making and and solid systems thinking all feed into the “how”. Of course, you still need to dive into making stuff happen and getting things done once in a while, but setting the right direction, for the right reasons, is critical.