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Learn how to encourage constructive working relationships with developers as a QA tester and leverage their knowledge to improve quality in automated test development.

In today’s digital business world, QA testers must work within an Agile development team, side by side with an array of developers, from a variety of locales. Working with a diverse group of professionals presents a challenge as well as valuable skill development opportunities.

Agile teams are also often on tight iteration schedules that require a collaborative working relationship between development and QA. Exceptional communication skills along with a strong aptitude for empathy, inclusion, and mutual respect are required to handle the constant push-and-pull of ideas between team members.

This article provides tips for developing constructive and positive working relationships with developers as a QA tester. We’ll cover the challenges of working with developers, specific habits to cultivate to create stronger relationships, and finally, how to leverage developer knowledge to improve your test automation.

Why is Working with Developers Challenging?

Within your QA career, you may encounter developers who are hard to work with, even unapproachable. They may seem more focused on their code rather than in QA’s opinion. On the other hand, QA testers may appear to developers as overly negative, always asking questions, interrupting work and adding to it.

It isn’t always easy working within a team—even a small, Agile development team. Working productively within a team means developing a professional work personality and forming productive work relationships. Developers don’t need to be your best friend, but you have to find a way to work with them in a positive, constructive and respectful manner.

One way to work with developers effectively is to build a work personality. Your work personality should act logically and responsibly and approach issues calmly and professionally. Your work personality is a persona you create to work inclusively and professionally with a varied group of developers.

Keep in mind developers tend to be both creative and logical. Learn to work productively with them by building a working relationship built on mutual respect and professionalism.

What Habits Create a Stronger Working Relationship?

Start with R-E-S-P-E-C-T and develop a working relationship that enables mutual respect and inclusive behaviors. Keep discussions logical and focused on business objectives and leave personal differences outside the workplace.

Remember to take initiative for training, learning, resolving issues and participating in meetings and reviews. Make QA work visible and accessible for developers. Share test cases, reference documentation and allow developers to better understand how QA testing functions.

Exceptional testers develop positive working relationships with developers by:

  • Testing well and frequently.
    • Do your job and be prepared.
    • Don’t expect developers to constantly explain stories or work tasks.
  • Trying to find the answer before asking questions.
    • Take initiative and dig into problems first.
    • Actively participate in reviews, design discussions and team meetings.
  • Having an opinion and speaking up respectfully.
    • If you don’t have an opinion, research the data and find one.
  • Respecting a developer’s time and need to focus.
    • Refrain from constant messaging or surprise visits.
  • Learning advanced technical skills.
    • Show interest in learning new approaches or tasks.
  • Knowing when to walk away.
    • Learn when to let go of an argument and move on.
  • Learning a programming language.
    • Having a base of shared understanding improves collaboration.
  • Never pointing fingers or placing blame.
    • Assigning blame only divides and demeans.
    • Focus on fixing the issue and improving the customer experience.
  • Answering developer questions in detail.
    • Give out information on application functionality freely.
    • Understand that developers may not know how to use the actual customer application to the same extent as a QA tester.

Always remember to focus on application quality and the customer experience instead of testing to test. Remember to act and think like a customer and test from the customer’s perspective. Everyone on a development team is responsible for releasing a quality product, so avoid creating a division between QA and Development. Collaborate for the benefit of the team, the business and the customer.

Why is Managing Team Power Dynamics Critical for Collaboration?

Teams have power dynamics—it’s human nature to have both leaders and followers. The same holds true for QAs and developers within a software development team. Regardless of their role, dominant team members push their ideas into every team conversation and interaction.

For example, you may test for two dominant developers with polar-opposite opinions. Meetings and discussions turn into stalemates. Team members pick sides, and a division begins. If left without management intervention, the power dynamic can bring a team to a complete stop.

QA testers may consider attempting to mediate stalemates or request help from team leaders or product managers. There must be a voice that breaks the stalemate and avoids division. If a compromise cannot be negotiated, then team management or an architect or dev lead must decide.

As a QA tester, try to build rapport with both dominant views. Help mitigate discussions by presenting the pros and cons for each. Perhaps manage an anonymous poll that allows members to vote with less direct intimidation. Practice being calm, logical, assertive and respectful while making your point and presenting options to move the team forward. Try to stay neutral and focus on what best meets business and customer needs. Prepare for criticism but don’t take it personally. Use criticism as a way to improve your ideas.

While QA typically has less power than developers, QA testers can still thrive within a team. Participate actively, ask as many questions as you need to understand and don’t be afraid to step in and take control when a power dynamic threatens to bring the team to a halt.

How to Leverage Developer Knowledge to Improve Test Automation?

As a QA tester, you have great influence. What? How? You’re in a prime position to leverage developer knowledge to the team’s advantage. Specifically, focus on leveraging developer code knowledge to improve automated test development.

Have you ever found that the QA team is treading water or worse trying to create maintainable and effective test automation? That’s the perfect opportunity to show QA initiative. Select a developer or two and ask their opinions on automated test development. Explain the situation and ask for opinions on how to best create and execute test automation. Show examples of where QA is running into trouble. Take notes and try each developer’s suggestions. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a developer who enjoys teaching.

Make the most of the opportunity to improve QA test automation effectiveness, validity and efficiency. With the right developer partner, QA test automation provides significantly higher ROI and test coverage. You’ll gain valuable coding and test automation skills while improving the QA test automation effort.

Teamwork makes the business dreams work. It takes time and some serious communication skills, but being able to build working relationships with developers as a QA tester is critical to career success. As a QA, you’ll need strong and flexible communication skills, a sense of diplomacy and the desire to actively work and learn. Getting what you need from developers can be a challenge, but it’s well worth the effort to enhance the product and your own career skills.

Do you need a solid, quality codeless test automation tool for your development and QA teams? Prefer the simplicity of a cloud-based service? Create effective and efficient codeless test automation using Test Studio, and keep tests and teams productive.

About the Author

Amy Reichert

A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management.  She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.


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