October 2020 MOT Bloggers Club topic

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?

I’ve been pretty lucky to meet lots of interesting people throughout my career, share lots of ideas. Picking “the best career advice” out of lots of great advice isn’t the easiest job. What has stuck out recently, and has echoed through other pieces of advice would be:

Keep doing what you are doing

This isn’t going to be how about how perfect and flawless I am, or that I always do the right thing. We all make mistakes right? Sometimes we do the wrong thing on purpose, even though we know we shouldn’t?

In reality those 6 words of advice, at (probably) key stages have been what I needed to hear when I’ve been dealing with a thorny issue, or trying to grow.

I work as a test manager in the UK civil service, and work across several teams. I’m still pretty new to the management-y side of things (2-3 years) and would be lying if I said I was a natural. Despite my job title, in my day to day I tend to be a mix of; test manager, engineer, senior test person, community lead, general helper to name a few. I always lean towards the doing, and leading by doing, which is probably a great strength and why I’m a pretty temperamental test manager.

At a recent 1-2-1 with my gaffer, I was talking about how I was trying to “do more of the management-y stuff” and a bit less of “the techy stuff”. The aim of this was to really focus on two important teams that should be the focus of my attentions. My approach was to show my value and help deliver value to that team, in what ever way I could.

In one team which I’ll call Team Alpharius, I worked with their great test person Omegon to get their automated framework running in a way that would support us in writing atomic tests, and potentially reusable code for other teams. From here I moved into looking at overall strategy things, and looking ahead of the immediate sprints to smooth the way for the team. Those initial contributions, I believe showed that I want to help, and can work to support those teams goals.

This approach was an experiment I was running to see if it would help me get into that team, and not be seen as a “nosey test manager slowing us down”. In short, support the team with my strengths to build credibility and keep moving forward from there.

Still early days yet, but early signs are promising that I could have a decent approach.

That piece of advice from my manager, was exactly what I needed at that time to keep moving in that direction. It affirmed some of what I was doing, and we chatted about some other ideas.

Certainly not the most ground breaking advice I can think of, but sometimes that sanity check with someone you respect, their words are perfect at that time.