Why You Should Listen To That Millennial

The millennial that I am referring to is the one that wrote this article, but it also applies to those already in your organization. In the article, she talks about the reasons why a lot of companies struggle to retain people from her generation. It got me thinking about some of my experiences, both as an employee and as a manager. While I am just outside the age bracket for being a millennial, I definitely identify with them in a lot of areas.

One of the biggest things missing in the workplace today is real engagement with the employees. While it is a problem for millennials, I feel like it applies to everyone. If you want your employees to stick around, you have to give them a reason to not want to leave. Another way to think about it is that you should focus on getting your organization to a place where they want to stay, rather than working towards keeping them from leaving. That often goes far beyond just monetary compensation. Things like how much they are able to connect with their leadership and teammates, or what the actual office culture is (not the one espoused in the company handbook, but the real one people deal with every day...they are different, trust me). And here's the real kicker to all of this...it's not just millenials that feel this way! A lot of your employees feel this way, but the millennials are willing to say something because they were taught to not settle, or accept things as they have always been.

My approach to solving this was to very intentionally engage with those under me, and empowering them to take on new and exciting projects. I learned very early on that as a leader, my #1 job was to identify, train, and mentor those under me in such a way that showed I was expecting them to take over my role one day. One of the biggest frustrations I have run into as a member of an organization, whether as an employee or in a leadership position, is how the leaders grow and develop the people under them. In my entire career (20+ years), I have only had two leaders mentor me in such a way that I felt like I was growing as both an employee, as well as a person. Why there were not more people doing this, I will never understand. If you want to build an organization that is strong, it only makes sense to develop the next level of people below you in order to ensure that this happens consistently. This Harvard Business Review article says it best:

Regardless of what else you expect from your managers, facilitating employee learning and development should be a non-negotiable competency.

So how do you do this? How do you become a manager or organization that people want to work for, and more importantly, how do you develop those people into the next wave of leaders in your organization? The first thing to realize is that there is no magic formula. There is no secret recipe for success that is 100% repeatable. Instead, there are some key principles that you should keep in mind, and strive to work towards.

People vs Resources

I’m not talking about using resources other than people, but rather how you look at the people you have. Do you treat them like a number that can easily be replaced, or do you treat them like a valued member of the team? Having the ability to recognize people for the unique individuals that they are is a lot tougher than it sounds, and takes deliberate and intentional effort. It is far easier to see them as a resource with skills that are defined by a job description, but that does not do anything to further the person, nor does it truly help further the organization. When you just throw resources at a problem, eventually you will run into a scaling problem.

Personal Interactions

When you connect with people on a personal level, they feel valued, and their desire for success, as well as their level of engagement, increases. In every position of authority I have ever been in, I have gotten the best results out of the people I was able to connect with on a personal level. This is not a simple matter, and it is likely that you will have people on your team that you just can’t connect with. This is one of the key reasons why cultural fit is such an important part of the hiring process. When you spend as much time with your co-workers as you do your own family, you naturally want to enjoy that time (and conversely, your employees want the same thing). Having this feeling of camaraderie and friendship will lead the members of your team to want to do better by each other, and will result in a much higher level of quality and efficiency.

Career Development

The resources on your team, regardless of where they are at in their career, need to be treated as a plant would be. They need to be fed and nurtured on a regular basis in order to keep them healthy and productive. One of the ways I like to do this is by sitting down with each person and outlining where they want to go in their career, and then take that and work with them to put together a list of goals for them to work towards. These goals should be S.M.A.R.T., should be a mixture of individual and teams goals, and should be measured on a quarterly basis at a minimum (I like to review during monthly 1-on–1’s). By including the employee in the process of creating the goals, you enable them to take ownership of their career and thereby fostering better engagement on their part.

I know a lot of this seems pretty simple and basic on paper, but it is surprisingly difficult to accomplish in reality. The key is to make a deliberate choice with each and every employee to connect with them on their level and be genuine in your conversations with them. You won’t win them all, but trust me, word will get around, and you’ll find that people are wanting to come to your team or organization. You should train and mentor so that people can leave, but connect with them in such a way that they do not want to. It’s not easy, and there are definitely some bumps along the way, but you will find it all that much more rewarding!



IBM iSeries & RPG Automation Using WebDriver

When I was at MEDHOST, they were using IBM’s Rational Functional Tester as their automation tool of choice, and while that is a great tool, it didn’t really fit with what we were trying to do with our automation plans. The big reason they had started using it was in order to do RPG/Green Screen automation against an IBM iSeries mainframe, and this was the best solution that they had found. Since this wasn’t a very feasible option for us in the long run (for a number of reasons, not JUST price), we started the process of looking into alternatives. Another team in our company was using Sikuli, and that seemed like a very real option initially. While doing some investigation into Sikuli, we talked to yet another team, and they mentioned that there was a plugin for the mainframe that would potentially allow us to use a WebDriver-based solution instead. While it wasn’t a plugin per se (it was actually a feature that IBM provides natively), it did allow you to render an exact replica of the terminal screen in a web browser, and this allowed us to use Selenium to drive our automation.

To say that this was a game-changer would be an understatement. We recreated a simple script (that took about 5 minutes to run in RFT) using Selenium, and that version of the script executed in 15 seconds (faster if ran on a machine with an SSD). When people saw this, there was much disbelief, mainly because the function this script was performing typically took 15-20 minutes manually, and happened multiple times a day across our entire company. This simple script, that could run in 15 seconds, would literally save our company HOURS a day, and it was only the first script we created. RFT required someone to actually kick off the script manually, and would only run in a specific environment, but our Selenium script could be fired off in a multitude of ways, and could target any environment. This allowed us to move beyond just automation testing, and allowed us to start using this script for actual content creation. Once we started doing this, it immediately became apparent that every single department in the company would be able to get some benefit from it, and all of the sudden everyone wanted to talk to us about our roadmap.

When our leadership team saw this execute, and the direction we were taking the platform around it, their only response was:

What do you need from us to get this implemented?
— MEDHOST Leadership

This post was originally posted to the QubedApples blog, and was focused specifically on Selenium. I have updated it slightly to be more accurate in this version.

Introducing The QA Consultancy

As some of you may have noticed, I recently left HomeAdvisor (on very good terms). It was an unbelievable experience, as I made a lot of friends, and got to work at a company growing at an incredible rate. So why would I leave a situation like that? Without going into a lot of the details, the tldr; is that various events necessitated a change. Once the reality of that sunk in, it was time to figure out what was next. I took a long hard look at the last several years, and thought about what I liked doing most. What came out of that process was a decision that was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

For a long time, I have noticed a real gap in a lot of organizations, and it seems that no one is filling that space. QA organizations are suffering from a lack of strategic vision, and are struggling to find/develop talent. At a time when quality can make or break you, a lot of companies are getting filled with people who are really skilled at testing, but struggle with anything beyond that. This is the gap I want to fill. I want to help build up solid QA organizations, and position them to scale as needed. I want to help them identify the talent they need, and work with them to develop a plan to foster and develop that talent.

It is with this goal in mind that I have decided to start The QA Consultancy. If you, or someone you know, need help getting a QA department spun up, or are struggling with one that is underachieving, you should check us out. I think we could be a great benefit to you and your organization!