Welcome to the next feature of our Leaders in Tech editorial series. Speaking to leaders in the industry to capture their stories, career highs and lows, their trials and successes, their current company and their role, most recent projects, advice to others, and the individuals who they most look up to in the industry.
Today, we talked to Harneet Bains, Senior QA at Peakon, to find out more about why he joined the tech industry, what his role entails, what are the challenges he faces, and his advice to aspiring engineers and testers.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
I am a Senior QA responsible for advocating and defining Testing/QA within an Agile setting utilizing a shift left policy. Along with the rest of QA, we define the testing strategy and quality best practices.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey? How did you get where you are now?
I have been in QA for approximately 7/8 years, starting as a manual testing focused test analyst. In my opinion, a successful QA/Tester must have a solid foundation of best practices and analysis. This is something predominantly picked up as an Exploratory or ‘Manual’ tester. I have stayed focused on these areas for the majority of my time in QA.
These are the skills that have allowed me to move into a Lead/Senior position where I am able to mentor others and help them drive their own career progression. The addition of knowledge on tools such as Automation or other technical tools is all a learning path to allow you to test and define quality in numerous ways.
What drew you to the tech industry?
I was always interested in technology as a child. I used to ask my parents not to throw away things that did not work, i.e corded telephones, cd players, and radios. I would open them up to have a look inside, sometimes attempt (unsuccessfully in most cases) to fix them.
But my interest in computing came about when we bought our first desktop PC in the house (a Packard Bell with Windows 95). I just seemed to have a knack for using it without any help from anyone. As time went on I would open it up, take it apart, and put it back together. And yes it did work after that. But ever since then I have been a tech-minded person.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
I will always remember my first proper job as a Test Analyst and my manager who gave me that opportunity, Deb Majumdar. He was definitely a mentor in my eyes in my early stages in the field. Helped me a lot… and also cut me a lot of slack.
In more recent times I have to give huge credit to Donovan Greeff, over the past 2.5 years or so he has been the one I have looked up to in progressing my career. A great Head of QA, a very relaxed and well-natured man but above all, he has brilliant ideas/knowledge which he is always happy to share and offer his time to help those around him.
What do you think are the most important qualities of successful tech leaders today?
The realization that your team is your strength. Trusting your team to do what they are hired to do. Understanding that even as a lead, you may not be the smartest person in a room.
The biggest quality though is understanding that there are people who will have more knowledge about certain topics/areas of expertise than you and relying on them to help you get things right.
What are your current goals? What are you currently working on?
My current goal is to have the best positive impact on the company and team I work in. I personally think leading is not just about getting a managerial title, it is about leading by example and action. Many people who are not leaders have shown more leadership than actual leaders/managers. My aim is to be someone who can set an example of whether I am a manager or not.
What are you the proudest of in your career so far?
I am proud of every moment in my career, the ups, and the downs. The ups have driven me forward whilst the downs have given me great perspective and opportunities to learn how NOT to do things.
What is the favorite part of your job?
The delivery! When you work on a small or large feature… as a team the delivery for me is the best part. That is when you know everyone’s efforts have amounted to something.
What has been your greatest challenge from working as a tech leader?
Dealing with more senior tech leaders who in my opinion were the definition of, bad micro-managers with no leadership qualities at all.
What’s the most important risk you took in your career and why?
Not jumping on the automation train! Over the years automation has grown to be a very important tool for testing. In a lot of companies automation is all they want. I was never interested in coding early on, and even now, I find myself not completely bought in on the idea of being an automation QA/tester. But, automation is a tool, it is not a way of life.
I stuck to my guns as without a solid principle of testing and a great understanding of analysis of the needs of a project (from a testing perspective) automation would be a flawed tool. Automation is not good enough on its own, it compliments a solid testing strategy. It adds some efficiency to a well-analyzed testing plan. However, automation is no good if you do not have the testing minds to, in a simple way, define what needs to be tested and at what level.
What have you learned from your experience so far?
Leadership is nothing to do with being a manager or a lead by title. I have seen many non-leaders show great leadership, and have seen many managers/leaders who have no idea what they are doing. It is your knowledge and how you conduct yourself with those around you that is important.
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring engineers and testers who want to grow in the tech industry?
If you wish to lead or simply wish to be better, do not wait for the opportunity to fall in your lap, instead create the opportunity yourself. Show your worth to the right people and they will show their trust and confidence in you.
Don’t be afraid of the negative moments, you can learn a lot from them and they can make you more resilient. Whether you are a manager of people or not, you can always be a leader!