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 Nick Longley, Test Manager at Sky Betting & Gaming, 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 Test Manager at Sky Betting & Gaming. I lead a team of 20 Test Engineers setting the direction for testing within the tribe and ensure consistent and quality standards are achieved.
What inspired you to get involved in the IT industry?
It’s going back sometime now to the infancy of the web but I was fascinated (& still am) by technology and the impact this would have on all our lives. The opportunity to play a part in delivering something new to a wide audience is something that has always excited me.
Can you tell me about your journey and how you got where you are now?
I started out working for first direct (HSBC) and was fortunate to work for a company that really promoted cross-skilling and movement of people around the business. I am from a non-technical background but got the opportunity to work in IT initially on a 3-month secondment. The role was a steep learning curve but one I really enjoyed and so applied for a permanent position leading a small UAT team.
After 3 years of building my experience, I moved onto a Test Manager role at Orange. 4 years later I joined Sogeti UK as a Test Manager working primarily for EE coordinating offshore testing. I moved to William Hill as a Test Lead in 2013 leading a team of 15 Test Engineers across Leeds, Sofia and Krakow and joined Sky Betting & Gaming in 2019.
It has been really great to experience working for these different businesses in very different sectors from finance to telecoms and now the entertainment industry.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
I am fortunate to have worked with some great people throughout my career and try to learn from each of them. I am still in contact with many of my ex-colleagues and find this to be a really valuable support network.
In terms of inspiration, I recently enjoyed reading Dan Pink’s Drive. Many of the themes contained in the book really resonated with me when leading teams. From a test perspective, I have always enjoyed reading or listening to James Bach, Lisa Crispin & Janet Gregory.
How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
I think motivation is a massive challenge for everyone right now. I try to ensure the team have clear goals and communicate regularly (possibly even over-communicate) to help understand any issues that they are encountering so that I can provide support and guidance.
What are your current goals?
To be the best test manager I can be. I have learned loads throughout my career but feel like I can still improve both as a leader in tech and a people manager. I also want to run a sub-4-hour marathon (my current PB is 4hrs 10 mins)!
What are you the proudest of in your career so far?
I am proud of where I am right now in my career and the journey to get here. I work as part of a great team for one of the best employers in the UK.
In terms of career highlights, I was proud to be involved in developing apps ready for the launch of the original iPhone. This led to me being one of the first people in the UK to get hands-on with the iPhone before it had even been launched.
What has been your greatest challenge?
For me, it’s managing stress levels. I really struggled with this earlier in my career when working on some high profile programmes of work. I had a tendency to worry and not switch off from work which had an impact on my health and wellbeing. Thankfully I learned from the experience and have since developed techniques for managing my stress levels.
What is the favourite part of your job?
I really enjoy the variety of work and play a part in delivering great products. I work in a very busy and diverse team where no two days are ever the same. I also really enjoy working with people and helping my team to improve and progress in their careers.
What have you learned from your experience so far?
The industry moves so quickly it is vital to keep your skills current. Find time to invest in yourself and don’t become complacent. The role of a QA/tester has evolved from the early days so embrace change and be prepared to adapt.
Do you have a memorable story or an anecdote from your experience you’d like to tell?
I once received a CV from someone containing a rather unfortunate typo. All I will say is that one letter incorrect in just the wrong place can have a very different meaning! In all seriousness, I am a firm believer that anyone working in QA / test should have a word-perfect CV. No excuses!
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring engineers and testers who want to grow in the tech industry?
Possibly a controversial one but don’t be fixated on testing qualifications. Whilst there is value in gaining certifications this is really not essential to career success. As a hiring manager, I am more interested in aptitude, hands-on experience and soft skills. I believe the latter in particular are increasingly vital when working in agile teams.
There are some great online resources out there that people can use to level up their skill set and I am also a huge fan of meet up’s for sharing knowledge and building contacts.