Setting up your Remote Junior QA Engineer for Success

Mentoring image

Many a time, QA teams are hesitant about hiring junior QAs to work remotely because there are several challenges such junior QAs face trying to upskill and keep up with the rest of the distributed team. This concern is heightened especially when such a person is just starting their career journey which makes it an even more dicey situation. 

Some of these well-known challenges for such QA  working remotely include;

  • No efficient avenue for the junior QA engineers to physically observe seniors so they can cultivate a good working habit.
  • Difficulty in developing tangible relationships with colleagues for personal growth.
  • Communication barriers prevent them from having impromptu/adhoc pairing sessions with senior colleagues to resolve issues or ask endless list questions while trying to gain clarity of difficult tasks(as they constantly have to wait till someone is available to schedule pairing sessions).

Whilst these challenges may not be eradicated immediately, there are of course, techniques that can be employed to help provide such person an enabling environment to be onboarded and to set the ground running for success, some of which include;

A shoulder to lean on 

A buddy/mentor helps to provide a soft landing into the organization by being a point of contact for information/resources, guidance and assistance. This person makes out time regularly for knowledge sharing, catch-up and pairing sessions.  Preferably, this person should be an experienced QA,(not a manager without experience/expertise in the QA field) who is patient and possesses the ability to teach/impact knowledge.

  1. Scheduled one-on-ones; an informal face-to-face discussion between the mentor and an individual to discuss personal developments, concerns.  
  2. Frequent mentor-led and mentee-led pairing sessions: These pairing sessions could involve either mentor sharing her screen to demonstrate how to get a task done eg performing acceptance tests or verifying bug fixes. The other way involves the mentee sharing her screen while the mentor talks the mentee through how best to get a job done eg while writing automated tests.

A ladder to climb.

  1. Keep them engaged: In addition to asking them to join sessions to observe the Senior QA work on that million-dollar, strategic project with the rest of the dev team, it is also important to keep them engaged with independent tasks with little or no direction. It is an opportunity for them to make mistakes, encounter challenges, ask questions and gain business knowledge of the product.  Apart from these, it gives them a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. During this phase, you can encourage independence by providing written directions or by sharing links to existing documentation or a Stack Overflow solution rather than making use of in-person(video) guidance. Constant monitoring and control should be deliberately avoided.
  2. Allay all fears of missing bugs while testing: This is a healthy fear every software tester shares. No one desires that bugs escape into the live environment under their watch, but then, this fear could be crippling for newbies. In this situation, walk through the steps the team has put in place to prevent bugs from getting into the production environment. Also, highlight avenues and checks implemented to catch bugs quickly peradventure they still get leaked to the live environment. These may include regression frameworks, post-deployment checklists, monitoring tools and alert notifications for downtime etc. To further overcome their anxiety and tension, you can also share some of the past bugs that escaped to the live environment and how it was handled.
  3. The WDYT(What do you think) chorus: Encourage them to voice out their opinions, concerns and thoughts aloud by asking “What do you think?” occasionally. By this, I do not mean putting the young lad on the spot where they feel very uncomfortable or embarrassed. The goal here is to boost their confidence to freely air their views and to remind them that indeed their opinions count, especially as QA testers. Also, encouraging them to speak up should not be limited to only giving suggestions about software improvements.

Platform to shine 

  1. Words of Affirmation: Spoken or written words of affirmation support, encourage and boosts their confidence. This even goes a long way when such words are not just shared privately but also in the presence of decision-makers with respect to their career advancement in the company. Recognition is also proven to be one of the best methods of improving work motivation and employee engagement. 
  2. Playing in the big leagues: Having spent some good time learning and working on internal applications and POCs successfully, it’s time for them to step up and handle bigger and more important deliverables with a moderate amount of supervision. 

Good luck setting up that junior QA for success 😀

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Oluwatomi Familoni is a Software Quality Assurance Engineer at ZOLA Electric

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