Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

How to Wear a Lot of Hats

QA Team
Leadership
Agile / Scrum

13 October, 2021

Phillip Derosa
Phillip Derosa

Global Director of QA at OneSpan

Phillip Derosa, Global Director of QA at OneSpan, has never been afraid to fill in the cracks between departmental duties, often coming up with a brand new intermediary position to occupy during times of need.

Problem

If you play poker online, chances are, you’ve probably heard about the game the World Series of Poker. We would release to our customers every three months.

A lot of businesses are looking to reduce their time to market, and this is across a lot of platforms. In the game industry, we are eager to bring new value to our customers as frequently as possible. It’s a competitive market, so we like to be able to act quickly when a trend catches fire. You ideally want to reduce the number of changes that you deploy for each release, as well.

In this case, I was the product owner and a Scrum master of Scrum masters on a team. I was also the QA director and the release manager, a position that was brand new to the company. I was wearing a lot of hats.

Actions taken

Our mission was to reduce the length of our release cycle, bringing it from three months down to two weeks.

We solved this problem with executive buy-in, who sponsored this change in velocity. It was an initiative that involved a lot of people. Those in the studio were saying that it was impossible, that three months was the bare minimum; to them, that was just the way that things were. Having our leadership on our side helped us a lot in making this change.

Even if we were only able to shave a few weeks off at a time, the progress that we were making was still better than nothing. I had built a small automation framework team and we did what we could to streamline our testing process. We started with our end-to-end testing, which is the part of the process most capable of showing us whether or not we have a working product.

We ended up automating around seventy percent of our end-to-end tests, all of the ones that people would have to manually go in and validate. After running those every night, we would catch all of the issues that we had to figure out.

The server side was quite advanced in terms of the best practices that we had in place; server developers tend to have to do things right the first time, or else things start to break. Very bad things can happen.

We also added a smoke test prior to their merge. In order for the merge to go in, they would deploy the solution after running a few core tests. We were using the product just like a customer would.

At one point, I took on a release manager type of role, more of an additional hat than anything else. It was nothing that had been a part of the team’s way of working before. We defined, step-by-step, a process map. We planned out every single thing that needed to happen to get the product through production. In retrospectives, we were then able to analyze every step and identify areas that could be improved.

Along with this process map came a schedule. This was especially important toward the end, where the sequence of events ended up mattering a lot. After defining all of these processes, we then defined an owner for each step. Our teams were taking more responsibility for the quality of their deliverables than ever.

We had exposed all of the right people to the importance of everything that we were doing at this juncture. They had fresh ideas to bring to the table. Getting the team actively involved in the deployment process proved to be vital to our effort to reduce these release cycles.

Lessons learned

  • My parents were free-range parents; I was always one to sort of do my own thing. I really do not toe the line when it comes to my role on the team. I can be the QA director, but if I see a problem outside of those duties, I put on a hat and I fix it. It’s easy to just say that something is not your job. It takes energy, but you learn so much by going above and beyond.
  • I’m a systems-thinker. I see everything as a system that works together. When solving a problem like this, it can be helpful to learn how every piece of the puzzle works. How does everything all fit?
  • Once my managers saw the value in this new position that I had come up with, they felt comfortable enough to hire somebody to take on the role full-time. Filling this gap has been very helpful to us.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Improving Team Execution in a Remote Environment

29 November

Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, details his process of implementing an organized execution system for his cross-functional team.

Alignment
Remote
Leadership
Delegate
Feedback
Vadim Antonov

Vadim Antonov

Engineering Manager at Facebook

Firing Somebody for the First Time

23 November

William Bajzek, Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital, remembers the first time that he needed to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the well-being of his team.

Leadership
Firing
Team Reaction
William Bajzek

William Bajzek

Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital

What it takes to become a great product manager

19 November

James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, shares his deep understanding of the traits of a successful product manager and how to get aligned with the organization’s path to success.

Product Team
Personal Growth
Leadership
Strategy
James Engelbert

James Engelbert

Head of Product at BT

How to Work With People Who Are Different Than You

11 November

Rajesh Agarwal, VP & Head of Engineering at Syncro, shares how effectively he collaborated with a newly-joined team as a diverse candidate.

Acquisition / Integration
Leadership
Collaboration
Cultural Differences
Rajesh Agarwal

Rajesh Agarwal

VP and Head of Engineering at Syncro

One-On-Ones for Engaging Employees: How Good Managers Run Them

11 November

Matt Anger, Senior Staff Engineer at DoorDash, shares some of the benefits of having one-on-one meetings and tips on how both parties should run them.

Goal Setting
Leadership
Meetings
Feedback
Matt Anger

Matt Anger

Senior Staff Engineer at DoorDash

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.