I have spent the last 2 years working within the Platform team in Zoopla’s B2B business unit. First as a Senior Quality Engineer, and later as Quality Engineering Manager. It was a great base for me as a Quality Engineer. Giving me the opportunity to make broad impacts to our ways of working. These included:
- Working on our test environment management
- Improving our Continuous Integration and Deployment pipelines
- Redefining our branching strategies
- Improve our production deployment cadence
- Work on our observability and alerting platform, including managing integrations with our out of hours alerting tools
- and much more.
A lot of what the Platform team does directly relates back to Quality – I’ve written more about this here. The goals of the Quality and Platform teams are all about improving the Developer and User Experiences. Both teams achieve this by:
- Engineering solutions that improve feedback loops
- Ensuring reliability and resilience of the product
- Coaching others on best practices
- And working towards improving everyone’s experience of working on or using our product.
This is why, when the position for an Engineering Manager for the Platform team came up, I threw may hat in the ring for consideration. There was just one caveat, I wanted to keep one hand on Quality too. After some discussion, I’m pleased to say I got what I wanted. I am now managing the seven Software and Database engineers who make up our platform team as well as the new Quality Engineering Manager. These changes bring my total team up to a massive twenty!
I was really pleased to be able to promote one of my Senior Quality Engineers into the Quality Engineering Manager role. They have made fantastic contributions to our Quality team since joining the business in the latter part of last year. Not only that but they have already shown themselves to be a great leader. Keeping the new Quality Engineering Manager within my team gives me that chance to still have the one hand on Quality that I wanted.
Why keep one hand on Quality?
Ignoring the obvious, that I am a Quality Evangelist, there are a few reasons:
- As I mentioned, there is a huge crossover between the two teams. Although they achieve it in very different ways, it feels natural for me to be involved in leading both.
- The new Quality Engineering Manager is a new manager. They are fully embedded in a product team and work 4 days a week. All of this means it would be unfair for me to expect them to fulfil the exact role I was doing. Remaining with one hand on allows me to continue to support them and help them grow.
- You may have read my previous post about creating a Quality Strategy, and that was just the start of the journey. This gives me the chance to stay close to and support the work associated with the new strategy.
- It provides me with the opportunity to remain hands on with the broader Quality initiatives I started this year. These new initiatives sit more broadly across all of our business units, rather than just within the one I work in day to day. Staying close to these and helping develop them into something of value to all of our engineers is close to my heart.
- Finally, it gives me a chance to lead a leader. Leadership is a skill in its own right. Leading leaders and achieving not just through them, but their direct reports too, is another. It’s a skill I am keen to develop. My ultimate ambitions being to one day be leading a team of leaders, as a Director/Head of Engineering.
So why move to Engineering Management?
I want to broaden my skill set. As I said above, one day I’d like to be a Director/Head of Engineering. I could probably do that without the Engineering Management experience, but it will help. Despite the similarities in the team’s objectives, how we achieve the results is significantly different. Everything from the tech stack and specialist knowledge required are different, and that means the people are different too. This is all a great opportunity for me to build on my existing skills and knowledge.
Change is good!
I know I’m not leaving them behind completely, but I am still sad to leave my old team. Managing each of them has been a fabulous experience. It has made me really proud to see how they have all grown and developed under my leadership. I’ll miss not having that same regular contact with them. Their new manager will be amazing though and it will be a great chance for each of them to learn and grow together. I can’t wait to see how they continue to improve.
Which leads to me being very excited to start leading my new team. Not just for the opportunities it presents for me to learn and develop as a people manager though. The opportunity it gives me to help each of my new direct reports achieve their goals and become their best selves. Nothing is as satisfying as helping others succeed.
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