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I am a software quality engineer/SQE in a company which has the reputation of being big and bloated, according to insiders and also in Glassdoor reviews. We have a team of 7 SQE, lead by one QA team leader. I am not sure what he really does for our team other than creating Jira tickets & assigning them to us. The content of the Jira tickets is created by Product Managers and have very little information. The lead never asks us about how we are testing a particular story, even if it is a brand new feature or work. He never offers us any advice or strategy on how we should test a particular story. On the contrary, he often seems to be clueless about basic testing. We have to update him about our work/progress, but he never has to update us about what he did, which seems a bit odd to me.

I want to understand what he really does for our team, before jumping to the conclusion that he is not really adding much value to our team. How can I go about doing this ?

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    FYI - This is similar to my question workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/100031/… – frustratedqa Mar 16 '18 at 18:20
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    The only part of this that looks like a question is How can I understand my team lead's job. Try asking him. Say "I'm really interested in understanding your role. Can you explain it to me?" – DJClayworth Mar 17 '18 at 2:55
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Even if you do assess his value to the team, what would you then do with that information? It's important to ask that question, because I suspect that the answer is "nothing much". In which case, why risk rocking the boat for no gain?

Presumably he has his own responsibilities, and your bosses assign enough importance to those responsibilities to justify paying him his wage.

The more important question to ask yourself is if - given the environment - you'd like to stick around. And what responsibilities this person has on his plate doesn't do anything to answer that.

  • This gets at what I was trying for in my comment above. What standard would the leader's value be measured against? @frustratedqa seems frustrated that the manager is simply assigning/managing workloads instead of acting as a subject matter expert, when in fact that may be the very behavior the organization is looking for in this role. – dwizum Mar 16 '18 at 17:49
  • @dwizum - exactly the case. In these situations it's better to asses how happy on is with one's role rather than being jealous on some other person's seeming lack of responsibilities. It's also pretty rare for a team leader to have to explain himself to everyone else if his responsibilities don't really touch on the same stuff they do. – AndreiROM Mar 16 '18 at 17:50
  • @AndreiROM - I don't envy the seeming lack of responsibilities. Its possible that he does not have to touch the same stuff as us. But, I am curious to know what he really does. Maybe that could help me to understand if I want to be a lead eventually in this company. As for my role, I am somewhat happy with it. But, I don't want bloat in our company or at least in our team to begin with. – frustratedqa Mar 16 '18 at 18:08
  • @frustratedqa - even though you may not like bloat in the company, it's not really within your power to affect change on that level. As to whether you'd like to be a lead ... can you maybe look up past job postings online? Or maybe just talk to the guy? – AndreiROM Mar 16 '18 at 18:53
  • @frustratedqa - my point was this: who gets to define "bloat?" What you see as bloat may be deliberate (and effective) design from someone with a different perspective (i.e. leadership in your company). As part of your evaluation, it might be helpful to learn more about the intended design, versus (or at least prior to) evaluating this individual against an arbitrary standard. In addition to asking "what" he does, ask "why is it important?" – dwizum Mar 16 '18 at 19:11
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We have to update him about our work/progress, but he never has to update us about what he did, which seems a bit odd to me.

Nope, that's completely normal. Status reports tend to go UP the reporting chain, not down.

I want to understand what he really does for our team, before jumping to the conclusion that he is not really adding much value to our team. How can I go about doing this ?

You need to recognize that you have a limited view - you only see the portion of his job that impacts you. Part of a good manager's job is to insulate the team from all the nonsense and political mayhem that's common in many large companies. That can take a lot of time and effort that's not immediately apparent if you're only looking at the upper half of the duck.

Assessing his value to the company is probably a task that's above your pay grade.

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This entirely depends on many aspects and is very dependent on both the team and the company but a lead can have many different roles - many of which may not be entirely apparent to individuals but are still vital to the success of the team.

Fairly typical responsibilities include but aren't limited to:

  • Performing similar roles on multiple projects.
  • Insulating the team from management - attending meetings, answering to higher-ups, and preparing reports and paperwork so the technical team members can spend their focus on the technical problems rather than bureaucracy.
  • Assigning and distributing work in an efficient manner.
  • Overall communication and removing hindrances - allowing the team to do their job well.
  • Soft skills like directly communicating with the customer (end-users, managers, other departments, etc.) in a manner that reflects better on the company/department while avoiding overly-technical discussion.
  • Ensuring the team stays focused on task

Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not happening. If it's not happening, it would be the responsibility of their superior to call them out on it.

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