A visit to India

I am writing this after 4 days in India, visiting the offices of our offshore delivery partners, Nagarro. It’s my first visit to India and it has been amazing so far. We are just outside Delhi, in a 5* hotel, with cars to drive us to and from the office, so we havent had to get ourselves around, although our attempt to use Uber last evening failed as the driver couldnt find us, but never mind. And of course the food is fantastic, so colourful and rich in taste.

Being out here and meeting the team has been a great experience for me and for them. The team are so friendly, helpful and genuinely pleased to see us. Having people visit shows that we care about them, they are offshore but not forgotten. Face to face contact is so important, as its hard to build up relationships over the phone or Skype in the way that a chat in the office and a drink after work can do.

I’ve been able to run through the testing process with them and discuss some of the issues they face. Yesterday I was invited to perform a talk to well over 100 testers on a topic that I presented as a webinar last month on being a better tester, which was an honour for me, so thanks to the people at Nagarro for asking me to do this. We had some good questions from the testers here and they were really engaged in the subject. It’s given me a number of new followers too  🙂

Today I ran a workshop on working with distributed teams – with some of the guys putting themselves in the position of being the Onshore team – I think they found it quite eye-opening.

In terms of new experiences, I can fault it. In terms of building relationships, it has been outstanding, and in terms of productivity, I cannot believe how much I have crammed in this week. There is one day left with only one planned meeting, but I have a feeling that there will be a few ad-hoc ones with the team as they make the most of having two of us out here with them – and who can blame them.

I’m very thankful to have had this great experience, and can definitely say how much I like India already. Sightseeing Saturday is yet to come – I cant wait!

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Its all about people.

This might sound really obvious, but not much can get done without human involvement somewhere along the line. Therefore people are important, and that is the same whatever industry you happen to be in.

Working in technology, we can be forgiven for believing that technology is king, and people are somewhat incidental. We are focussed on delivering changes to products and using technology to do so. Code is written, tested and released in regular cycles, to deliver benefits to an end-user – a person. But what about the people who are not those referred to in a User Story? Those actually involved in gathering requirements, writing the code, testing it, releasing it? Are they not important too?

Yes, I believe they are, and I also believe that too few companies genuinely believe this to be true. Thankfully the company I work for is very people focussed and personal and professional development is not just something we pay lip service to. Failure to invest in people just means that they will leave. A new study on how millennials see the world indicates that they are happy to just jump ship on regular intervals to get ahead. That contrasts with my belief in loyalty and that moving too often looks as though you lack staying power, but there is a generation gap here, so maybe the difference in outlook is not so surprising! In any case, it’s not just about Generation X, Y and millennials, but people in general. We all need to feel valued, that we are doing something worthwhile and appreciated, stretched so that we have learning opportunities, and trusted to do a good job. No-one wants to feel bored and undervalued, whatever year they were born in.

The problem is that managing people is hard work. Everyone is an individual, with different motivators and needs, and a good manager has to keep track of each person and deal with them in the way that works for them as individuals. When I first started managing, I believed in treating people the same – that’s fair isn’t it? And treating people how I would like to be treated. Both admirable ideas, but fundamentally flawed. Firstly I assumed everyone was motivated by the same thing, and that isn’t the case. And secondly, my preferences are not the same as others. So by trying to do the right thing, I missed out on looking at people as individuals.

Roll forward a number of years and as I matured into my role, attended training courses and benefitted from coaching by my line manager, I came to realise and appreciate the differences between each of my team members. I manage 9 testers now, all unique in their own ways, and I absolutely celebrate those differences. I love being able to find out what motivates someone, and give them opportunities in those areas. It’s great to see how they respond, and the passion with which they do their work when truly trusted and motivated. There is so much to be gained as their manager, as I get to celebrate their successes with them, and see them fired up and ready to tackle new things.

Whilst writing this, it strikes me just how much of a mind-shift I have had to make over the past 5 years, but it has been totally worth it. I would like to think that I am a good manager – not perfect, and still with a lot to learn – but no longer taking a lazy approach to managing people, and instead considering them as individuals, and treating them as such. I mentioned earlier about treating people fairly, and I can still do that by giving them all different opportunities, and not leaving anyone out. It isn’t about treating everyone as though they were clones of each other, and it isn’t about assuming that everyone is motivated by the same thing or has the same dreams and aspirations.

Yes, it takes effort and time to get to know every individual, but then if it isn’t about the people, what’s the point?