This blog entry, How to Improve your Skills at Office Politics, contains some very good advice for being successful at work, though I take issues with the author’s choice of the term ‘office politics.’ To me, that term has very negative connotations.
I’ve been thinking about these tips in regard to working in software quality assurance. One of the toughest office dynamics is between experienced, alpha geek developers and more junior and/or less technically skilled quality assurance engineers. As a QA lead, I spend a lot of my time helping both sides to bridge this gap.
One of the best skills a junior QA engineer can develop is knowing when and how to ask for help: before you ask a developer for help, make sure you’ve tried everything possible to figure it out or find out for yourself, and when you do ask for help, explain what steps you’ve taken. This explanation helps the developer to understand what you do and don’t know, but more importantly, it shows him that you’re taking initiative and not wasting his time by running to him first (I’m consciously using the male pronoun here, since such alpha developers are usually male).
I had one QA engineer who was having a particularly tough time gaining credibility with a senior developer on her team. Despite employing the tactics above, the developer was still giving the QA engineer the impression that she was annoying him. So I designated myself her safe go-to person. After trying everything she could think of, she would come to me without worrying about her credibility.
If I could help her, then she didn’t have to go the developer. If I couldn’t help her, then she didn’t have to go to the developer. If I couldn’t help, then I reinforced to the developer that she had taken a lot of initiative, and helped him to understand what she did and did know.

Categories: Professional