Bruce began his career as an IT support technician at a small insurance firm. Over the years he's gained a range of academic and professional qualifications and now manages a team of 50 test engineers at Citrix Systems.
What’s your name?
Where do you work?
What's your job title?
Project lead. I project manage a test team of around 50 test engineers from five offices spanning three time zones and have a support team of two working with me.
How long have you been doing that?
How did you get there?
I started off as a junior IT support technician fixing broken PCs and servers in a small insurance company. It was here that I started to gain some good technical skills that support my current day-to-day work. I also picked up some Microsoft professional certifications in the areas I was working in.
I then went to Birmingham City University (BCU) where I studied a BSc in ICT. I continued to work on my technical skills and eventually graduated with a first and a few more Microsoft certifications.
After I graduated I joined Citrix as a junior software tester, initially dealing with requirements analysis and test case execution. I got several promotions as a software tester and after about three years I was leading a test team of around 25 testers split across four sites and three time zones on the XenDesktop 5.0.
I was then moved onto a new long lead project in its very early stages (the requirements gathering and design phases of the project before any code was written) on which I was working with only one other tester. I had been told to “own the project” from the test perspective.
Initially our role was to find defects in the early requirements and designs and as part of this I ended up working with a colleague on improving our test processes to better suit the methodology we use within test (graphical test planning – an in house developed analytical/risk based testing methodology). During this work we discovered some ways in which the data we were generating could create some key metrics and measures that we could use to better drive the test process. At this point I gained a slightly more advanced software testing certification (ISTQB intermediate) to re-enforce my skills.
After doing this we were ready to ramp up on our testing efforts and pulled in around ten local test engineers to work on early test analysis. I soon discovered I had for the first time a bunch of engineers not only looking to me for guidance and general direction but also for their day-to-day tasks. I gained experience in project management and to support the training I was getting within the company I took the APMP project management certification.
What did you expect when you started work?
I had worked in a test team as an intern so I knew roughly what to expect. I was most surprised at the degree of flexibility I was given to shape my career and try new things to find what I enjoyed doing the most.
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
Hectic at times, especially towards the end of each project, and varied if you want it to be, but never boring.
What's the work and day-to-day experience like?
The work involves a large deal of communication in varying shapes and forms – at least five of the eight hours of my working day are spent leading and participating in meetings. I have to regularly report on the teams’ progress to senior management and chair weekly direction setting type team meetings.
Negotiation skills are critical as you often have to convince senior management round to your way of thinking.
You need to be able to have influence without direct power in many cases – the team I manage do not directly report to me and so there can be a conflict between my instructions and those of team members line managers.
The role also involves being accountable for the working time for each member of my project team, which means creating and maintain a detailed project schedule. The work is slow at times and very busy other times – it very much depends on the project you are working on and at what stage in the lifecycle that project is at.
What's the best thing about the job?
Being able to make a real change to the success of projects and therefore the business through my actions and being able to lead the direction for a good sized team. It is also very rewarding to see project successes as a result of your work.
And the worst?
The long hours that are often needed in the latter phases of projects or when something outside of your control changes, such as late breaking requirements, upstream deliverable date slips etc.
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?
Try as much as you can as soon as you can. Do not turn down opportunities and challenges even if some of the things you get given may sound hard or unappealing. In general if you attempt but fail at something you get a greater appreciation of where your skills lie and on what you might like to work on next.
Pick up related professional certifications during your career as these are the thing that can help differentiate you from other graduates and will help open the door to future opportunities.
What do you think you'll do next?
Next I plan to run multiple projects in parallel and to gain some additional project management/test certifications to ultimately become a more senior project manager.