Our testing team is not known for working in isolation. Quite the opposite! Spend some time in our offices and you will often see one of the testers walk to the Development team to talk through a problem or ask a question. Or a few developers clustering around a tester’s screen and engaging in animated conversations.
So suddenly throwing the entire team into a whole new world of remote working, especially with one member of the team stuck in the lockdown in India to boot could have been quite the challenge for Julian Bowles, who manages the team.
But Julian tells me that, in spite of the mayhem around us, it’s all been BAU for the test team. And nothing could make him prouder! Working with the IT Services team, he was able to set up a virtual machine for his team member stuck in India, who agreed to work British hours, so the impact is minimal on the rest of team. Of course, the interaction has changed for all of them, but Teams has stepped up and is keeping the communication going smoothly. The team even delivered a presentation to the rest of the Department on Automated Testing in the past couple of weeks, which was really well received by the senior managers.
As soon as the country went into lockdown, Julian introduced daily catch up calls with the team, insisting that each of them do everything they can to attend. Julian explains that these calls are a great way to check in with everyone, make sure that work is progressing smoothly and catch any issues or potential problem very quickly. He is also making sure that he has regular 1:1 calls with everyone. In a group, it’s all too easy for people to stay quiet and slip under the radar. And when issues have become apparent, Julian has been able to turn to our Head of HR and his own line manager for advice and help. He tells me that both have been brilliant at getting back to him immediately, and he has felt really supported through it all.
Julian acknowledges that his team is lucky that they haven’t had to deal with the issue of childcare. And with the company allowing everyone to take all their monitors and other IT equipment home, they have all been able to find a table corner or a desk to set up a working area.
There is one thing Julian misses though, and that’s something that Teams is not able to make up for. In an office environment, you can pick up on conversations, see when someone is getting frustrated or looks utterly confused. He would then normally walk to the person’s desk, have a brief chat about the problem, discuss possible solutions. But with regular calls, a healthy atmosphere of trust and a good relationship with the development team, everyone feels confident enough to spontaneously ask questions and advice. So, no one ever stays stuck for very long.
As the lockdown looks set to carry on for a while yet, Julian has already learnt a lot. Like many of us, he has had to learn to manage a multitude of communication channels. And that’s getting easier every day. The main lesson for him however is that we can trust people to work from home and continue doing a really great job. He tells me that he has seen no drop in productivity since the start of the lockdown. And you can’t help smiling at the proud look on his face when he says that…
If you would like more information, or would like to talk to Julian about any of the points raised in this article, please get in touch with a member of our Press Office team.