Lucie Leistnerová is an associate manager in Quality Engineering (QE) at Red Hat. She joined Red Hat as an associate QE after having made a significant career change four years ago and became a team leader two years later. How did she handle the changes? What has been her career like?

The beginnings

Lucie ended up in the field of information technology thanks to a lucky coincidence. She studied at a grammar school and was very keen on maths and languages. Her headteacher was pushing her towards economics but then came the period of university applications. Lucie stumbled upon an Informatics programme at Masaryk University that caught her attention. She decided to apply and was accepted.

There she saw programming for the first time; Pascal was the first language she learned, C being second. Then she enrolled in an Operating Systems course. This was her first experience using Linux, which was the main focus of the course. Lucie fell in love with the system and doesn’t want to use any other OS since then unless completely necessary.

After graduating, Lucie started working in web development, mainly working with PHP. She had been in the field for 10 years working on various projects. She later became fed up with the job. The main reason was having to ensure compatibility with various browsers. It was time for a big change. After interviews at several companies for various positions, she decided to accept an offer as a QE at Red Hat. The decision stemmed a bit from nostalgia; Lucie’s first Linux distribution was Red Hat Linux.

Transitioning to Quality Engineering

Lucie joined a team working on Red Hat Virtualization Manager (the upstream of the product is oVirt) that manages an environment for creating virtual machines. There was a lot to learn at first, QE is very different from what Lucie had experience in. She had to get used to Python after a lot of years of using PHP. The technologies used and the whole approach to programming were also different.

However, QE turned out to be a great position for Lucie. On her first day, she even found a bug in the user interface that the team hadn’t thought about. In the new job, there were a few aspects she appreciated. Most importantly, Lucie enjoyed the straightforwardness. As a web developer, she would have to think about all possible edge cases and user interactions. With testing, she just had to write a test for the given feature and it didn’t have to be bulletproof. Her experience in web development didn’t completely go to waste. She could better come up with all possible scenarios to help her with writing test cases. Lucie first started as a manual tester and later started to write tests using Python.

A significant part of the career change has been the culture. Lucie has moved from a company of approximately 50 employees to a company with thousands of employees. Firstly, she was fond of the well-defined processes for how things should be done and responsibilities. Secondly, Lucie found friendliness and openness appealing. She was not afraid of asking questions… and she asked a lot. Last but not least, the number of opportunities has helped her develop various skills and try something new. It’s great to have the opportunity of moving to a different project or team when the current one isn’t as enjoyable anymore. The possibility of attending various courses vastly helps with personal development.

Becoming a team leader

After having worked as a QE for two years, Lucie’s team leader was promoted to a manager and he couldn’t lead the team anymore so someone had to step in. He asked Lucie to become a team leader, but she was very reluctant at first. One of the main concerns was leading colleagues who are a lot more senior and have been on the team longer. However, Lucie’s manager didn’t stop persuading her and in the end, she decided to give in and accept the offer. The aforementioned concern wasn’t a problem in the end; her colleagues were glad that someone took the role of the team leader.

The transition from a quality engineer to a team leader was a huge change. Lucie’s responsibilities changed significantly and there was a lot to learn. The main focus became organizing – assigning work to colleagues, setting deadlines, and filtering messages from the manager. Communication became a crucial aspect of her job as she had to communicate a lot more with other teams than before. That’s when Lucie appreciated that she had been with the team for a few years already. That helped her effectively assign work as she knew what everyone was good at and how long tasks may take.

Programming had to take a back seat for the most part. Most days were filled with meetings. However, Lucie still finds time to code every now and then, especially in the evenings when all the meetings are over. She creates projects that make her life as a manager easier. She puts down meeting notes in Jira tickets to not forget about anything important. Lucie created a script that takes those notes and copies them over to Google Chat to share them with all of the team members. As you can see, the role has changed a lot and the first few months in the new role had been difficult for Lucie. She is glad to have had a great manager who helped her get started with leading the team.

Fast forward two years, to June 2020, Lucie was promoted to associate manager. The change wasn’t as drastic as when she was promoted to a team leader. There were a few new responsibilities regarding people management but on the whole, her job stayed the same. Lucie believes that she wouldn’t be where she is now without Red Hat. The culture and education opportunities have opened a lot of doors and helped her get out of her comfort zone.

Lucie believes that an important part of a successful career is visibility. Giving talks and presenting your own work can help establish contacts with other people in the industry. The contacts are very valuable, as they may be able to help with their expertise. Attending soft skills trainings, such as crucial conversations or engaging presentations, have also helped Lucie with developing her career.

Wrapping up

Making a career change can seem intimidating. But as you can see from the story of Lucie, it can be the best thing to do even though the beginning may be difficult. You should definitely be open to new opportunities and not be afraid of trying something new.