Its a fairly standard question – so whats do you do as a job?
Outside of very specific circles, the answer I give usually has one of two responses.
“Oh what – like trees and climate change?” (resigned sigh)
or if I am lucky,
“Oh that’s something to do with IT right?” (brief start of surprise from me).
Yes that right! I manage test environments for a major retailer… oh you’ve gone.
For those that stick around long enough my favourite analogy is ‘an Air Traffic Controller for IT environments.’ It was a term I first saw mentioned over on the Plutora blog: The Definitive Hiring Guide for Test Environment Managers
Think of a test environment manager as an “air traffic controller” for environments and databases required to test and qualify software for release to production. This job is one focused primarily on tracking and scheduling, but it also involves integrating a number of conflicting inputs to support testing across multiple generations of interconnected systems. A test environment manager balances budgets with timelines and other constraints to give developers the systems they need to ensure that software works as designed in production.
NB: This analogy is not intended to belittle actual Air Traffic Controllers (they stop planes crashing into each other and killing a lot of people after all). There are just certain similarities when it comes to the complex interdependencies that both roles have to juggle.
The thing that draws me to the job is the thing that makes it very niche – the sheer breadth of the role. It the ideal job for a candidate that thrives on doing a bit of everything. Project, Release, Change, Configuration, Strategy, Access, Quality and Data Management are all elements of my role. You need to be able to talk to stakeholders at the right levels – enough technical knowledge to talk to an engineer and business savvy enough to be able de-jargonise for business leaders. It’s a role that requires both reductionist (going down to the details) and holistic (the big picture) thought processes. You need to be able to replan on the fly and also plan far into the future – often in the same conversation.