Taking Martins to coffee

Meet Martins Belte, Quality Assurance (QA) Practice Lead at Emergn! Martins has been leading the QA team for the past year and loves his work. Besides working side by side with other Practice Leads to make Emergn a better and more exciting place to work, he focuses on creating a close and robust QA team and is always on the lookout for opportunities for his team to learn more. Get to know Martins’ challenges as a team leader, and his advice to create a more transparent and collaborative workplace.

What’s your role at Emergn, and how long have you been with the company? 

As QA Practice Lead, my main goal is to guide and support the people of the QA team in their professional growth. This means I allocate people to the client engagements that best match their skills, guide them where they need help, identify and work with them on their challenges, and overall make sure they are motivated, and happy with their work.  

Another side of my role is mentoring, which is something I enjoy doing. I’m passionate about helping others grow and encouraging others from my practice to do the same. It builds the mentorship culture within the team.  

Since I took on the role of QA Practice Lead in October of 2021, it has been a challenging but very enriching experience for me. It was my first time as manager of a big team – we were a team of about 90 when I started, so it was initially intimidating. But as I began to work alongside the team, I eventually grew my comfort zone and gained more confidence, and I currently enjoy my role a lot.

Tell us a bit about your backstory and how you got started

I wasn’t always working in QA. My first job after high school was as a forest firefighter during the fire risk periods, from May to September. It was lots of fun, but it could also get very intense. It was seasonal, so I would mostly balance it with some small freelancing jobs in technical administration and volunteering at the local center of culture. I used to help organize events and coordinate technical aspects, such as the network setup, which I always enjoyed doing. I was very active in my local community, and I think that has helped me on the way to the leadership role.  

After four years as a firefighter, I realized I wanted to change something. I tried to enter IT, started researching opportunities, and took several QA courses.  After getting my first QA role, I realized I enjoyed it. There are so many opportunities to grow, so I kept developing my skills and working for several companies in Latvia until I joined Emergn.

What’s the biggest challenge for you as a QA Practice Lead?

Leading a team is an authentic learning experience at several levels, but it comes with significant challenges too. You get to manage many different people, and what might be the best way to guide one person might not be the ideal solution for another. This is one of the things I find most challenging. You might encounter people that are more approachable – and easier to manage things with. And you also might meet more isolated people who find it more challenging to change their work or try something new. I have worked with more daring people who naturally challenge the status quo, are more resistant to traditional solutions, and come up with fresh ideas. My role as Practice Lead is to help the best ideas to shine and manage the team, who’s not always welcoming change.

What advice would you give to team leaders?  

My advice applies to everyone leading a team or struggling to handle conflict. Don’t let an issue escalate – your team leaders or Scrum Masters should be able to manage conflict and problems on their teams.  Trust in them to lead the way of the team and interfere only when you think the issue needs support. Even then, prefer to advise your Team Lead instead of taking action yourself – empower them to make better decisions. Therefore, you must assemble an effective team, and choose capable team leaders that you trust and empower throughout their journey with you.  

Another piece of advice I can give when you feel like people are actively challenging you is to be empathic – things can be said in the spirit of emotion, and you should be able to react while keeping emotions aside. Don’t be afraid to ask precisely what the problem is and how you can help. Show that you are there to listen and give support, not to be their enemy. If your team is reacting emotionally or creating conflict, hear them out, but also show your point of view directly and give them enough time to reflect.

What do you like the most about being a QA Practice Lead?

One of the things I like the most about being a Practice Lead is that I get to communicate, meet new people and learn different perspectives. I have learned how other human beings and their thinking can be, which requires using various communication techniques and strategies to be a good leader. 

There’s also a part of me that is very fond of managing and organizing people operations – I love to create order in chaos, delegate, organize and see the result at the end – it is an enriching experience.

What’s something you do as QA Practice Lead that makes you proud? 

I’m very proud of the work we have been doing together in the QA Practice. If I had to choose one thing that I’m most proud of, that would be the investment and effort I have been putting into getting the team closer. During the COVID era, everyone worked remotely and keeping the group engaged and motivated was hard. It was difficult to build a sense of community within the practice. Therefore, I focused on organizing team activities and learning sessions, creating moments to listen to the team’s concerns and struggles, and above all, understanding the team’s needs and how we can encourage motivation and loyalty now that hybrid work has become a steady reality. It’s also essential to find moments to meet with the team face-to-face and organize fun and team building – like we’ve done this summer, which was great for the team’s closeness. I’m also deeply proud of the graduate internship program we brought to life in the last months to give opportunities to university students without QA work experience.

Outside of work, what’s one thing people should know about you?

While working as a firefighter, I participated in a local TV reality show called “Mission Mars.” It was a simulation of a trip to Mars by ordinary people who were very unprepared and had a whole set of challenges to complete to “survive” the mission. We were six people living in a small basement for four months, were filmed at all times, and had a set of induvial interviews, challenges, and survival tasks, which was fun. And you know, I was the one who endured longer and won!