Agile teams are small. Often this means that they only include one tester - sometimes two. Though the tester should not be the only person performing testing activities, they will probably be the only person in the team with testing as a specialty.
In a large agile development organisation there will be many teams, each with their own tester(s). These testers are likely to possess a common set of skills. Ideally they will be people who can ask good questions, will work collaboratively with other team members, feel comfortable working autonomously, be capable of using tools to automate checks, and have strong critical thinking skills.
In my experience, the testers who excel in these roles are often at an intermediate level in their career. A junior tester may not have the confidence to operate independently, or the breadth of skill required to participate successfully in varied tasks. A senior tester is generally interested in leadership opportunities that aren't easily available in small delivery-focused teams, or they simply get bored and seek a bigger challenge.
This can mean that an effective and successful testing discipline within an agile organisation is relatively homogeneous. A number of different teams with the same requirements for testing may result in a pool of testers with broadly the same levels of experience and skill.
By contrast, in a waterfall development environment the test team will generally have a greater diversity in experience and skill through the use of differentiated job titles, job descriptions and organisational hierarchy. The structure in a waterfall organisation will usually dictate a clear career progression for a Junior Test Analyst to develop through to a Senior Test Analyst, a Test Lead, a Test Manager.
The absence of testing hierarchy in agile makes career progression murkier. The homogeneity of skills demanded from testing may reduce the opportunities for testers to learn from one another. So, how do you challenge agile testers to grow?
How do you support junior testers in agile?
How do you challenge testers to diversify and sharpen their testing skills?
How do you create meaningful opportunities for seniors to lead?
I have some ideas, but I am curious to hear whether others have seen similar challenges. What are your opinions or experiences with the absence of hierarchy in organisation-wide agile testing disciplines?