The Tester Certification Debate Just Got VERY Personal

I got an interesting EMAIL, the other day, from the current Chairman of the ANZTB (the local ISTQB Testing Board). He wanted to inform me that a recent request of me to fill in for a (now unavailable) speaker, at their upcoming Melbourne SIG, was being withdrawn. He was very specific in his reasons for doing so. He felt that “somewhat negative” feedback from my recent “Lightning Talk” at the ANZTB Annual Conference in Canberra was grounds enough to rescind the offer and overrule the local Chairperson (who asked me the favour in the first place).

Evidently, this (negative) feedback was in relation to “sexism and ageism in some of your remarks”. There was also something about “several people taking offence to ‘the big kiwi twat’ comment” – a suggestion I made regarding a creative Twitter “handles”. Edwin Dando (@EdwinDando) is the “big Kiwi” and he has confirmed (via Twitter) that he took no offence whatsoever at my comments – in fact, Edwin invited me to “link up with him” on both Twitter and LinkedIn within hours of my talk in Canberra.

Now, I’m not one to over-analyse or lose sleep over constructive or warranted feedback, but when it comes in the form of an attack on my values, beliefs and ethics I want to know what’s behind it. I recorded my talk (excellent foresight, as it turns out) and have since replayed it several times to try and understand what all the fuss is about.

Unlike, a court of law, I can declare that this is not my first offence. I have been reprimanded by the same Chairman previously for “crimes against the ANZTB“. Interestingly enough, none of these previous incidents were severe enough to prevent them asking me to present my “Lightning Talk” in Canberra.

If I cared about his feedback, I may have reported these goings on something like this….

“We’d like a short piece (of your choice) in line with the Conference theme”. I give them four options. They choose “10 Minutes that will Change your Testing Career FOREVER”. Gotta think big and bold with these “Lightning Talks”. Make an impact. Leave them wanting more.

And then, two weeks before the Conference, another EMAIL arrives…. “The Committee thinks your Social Media piece may be more topical”. “Sure”‘ I say, “Anything to help”. So I go with the flow and begin researching the impact of Social Media on the world of Software Testing. It’s a personal journey sprinkled with evidence of the impact social media is having on our lives today. And then the day arrives.

“Next, we have the Editor of OZTester Magazine, from Melbourne, Colin Cherry….” I rise from my chair slowly and deliberately. No need to rush, gotta get the breathing right. Gotta be relaxed when I turn to face the audience. Remember to smile. Remember to turn on the timer – I only have 10 minutes. Still no need to rush – timing is everything. Remember to find someone to focus on – someone you know – a friendly face. Breathe….

And then it’s over, the adrenaline is still pumping. I leave the stage and look for reassurance. A friendly smile. A knowing nod. A thumb to the sky. Later, over drinks, people come up and say how much they enjoyed my talk. They politely ask questions and want to know if there are any notes or slides I can make available. Time passes and the adrenaline subsides and I go back to my room. To the solace. It’s a massive effort to share my thoughts publicly, on a stage, with a bunch of strangers. It does get easier over time. It even becomes fun. But there’s always that nagging doubt, the self talk. “Did everyone really enjoy that?”. “Did I stuff up?”. “Will anyone remember ANY of it?”. My mind bounces around like a football. Time to call home. Time to listen to someone I love and trust. Time to find out what happened in the real world during my day in the Conference cocoon.

Time passes. I’m back home. And then it starts.

I remember that they cut me, with small nicks at first. Then, they cut me deeper and the wound has trouble healing. And the wound leaves a scar and the scar reminds me. And the reminders haunt me and become harder to ignore. But eventually, more time passes and I begin to forget. I forget the pain. I forget the betrayal. I forget that there are people out there with the ability to hurt me. And I’m going about my daily routine and I get another EMAIL. They need my help again, this time in Melbourne. So I reach out. I reach out because the greater good takes precedence over my personal beliefs and needs. And then they cut me again…..

But I really don’t care about his feedback, so I dangle the EMAIL over the Trash icon, let it fall like a stone and go and get changed for a game of tennis.

As Ed Sheeran wrote so eloquently – “You need me, I don’t need you”.

Dateline: Melbourne, Monday June 17 2013


19 thoughts on “The Tester Certification Debate Just Got VERY Personal

  1. Pingback: ISTQB Fan-Mail | Hello Test World

    • Hellotestworld: I am completely gobsmacked at the attitude of this so-called ISTQB fan. If only they had come to one of the sources they may have learnt something. Faceless people are just that…

  2. Colin, I was a bit surprised by the tone and content of your blog but it did convey your disappointment in a very real way. I thought the goal of your blog was to discuss highlights and lowlights within the sphere of testing. Surely this blog fits that criteria and marks where your thinking was at a point in time. You blog wasn’t offensive and pointed out an issue within the ANZTB processes. That’s valid commentary. I think you pushed the boundary more when you told testers they were overpaid. I’m with oliver_nz, you should repost the blog entry.


    • I don’t think it’ll help to put it back up – but I would really encourage you to use this experience to explore how we can “talk about testing” to have different ideas and grow as a community. I always like to think “wouldn’t it be nice if we could agree on more”, as testers sometimes can be an argumentative bunch.

      But on the other hand, when it’s “agree this line … or else”, suddenly that “concensus” has deeply sinister undertones. It’s almost like saying “we know all there is to know about software testing – we don’t need to explore or learn anything else”, and a descent into testing as dogma.

      And let’s face it, no-one expects the Spainish Inquisition …

      • Ok, it’s back online!! I have received so many requests (from family, close friends and the wider Testing community) to reinstate my original Blog post. It’s done.

        Thanks you once again everyone who has provided guidance and support on this issue.

  3. What good is a testing blog that doesn’t mirror reality? Yes, we try to be cheerful and constructive but that’s just not really what it’s like. Far too often we have to confront and bear the less optimal scenarios. I commend you for trying but wouldn’t limit myself in that way.

    The concerns you seem to have I can’t really follow. I’ve done worse in public and never had negative feedback. Since you see it as personal it has it’s place. Put it back up or do I need to get Keith to do another petition? 😉

  4. Colin,

    It could have been anyone. I normally come up with strong views and do not care much if others don’t like my views. My intentions are never to offend others, though. From knowing your views through our email exchange, in the blog posts as well as in the comments above; I do not think you should care about what a chairman of a profit making company thinks about you. They are offended because you have honest opinions which you are sharing with others. That particular cult does not want you to go astray because that will be their loss. You will be alright!

  5. I don’t understand. What DID you say that was so offensive? If you don’t know, do you have a guess? If this has got personal, what is the name of the current president of the ANZTB? Of the Melbourne guy?

    • Hi Michael, as I said in the original article I recorded the talk and have since played it back. As it’s only a 10 minute “Lightning Talk” it’s pretty easy to analyse. I’ve also discussed my talk with several people who were in the room at the time to verify my thoughts about which comments may have caused the response.

      1) I’ve already mentioned the “that Kiwi twat” comment aimed at Edwin Dando (one of the speakers at the Conference) in my Blog post. This was made while I was pointing out the various Twitter handles that people use and I made a point of saying that Edwin had a pretty boring handle “@EdwinDando” and that he may want to consider “@ThatKiwiTwat”. He responded (from his seat, at the time) “maybe the @TheBigKiwi” and there was a generous amount of laughter around this interaction. Edwin connected to me AFTER my talk on both LinkedIn and Twitter and has also confirmed (via Twitter) that he took no offence at my comment. I even went and looked at several dictionaries regarding what appears to be, in some environments, an unsavoury word (“twat”). They refer to a part of the female anatomy but I’ve used the word in mixed company for as long as I can remember and no-one has ever mentioned this interpretation to me; it’s also used commonly on TV here in Australia and the UK.

      2) The sexism allegation seems to be in relation to a statistic (gathered from several trusted sources on the web) that 30% more women use Social Media than men. This was one of many statistics I referred to during my talk and was certainly not a (personally) made up number. Anyone reading my Blog will know how much I support equal rights across all sectors of society (there are multiple articles furthering the cause of equal rights).

      3) The ageism allegation seems to relate the statistics I was quoting about Social Media usage in Australia. I concluded from these that the majority of people over 80 would not be using either Twitter or LinkedIn (how many of them need a job!!) and therefore the percentages would be proportionally higher for those in Software Testing.

      Just yesterday (upon reading my Blog) another speaker at the Conference (and coincidentally a member of the ANZTB hierarchy in Australia) “liked” my Blog on LinkedIn. Interestingly (given the sexism allegation) This person isn’t a man.

      While on the gender item, I have received a multitude of link requests (on both Twitter and LinkedIn) since I wrote the article and the majority have been from women – not surprising given the “30% more” statistic I recounted. I have also received more feedback on this Blog post than any previous one (of almost 50 posts). ALL of this feedback has been supportive. My website has had more traffic in the past 24 hours than the previous 2 weeks collectively.

      I hope that all makes sense and clarifies things.


  6. It does feel the way of the world – it’s almost that everything is being groomed so much to be on a narrow band of “on target” messages, it’s like there’s no diversity. You see it so much in political events now it really shouldn’t be a shock it’s happening in testing boards … but there you go.

    I so understand your frustration – to have done a talk, to have positive feedback at the event, but only afterwards to feel the collusion of a silent dagger in the shadows. Not even being able to face and challenge back your accuser (who is probably singular).

  7. You can control what you say and what you do. You cannot control the thinking and actions of others. You can provide input as influence, but you can’t control, if, for whatever reason, people decide you are no longer the right choice, you move on and find that group that does appreciate your message. Move past the hurt, it takes away from your positive energy. A great line to remember is that no one can make you feel any particular way unless you give them permission. Colin you have a number of ways to get your messages heard. Move past the ISTQB, it’s their loss, and keep promoting your views.

  8. Could have been me as well… but I’m happy that I then found a community that are happy to listen to all opinions, and challenge them if need be… but only in a way that makes you think and learn.

    I would much rather enjoy your company and learn from you Colin, than those that need to push the belief that Doug writes about above.

  9. I live by this idea, which I first heard articulated by Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

    From what I know of you, so far, you are going to be fine. Now… What have you done to study and deepen the craft of testing, today?

    — James Bach

  10. You have to remember Colin that ANZTB (and ISTQB) are not here to to anything for the software community, They don’t aim to improve eductation, restrict the use of unsklilled workers, or improve industry practices; they need to sell a belief system. When the only product you sell is “faith”, then you need to protect your reputation against all attacks, no matter how slight – you don’t want people to actually start thinking about what it is you provide.

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