When I posted my Tester Certification Debate Just Got VERY Personal article on June 17 I had no idea what a profound and long-term effect the episode I described in that Blog post would have on me. Today (after considerable reflection), I no longer value what the ANZTB stands for in the Asia Pacific region. Today, I no longer respect the current Chairperson of the ANZTB. Today, I no longer care that the income the ANZTB has received from the (now over 10,000) certificates they have issued is not spent more wisely. Today, I no longer care that the Managing Director of PlanIT (a major provider of ISTQB training in Asia Pacific) is the new President of the ISTQB and that this (in my humble opinion) creates a serious conflict of interest.
I still believe in the advancement of our craft. I still believe in the value that the majority of us bring to the IT industry. I still believe in the clear separation of duties between those who define, design, build and launch software. I just don’t believe that we have the right people determining HOW we should go about developing future generations of software testers.
According to the ISTQB website – “The Foundation Level qualification is aimed at professionals who need to demonstrate practical knowledge of the fundamental concepts of software testing. This includes people in roles such as test designers, test analysts, test engineers, test consultants, test managers, user acceptance testers and IT Professionals. The Foundation Level qualification is also appropriate for anyone who needs a basic understanding of software testing, such as project managers, quality managers, software development managers, business analysts, IT directors and management consultants.”
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the ISTQB wants everyone to become a certified tester and this (for me) devalues it as a currency – and a currency it certainly is – if you read the myriad of job advertisements that currently specify ISTQB certification as a pre-requisite. The way I see it, they can’t have it both ways – either ISTQB certification has real value or it comes free with cornflakes (which is where I currently see it residing). The ISTQB recommends (on it’s website) that you have at least 6 months experience in software testing before you attend a training course, but it also wants Project Managers, Software Development Managers etc. to attend – I haven’t met too many PMs or Dev Managers who have 6 seconds of software testing experience, let alone 6 months….
There are many consulting businesses around the world who state as a marketing proposition that all of their software testers are ISTQB certified. BIG DEAL. So you have people in your organisation who have passed an exam after spending less than 5 days in a classroom. Have they ever tested any software? Have they ever reverse engineered testing requirements because there are no business requirements to validate UAT against? Have they ever found a software bug that could have prevented a travel website crashing or a payment engine putting money into the wrong account? Have they ever attended a bug triage meeting and explained the root cause of a problem in the general ledger? Have they ever identified a reconciliation discrepancy in a data migration? You won’t find any of this in an ISTQB Foundation exam. What you will find is a multiple choice question asking you the definition of boundary value analysis or an orthogonal array. Most of the testers I have worked with wouldn’t know an orthogonal array if it bit them on the bum, but they do know how to find bugs in software – lots of bugs in lots of software, every day of the week, every week of the year…. and they don’t have an ISTQB certificate in their back pocket to prove they know what they’re doing!!
I was involved in ISEB/ISTQB syllabi reviews in the 90’s and I hoped that they would find more practical ways to assess competency and achievement, alas nothing has changed except that the number of certificates issued has grown twenty fold while the value put on these certificates has grown out of all proportion to their true worth.
As I have said several times over the past few months, I am greatly saddened by this current situation. If ISTQB certification is ever to have any relevance in our industry many things and many personnel need to change. Far too many people are being misled into thinking that ISTQB Foundation certification indicates that someone has an aptitude and/or capability for testing software. Of course there are many great software testers who are ISTQB certified, but they would still be great Testers without this certification.
And my final, final words on the subject… As I have declared before, I hold a current ISTQB Foundation certificate. Evidently, under the current rules, I will still be an ISTQB certified tester when I am 99 years old. I wonder what value future generations of Testers will put on their certification when they realise that my (decades old) testing knowledge will have equal value to theirs in the eyes of the majority of recruiters and HR departments….
Dateline: Tuesday July 30, 2013