How to Test A Tester (Part Deux)

“So, I’m a perfectionist, just shoot me now”. Sometimes, just sometimes, I get a little bit passionate about my craft and I make some outrageous comment, in order to grab people’s attention, but in this case I was being candid and earnest.

I had just arrived (centre stage) after being introduced to my new team – over 130 of them. Some were so young you could smell the baby powder, others were on borrowed time, but most were in-betweeners. I’d just been recruited to run the Test Practice of a major international Consulting business with an mandate to “shake it up and sort it out”.

I’d been keeping a low profile for the first few weeks, looking under the odd hood and kicking a few tyres. Some already knew me by reputation, but most were oblivious, so when I announced that collectively they were a “4 out of 10” on my software testing competency scale I expected a reaction. What happened next led me to revise my initial competency estimate down further. Not one person in the room argued with my assessment! Maybe they were stunned (like the Norwegian Blue) or maybe they were comatose after a long day at work. Worse still, maybe they just didn’t care (sigh!!).

I tried a different tack. “How many of you have been here less than 12 months?” A reaction! About 20 hands rose sheepishly towards the ceiling. “How many more than 2 years?” A larger collection of hands. And so on. “How many of you are certified?” The mood changed perceptibly as a sense of pride entered the room. About a third of the inhabitants raised their hands. “How many have attained Advanced Status?” Not a sausage, not one response. Again, this underlined my revised competency assessment, even the ones who thought tester certification worthwhile were paying lip service to the mantra.

The rest of the session focused on my background and my beliefs and dreams. What became apparent, over the succeeding weeks, was that I had inherited a patchwork quilt of Testers who, in general, knew as much about our craft as my Mum. There were a few (too few) professionals, a few incredibly talented souls, but mainly I had a had a one size fits all team of middling Testers, who were in it because they needed a job.

What I did next was to create an education and personal development strategy based around my own experience and those that I admire in our industry. One thing I didn’t do was sign anyone up for a Tester Certification course. Many asked. Mainly because they now knew that 33% of their colleagues had credentials. I turned down every request on the same basis – it won’t make you a better Tester. In fact, it will probably sidetrack you and slow down your progression towards becoming a Master Tester.

Sadly, some of my team had been brainwashed – mainly after being refused interviews with companies who insist on ISTQB certification before they’ll even look at you. It’s still true, in Australia, that there are misguided employers who think there is real currency in an ISTQB certificate. Thankfully, these numbers are finally dropping and there is also evidence that fewer Testers are seeking these qualifications here, as well. It’s over a year now since I wrote “My Last Word on Tester Certification”, but I can’t stay quiet about this for too long.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that my bosses at the Consulting business did little to provide the financial support my revised Tester education and development program needed, citing (short term) profits as a higher priority. Another sad indictment on our industry. Thankfully, some of us won’t shut up and continue to champion the cause to professionalise our craft.

On a happier note, I’m off on my annual jaunt to the northern hemisphere tomorrow and will probably have little time to blog. Therefore, it is likely that this will be my last post for about 5 weeks. Sayonara….

Dateline: Melbourne, Tuesday August 19, 2014


6 thoughts on “How to Test A Tester (Part Deux)

  1. Pingback: Testing Bits – 8/17/14 – 8/23/14 | Testing Curator Blog

  2. Brilliant article and a very interesting story. And I completely agree, certification sucks when it comes to applying what you’ve learned, in fact it’s that specific moment when you realize you learned nothing out of it, probably 🙂

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