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Self Certification in Software Testing

  • 17/09/2010
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

There was a EuroSTAR webinar recently on Self Certification in Software Testing, which I really wanted to attend but missed it unfortunately. I’m a firm believer that Self Certification, or Self Education, is the only way to go in this industry and that “Official Qualifications” in Software Testing are anything but official qualifications.

Shortly after getting my first software testing job, I wanted to gain some sort of qualification to show that I was qualified to do the job and that my skills were of a certain standard. After all, all the of the programmers I’d worked with up until that point had some sort of programming related qualification under their belt. What makes Testing any different?

I don’t have a degree of any kind and the highest qualifications I have are A-Levels in IT, Business Studies, and Wood work! Therefore, with my qualifications, I’m able to build a system that’ll improve business efficiency made entirely of wood!

Back then I would have walked over hot coals to gain a Software Testing qualification. There were a few courses out there at the time that really stood out, but becoming a “Certified” or “Qualified” Tester was my ultimate goal.

I don’t want to take anything away from the ISEB/ISTQB courses as they are great courses to use as a starting point for people who know very little about the industry, but I don’t think they should be seen as a way of becoming a Certified Software Tester. Some of the people on my course had never actually tested software in any serious capacity. Out of the 10 people in my group, about 4 of us were actual testers! The rest were either programmers or support staff. So are these programmers and support staff now “Qualified” Testers too? Not by a long shot!

Now, let me ask you, what makes a tester a Tester “Qualified”? I’ve done the ISEB foundation and I have 4 years experience working as a Tester. Am I a “Qualified Tester”? In my honest opinion, no, I am not a “Qualified Tester”. This rather pessimist attitude is the very thing that drives me to want to become a better tester. At the end of the day, I know that I’ve tested an application to the best of my abilities, but there’s always that bit in my mind that’s telling me “You could have done that better”. Now, I may not consider myself a “Qualified” tester, but I still feel I have sufficient experience to make a decision as to the quality of the software in front of me, despite not having any formal Qualifications to prove that I’m able to do so.

So how do testers “Get Qualified”? Michael Bolton wrote an article recently about how he reads around the subject and doesn’t limit his reading to Software related articles. Although he may read (and write) software testing books, he reads other books which have nothing to do with testing, but can spot similarities in them and use them in his work, for example, cookery and psychology books. I wish I could find the article as it was quite a good read.

I’m currently reading “dot.bomb” by Rory Cellan-Jones at the minute. It’s about the dotcom boom of the late 90s and how businesses failed because they invested too much in unknown technologies Although it has nothing to do with testing, I can take away some of the stories and relate them to the projects I’m working on.

So how I am self certifying? I’ll attempt to summarize some of the ways I feel that I personally am “getting certified”:

• I read Software Related books / articles / blogs – Quite an obvious one really. Blogs are a gold mine for advice and opinions on a wide range of subjects.
• I read non-software related books / articles / blogs – For example, I read Gardening, Cooking and PC enthusiast Books, Articles and Blogs
• I try and speak the developer’s language – I’m trying to learn the programming language my developers use. As I was previously a programmer, I still like to know what’s going on behind the scenes. I’ve set myself a challenge to be able to write a small app using the programming languages my company uses.
• I constantly evaluate my skills – Learn from your mistakes. What could you have done better? What did you struggle with and what areas do you feel are your weakest? Having a weak understanding of a subject is not a weakness in itself. Not being able to identify that you have a weakness in a subject is a weakness.
• I started a Blog – This is one way for me to try and become a better tester. If I can start a Software Testing Blog, so can you!
• Live my life – I try and apply real world scenarios and experiences from my life to Software Testing
• Test software! – Quite obvious really. I’m never going to become a better tester if I don’t test software

Talk to other testers – Read my post on Collaboration with other Testers

Challenge other testers – Disagree with other Testers if you feel that they’re not 100% right on an issue. Don’t turn it in to a slagging match, but voice your opinions.

The video below is a talk at Google by James Bach about becoming a software testing expert which I found quite funny. The way he described it, or how I interpreted it, was that Software Testing “Qualifications” are a way of making money out of an industry where their are no formal qualifications. He lists all of his qualifications and not one of them has anything to do with Software Testing. Is he a “Qualified” Tester?

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