In the previous post I mentioned the Department of Labor (DOL) Sponsored Website oNet.
Two of the more interesting booklets to me were the booklet on Skills and the booklet on Knowledge.
First of all, I was happy that the DOL differentiates the two concepts. Many of the testing certification programs simply prove that the reader has memorized terminology or definitions - that they have knowledge. The multiple-choice exam behind the certifications rarely (ever?) test for skill.
The skills survey was especially fun. First, the survey asked how important the given skill was to software testing on a scale of 1 to 5. If you scored anything above 1 (not important), the follow-up question asked "What level of skill (1-7) is needed to perform this job?"
There were descriptions by some levels. Check out my examples below, and think about what skill level you think should be needed to perform the job Software Quality Engineer/Software Tester:
2 - Determine whether a subordinate has a good excuse for being late
4 - Evaluate customer complaints and determine appropriate responses
6 - Write a legal brief challenging a federal law
2 - Proofread and correct a letter
4 - Monitor a meetings progress and revise the agenda to ensure that important topics are discussed
6 - Review corporate productivity and develop a plan to increase productivity
Complex Problem Solving
2 - Lay out tools to complete a job
4 - Redesign a floor layout to take advantage of new manufacturing techniques
6 - Develop and implement a plan to provide emergency relief for a major metropolitan area
2 - Write a program in BASIC to sort objects in a database
4 - Write a statistical analysis program to analyze demographic data
6 - Write expert system programs to analyze ground radar geological data for probable existence of mineral deposits
Quality Control Analysis
2 - Inspect a draft memorandum for clerical errors
4 - Measure new part requisitions for tolerance to specifications
6 - Develop procedures to test a prototype of a new computer system
2 - Determine why a coworker has been overly optimistic about how long it would take to complete a task
4 - Identify the major reasons why a client might be unhappy with a product
6 - Evaluate the long-term performance problem of a new computer system
2 - Greet tourists and explain tourist attractions
4 - Interview applicants to obtain personal and work history
6 - Argue a legal case before the Supreme Court
A couple of things struck me. First of all, the descriptions for #6 were all people at the very top of the field; arguing cases before the supreme court or developing personnell and promotion systems for the United States Army. Oh, and software testing. Apparently, that is the most challenging of the critical analysis skills - or, at least, it was the perception of the authors of this survey.
That got me to wonder what kind of jobs would require level seven skills to perform. Writing at level 6 is "write a novel"; I suppose level 7 would be family-name recognition, if not generational recognition. (Mark Twain)
Second, about half-way through the test, I began to check myself. Generally, it only took about level three or four skills to get and keep a job as a software tester, but I think it takes level 5 or 6 to do it well.
All of the great software testers I can think of offhand are level 6 in at least one of the attributes on the list. Wait, software testing is level 6 on a couple of the skills. Doh! ..
Schedule and Events
March 26-29, 2012, Software Test Professionals Conference, New Orleans
July, 14-15, 2012 - Test Coach Camp, San Jose, California
July, 16-18, 2012 - Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST 2012), San Jose, California
August 2012+ - At Liberty; available. Contact me by email: Matt.Heusser@gmail.com