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:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Alternatives to (testing) Certification

Earlier in the week, I suggested that certification was one way to demonstrate commitment to craft - that there were other ways. Lisa Crispin asked me to expand on what people could do if they don't want to do the writing/speaking thing.

That's fair enough. Some people don't have the ego or desire to be in the front of the room. Certainly certification is a valid alternative, right?

Well, maybe. As a merit badge. But this got me to thinking - Here are a few other things you can do to demonstrate commitment to the field:

- I'm certainly pro-education; I'm just ambivalent about the title "certified" tester. I'm not excited about what it implies - and if it can keep it's promises. the Association For Software Testing offers free training to members. That training offers real exercises and real class interaction, done online, over a period of weeks, that takes significant work outside of class. I'm suggesting that you don't just take a single test - take a dozen of them. Membership is in the area of $85 US Dollars per year; AST is one of two organizations for which I pay my own membership out of pocket.

- I'm certainly pro-education! I'm suggesting more than just a test or two - go back to school at night and earn that Bachelor's degree, or even that Master's, in Software Engineering, Computer Science, or IT Management. A master's degree should take at least a thousand hours of your effort. Compare that to a typical software testing certificate. Try not to weep. (I earned my MS in Computer Information Systems from Grand Valley by going back to school at night from 2000-2004. It was hard. It was an investment.)

- Volunteer at a local user's group. This doesn't have to be as president or big person at the head table. You can do program chair duties, where you'll get a chance to meet and connect with the people who are speaking - and every user's group had work like secretary that just needs to be done, which will help you meet the board. And if you want to learn website maintenance, I bet they need a web-master. Don't have a local user's group? You can found one - I started the Grand Rapids Perl user's group in 1998, and the second Grand Rapid's testing lunch is April 27th.

- Volunteer at a regional software or testing conference. Don't have one? You can start one - I've been involved in Grand Rapids Bar Camp, and served as the lead organizer of the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference ( in 2006. The Conference continues to this day.

- Join a discussion list like SW-IMPROVE, Agile-Testing, or Software-Testing. You don't have to be a big "speaker man" to answer a question when someone had a problem. And, sooner or later, you may get some reputation as "helpful." That's a good reputation to have.

- Attend Peer workshops like the Indianapolis Workshop On Software Testing or the Los Altos Workshops on Software Testing. These workshops are usually free, and if you look hard enough, you may be able to find grants to cover your travel. If a workshop is too hard away, start one locally - I ran the Workshop on Technical Debt in Grand Rapids in 2008.

- Get involved on the forums on SoftwareTestingClub or another, closer testing site. (SoftwareTestingClub is mostly UK-based). You don't have to be a guru to be helpful - and you can learn a lot from peers. You might also consider getting a twitter account or starting your own blog. A blog can be, in many ways, a sort of public journal. Be careful about airing dirty laundry, but, otherwise, it can be a great place to explore ideas and get feedback.

- For that matter, if you're not comfortable blogging, you could simply leave comments on good sites that match your interest - perhaps attending some public conferences and meeting some of the people you've commented with.

I hope, at this point, you'll agree that certification is one way to demonstrate interest in your profession - one way out of dozens. If you want to demonstrate learning and improvement outside your profession, there are lots of more traditional ways; you can join toastmasters, or the Rotarians, or coach a sport, or teach Sunday School.

If you have more ideas of other professional develop ideas, please feel free to leave comments.

"Choose Wisely"

UPDATE: Yesterday I had a great conversation with Gary Mogyorodi, president of the Canadian Software Testing Board. He genuinely impressed me as a smart person with integrity trying to do the right things - to reform the system from within.

Now, it's hard to tell these things for certain over a thirty-minute phone call, but Gary points out that studying for the foundation level on your own time is considered standard, if not encouraged, in Canada, and that the test to focus on is the Advanced level, which is a more context-driven, essay-format test. I still have concerns about ISTQB, but it was a refeshingly honest conversation. As I rule, I don't endorse any test certification scheme - but I might recommend Gary Mogyorodi, and I hope to get to work with him and know him better in the future.


Markus Gärtner said...

One thing I would like to add is to participate in feedbacks on tutorials (currently I work through Brett Schuchert's tutorials on FitNesse and Slim) and volunteering in Open Source projects - the FitNesse backlog gave me a good starting point.

Additionally I have over 10 years of experience as a swimming trainer and was and currently am very active in the management board of our local swimming club - with over 10 years of experiences in "secretary" there. This surely helped me.

Fred Beringer said...

These are all good education possibilities. Thanks for sharing ! I would add to the list participation to test conferences. While the topics covered don't usually go very deep, you will always pick up something. Being a presenter is of course a good way to share. I've just written an article about test conferences on my blog if you care to take a look: