Certifiable – Fighting the fights worth fighting…

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”Thomas Paine

If you have followed me lately on Twitter, you may have noticed a slight, well let’s say, fervor pursing answers to the questions I posed to the ISTQB. Since publishing that letter a little over a week ago, an important conversation in the software testing community has been reignited over Twitter, LinkedIn, multiple blogs, and loaded up my inbox. And that conversation is NOT about testing certifications or the rackets employed to “regulate”, train, and issue them. Let me be clear, the certification debate is very important, but it is a symptom of a disease in our business: the disease of not owning our value proposition.

I agree completely that testers needing to improve their ability to articulate their value to the business, as we are still losing this battle. There are plenty of voices outside our industry telling us software testing is too expensive, not aligned to the business, a commodity, or if we could just automate all these scripts we could fire all the testers! And to make matters worse, one of the loudest voices INSIDE our industry, these self-appointed “qualification boards” selling 40 question, multiple choice exams with a passing grade of 65% say:

Your company’s return on investment (ROI) for ISTQB Software Tester Certification is outstanding.”

You will have the peace of mind knowing that your team has the knowledge and skills for practical day-to-day testing.”

“Your testers will have clear testing standards and a clear career path.”

“ISTQB certification ensures your testers have what it takes to get the job done.”

Are you kidding me! The reason I am demanding answers to my questions (as should you), is because they go right to the heart of their argument about testing skills and value. The ISTQB/ASTQB at this point, refuses to let us know if there have ever been issues with the reliability co-efficient of their exams and how (and how often) they are evaluated by third parties. What that means if the results are deficient, is that the exam does NOT reliably assess whether someone has mastered the learning objectives and material in the syllabus. Or plainly, it doesn’t do what it says on the tin. When asked about the reviews and whether there have ever been any issues, Rex Black answered “NDA prevents a detailed response. Is “nothing is perfect” not clear enough?”.

Sorry, Rex, that’s not even remotely good enough.

And that’s why getting answers out of the ISTQB/ASTQB is important, especially for:

…the ISTQB/ASTQB: because if a self-appointed board of a non-profit that’s filled with people who offer training in the “certifications” they issue wants to be taken seriously, then they need transparency and accountability. You are not helping the industry or software testers by proclaiming your exam “is a certification of competencies.” It’s intellectually dishonest at best, and even a passing investigation into how your organization is regarded outside of the ISTQB/ASTQB “bubble” should let you know you can do better.

…the business we support: because the information that testing provides is important to making good decisions about technology and needs skills rote memorization won’t provide. We’ll make you a deal, we’ll start getting better about articulating value and risk to your business and you stop treating the test team as a dumping ground and something that should deliver “ROI”. Developing software is not analogous to manufacturing, so please stop trying to turn people into widgets you can shop around for the lowest price.

…the software testing industry: because we know we can do better and owe it to ourselves to stop accepting mediocrity. Unchallenged ideas abound in an industry that is supposedly filled with critical thinkers. The lack of dialog and what passes for new ideas in our field just adds fuel to the flames that we are disconnected from the business we support. It also allows every other discipline, or anyone with letters after their name to run roughshod over us and tell us what we should be doing and even worse – how to test.

…and most importantly, software testers. You are undermining your own credibility by thinking that certification is anything more than a keyword to search for in a job board. Additionally, by accepting such an incredibly low standard for what is considered “foundation” level knowledge of software testing, you have effectively cheapened your craft. I appreciate that many organizations and business are using certifications as a screening device, but we can collectively push back and reject shallow attempts at capitalizing on ignorance. It is our responsibility to everyone who has or will, work as a software tester.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of everyone outside of the software testing community defining our industry. I’m sick and tired of having our craft boxed up and “commoditized” by people who don’t understand what we do and only look it at as Jerry Weinberg would call “the “appearance of work. (long hours, piles of paper, …) “. And I’m absolutely fed up with self appointed “experts” telling us they care about software testers while putting a ribbon and bow on our jobs for people to devalue our craft.

Had enough? Well, then let’s do something! Sign the petition or write a letter to the ASTQB and ISTQB to get some answers, and let’s take back the value proposition of software testing.

More to come!

“There is no reason to accept the doctrines crafted to sustain power and privilege, or to believe that we are constrained by mysterious and unknown social laws. These are simply decisions made within institutions that are subject to human will and that must face the test of legitimacy. And if they do not meet the test, they can be replaced by other institutions that are more free and more just, as has happened often in the past.”Noam Chomsky

4 thoughts on “Certifiable – Fighting the fights worth fighting…

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