A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to teach another Testing Certification Course in Tel Aviv.
The dynamic of this specific group together with the class discussions & exercises helped me to articulate some of the positive and negative aspects of all these certification courses & exams.
Rob Lambert made a nice classification of the testing world based on their stands with regards to certifications. He identified 3 camps:
1. Those who hate certifications.
2. Those who think some certifications are worthwhile (but they may also be dangerous).
3. Those who are all in favor of certifications, thinking they have the power to generate “Testing Superstars” over-night.
So it should be no surprise that I count myself in Camp number 2, thinking many of today’s Testing Certifications provide good value to the Testing Community. But I also think there are misconceptions and dangers associated with testing certifications that need to be taken into account both by the people taking part of the courses (and the exams) and by the employers looking for certified testers.
1. Certification courses can help testers who have not had the chance to formally learn testing in any other framework to go over all the basics and principles. This is true for many courses and not necessarily for those related to certifications, but certifications provide a good excuse and incentive to take the course in the first place – something that may not take place otherwise.
2. Certification sillabi are a synthesized source of information prepared by knowledgeable professionals, and this can help engineers who want to get a lot of information in one place coming from a trustable source. Just make sure to double check what certification you are taking and who composed the syllabus, lately there are many groups offering courses and diplomas that are not really what they promise up front.
3. Only once in a while we have the chance to learn theoretical tools that are not 100% linked to our day-to-day work. This experience may help us in the future or even help us look at the things we do under a different light. For me there is nothing like an intensive data transfer session to trigger out-of-the-box thinking.
4. Certifications are a great way of unifying terminology. This may seem trivial or less important, but once you start communicating with people outside your organization terminology starts becoming a problem. The fact that 2 people may be talking about the same thing under different names is sometimes the source of misunderstandings and even conflicts.
1. Some students think that theoretical knowledge alone will make them testing superstars and disregard the fact that testing is a discipline that takes time to master. People who think they can learn all there is from a certification or course are like drivers who feel ready to enter the highway after learning to drive from a printed manual.
2. Teachers who don’t master the art of testing can hurt their students. Certifications are nothing more than a syllabus, an exam and hopefully a diploma you can hang on the wall. The real value comes from the training and this part can be jeopardized by a teacher who doesn’t really pass along the principles of testing to his students. This becomes more acute as we see more and more institutes who are aiming at preparing their students to pass the exam and not to learn about testing.
3. We are starting to see employers who make certifications a blind prerequisite for testers to work in their company. This is wrong since it closes the door on many good testers who either have not had the time or the money to take the certification, or who don’t need it since they already know all the *stuff* without having the diploma.
I want to share with these recruiters and managers something out of the ISTQB syllabus (not textual, but in essence): “Absence of bugs does not demonstrate the software has Good Quality”; under this same principle Absence of a Certification does not indicate the candidate is not qualified to be an excellent tester!!!
This is something that is starting to bother me more and more… Some people demonize certifications and classify people who support them (like me!) as evil.
As I stated above, certifications are not magic wands and the most important assets of a tester are his skills, experience and approach to testing (things that cannot be thought on a course or measured by an exam!); but this is far from saying that certifications and their preparation courses are wrong or counter productive.
We need to look at certifications and their training courses as tools, and understand that tools can always be used for good and wrong purposes. At the end of the day we are talking about humans, the same creatures who discovered fire and after creating civilization with it found a way to create bombs to erase it from the planet…
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