These days certifications are in great demand! And if you are in Software Testing, then it is assumed that you already have one of them or at least you are planning/preparing to have one of them soon. I find many people working in Software Testing field with some or other certification. How often do you hear about certifications in software testing like CSTE, CSQA, QAI, ISTQB, ISEB, Brainbench etc in your work place? I have seen a strange look on many faces when they are told that I don’t own (I purposefully used this word to emphasize the fact that certifications are now considered as commodities which can/should be owned!) a certification yet.
Interestingly, when I tell many of my blog readers and online friends that I don’t have any kind of certifications, they simply refuse to believe it! As if, I am a weird creature in this testing field, who does not have one of the most essential thing required to test a software or even write a blog about it! People suddenly start to doubt my credibility as a tester after hearing this fact. But who cares! Rather, this further strengthens my determination to avoid a commercial certification in testing. Don’t start to think that I am afraid of appearing a certification examination. But I don’t believe that any of the available certification programs is capable of making my testing skills better in any possible way. And I think all these so called certification programs are mere money making tools for their respective organizations.
During a discussion with a friend (who happens to be the fastest emerging skilled tester of India), I was told that he knows a friend who holds all available Software Testing Certifications along with 67 Brainbench Testing Certifications! And ironically, the poor chap wants to get more certifications so that he can make a Guinness Record! People believe that they can attain greater heights in their career by holding a certification! And the irony of Indian Software Testing Industry is that to some extent they are true! Here you can find many reputed (!) Software Companies who look for candidates holding some sort of certification while recruiting. I think that is the main reason driving these people to go after certifications.
But my question is: “Can any of these certifications guarantee that it can improve your skills as a tester?” Most of the syllabi of those certifications are age old. They have not been updated for quite long time. They speak of practices and approaches in Software Testing, which are outdated in current scenario. Most of those approaches were written in the earlier days of Software Testing. At a time, when Software Testing was struggling to get its own identity. There were very few people who were real experts in the field. But these certification courses are still happy to follow those old grandpa day’s procedures and approaches. In what way, are they supposed to better your testing skills?
By the way, most of those certifications are 3 hours examinations consisting of some theoretical questions (I am not telling this out of my imagination. I have lot of such old question papers with me). You need not use the thinking and reasoning parts of testing, to answer these questions, which are the most essential elements of a skilled tester. More over, the questions seldom deal with other required skills like risk management, building test ideas, exploring a software and so on. Anybody (can be from a different field other than testing) with a little ability of memorizing things, can clear such a certification examination with flying colors! What’s the big deal? By saying so, in no way I am questioning the ability of the people holding such certifications. My aim is to point out the inefficiency of such certification programs in improving the skills of a tester.
When James Bach was asked by Michael Hunter of Microsoft in a recent interview about the “The biggest challenge for testers/the test discipline for the next five years”, one of his answers was “To reject the false prophets of certification. Bad certification programs cheapen our craft.” Think over it.
Now you must be wondering about the title of this post! So let me come to the point. If there is any certification, capable of improving your testing skills, then let me share this little secret with you. Try to be “Self-Certified”. If you are really skilled, then why should you need a piece of paper to certify your skills? I know a few testers who are Self Certified Skilled Testers.
And James Bach is one among them. You might be shocked to know that his highest formal qualification is 8th Grade from High school (James please correct me if I am wrong). But still, he is considered as one of the fathers of software testing. He is one of the pioneers, who has helped Software Testing get its own identity. To reach this position, he never required any commercial certification. So why should we? Let me tell you, I am one of those upcoming Self Certified Skilled Testers. These are the 3 golden rules, that I have set for me to become one of them.
1. Keep learning. There is no substitute for learning. There are lots of things which can help you in becoming a better tester. Even subjects like philosophy and epistemology can make you a better tester. Because according to James, “testing is applied epistemology”.
2. Keep practicing. Practice makes you perfect. And that applies to software testing too. The more testing you do, the smarter you become as a tester. So test, test and test!
3. Try to acquire the different skills required for a skilled tester. And I am told that, there are more than 3000 documented skills a tester can/should have. Please don’t start asking me for a list of them. Because, honestly I don’t have such a list. I am trying to explore, find and learn those skills. So also you can.
If you have any other suggestions that can be added to my golden rule list, please feel free to let me know (of course, by leaving a Comment). And if that sounds credible, I promise to add them in my list with proper credit to you. And last but not the least, Wish me luck in becoming a Self Certified Skilled Tester from INDIA.