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2013 Issue #2

In this issue of "ISTQB Certification News," we ask the question, "Is Software Testing REALLY a Profession?" Learn the answer below.

Articles in this issue:


Call for Speakers! The 2014 ASTQB Software Testing Conference

Is Software Testing REALLY a Profession?

Local Groups: Would You Like to Have ASTQB Sponsor Your Meeting?

Show Your Certification Pride

ISTQB Wants Your Opinion

News and Offers from ASTQB Accredited Course Providers

Foundation Level Latin American Spanish Exam Availabl

See You at These Upcoming Events

 

Call for Speakers! The 2014 ASTQB Software Testing Conference

ASTQB is hosting its first-ever conference on March 24-26, 2014 at the Hyatt Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, CA. We will be selecting our speakers from the many talented certified professionals in software testing and management - we hope you will be one of them!

Don't miss this opportunity to gain exposure and recognition from some of the software testing industry's finest. Submit the Call for Speakers application right now.

 

Is Software Testing REALLY a Profession?

By Randall W. Rice, CTAL

Some software testers see their job as "just another job" or a "stepping stone" to other positions. Other testers see their job as a career in software quality, with a goal to become highly knowledgeable and skilled in the practice of testing.

My observation from the thousands of testers I interact with each year is that software testing has become fragmented into various groups, each with their own view of what testing is and how it should be performed. I believe this fragmentation has eroded the overall knowledge and skill levels of testers because it inhibits a professional level of practice in testing.

At one time, software testing was seen by many in management and testing practice as a field with common terminology, defined standards, means of measurement, and widely accepted processes. That view has become fuzzy over time, to the point now that it seems "anything goes" in testing.

It is not my intention to define a specific benchmark of professional practice for software testers or to judge who is a professional and who isn’t. However, I will explore a few attributes that shape professional software testing, as well as some recent data to indicate how we as testers see ourselves and how others may see us.

A key part of the mission of the ISTQB and its member boards, such as the ASTQB, is to advance the profession of software testing. The reason I am involved in promoting certification for software testers is to help promote software testing as a professional practice.

In May of 2013, I surveyed 100 actively practicing software testing in a simple, non-scientific web survey to get a quick measure of the overall attitudes toward professionalism in testing. I present some findings from that survey below.

First, a Definition of "Professional"

There is debate about what defines a profession. I have heard some people totally reject the idea that testing is a profession. However, it is helpful to understand that there is a range of professional practices, all the way from licensed and regulated to self-defined.

A common definition of a profession is "A paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification". (Oxford English Dictionary)

Even among those that get paid for doing some work there are further distinctions. Cooks and chefs both get paid, but chefs are considered as a higher level of culinary practice and artistry.

The main questions each of us in software testing needs to answer are "How do I see myself – as a professional, craftsperson, artist or something else?" and "How do others (such as management) see me?"

The Uniqueness of the Testing Role

In many professions, especially medical, legal, architecture, and engineering, people plan and prepare in advance to go into a given field. They take specific courses in college or graduate ("professional") with the goal in mind to enter a profession.

However, the vast majority of testers and test managers I have surveyed (95% or more), state that they found themselves as a tester or test manager in a relatively unplanned way. You might think of this as the "accidental" tester or test manager.

Software testing also suffers from a lack of recognition in the IT industry. Although occasionally mentioned in salary surveys and other lists of IT jobs, software testing still hasn’t made the Standard Occupational Classification list of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why Should You Care?

Software testers work with applications that range from trivial apps to highly critical software and systems. What we do as testers is often serious, careful business with high stakes.

The people who hire testers have high expectations that the job will be done in a "professional" way with the best interests of a company and its customers in mind.

Yet, the bar of entry to the field of software testing is very low. Depending on where you start, you may need no training and no experience at all. Another issue is that test teams are convenient "dumping grounds" for people who can’t cut it any place else in the company.

The bottom line is that the reputation and credibility of all testers can be impacted by the actions of a few. This is especially true within a particular organization.

The Current State of Professionalism

For the past four years, York College has conducted a study into "Professionalism in the Workplace." The 2013 study reinforced that the major factors for exhibiting professional behavior are:

  • Work until a task is completed competently
  • Interpersonal skills including civility
  • Appropriate appearance
  • Punctuality and regular attendance
  • Communication skills
  • Honesty
  • Focused/attentive.

A major finding in the 2013 study was:

"More than a third of the respondents (35.9%) feel the percentage of new college graduates exhibiting professionalism over the past five years has decreased." (Emphasis mine.)

In my May 2013 simple, web-based, unscientific random survey of 100 software testers and test managers, the respondents were heavily weighted to the higher levels of experience with 26% being in the field 5 to 10 years, 43% with 10 to 20 years experience, and 20% with over 20 years experience in testing. This distribution was not intentional, but simply the result of self-selection in responding to my survey.

When asked, "How do you see yourself in the role of software testing?" I found that 55% of the respondents considered themselves as "professionals." Another 24% considered themselves as "test engineers" and 14% considered themselves and "craft persons" or "artists." This gives a 79% response for testers that see themselves in a "professional/engineering" role.

When asked "How important is it for you to be considered a software test professional?" 62% indicated "very important" and 33% indicated "somewhat important." That’s a whopping 95% indicating some level of importance.

Interestingly, when asked "How important is it to your management to be considered a software test professional?" 46% said "very important" and 33% indicated "somewhat important." While lower than the tester perspective, 79% is still significant sizeable majority. It is also interesting that the respondents rate themselves higher professionally than they felt their managers would see them. It is important to know that this survey was from the tester perspective, not the senior management perspective.

When asked, "Which do you see as the basis of being a professional software tester?" (multiple responses were possible), "Quality of work" ranked highest at 20%, followed closely by "Knowledge of Test Practices" at 19%. Other significant responses were "Experience that Demonstrates Competency" at 18%, "Ethical Behavior" at 13%, "Adherence to Standard Test Practices," and "Dependability," both at 11%. "Appearance" came in last with 3%.

Of the testers responding to the survey, 42% hold a college degree, 21% hold ISTQB certification, and 18% hold a certification other than ISTQB Foundation or Advanced (such as CSTE, PMP or ITIL). These were not mutually exclusive responses. For example, some people may hold a degree, an ISTQB certification and other certifications. 64% of the respondents indicated belonging to at least one professional group and of that number, 57% indicated they participated in the group’s activities.

Finally, when asked "Do you see a need for a higher level of professionalism in software testing?" 70% said "Yes", 7% indicated "No," and 23% had no opinion on that question.

The initial interpretation I have from the testers that responded is that the majority see themselves at a professional level, perhaps even more than their management sees them at that level. These respondents see quality of work, knowledge, and competent experience at the key characteristics of a professional tester. They also see an increased need for professionalism in the field of testing.

These survey results also appears to be at odds from the fragmented testing field (I can’t really call it a community) I see at conferences. More research needs to be conducted from the senior management perspective and from teams in a variety of contexts - agile, traditional, commercial software, and in-house development. It would also be interesting to survey only testers who have been in the field less than five years.

One final interpretation is that those who have been in the field of testing may see themselves as professionals most strongly because they have invested themselves in training and skill-building over a long period of time. They truly are professionals in the practice of software testing.

Conclusion

I write this as a call to those of us who want to be part of a healthy, growing profession that serves its clients with the highest quality and ethics. Members of a profession do not always agree on terminology and approaches. In fact, it is common for professional practices to vary, even though they are based on a general body of knowledge.

Management’s expectations drive the need for professional practice in software testing. If management had no concern about the level of skill and knowledge possessed by testers, we would be back where we were in the 1980’s and prior in terms of the role of testing on projects. In those days, independent test teams were primary seen in the government sector and some large banks. There were only a handful of books and training courses available on testing.

The good news is that there are solid ways to become a professional software tester. It is up to you to decide if you want a job or a career. A good path to build knowledge in testing is the ISTQB test certification. With a mature Foundation Level Syllabus and Advanced Syllabi and Expert levels emerging, there is a wide and growing body of knowledge that you can access.

However you see yourself in testing, it is important to know how others see your work and how you can advance your career in software testing.

Randall (Randy) W. Rice is a thought-leading author, speaker and consultant in the field of software testing and software quality. Rice, a Certified Quality Analyst (CSQA), Certified Software Tester - QAI (CSTE), Certified Tester - Foundation Level (CTFL - ASTQB), Certified Tester - Advanced Level (Full - Test Manager, Test Analyst, Technical Test Analyst) and a Fellow of the Life Office Management Association (FLMI), has worked with organizations worldwide to improve the quality of their information systems and optimize their testing processes. You can contact him at http://riceconsulting.com.

 

Local Groups: Would You Like to Have ASTQB Sponsor Your Meeting?

ASTQB loves local groups! To support local software testing and quality groups throughout the United States, ASTQB is now making available meeting sponsorships.

Each meeting sponsorship will vary, depending on the size of the group. Typically, these are in the $100-200 range, and each local group is eligible for one sponsorship per calendar year. Sponsorship funds may be used for refreshments (e.g. pizza, soda), but you may suggest alternate uses for the funds.

Add some spice (or pizza!) to your next meeting. Learn more and submit your request right now.

 

ISTQB Wants Your Opinion

ISTQB is gathering comments from software testing professionals and managers in order to derive improvement opportunities. The results of the survey will influence the decisions on which priorities to follow, such as add-on development. Make a difference in the future of ISTQB Certification: Take the survey now.

 

Show Your Certification Pride

Gain the recognition you deserve! Show everyone that you are certified by displaying an ASTQB coffee mug or wearing the ASTQB shirt. Go to the ASTQB Store right now.

 

News and Offers from ASTQB Accredited Course Providers

SQE Training: SQE Training – Get Certified on Us with eLearning through June 30, 2013 – Register for our eSoftware Tester Certification—Foundation Level course and get the $250 exam FREE! Click here for details and restrictions. Prefer traditional classroom training? Check out our current public Software Tester Certification—Foundation Level classes here.

Rice Consulting Services: Rice Consulting Services is offering a special bonus on Foundation Level e-learning team pricing. Enroll five or more people in pre-recorded e-learning CTFL training and get one extra registration free, including exams and textbooks. Use code "ISTQB8" at www.mysoftwaretesting.com when purchasing the 5-person enrollment.

RBCS: Too cool for school? RBCS Inc. doesn’t think so! Register today for any public delivery of our ISTQB Foundation Level, Advanced Level Test Manager, Advanced Level Test Analyst or Advanced Level Technical Test Analyst course(s) today and receive a 15% discount on tuition. Enter code ASTQBSUMMER15 into the promo code field in your cart and your discount will be reflected on your final receipt. All Advanced Level courses accredited to the 2012 syllabus. Offer can be applied to any course in 2013 but must be purchased by August 31, 2013. Cannot be combined with any other offer.

ALP International (ALPI): Exclusive ALPI offer to ASTQB Newsletter readers: Get your team Certified and SAVE! Foundation Level: Jul 8 – 10; Advanced Level/Test Analyst: Jul 30 – Aug 2; Advanced Level/Test Manager: Aug 19 – Aug 23. Send THREE, the fourth goes for FREE! Contact our Training & Education team for details at training@alpi.com or by calling (301) 654-9200 ext. 403. Promotion Expires July 1, 2013.

 

Foundation Level Latin American Spanish Exam Available

The Latin American Spanish version of the Foundation Level exam is now available for electronic exams at its test centers. Note that the registration form is in English, so basic English skills are required for registration. Register now.

 

See You at These Upcoming Events

If you are headed to any of these upcoming events, be sure to stop by and say hello to the ASTQB staff and volunteers! We love to be able to put a face with the name and meet the many wonderful professionals in this industry.

  • CAST - Madison, WI - August 27-28
  • StarWest - Anaheim, CA - October 2-3
  • STPCon - Phoenix, AZ - October 22-24
  • Better Software/Agile - Boston, MA - November 13-14

ASTQB Booth

 

What Would You Like to Learn About?
As always, we welcome your feedback and criticism. Let us know what we can do to help make you and your company better at software testing at info@astqb.org.

About ISTQB Certification News
ISTQB Certification News is a free software testing newsletter from ASTQB providing news, analysis, and interviews for the software tester community. Feel free to forward to colleagues or ask them to subscribe at: <http://www.astqb.org/sections/newsletter.php>

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