Get to Know Your ASTQB Board

Patricia McQuaid, Ph.D., CTFL, CISA
Professor of Information Systems, California Polytechnic State University

Volunteer Role in ASTQB
Immediate Past President
Co-founder of the American Software Testing Qualifications Board (ASTQB)


What led you to your career in testing?

I did not start out in my career to be a tester. I started out with a degree in business and a minor in computers. I worked in both the banking and manufacturing industries in what is now called Information Systems Auditing, earning my Certified Information Systems Auditing (CISA) certification. Along the way, I earned an M.B.A. I wanted to learn more technical aspects of the field, so I switched from business to computer science and earned a Masters degree and Ph.D. in Computer Science - Engineering. I have taught both business and computer sciences classes at universities in the United States. I applied my doctoral research to the field of software quality, and later became interested in software testing, a part of software quality.

What is your greatest challenge in testing?

I am a Professor. My two main challenges in testing are getting university students to understand the importance of testing, and getting top management to understand the same. While students intuitively understand that programs and systems need to be tested, more formal training is needed through university study. I am working on that problem, by incorporating software testing into our curriculum.

Regarding the management issue, part of the problem is that testers speak to management using technology terminology, when they need to be speaking business terminology. We need to talk to management in a language that makes sense to them, such as how what we do will increase their return on investment (ROI); not just reporting the number and severity of defects, but how this knowledge will affect the organization’s profit and loss figures.

Why do you volunteer your time to grow and develop ISTQB Certification?

I am the co-founder of the ASTQB, founded back in 2004. I learned about the ISTQB certification scheme while I was a speaker at a software quality conference in Europe. What convinced me to move forward and start the American Board was while talking to Dorothy Graham, a testing manager who works on large international projects. She has had teams of several hundred testers. She stated that she would not hire anyone if they did not have at least the Foundation Level certification. Imagine how difficult it would be to manage a team where the team members come from many different European countries, different backgrounds, different colleges, different skill sets, and different terminology. By having team members possessing the Foundation Level certification, she could be assured that everyone was on the same wave length, and knew the terms and concepts they needed to employ. This made perfect sense to me.

Why did you choose the ISTQB Certification rather than other types of testing certifications?

First, the ISTQB scheme is truly international in nature, with nearly fifty countries now (and growing) that recognize the value of ISTQB certifications. All the countries involved recognize the certification from the other countries. So, obtaining the certification in America, will allow it to be recognized in all of the countries which recognize the ISTQB certification.

Second, formal training is not needed - you can self study by downloading our Syllabus (what I call the Body of Knowledge) and the Glossary. Both of these documents are located on our website. If you choose training, you are not locked into a specific company/organization, where you need to take all the training from them, and then receive their own certification. Here, you can self study using the Syllabus and Glossary, or study from the books written for this purpose (listed on our website), or take more formal training from approved vendors (also on our web site).

What is the best way to study for the certification exams?

The first step is to download both the Syllabus and the Glossary from our website. ( Much of the exam deals with basic concepts and terminology, so those two documents are essential. Really read through them. If you find that there are sections that need clarification, you might purchase one of the books written for this purpose (some are listed on our website). There are probably terms in the Glossary you have not used, so be sure to spend time studying the Glossary. 

Some people prefer formal training from a training provider. Our website lists those companies that are approved by us to provide training. These training providers can come to your site, meet at a location in your city, or give training before or after a conference. Some of the approved training vendors now offer on-line classes. We also have two sets of sample exam questions on our site, to help with your comprehension of the material. All of this information is on our website.

The exams are often given after training classes, at public exams (often after certain testing conferences), we can send someone to your organization for an on-site exam (check into the cost with our headquarters), or you can take it on-line. This information is also on our website.

Where have you lived?

I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and have since lived in Michigan, back to Ohio, Alabama, and now in sunny California.

What do you see as the future of the ISTQB?

It will continue to grow, bringing in more countries to the network.  It will help to raise the level of professionalism and level of expertise in the field of software testing, throughout the world.