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Some thoughts…

August 4, 2011

On certification and skills development..

From my personal experience, I believe that certifications may show that you have the ability to study for and clear an exam. But they cannot be proof of the skills you may possess. There is so much debate over certifications on the Internet. However, not many seem to be aware of this!! And are pressurized to acquire certifications. In general, I’ve seen and heard many people not wanting to do a certification just for the heck of it. They want to actually learn the skills and then maybe take up the certification. Also, there are many who take up certifications believing it will enhance their perceived value. It may help them achieve that..but definitely it will be short lived if they don’t have the real skills. Coz lack of skills will be revealed sooner than later.

I took up the CSTE certification for two reasons. I have no technical background in computers; I studied life sciences at college, nor had I done any beginners course in software testing and believed that to be a limitation. I also believed that I could have a better understanding of software testing and could improve my skills based on the study material that would be provided for the certification. Okay, there’s also one other factor; the organization would reimburse the exam fees if I could clear it at the first go! which was the real clincher!! So, when time was not a constraint, I applied for the certification.

Unfortunately, at that time, I had’nt come across this . At the very beginning, the author states that ‘Most of the people in the world who work in software testing have never taken a testing class, read a testing book, attended a testing conference, participated in a test user group. They still get to keep their jobs, and they might even be okay at testing’. Probably, it would have made me think differently.

The study material seemed humungous and I felt overwhelmed initially. Still, I decided to tackle it judiciously and made a plan to cover it in the available 2 months time for preparation. During the course of the preparation, I did learn. Learn, as in, I became aware of a lot of things pertaining to software testing. But sincerely speaking, it did not help me with improving my skills as I had hoped. The theoretical stuff was very much removed from the ground realities of testing and the projects that was involved in. They were like two different worlds with a few intersecting/common points. Nevertheless, I took the exam and cleared with flying colors so to say 🙂 and that is because I think I have always been good at comprehension and tackling such an exam was not a hurdle for me.

Where skills are concerned, I have been learning on the go… by actually testing stuff that needed to be tested. I have goofed up quite a few times… not only in testing something [missed out some important scenarios], but also in reporting [by reporting inefficiently, which led to some rework for the developers]… which also helped me to learn. Much later, I discovered the blogs.. the testing related blogs that talk of actual testing..the skills..[ not the ones that tell you about the testing techniques and how to go about achieving a certification] which I could very much relate to. Love the way they correlate little things in life to software testing… or software development in general. Am amazed at how they come up with those!! Not sure if the blogs have helped improve my skills per se, but surely they have helped create awareness, especially about the existence of resources that testers can use to educate themselves and sparked some thoughts… at least occasionally.

I must admit, that apart from some reading, I have not done much to educate myself further. Varied factors are responsible for this, the main being my laziness!! Like you can see, this blog of mine too has been a victim… neglected for almost an year. And this post has been in the making forever. It was in my head.. not even in the drafts here! And I’ve digressed.

Two reasons I began writing this … one, I’ve been receiving reminders that my certification is about to expire. I dont think that it really matters to me now. But, of course, am not sure how people who recruit, will view this. Two, lately, I’ve been reading blog posts and articles that talk about self education for testers which I also think, is the way to go!! So, i’ll end this with a couple of links which got me thinking..

Combating “Tester Apathy” by Micheal Larsen

Alternative paths for self education in software testing  by Markus Gärtner

Bangalore Workshop on Software Testing by Pradeep Soundararajan

Hoping that more and more testers become aware of such resources and strive towards excellence through self education…

Happy Learning!!

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