Conscientious Uncertification

I’m thinking of having badges made which say “Conscientiously Uncertified.” It’s for those of us who want to resist the dumbing down of our craft by cynical consultants promoting bogus tester certification programs.

For me, when I see that someone is certified as CSTE, ISEB, ISTQB, or CSTQE, I immediately think “there goes someone who was bullied into compliance.”

Any suggestions for what the badge would say?

Here are some options:

  • Conscientiously Uncertified
  • Certification Objector
  • Uncertifiable
  • No Bullies
  • Proud to Be Uncertified

I should have a logo made, so like-minded freedom fighters can post it on their blogs. By refusing to give in to the thugs of certification, a tester shows he can follow a more difficult and more admirable path: self-education and self-certification.

Side Note: There is one certification program coming along that looks worthwhile, to me: the AST BBST certification. It will be difficult to obtain, based on demanding online coursework. It will not claim to be anything more than a certification that the tester has successfully made it through the course(s). Some of it is already available through the AST. The rest is coming. So far, the courses are free to AST members.

I will probably not be able to get this certification (I’m too disruptive in class), but at least I helped create it.

48 thoughts on “Conscientious Uncertification

  1. my suggestions:
    1. freedom testers
    2. testers not caged
    3. testers without boundaries
    4. evolving testers
    5. kinetic testers

    🙂 these are the things i think about, please let me know when these badges are ready very eager to add it to my websites probably to my email signatures as well.
    testers cannot be measured by static text book references, and i strongly disagree any question will have only “one” correct answer in testing context.

    [James’ Reply: I like Freedom Testers.]

  2. But who would wear these badges? How would one distinguish between “Conscientiously Uncertified� and someone who doesn’t know a thing about testing (or knows very little)?

    (Don’t get me wrong I’d love to have one of those badges, unfortunately I already have a certification. Any ideas on how to get UNcertified? 🙂 )

    [James’ Reply: People can wear them even if they are certified, if they wish to signal their repudiation of it. In fact, there should be a special badge for you “Self-Decertified.” A badge of honor!]

  3. How about “Certainly Uncertified” or “Self Certified”

    [James’ Reply: I like Certainly Uncertified.]

  4. I am now conscientiously uncertified but I was glad that I was certified when my small company got bought by a large company who moved the testing 3000 miles to corporate headquarters.
    You are on the right track but as usual, are way ahead of the curve. If everyone takes this advice, we all win but if only a few do, they would probably be disadvantaged if they found themselves looking for employment.
    James, you are good at educating testers; how do we educate the hiring managers?

    [James’ Reply: If you see the goal as getting any testing job easily, then it may be that certification is a good thing for you. Especially if you are junior and haven’t been able to create a portfolio for yourself. In that respect, certification can be seen as a wonderful way to fool employers into believing you know something about testing. But what if you would rather not get a job by preying on the ignorance of employers? What if you want to feel competent instead of merely employed?

    I’m an example of how anyone can develop their own brand name as a tester and win employment. Yes, there are many people who won’t hire me, but there are enough who will that I can make a good living. Of course, I don’t do much testing any more, because I’m too expensive and my schedule is very chopped up. When I test it’s usually a court case or a very quick project to mentor others.

    It is harder to get a testing job without certification, but I would argue that the job will be more satisfying. And if at least some of us band together and give a name to our movement, then you’ll have some top cover.]

  5. Certifications aren’t necessarily an entirely bad thing, generally.

    There are three ways to increase your knowledge: doing, training, and learning. Doing is experience -> building tacit knowledge of your immediate problem domain. Training is certification -> absorbing explicit procedures designed for a specific purpose. Learning is education -> going to school and learning (more generally) what the problem domain *is* for whatever you’re studying.

    I’ve seen lots of people with lots of experience and no certification and no education who were excellent IT people (programmers, systems administrators, whatever). I’ve seen people with lots of experience and no certification and no education who were *horrible* IT people. They knew how to get stuff done, but building entirely off of direct experience, they knew only how to get it done in one way, and that way was frighteningly wrong.

    If I look at someone’s resume and see an alphabet soup of certifications with a bachelor’s degree and 5 year’s experience, that tells me something alarming -> they’re pursuing the certifications to pad their resume. There is no real reason to get more than a couple of certifications. Nobody needs to memorize that many procedures, that’s why Man invented the Internet. You can’t keep that much procedural knowledge in your active memory anyway… if you don’t use it, it’s going to atrophy. On the other hand, if I want someone to be a router programmer, having a couple of Cisco certifications and 5 year’s experience in programming routers is a good sign.

    On the other hand, seeing someone with 10 year’s experience and no degree and no certifications tells me something else (that may or may not be alarming) -> this person is not interested in doing anything other than what he’s doing currently. This might be a very good thing. It might be a very bad thing. It does immediately raise a question, however… if they’re not interested in advancement, why did they leave whatever job that they had before this one? There are lots of good reasons, but I’d want to know what they are.

    In the specific example of programming and testing, though, I’d have a tendency to agree with you. I’d rather see someone with a good grounding in basic engineering principles and 5 years’ experience coding than anyone with a certification.

    [James’ Reply: A worthwhile testing certification is possible. I have written about that. Just so happens that a worthwhile testing certification doesn’t yet exist. The main reason it doesn’t exist is that it doesn’t pay for the certifiers, whereas bullshit certifications are cheap and easy to give out. The profit margin on them is wonderful. I hear Rex Black charges $2000 a seat for his certification classes. This is about double what I can charge, and my classes are highly regarded. So, folks I could double my fees if I promised certification at the end of it. If only I could part with my self-respect, I could have more money!

    Some things are more important than money. I once left a job after only six months over a matter of ethics– and was forced to pay back a $30,000 sign-on bonus for leaving so soon (took me six years to pay it off). But I console myself by being able to say that when I was tempted to sell clients services they didn’t need, I refused. I couldn’t afford to refuse, but I refused anyway. My close colleagues know the specific circumstances I suffered through, and part of my reward for preserving my integrity is that I got lots of referrals from those colleagues in the early critical years of being an independent consultant. Jonathan Kohl did something similar and now I refer all the business I can to him.

    Testers can spice up their resume with lots of things other than certifications. It’s only lack of imagination and excess of fear that drives testers to get certified.]

  6. Certificate and Certification: Though the two words look almost identical, I highly prefer the first one because it is doesn’t imply superiority. I can go to a number of universities and get a certificate in almost any subject, but earning it does not certify me to do any particular job.

    It’s the difference between bragging “I’m a certified chicken plucker” and “I passed some chicken plucking classes.”

  7. How about Self Certified?

    In Michael Bolton’s presentation he mentioned his qualifications as being published and the credibility he has within the testing community. The label would be Peer Certified.

    Maybe you could use your terminology and combine it with the well known Intel logo: Sapient Inside

    [James’ Reply: Peer Certified! Sapient Inside!!! Wow!]

  8. How about Open Cert? 😀

    As far as terms to talk about skill, we have the term Jedi on the development side that peers give to each other.

    Or you could use the Apprentice – Journeyman – Master approach.

    [James’ Reply: I’m not sure what “open cert” means.]

  9. I like Uncertifiable or Self Certified. I am more than willing to add it my site! Instead of Sapient Inside rather have Sentient Inside to get people to stop thinking that we are no more than data inputters with a little technical knowledge.*feels rant coming on again*

    Your post and Alan’s post got me into a bit of rant about ISEB/ISTQB on my own blog. You can have a read of it at

  10. The term peer certified twigs me to


    [James’ Reply: That’s an interesting site. Of course, it’s an unnecessary site. Anyone who wants to recommend someone else can already do so on their blogs, websites, or privately by serving as a reference. There’s a whole differently sociology associated with a public interchange type of site.

    Another issue is how do people unrecommend other people? The only method for social anti-certification on that site is, apparently, silence. I notice that Brian Marick hasn’t “certified” Cem Kaner or me as knowing anything about testing. Not surprising, since we had a falling out several years ago. And I’ve had to retract my own certification of Brian, since he ceased studying testing seriously and decided to treat it as the poor little stepsister of coding. This is the basic problem with systematic social certification– the reluctance people have to tell the whole truth about each other in public. That’s why I prefer ad hoc (traditional) social certification.]

  11. A special case – what would you call some who takes certification only realise that it was waste ?

    “Returned Home” – there used to be a folk story of a teenager running away from home in rebelion protesting his parents wishes. After wondering for a while, looking around for a avenue/place to settle down, this teenager thinks about his mistake of defying his parents. In retrospection he thinkgs that it was a mistake to abandon his parents and cause pains to them. By evening he returns home and his parents welcome him with open arms and love. As goes saying “If a runnaway son returns home by evening – welcome him home”.

    Hindi proverb reads “Subah ka bhula agar shaym ko wapas aye to woh bhula nahin”

    Similalry a certificated tester who returns home – should be welcomed by “elders” ….? I am one such returned home certified (uncertified later) tester ….

    Most of people who go for certification today – have not heard or read Jerry, Cem and you James … for some (“Returned home” kind of) we can give benefit of doubt … they did not (or do not know) what to do …


    [James’ Reply: I like that idea. Going through the certification process is a good way to discover how hollow it is. I tell people “if you are silly enough to get certified, at least don’t be so silly that you take it seriously!”

    I do think a special badge is needed for people who wish to renounce their own certification. “Self-decertified” or something like that.]

  12. -Uncertified by choice
    -Certification: Don’t do it
    -To be certified or not certified, that is the question. Don’t ask dumb questions.
    -A tester’s soul has no certification
    -Certification cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.
    -Certification means choosing your burden.
    -Certification is not enough.
    -With certification, you have no name.
    -Certification revokes the way you wish to test

  13. As a Self decertified tester I like the idea of “Freedom Tester” as I now live in Las Vegas and test Slot Machines most people here don’t have certifications and it is something that won’t get you far. As a “Freedom Tester” I have the ability to think outside of certification and not be held to “Is that something that you learned in class?” or “Would a certified tester know more about that?” I also discovered how hollow the certification process was as I went through class as for taking it seriously, the only one that did that was the one that paid for me to become certified and that was my boss. I can’t wait for the badges to come out so, that I can tell the world that I am “Self-decertified” and a “Freedom Tester”

  14. “Anti-Certified” works for me until I get “Peer Certified”… 🙂

    [James’ Reply: Anti-certified is kind of nice. I like to work in the concept of conscientious objector, though. It’s a powerful idea.]

  15. Only partly off topic: Jim, congratulations on your handshake deal with a major publisher for your book on self-directed learning! W00T!

    [James’ Reply: thanks man!]

  16. A few years ago I joined a local 1-year intensive program on software quality because I was convinced it would help me become a better tester and make it easier to find a job (which I had trouble finding at the time). It wasn’t your typical certification program but rather a program designed to give us the tools to improve our testing skills during and after the program. One thing I particularly appreciated was how they made us read about certification programs so we understand the contexts in which they excel while being aware of their inherent (and numerous) limitations.

    Today I feel I’m a much better tester than I was before the program, thanks both to the insights I got from it and all the various skills I gained and tools I gathered afterwards. This blog here is one of my favorite sources of insights. Many thanks, James. Definitely eager to read your new book!

    As for what the badges could say…

    “Certification is futile.” (from Star Trek)
    “There is no certification.” (from The Matrix, less obvious out of context; it would have to be written on a Matrix screensaver backdrop 🙂 )
    “Certification is my kryptonite.”

  17. Somehow I left this comment in the wrong place – re-posting:

    Someone (maybe James?) pointed out me, years ago, that you never see a top-rung person advertising his certifications. A PhD, maybe an MBA, but not CSXX. Really, look at the last conference you went to. Or any conference you’ve EVER been to. Do ANY of the keynoters EVER advertise CSQE, CSQM, CSQXX? No. Not one.

    Doug Hoffman comes close, but notice he struggles hard to break into the top rung despite all those certifications. No offense to Doug – I believe he is really top flight. I wonder if maybe those certifications are in fact holding him back?

    In geeral, people earn those certifications to get *into* the field, and maybe to get a little bit of employment security – but not to change the world, and certainly not to lead that change. So advertising your cert creds is much like advertising “Look at me, I’m a *good* sheep.â€?

    So, my recommendation for a badge would be something like “Not a sheepâ€?, “Leading the Wayâ€? – or maybe, just maybe, to quote sinatra “I did it … my wayâ€?

    (My company, socialtext, hires testers internationally. To my knowledge, no one on the testing staff is certified in any way, besides my elapsed brainbench certs, which I took because they had a month of “free certs” officers and I thought it would be funny. It was funny … not in the ha-ha sense, but in the make you want to cry about the state of the industry sense …)


  18. Months ago, I found a website that advertises that they are “one of the few employee testing companies in the world to have been certified under ISO 9001-2000 for its testing and training systems.”

    Furthermore, they say they offer “cutting edge testing solutions to business giants.”

    Their price for a software testing certification? $9.95

  19. Why does it have to be black or white? There are a lot of shades of grey…

    [James’ Reply: I already explained that. What I’m talking about is a scam. It’s not a shades of gray thing.]

    As a little girl I went to school and learn the alphabet, which meant I am now able to read and write letters, words and even sentences. However this does not mean that I am now a best seller author or a linguist. I still have to use dictionaries, even though I have more than 20 years experience.

    [James’ Reply: Knowing the alphabet is helpful. But there are two issues I’m seeing with the tester certifications. 1) they aren’t even teaching the alphabet, 2) even if they were, the certifications are marketed and treated as doing more than that.]

    I wouldn’t say the certifications are the problem, but more the rating of these certifications as if they are an achievement on itself. But the only thing that they prove at the moment is that the person is able to learn by heart a book and get it out on paper – and be careful you are not allowed be imaginative during the exam � . Now is that what software testing is about, or should the certification be renamed – Software Validation Certificates…

    [James’ Reply: They prove nothing that is worthwhile. They are quite simply fraud.]

    For those badges of yours, why not put – ‘Work in Progress’ as I guess what makes a good tester is his drive to go the extra mile or something like ‘I do TESTING not VALIDATION’

    [James’ Reply: That doesn’t have much of a bite, does it? I’m trying to say that I’m not certified because I have integrity.]

  20. I just have to add this comment to the list. I was talking to a friend the other day and she asked what my job duties were, as I explained to her what I did I noticed a strange look on her face so, I asked her what was wrong and she said ” you do the same thing over and over again expecting different results each time isn’t that a form of insanity?” I went home thinking about what she had said and decided that since I have been called insane for my choice in profession and I am certified I want a badge that states I am a certified insane person! So, if I do something a little off the wall I can point at the badge and say “It is ok I am a certified insane person!” So, Please make my badge to say Certified insane person!

  21. I’m certified… *hangs head in shame*


    The sole reason I studied for and passed my ISEB is because I don’t have a degree and most decent jobs I applied for had a pre-requisite of ‘Degree (or relevant certification)’ and they were throwing me out of the door without so much as reading my CV or granting me an interview. For me my ISEB was neccessary…

    I have no plans whatsoever in certifying with others though – Just last week I went on a business trip over to our parent company in Philly and was told about a certification that may be thrust upon me at any moment… There are 17 people in the world who have this coveted title…. 14 of them work at the parent company! ROFL

    Seriously though, how do I get my un-certification badge? 😉

    [James’ Reply: You don’t have a degree? Do you have a high school diploma? I don’t. So what does that do to your theory of necessary credentials?]

  22. Isn’t the main motivation to get certified is to say, “I know my stuff?”
    Isn’t the main motivation to write a book is to say, “I know my stuff?”
    Isn’t the main motivation to blog is to say, “I know my stuff?”

    They are all the same thing, just different ways of seeking validation from peers.

    The only evidence that counts is to prove you know your stuff by actually doing it.

    Just a thought~

  23. What we need is a blog for certifications that the owner thinks are worthless. See which ones get the most votes. You can upload a scan of your cert to get “virtually” uncertified.

    I have ISTQB and think it is the most useless certification for testers ever. The whole exam is a load of %^&$ and measures absolutely nothing useful. Those that get this cert were lucky (or percistant) not skillful at testing. I’m sure other feel the same about other certs.

    PS. I was forced by my employer to do ISTQB Certification.

  24. My suggestion is a slight adaptation of one above:

    Dr. Self Certified

    Every now and again I get this urge to do an ISTQB but it passes as soon as I pick up one of the documents you need to know for the exam. So much is wrong and so little is explained. I’m allergic to learning off-by-heart and ISTQB fits the bill 150%. I’d rather understand and apply. So I think I will stay uncertified.

    Oh and when are the badges coming out? I want to get some on company expense!

  25. Sorry to be late to the party, been outta the loop way too long.

    James, this is a great idea, really. I would have to fall into the Self Decertified group, since early in my career I marched down the corporate path and got my CSTE from QAI. (Quick aside…I still consider that a positive experience, for myself in that context, and generally do not consider QAI to be the all out charlatans that some others are…they do not claim to make you an elite tester in a weekend. It just is what it is.)

    However, as Matt points out, I let that certification lapse years ago, and neither I nor anyone I know of or work with much cares about it anymore.

    I know we are looking for badges with quick, biting slogans, but I really liked these two suggestions from Brent Strange —

    -A tester’s soul has no certification
    -Certification cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.

    Perhaps I can nominate them as subtitles under a more direct logo?

  26. I think you’re missing an important element of certification.. CONTEXT!
    The ISEB and ISTQB foundation certifications do not, cannot and should not be taken to imply any technical competence.

    [James’ Reply: But that’s not how it is marketed. And furthermore, not only does it not imply any technical competence, it doesn’t imply any significant knowledge or any significant anything else, except for significant ability to succumb to peer pressure by unworthy peers, or corporate pressure by unworthy corporations.]

    One of the biggest impediments that I see to the growth and development of testing, that holds up progress on projects and on industry recognition is the simple fact that there are “20” different words (exageration for effect!) for any given thing.. from test documentation to test methods and test artefacts

    (How many times have you been asked by a client to do “system testing”, only to discover that they wanted Acceptance Testing!! or asked for a “test plan” when they want a Test Procedure!!)

    [James’ Reply: This is no impediment. It’s a resource. I’ve been a testing consultant, full-time, for about a decade. You’d think I would be most prone to confusion and concern about differing terminologies, since I’m at a different company nearly every other week. But no, it’s not a problem. I have no trouble negotiating the many terminologies and schools of testing and neither do you, I suspect. It’s irritating at times that people don’t immediately use the words I like to use, but that’s nothing compared to the value there is in each community taking responsibility for their own processes and education.

    I think the terminology confusion issue is just an excuse for bullies to do their bullying. If you know the people who actually created all this certification nonsense, it’s all about a business opportunity. People will pay money to save themselves from what they fear, and the certification mongers have manufactured the fear. That’s how bullies work.

    There is no accepted terminology for software testing. A group of process vultures who declare that their way is best does not a consensus build. Besides the ISTQB terminology is the work of incompetent hacks, in my opinion.]

    The foundation level certifications seek to rectify and remedy this by providing some structure around terms.. there is no practical exam and no in depth discussion of methods/techniques. Nobody should interpret a foundation certificate as having any relationship to actual testing proficiency.

    [James’ Reply: LOOK AT THE WAY IT IS MARKETED. The foundation level certification is no remedy. We don’t need “some structure” we need insightful, well researched, well founded ideas that reflect the diversity of the craft.]

    Humans are no good at testing other humans. I can’t think of a single degree, dimploma ro certification that PROVES competence. At the end of the day all they prove is that you 1) passed the exam or 2) did your X hours of job experience (whether you were any good or not).

    [James’ Reply: Are you seriously comparing a four year university degree with an ISTQB certification? Oh my god.]

  27. “[James’ Reply: Are you seriously comparing a four year university degree with an ISTQB certification? Oh my god.]”

    I have both ISTQB/ISEB foundation and advanced level certifications AND a ” four year university degree”, and yes I am seriously comparing them. All they prove is that I passed the exam/gave the answers the examiner was looking for (the answers according to the syllabus). That’s the bottom line of any exam-based certification. To get my degree I just had to answer more questions, from a much larger/wider syllabus. [For completeness, my degree is in Aviation and also involved over 250 hours of practical flight experience and flight test up to Commercial level, including IRT, single and multi-engine. I also completed half of a BSc (Maths & Physics) before I switched to the BAv I ultimately completed]

    [James’ Reply: Well, I think your judgment is impaired. The comparison is ridiculous. Insulting. And I also am a pilot. My flight training was profoundly deeper than anything that that tester certifiers do. So was yours.]

    I’m not trying to promote ISTQB, but I from what I see it helps increase communication by providing a common language and gives inexperienced people some insight to the breadth and depth of testing by introducing them to techniques and concepts they may otherwise have not seen or considered.

    [James’ Reply: Why do you say “common language?” Apart from the fact that it’s a language peculiar to their community, and not common to the field, it’s also a language that they don’t even speak. Most people who take the exam and pass it, and then come to my class, can’t even remember the definitions of the key words! It’s just a crock.]

    Software Testing is both an art and a science.
    Perhaps you feel that the teachings of some of the science spoils the art? I don’t disagree, but you have to start somewhere.

    [James’ Reply: No, I think the ISTQB teaches neither science nor art. I think it teaches baloney. Our problem is not that we need to start somewhere. Our problem is that much has already started, and started long ago, but some people can’t accept the idea of studying all that has started, and so they pretend that nothing has started and that “you have to start somewhere.”]

    Imagine teaching someone to paint who has never held a paintbrush before.. it’s not completely unreasonable to start with “paint by numbers” It introduces form, colour, shape & media in a simple way that is easily grasped and the student is able to quickly create a “good enough” painted image. Having completed the paint-by-numbers course, the student is not an expert and can’t create a masterpiece BUT with time and experience and exposure to other techniques he or she will get there – provided the spark of ‘art’ exists within them.

    [James’ Reply: I think that’s the wrong model. I don’t think any art institute teaches art that way. See the book “Why Art Cannot Be Taught” for more on this.]

    I see software testing in the same light, it is the masters of the *art* of software testing that are the most effective and create the most brilliant masterpieces, but the less artistic folks need to have a more structured mechanism with which to approach the task at hand, and they still add value in doing so.

    [James’ Reply: I honestly don’t agree that you see software testing in any light at all. Anyway, this is not how I teach testing, and it’s not how testing needs to be taught.]

    While ISTQB might be a too focussed on revenue gathering and too fundamental in it’s teaching of methods for your liking, it’s a start. Ignore the money gathering aspect as that is not something delivered to the Testing community. What is delivered is a paint by numbers introduction to testing. You’re saying that the paint-by-numbers course is being sold/marketed as a masterclass — that’s an ethical problem, but it doesn’t detract from what is actually ultimately delivered.

    [James’ Reply: There is no paint by numbers in testing. That’s simply not testing. Just as there is no paint-by-numbers in aviation. You must develop skill to fly an aircraft. The procedural elements are far surpassed by the skill and judgment elements.]

    It looks like you’re not actually anti-certification, as you mention “one certification program coming along that looks worthwhile” just anti ISTQB, and you have excellent defensible reasons that I’m not arguing against. I just question the appropriateness of attacking the entire product based on its advertising campaign.

    [James’ Reply: I’m not attacking it solely based on its advertising campaign, but rather based on the fact that it is crap and an insidious form of mass bullying. I’m not opposed to certification in principle. I just think the programs out there are promoted by a combination of weak-minded and weak-hearted people. I’ve had my arguments, in person, with a lot of them. The best of them will at least apologize for it, even if they don’t have the wherewithal to stop propagating the garbage altogether.]

  28. I made the most of my time as a permanent employee. My job wasn’t particularly interesting at the time, so I got:
    – ISEB foundation
    – ITIL foundation
    – ITIL pracitioner (change, config and release mgmt)
    – Attended the Rex Black managing the test process course
    – A Software Education test estimation course
    – Attended the STANZ conference.

    They look great on my CV. Large organisations who use HR people to hire testers feel more comfortable when you have a list of courses a mile long to back up your experience.

    However, the only item in the list above that I actually found worthwile was the conference. It gave me an opportunity to meet with my peers, listen to and learn from my elders in the testing world, and participate in interesting discussions. As someone who’s been there and done that (and has the certificates to prove it) I completely agree with you, ISTQB is not the way. I could start talking about what they’re doing with the “Advanced” certification, breaking it into 3 parts so you have to pay for 3 courses and making the exams multiple choice to it’s easier to franchise, but I won’t because it makes me angry.

    As a Test Manager I hire alot of testers. I choose attitude, aptitude and experience over certification every time.

    P.S. I attended your presentation to the Test Professionals Network on Monday, thanks for the 64k, 32k, 16k example – I’ll be using it with my project manager tomorrow 🙂

  29. Alex, I’m afraid you lost me the moment you started talking about paint-by-numbers being any kind of way to train an artist.

    See, the point of training in art is NOT to be able to complete a “good enough” painted image. I can do that with a photocopier. Or a scanner. Or whatever. Reproducing images is virtually costless nowadays – and, that being the case, making a “good enough” reproduction is of pretty much zero value, too. The point of learning to paint or draw is that you are learning to look at what’s there in front of you. Not what you think ought to be there in front of you, not what other people tell you ought to be there, or what you’ve seen other people reproducing, but what is actually there when you open your eyes and really look at it. Very few people actually *really* look at things. Most of the time we skate through on assumptions. But if you want to do an honest drawing, you need to *look*. (What you put on paper after that is up to you).

    Come to think of it, I use a lot of the discipline trained into me when learning to sketch when I’m testing. It’s a way of looking at the world.

    So – yes, it is completely and utterly unreasonable to start with paint by numbers, because that immediately divorces the student from the real world, and once you’ve done that, you’ve lost the whole point of the whole exercise. But it’s a really helpful analogy – I’m starting to understand a bit better why James is so adamant about ISTQB/ISEB etc being a harmful exercise now.

    I’m not sure that I’m fully convinced yet – I have not yet done the certification, but am being strongly encouraged to do so by my employers (and I have to admi
    t that actually, the debate is making me more curious about doing the ISEB not l
    ess!) – but this analogy for me, is the most powerful argument I’ve seen against

    (Note: I should point out that I have no formal art certifications, given the topic. I wouldn’t swap the training I did have for any certification you would care to give me though. It taught me how to think.)

    [James’ Reply: See “Why Art Cannot Be Taught” for an interesting look at the history of art certification. Today you do not need to be certified to do art, but in the Middle Ages, there was a certification system. It mirrors some of the problem I have with certifications today.]

  30. I think that ISTQB has a place in this world!

    And now that I have your attention, let me qualify that statement.
    I think ISTQB is a shining example of how a bad education of bad (or incorrectly portrayed) static principles and techniques can undermine an intelligent and constantly evolving practice.
    Expecting testers to use what they are taught in ISTQB to perform good testing, is like expecting Da Vinci to reproduce the Mona Lisa with a cracked canvas, broken brushes and rainwater for paint!

    I’ve been lucky enough to have completed both the ISTQB course and Mr Bach’s Rapid Software Testing course.
    I can say I was lucky to have completed both these courses because now when people say “are you ISTQB certified?” I can say “Yes I am, but I wish I never had been, and let me tell you why…”

    The ISTQB course taught me that I still have the skills I learnt in High School, to learn and parrot for an exam even completely useless information. Other than this, the only thing I got from ISTQB was a depressing view of testing as a boring, over structured, no autonomy discipline that could be performed by trained monkeys with a computer and a project manager.
    I was lucky enough that shortly after doing this ‘course’ I was seconded into a high level helpdesk role that broke me out of the funk that trying to apply the ISTQB ‘rules’ to my testing had put me in.
    The Rapid Software Testing course had the opposite effect. It provided me with a versatile, positive and proactive view of testing that allows me to use my brain to provide the best testing I can, even if it doesn’t fit into a prescribed ‘model’.

    This seems to have turned into more of a testimonial than a comment on the original topic, so sorry about that.
    As a badge idea though, I like to say “I was certified but I’m recovering well”

  31. I have quickly reviewed the ISTQB syllabus, and in my opinion this programme is primarily a means of unlocking the training budgets of organisations that don’t really have a well established understanding of good testing. It’s a financial transfer mechanism without any discernable benefits to testers, beyond the ability to apply for certain testing jobs – (that personally I probably would not want anyway).

    I can look up a “testing glossary” for free if I want too. I can even try to impose such a glossary on my colleagues if (and that’s a pretty big “if”), I want to…

    This seems to be the primary thrust of the current certification program.

    I am pretty sure that this would be less useful however, than my current approach, which is to actually go and talk to the different people involved in the testing that I am currently doing – and find a way of communicating with them that works for everybody.

    So I will be holding on to my cash for now!

  32. James,

    You mention AST more times than is healthy for just a passing remark. So I looked up AST and not quite sure if you are referring to aspartate aminotransferase (AST) test or Airborne Surveillance Test (which you might do in getting your wings) or you belong to the Academy of Safe Therapies (most unlikely as I have seen one of your presentations). So could you please help out a senior citizen and tell me what you are referring to? I promise not to join if it has links to ISTQB….


    Genuine Uncertified Real Tester

    PS you too can be a GURT!

    [James’ Reply: What’s wrong with GUTS? Genuinely Uncertified Tester of Software.

    AST stands for the Association for Software Testing.]

  33. It does not require GUTS to be opposed to poor certification standards! Mind you I have just received a contract opportunity for a senior test manager but I must have ISTQB foundation certification. AUS$2,500 for the training and then the cost of the exam! A frontal lobotomy would be cheaper and have the same effect. I.E. it would DUMB DOWN anything I already know!

    I have just been illustrating to my team the confluence of late requirements, with the cost of mitigating defects and the liklihood of those defects escaping to production. Some good numbers from Capers Jones, FP Brooks, Carmine Mangione, Bohm and Basili and my own tracking of S curves and Root Cause Analysis.
    I can pretty much predict when the brown sticky substance will hit the whirlygig, but I don’t have my ISTQB so all is dust.

    [James’ Reply: I don’t find any of that stuff from Caper Jones, et al, useful, I’m afraid. It’s a lot of daydreams and pixie glitter, to me. It’s not scientific.]

    GURT PS I really do hate ISTQB

  34. I agree with the general feel regarding testing certification not being any proof of anything, other than trying to entice all people within the testing fraternity to speak the same language. I guess there is room to normalise the terminology within this proffesion – surely just a glossary would do 🙂

    Having been doing this stuff for about 10 years within various industries, only to find it difficult to get an interview because I didn’t have those all important ISEB and Prince 2 etc. qualifications. It was a bit of a kick in the nuts for all those years learning my trade and generally working hard. Until the last year I’ve not had any certificates and it never made me any worse at what I do.

    It has unfortunately turned into an evil that we seem to need to embrace. Employers do not read CV’s unless they meet certain criteria – the criteria these days seems to be the damn certificates.

    You are right James, but even we testing people have to tow the line at some point.

    [James’ Reply: You can pick what lines to toe. You can make new lines to toe. That’s what I do. And anyway we don’t need no stinking glossaries. We have the English language itself. It works fine.]

  35. My story on certification:
    I started my career as a programmer. And then i was hired by another company as a software tester. At that time i was really not having much idea about the software testing. So i used to goggle and read about software testing. I came to know about CSTE certification at that point of time. As I wanted to know more and have desire to excel in software testing, so I decide to read the CSTE book and give the exam.

    But somehow i was bit lazy in reading that big book. So i didn’t applied for CSTE for about 2 years. In mean time i was involved in few good products and projects for testing. And i think i did a good job. After these real time experiences i was much aware about the process, strategies, risk, test plan, test coverage, test cases, automation etc so called testing standards.

    In mean time in my organization people started to clear the certification. So i also thought i should apply and appear for the CSTE. You won’t believe in first attempt i could not pass the paper in which we need to select one option out of 4 given. But i could pass their theoretical paper with good enough marks. I feel the answers for optional question should match the book material. But in few question my opinion was bit different for that. So I could not pass that paper. But still i believe i was really good enough as a tester. Now i made my situation bit more complex for myself. As others in the organization will feel that i will not be the good enough tester. So it became externally important for me to appear for the next attempt and pass the exam. It actually became do or die situation for me.

    I still remember those days. I just read that book so many time so that i do not miss anything. Eventually in second attempt i was able to pass that exam. For me it was like a long breath at that time. As well as an answers to my unnecessary critics.

    But now when i think regarding the need of certificaton, I feel certifications might be good for the bingers who are new to software testing and want to read more, want to know more about testing. Other then that I will completely deny that if a person is not certified then a person do not have a capability to do testing.

    I feel testing requires few basic qualities like a person should be good at analysis, a person should be good on grasping new things quick, good at communication, a person should be able to think out of the box etc. If these basic qualities are present in a person then he/she can spend more time on this field and can become and expert in testing.

  36. The problem is not BEING certified, the problem is THINKING YOU ARE.

    One can have a certificate for what reason ever (even ISTQB). The perpetration is to think you are capable because of that. I also have one but I’m not proud of it, neither do I feel ashamed. I just have it. I will use it wherever it helps (CV, interviews, etc.) but on a normal day I put it back in the box and rely on what I can do.

    My suggestions for badges:
    …for the ones who are proudly uncertified, I like this sapient uncertified.
    …for the ones who ARE certified without thinking they are, “Just be it”

  37. This is a great idea!

    Of course it’s much too late: the certification industry is far beyond recovery.

    Like, how far could you get with, ‘no more recruiters!’

    Therefore since its a fruitless endeavor, but not completely pointless, let’s go for the top!

    How about ‘Uncertifiable’?

    Or, confusingly, ‘Deniably Certifiable’?

    Maybe, ‘Certified Brain Dead!’? (kind of a medical bracelet thingamabob)

    And, don’t forget, ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ Certifications!’

    Then there’s my personal favorite, ‘Wup your Certification dogmeat!’

    Now that’s de-certification for ya!

    I think we need a song, maybe a banner…. no, that means we need a slogan… and that would be kind of recursive, wouldn’t it?

  38. Lets make it humble. Add these to the list of badges as they speak for themselves:

    1. “certified by practice” aka CBP
    a. CBPP where P stands for programmer
    b. CBPT where T stands for tester

    if he/she has been both programmer and tester or held other titles in software field then he/she is eligible for CBPASS where ASS stands for “all rounder in software solutions”.

    2. “certified by experience” aka CBE
    a. CBEP2 where P stands for programmer and 1,2…..n stands for relevant years of experience
    b. CBET3 where T stands for tester and 1,2,3,…..n stands for relevant years of experience

    ex: CBET3 says he/she has “some” work exp in testing for 3 years. Note the word “some”. We can consider this certification as an endurance certification that gives some idea regarding how much he/she tolerated or remained tolerable or simply useful to team/company.

    One can get certified in CBPP, CBPT or CBPASS when he/she retires from the active field and re joins the academia as a professor in computer science. The certification also requires them to document their findings or deductions from the past years experience and finally must publish their work in a beautiful manner, which will be made available online for – FREE – to anyone who wants to get some inspiration etc.

    The logo can be a single lighted candle of 3 different heights, inside a circle (where each height represents the seniority of the badge holder by work experience). The motto can be “let there be light”, which is taken from the Bible.

  39. I’m a bit curious what counts under certification? To me this would include at least the testing certifications you mention, and things like IEEE and Computer Society’s “Certified Software Development Associate” and “Certified Software Development Professional”. (ACM totally made the right call on pulling out of the SWEBOK effort with IEEE.)

    But what about College Degrees? If I want to be Uncertifiable, do I have to renounce those? I’m not sure I could even renounce my high school diploma.

    [James’ Reply: Renounce any silly stupid certification. Personally, I think a high school diploma is a joke, and I don’t have one.]

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