What the Certification Sales Lady Said…

At the Star conference, this week, the lady at the ASTQB booth was executive director Lois Kostroski. The ASTQB is the American chapter of the ISTQB. Here’s the gist of the conversation we had about certification…

James: “Do you need any experience to get certified?”

Lois: “No, you just have to pass the exam.”

James: “What are the benefits of certification?”

Lois: “JB.”

James: “JB?”

Lois: “Just Because. There are almost 90,000 certified testers. It’s fast becoming the norm. In some countries you can’t get a job unless you have our certification.”

James: “But isn’t there controversy surrounding certification?”

Lois: “No. The controversy is only around other certification programs. When you’re the Big Dog, there is no controversy.” (Yes, she referred to her organization as the Big Dog.)

James: “Are you a tester?”

Lois: “No. I run the organization.”

James: “You run the organization but you are not a tester? How do you know this program is any good.”

Lois: “I work with testers. I trust the experts on our advisory board.”

James: “Are you aware of any recognized industry experts who oppose this certification?”

Lois: “Yes.”

James: “Can you name them?”

Lois: “Yes. Cem Kaner and James Bach.”

James: “I’m James Bach.”

Lois: “Oh, I didn’t recognize you.”

James: “Well, I’m glad you recognize that there is controversy.” (I turned to go.)

Lois: (She called after me…) “From your side!”

Here’s what I take from that conversation. The ASTQB is using a combination of ignorance (Lois is ignorant of testing) and feigned ignorance of the field (she pretends that there is no controversy) in order to scare the ignorant into giving the ASTQB money and buying into the ASTQB world-view.

Plus, her organization is so arrogant that it believes it can ignore principled opposition to its behavior.

Please don’t support these fools and scoundrels.

45 thoughts on “What the Certification Sales Lady Said…

  1. “We fooled 90,000 people into paying us just because!”

    Now, there’s a convincing argument to be certified. The more I read the ISTQB glossary and syllabi, the more I am convinced that this is a sham. I keep asking: how can people who call themselves testers not be questioning this?

    Ben

  2. @ Ben,

    Just because they aren’t taught – testing is questioning 🙂

    If they teach the truth that testing is questioning then some or most might start practicing it by questioning what is being taught. They don’t want their material to be tested because its hard work to fix those bugs and they might not make as much money as they are making now.

    Bugs that bugs the community.

  3. made me chuckle and wonder about your guts(as i always do), i wont really blame on testers who have taken those certs and claim “certified” just they have fallen prey for those big dog’s marketing approach… and hard time coming out of it.

  4. Well, there really are only two *reasons* to pay them any money whatsoever:
    1) You need their piece of paper to get a job
    2) You need their piece of paper to get a raise

    I hope that at least some of the 90,000 who passed the exam were smart enough to see through the crap and did this for reason, not based on FUD. What scares me are the hoards of managers who are salivating at finally getting “professional, certified� software testers the easy way, by making them take a worthless exam.

    [James’ Reply: “You need” often means “You THINK you need.” Many people think they need these certifications to get work. They are all mistaken. I’ve been working in the industry for years without a certification, or college degree, or high school diploma. It is possible that some of the jobs I didn’t get, over the years, were lost due to the lack of one of these documents. So what? I’m sure I’ve lost much more work due to my passion for speaking bluntly, naming names, and openly criticizing widely held bad ideas.

    For people who wish to fake testing expertise, certification is a good idea. And for consultants who wish to make a quick buck, selling these bogus certifications is a good idea. I’m not writing for either of those audiences. I’m writing for anyone who wishes to stand up for excellence in software development and testing.]

  5. A couple of years ago (2003?) I attended a conference in Richardson,TX.

    While I had been a tester since 1991, this was the first ever conference I could attend.

    At that conference I talked to a German guy. I just can’t remember his name right now, but I will never forget his eyes. They had dollar signs in them. This person was also a representative at the ISTQB booth. He was telling me that the testing industry was not doing well and that our industry was in big need for a real certification program. The ISTQB would offer that! ISTQB the savior of all testers! I asked this guy about his background, and it really wasn’t anywhere close to testing not even close to IT if I remember well. ( … “but my partner knows a lot about it …”). Since then I didn’t see any need to ask further questions.

    At that same conference I met James Bach for the first time. Since that first meeting, James has been a great mentor for me. I always get great testing advise when I contact James. (Still love the great regression test discussion on the RASTO forum).

    Never had any testing advise from A/ISTQB, other than that I really didn’t have a lot of value as a tester without their certification.

    I still ask myself the same question as Ben does. “How can people who call themselves testers not be questioning this?”
    I am also amazed about some of the ‘standard/returning’ presenters at the STAR conference who seem to advocate this certification. (although, I never got any valuable answers to my questions from them either)

  6. Perhaps we could construct some ‘tests’ of the value of certification? One option is to try mocks (in this case similar to the academic ‘degree’s I’m offered from time to time by email. Another may be to ‘test’ the testing skills and capabilities of individual testers before and after the certification.

    Personally I found some value in taking part in the earlier ISEB exams as I learned about some topics I didn’t know about before. However I admit the syllabii and courses were secondary in that learning process. (FWIW I was on the ISEB exam panel for software testing for 3 years and received payment for marking papers, etc.). I’ve thankfully learned more from my peers (James & Jon Bach, Mike Kelly, Antony Marcano, Ross Collard, etc, etc) in that period.

    As an ex-insider one of my biggest concerns was the lack of evidence of ISEB investing part of the money in improving the quality of testing as a discipline (as in engineering disciplines). Money was spent on the process (writing exams, marking exams, writing new syllabii, etc) but not invested in things like: sponsoring college courses, or researching the effectiveness of testing techniques. As they are either directly or indirectly registered as a charity (see http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=ConWebDoc.13616) and part of the British Computer Society I would have hoped to see evidence of the ‘profits’ being invested for the benefits of the profession. BTW I’m also a full member of the BCS with CITP status.

    [James’ Reply: If the people involved with this were serious about the improving the craft– and if they were competent scientific thinkers– they would not allow themselves to ignore the controversy. They would seek controversy. They would engage in debate. At least several of the people on my side of this debate have made detailed and sincere arguments. We appeal to reason and to evidence. As you see, Lois Kostroski appealed to authority and fear. Not knowing who I was, she spoke to me in a way that assumed I had no understanding of the history of our craft and nor of science and engineering. She assumed that I, too, believe testing to be such a trivial skill that it can be measured meaningfully with a trivial written exam, produced by confused consultants who– among other hilarities– misrepresent my work in their syllabus and exam.]

  7. I find it strangely humorous that the jobs that seem to “require” certification are non-developer jobs. I’m constantly bombarded to get certified as a PMP (project manager) or to get certified as IISP (software process?) or… or… or…

    I know that there are certifications for developers, but it seems that they’re not pushed on the technical crowd as are “non-developer” certifications.

    Does anyone else see this pattern? It makes me think that for some reason non-developer careers are “less” important and need a “certification” to boost credibility.

    [James’ Reply: Yeah, I think that IS a pattern. I don’t think it’s the lesser importance that causes it, though. I think it’s the lesser tangibility. It’s hard for non-specialists to tell whether a tester is competent. You could argue that it’s hard for non-specialists to evaluate developers, too, but those non-specialists believe they DO have an adequate measure: the software and the schedule. Was something that looks good delivered on time?]

    I have taken classes that are supposed to conclude in a certification. However, I don’t plan on advertising that “I’m certified” AND I have learned some useful skills that have improved my testing craft in the process. So where is that different than me taking any other class on testing craft? But I cringe at the thought of taking an exam/test/quiz just for the sake of getting a paper that says “I’m certified”.

    ~Ken

  8. Hi James,

    I did not support the Bangladeshi chapter of ISTQB (coming soon to my country):
    http://rapidtester.blogspot.com/2008/09/saying-no-to-istqb-software-testing.html

    I am trying to convince others to shed their illusions that certifications could be the answer to our testing problems. I have an advantage though. Non of the testing jobs in Bangladesh require any certifications…well, not yet at least!

    Regards,
    Sajjadul Hakim

    [James’ Reply: Thanks, Saj. I admire you. I like your blog, too.]

  9. In response to the “How can people who call themselves testers not be questioning this” Conundrum. I think the answer maybe in the target audience of the ISTQB (and others). Them being those testers that are new (or looking to get in) to the industry and are therefore unable to form their qustion its merit due to having little background in the field, and the company’s that have a need for hiring testers who are looking for a yard stick when hiring testers.

    However, those that should know better are probably those that are suffering from the “emperor’s new cloths” syndrome.

  10. I was working with James when he went to visit the ISTQB booth. When he came back, he asked me to go and see if I would get a consistent story from them. I did. What I heard was entirely consistent with James’ account.

    What struck me recently was the non-profit nature of the organization contrasted with the 90,000 certifications figure. I believe that the certification exam costs $100 in India, $250 in North America. I don’t know what the rates are elsewhere, so let’s use a very simple model to estimate. Let’s assume that there are more ISTQB-certified testers in India than in the rest of the world. Assume that there are 20,000 people (I almost said testers) worldwide certified at the North American rates, and 70,000 at Indian rates. That’s $12,000,000 since 2002. That figure is undoubtedly wrong, but it would seem to be in the right order of magnitude. I wonder where this money has gone, and where it will go?

  11. One more thing: with the right model controversy is only ever from one side–anyone who is opposed to you.

    And controversy can be shut off easily if you plug your ears and sing “La la la no controversy I can’t hear you!”

  12. Lois: “Just Because. There are almost 90,000 certified testers. It’s fast becoming the norm. In some countries you can’t get a job unless you have our certification.�

    In regard to some countries, Lois is correct.

    [James’ reply: No, she’s not correct, unless there is a law prohibiting the hire of “uncertified” testers. The word “can’t”, as Lois used it, is just an attempt to spread a feeling of helplessness. Perhaps in some places it is easier to get a testing job if you are bad at testing yet certified in some way. However, if you are good at testing, and you explain that you are uncertified based on your ethical stand against fake credentials, the good companies will hire you.]

    And because people generally act rationally and want to improve their chances at a job in a market that rewards certification, they will pay their money, take the test, and get their certification.

    James: “Please don’t support these fools and scoundrels.”

    Hopefully that remark is directed at employers. It’s up to employers to determine what is/is not a valuable attribute for potential employees.

    Once employers start placing value on only those things that make better testers, the immediate-certification market will dry up.

    In the mean time, I’m offering a certification that offers all the improved testing abilities of the others, at none of the cost: http://www.sqablogs.com/jstrazzere/1685/Become+an+ATQ+Certified+Software+Tester.html

  13. James, if you want the world to know about this, please publish this in at least one top newspaper of each and every country so that people can stop following the certified blindly.

  14. Story name: One trip to the pyramid
    Roles:
    Tim — used to be a member in an archeology team which first discovered the pyramid and opened the coffin of the king of Pharoahs and so got an immortal life. He now lives at the top of the pyramid and overlooks the pyramid and the surroundings. He hates the travel agencies thinking that they take too much from the tourists without telling them the best way to climb the pyramid.

    Joe — a door guard of the pyramid.

    Red — a guide in travel agency ‘AAA’. He always arranges the trips to the pyramid.

    Sam — an experienced climber. He lives in the middle level of the pyramid and seeks a better way to climb to the top.

    Danny — a tourist. He has never been to the pyramid and can’t afford to join the team arranged by the travel agency. So he bought a book, recommended by the travel agency, named “Pyramid” which tells you how to get to the pyramid and climb it. He also have read a book written by Tim named “Lessons learned from climbing the pyramid”. He thinks both these two books are very helpful.

    Tools:
    ticket — requested for entering the pyramid. Joe would check it. If a tourist haven’t a ticket, then he have to go back home or find another way to enter the pyramid.

    Scene A
    Friend A: Do you know the pyramid?
    Danny: Very little. But I think it’s very beautiful, I am planning a trip to the pyramid.
    Friend A: wow, Me too. How would you get there?
    Danny: I planned to join a tourist group. But it is too expensive. Now I am planning to go there myself.
    Friend A: Then you have to arrange the plane, the hotel, the ticket yourself! I think you are taking the risk of getting lost. I will go with the trouist group. They will arrange almost everything for you.
    Danny: Yes, so I bought two books “Pyramid” and “Lessons learned from climbing the pyramid” hoping to reduce the risk.

    Scene B
    At the door of the pyramid,
    Joe: Show me your ticket.
    Danny: Here it is.
    Joe: The ticket is OK. You can get in.
    Do you have any certification or experience in climbing?
    Danny: Yes, I have a BS degree in Climbing. So what?
    Joe: If you want to climb to the second floor, the guard there would request it.
    Danny: …

    [James’ Reply: I’m sure I don’t understand this story, but maybe someone else will…]

  15. I think this site should have its name changes to ‘Certification Complainers’ and the goal of the site is to see who can rant the most about Certification and how ‘evil’ it is. Instead of getting on with becoming better testers and improving our industry we should sit around and blame someone else for what we think ails our profession. I’m glad the people on this site can pat each other on the back and say how ‘pure’ our motives are and how we have found the ‘way’ to achieve great testing and anyone who does not confirm should be called ‘stupid’ and ‘ignorant’. Can we not move on with some interesting thought provoking topics that are relevant to testing?

    [James’ Reply: Professional ethics are very relevant to the testing field. I’m writing to people who are in that field. But if you would like to read about something else, you can review any of the hundred other posts I’ve made here, or you can check out my book, my website, or my class materials. There’s no lack of content, here.

    I will soon write more posts on different subjects. I am just really busy with my next book.]

  16. Hi James.

    I found your blog “Conscientious Uncertification” while I was searching information related with CSTE. And I find you are the very one who yells out the very reason of conscientious uncertification and I am very agreeing with you.

    You this new blog “What the Certification Sales Lady Said…” will be a great weapon for me.

    I am now poorly and unluckly in charge of tester certification issues (although I opposite it). The company I am now serving terribly and horribly needs tester related certificates for advertisement reason. I have just blowed the foolish CSTE idea out of their mind with the reason of expensive fee. The hierarchies give a new even more horrible IDEA — ISTQB.

    May god bless me. I wish “What the Certification Sales Lady Said…” will also blow ISTQB out of their minds.

    [James’ Reply: Good luck and thank you.]

  17. Yes, that was arrogant of Kostroski turns me against them.

    However I still think the ISTQB syllabus itself is a good base, for a beginner. I fail to understand why someone should not use this as a first stepping stone towards the path of becoming a good tester. The level of critical thinking required/developed by a good to great tester takes time. During this time I suppose they will re-visit a lot of material/information they’ve been through.

    I agree that using certification as a criteria by managers to hire testers, is stupidity as well as professionally callous.

    [James’ Reply: I think it’s a terrible base for a beginner. It’s full of unnecessary jargon that testers forget almost as soon as they “pass” the “test”. When I train testers, the first thing I address is communication, observation, and reasoning. The last thing they need to know is vapid nonsense like “boundary value analysis.”]

  18. Do you mean to say that testers do not need to know about “boundary value analysis”?

    [James’ Reply: Yes, testers don’t need to know that. They can be wonderful testers and yet never have heard that term. The reason boundary value analysis is such a popular thing for certification types to talk about is that it sounds complicated and it’s easy to explain, NOT because it is somehow vital to know for testing.]

    Or do you mean to say that it is secondary, and there are more important things to learn.

    [James’ Reply: Yes, it secondary– by a lot. I often don’t discuss it at all in my three-day testing class. When I do discuss it, I do so mainly to criticize it.]

    And if people read up books only in order to pass, then they are not learning anything well. That is not my approach, if I do take the ISTQB, I’ll read up to know what is what. Obtaining the “certification” is just a by-product. For example I found the Sun Java “certification” to have many flaws, but studying for it still helped me gain knowledge of Java.

    [James’ Reply: The difference between Java textbooks and testing textbooks is that Java is a real thing, and you can do useful things with it. Meanwhile, testing textbooks generally promote incredibly outdated and otherwise bad advice about testing– which you will discover if you actually try to follow that advice. However, in programming as in testing it’s much more important to DO it than to READ about it. You learn far more by doing.]

  19. James, I can accept that you don’t like certification, though you do go on about it rather a lot. I also think you do have useful things to say about some aspects of testing. But what I cannot accept is what you have just said about boundary value analysis:

    “The reason boundary value analysis is such a popular thing for certification types to talk about is that it sounds complicated and it’s easy to explain, NOT because it is somehow vital to know for testing”.

    This completely contradicts my experiences in testing over the years. I have found bva to be a vital tool for finding bugs and I’d feel somewhat naked without it. Maybe I am biased towards it because I test financial software that is heavily dependent on numerical data. What does everyone else think about this?

    [James’ Reply: Okay, Ben. First of all, are you sure that you mean the same thing I mean when we are talking about BVA? I’m talking about a pathetically simplistic idea, written up in many textbooks, the substance of which is that you should try testing at boundaries. “Boundary Value Analysis” as commonly described involves NO ANALYSIS WHATSOEVER. It is simply the assertion that testing at boundaries finds bugs. I prefer to reserve the word analysis for tasks that require thinking and modeling. GOOD boundary testing requires modeling, but more than that, it requires exploration. This is not the kind of boundary testing that is described in any of the books I own.

    The kind of BVA discussed in textbooks is so bloody obvious it doesn’t need to be spoken or taught. The kind worth learning is not discussed in textbooks. Why not? Because most of the people writing testing textbooks are hacks who don’t understand modeling and systems theory. I’m sorry. It’s embarrassing to our craft, but true– in my opinion. Meet some of them and form your own opinion.

    Apart from all that, even good boundary testing is but a mediocre way to find interesting bugs. You think it’s a good way to find them? Well, what other techniques do you know about? Have you made a systematic study of the efficacy of different techniques? When I look over my bug lists, it seems to me that few of them have anything to do with boundaries. Let me suggest a different kind of bug: data type bugs. I find that bugs involving one kind of data that is mistaken for another (such as a string handled as a number, or a pointer handled as if it were the object being pointed to) are very common, and fail in ways that are far away from known boundaries.]

  20. I’m not saying that bva is a bug finding silver-bullet. Certainly, other techniques will find different bugs. But I do feel that bva is an important technique, that in my experience finds a number of important bugs that might otherwise not be found.
    I have not calculated the effectiveness of the different techniques I use – bva would not come top of the list in terms of bug count if I did. The point is that it is important (to me) in the context of a larger overall approach.
    Your point about the over-simplification in the books is valid, though I don’t agree that it is necessarily obvious. You may find it obvious, but there is no reason why somebody that is new to testing would be aware of the significance of boundaries.

  21. James – if I understand correctly, what you dislike about BVA is the term, because I’d hope you agree that errors can, and do occur at the edges (I didn’t use the “b” word) of inputs and outputs.

    Can we call looking for errors such as this “the fencepost heuristic” instead and call it a day?

    [James’ Reply: The name is one of the problems. The name is an example of corrosive tester puffery. Once we get past the name, there are two other problems.

    1. The fencepost heuristic is but one of maybe two or three hundred common heuristics of test coverage, yet it is held out as somehow higher and better than almost any other test idea. The deep obsession with boundary testing that many testers have is startling and unwarranted.

    2. The “technique” of BVA is better conceived as an exploratory learning activity. In other words, genuine analysis, rather than mere robotic checking of declared fenceposts. I do a talk (and demonstration) called Rethinking Boundary Testing, which presents this alternative.]

  22. Well, shame on her (Lois)! It’s really surprising that they have a representative like her: no interest in the test profession what so ever…

    I have to admit that I have taken a couple “certification” courses and passed the exam. I quess it makes me “certified” because I have a piece of paper that cost my employer “a pretty penny”. But they wanted me to, and now it is their “policy” to get every employee working with test “certified”. And it also makes me “attractive” as an employee!

    Personally, I enjoyed the courses. But not the syllabus, not the “certification” or the exam. I enjoyed the courses because of the people that were taking the courses with me and all the discussions we had. During the courses we did criticise and question the syllabus, the course material – and even what the lecturers told us… And because of that it was extremely useful. BUT in my opinion, a person with no previous knowledge of testing should attend these courses. And not even a person who hasn’t been studying, reading and finding information about test and QA should attend these courses. A person who may attend should have experience and her/his own ideas and opinions in order to be able to question the syllabus. Well, what’s the use then…? Discussions. Meeting other people with other kind of opinions. Would it be possible to meet these people somewhere else (without “certification”) and to make them discuss? Yes it would…

  23. It’s equally as ignorant in this day and age to conclude that certification is pointless in our field. Whilst I totally agree that certification doesn’t make you any good at testing, it does help to get the interview in the first place.
    The fact that peoples names alone do not get there foot in the door should not be belittled. People work there nuts off, learn a trade and then can’t get a job because lots of people with a piece of paper come first in the agency searches or the vetting process by the HR peeps in the company (who significantly probably haven’t got the first clue about testing).
    That woman is making money selling people a better chance of getting the interview – nothing more.

    [James’ Reply: What a sad, weak vision of the world that is. The ISTQB bullies depend on you to continue feeling sad and weak.]

  24. Since the ISTQB believes a certification is necessary, why not come up with a “free” one or based on a subscription to an association that would offer other benefits to leverage a moderate cost (no more than $100/year) and review the experience of a tester and his/her involvement in the QA community.

    Benefits:
    – You get a certification that companies and HR departments can review
    – You get access to the knowledge of members with years of experience
    – You can adjust fees based on the participation of the members (you help, you get a free membership)

    As far as determining the standards of the certification, you base that on a consensus in the community. I know I might be reaching here, but I’m sure it could be done.

    Just an idea…

    Benny

    [James’ Reply: Which community? Whose consensus?]

  25. Here is an outside of the box idea:

    What if the best way to discredit certifications is to have more people get the certification and then comment on how absolutely worthless it is? Sure, this will put some money in their pocket at first, but eventually the market would be so saturated with certifications that no one will really care about them anymore and this whole fad might (fingers crossed) be dead.

    [James’ Reply: This already happened. But then the certification bullies invented a new level of certification. And so it will go… As each certification saturates the market, a new one will be invented. It’s a planned obsolescence kind of thing.]

  26. That response from you is no big surprise James. But of course your name opens doors so you would think that way. I ask you to think outside of your little world and start thinking about those that are attempting to get on the ladder or those not as fortunate – they are the people who certification benefits: not because of any knowledge it offers but because of the doors it can open. Not to recognise this shows an equally sad and weak, but mostly short sighted vision of the world.

    [James’ Reply: No, I don’t recognize or accept that you are impotent to open doors without some bullshit certification. To recognize that would go against my experience and heritage. I dropped out of high school, yet I have achieved success and recognition in this field. I have never had any kind of technical certification. What I have done, you also can do. In a sense, it’s easy– you just have to be enthusiastic and think and study on your own.]

    I’m sorry if this seems rather bitter. Really it is not my intention to alienate people here, I do agree with the argument, but not 100%. I’ve been working within testing for about 12 years now and about 11 of those I had no certification so I can see that it is possible to make it in this industry without the damn certificates. The problem is that the certificates are now recognised by employers and so like it or not, it’s worth having them to get the job in the first place. I noticed about 18 months ago how much more difficult it was to get an interview because I didn’t have the certificates. This is not sad and weak, it’s reality.

    [James’ Reply: It may be your reality because you haven’t YET put together a compelling portfolio as an alternative to certification. If you’ve been in the business 12 years, you should be able to speak and write about testing in effective and persuasive ways– assuming that you have worked at your craft. If you are commenting on my blog, that tells me you are reading, at least. I bet, with a little tweak here and there, you could begin developing yourself into an effective testing brand name, just as I have done. Then you won’t be seen as “generic testing guy with certification” but rather as “Paul Darby, noted testing expert.”]

  27. Please don’t support these fools and scoundrels.

    While I have no doubt that such Certification Selling bodies are scoundrels, I would like to politely disagree with James that they are fools! They are NOT fools; rather smart business people making a fortune out of selling their non-sense products (if there is any product in the first place) to a group of mindless fools (who blindly value their crap as if those were the Holy Grails of testing)! I would like to call the testers, the hiring managers, the organizations who mandate such certifications as FOOLS, not the certifying bodies.

    In our latest appraisal in my organization, I came to know that there was a new column in my salary structure. When inquired, I came to know that the management has come forward to reimburse up to 15,000 INR per year for employees who spend it on Certifications. I had a long debate (that lasted even longer than the actual appraisal review meeting) with my HR Manager and my General Manager trying to tell them how the Organization might be wasting money by doing so! Though they seemed to understand my point, it appeared that they were reluctant to remove this compensation from every employee’s pay sheet. The reasons could have been many. But the bottom line is:

    1. Till today, I have that 15000 rupees sitting un-reimbursed in my account!
    2. In any meeting/presentation/conference where the topic of Certification pops-up my Manager points that question to me with a smile.
    3. Since that day my Manager tags me as an “Anti-Certification” guy, which I am sure he uses with a positive intention and I take it as a compliment.

    -Debasis

  28. James,

    Hmm…. makes me wonder what you thought of me all those years ago when I interviewed with you at STLabs. I had just gotten the CSTE from QAI when we met. I remember your comment about “nice pin” 😉 I guess I did alright, you guys offered me a job.

    And I have to agree with you about the state of the certifying agencies today. It has become a money mill for them, and the ‘value’ and ‘prestige’ has definitely gone. I didn’t re-up my CSTE a couple of years ago. I guess the only ‘validity’ I can give to them is that at least they are trying to do something to get us (Testers) some credit for our line of work. Unfortunately it is ‘paper’ thin (sorry for the pun) at its best.

    Just to use a line from my Scuba Instructor days… “Certified doesn’t really mean qualified”.

    [James’ Reply: The certification wouldn’t have helped you, but at that time, it also would not have hurt. At that time, it was not something that testers were intimidated into doing. The situation today is darker. There is no longer any reason to believe that a certified tester has any more motivation than one who is uncertified.]

  29. James,

    Interesting point… I’ve never felt intimidated into doing any certification or training, especially in the last few years. I have wanted to do training to help improve my skills and prepare myself for new technologies we have to deal with. Sometimes I have paid for it myself and the majority of the time I’ve gotten my employer to pay. Part of the deal of being an employee, give and take. I think at times I’ve had to intimidate my employer into sending me to training. 😉

    I’m curious, where are you seeing/hearing about the intimidation to get certified. I don’t believe we have that problem here in the U.S. But again you travel around alot and have potentially more exposure to it.

    Finally, I’d be interested in another blog post regarding your last comment of “The situation today is darker. There is no longer any reason to believe that a certified tester has any more motivation than one who is uncertified.” Please elaborate more about why it appears darker and why/how there is no difference in motivation levels.

    [James’ Reply: The intimidation factor is evident in the arrogant reply that Lois made to my inquiries. She sells certification in a “do it or else you won’t be able to work” way. In Europe, certification is a much bigger deal, and I’ve spoken to many here who say they wouldn’t have done it if their employers had not insisted. I’ve also spoken to several testing company executives who do insist upon certification because they believe that their customers are demanding it. My reaction is puzzlement. No one asks me– EVER!– whether I am certified in anything. It has ever been an issue. I believe that’s the value of building a brand name for yourself.]

  30. Mister Darby says “I ask you [James] to think outside of your little world” and calls James short sighted.

    Precisely the same request and claim ought to be laid at the feet of the people who hold out for sale, or imbue with value, “certifications” that take a competent hack a day to cram for and another couple of hours to pass.

  31. Afterthought to my prior post regarding Mr. Darby’s criticisms:

    –Not that an Associate’s degree (two year) curriculum elaborating only the information, nomenclature and worldview embodied in those certifications would be any better.

    The expression “gilding a dead horse” comes to mind. Except it seems like that would be more like piling a bunch of dead horse carcasses in a silo and labeling the aggregate “New Improved Super Horse, now with extra Deadness!”

  32. James,

    Gotcha on your point about Lois, but what do you expect from a Marketing/Sales Wonk. And I agree that positioning the “selling” of the certification that way is arrogant and is just plain stupid. Is it an intimidation tactic, maybe. To me I wouldn’t consider it that but more of ignorance on her part (as you already stated). This is equivalent to the “Automation Snake Oil” you wrote about a number of years ago.

    And what you said about the environment / attitude outside of the U.S. I have heard of, but not to the level you descibe. Cool, thanks for the clarification and insight.

    BTW, I have no idea where my CSTE pin is at these days. Guess I didn’t need it.

  33. My employer sent me to the 3-day ISTQB class to get certified. I went, but to learn more about testing… certainly not to get “certified” (whatever that means). I found the class to be somewhat beneficial, not from the course content itself but rather from the interaction with fellow attendees. I could have had more benefit (and more fun!) spending 3 days at the hotel bar interacting with fellow attendees of the STAR Conference.

    The worst part was that a few months later, my employer arranged for the ISTQB Certification exam to be done at our office so that the whole test organization could take it. About 3 out of 4 “passed”, some who had spent less than one hour reviewing the material, others who where new testers who had spent less than a year in the job.

    IT’S A SHAM! (SHAME?!?)

    But alas, my employer now has something to brag about to our customers… “ISTQB Certified Testers” (right up there with being “ISO Certified”).

  34. In my experience the real problems occur when naive companies (and some who should know better) repeatedly employ testing contractors largely on the basis of certification resulting in a continuous high turnover of poor testers.

    In my opinion the certification in it’s current form is not just worthless, but is actively harming the industry in some cases.

  35. Making a brand name for yourself is easier said than done.

    It might be possible for the top 10% or so of testers to do this (even that is a big ask..imagine a world where there are 1000s of brand name testers..thats just too many brand names for a brand name to have much value).. What about the other 90% of testers. The other 90% who are more of the “work to live” sort..

    Being an expert at what you do is an excellent thing. However being an expert to the point where the industry recognises you by name is something that only a minscule few can enjoy.

    Not advocating mediocrity here, just stating the obvious.

  36. By the way, I am not pro tester certification the way its done in ISEB or similar, however I dont find the argument of making a brandname for yourself instead a very achievable one for a large majority of testers.

  37. I believe professional certificates add value for our career nothing more. But that should have a minimum level of it; we are going to pay so minimum expectation should be maintained. I have gone through ISTQB certification and QAI certification as well. QAI certification; one has to read more and more will know but the contents are very large 🙂 I afraid to finish it. Comparing QAI, ISTQB is cheap and easy.

    Certificates never carry the sign of the (Good/Better/Best).

    Thanks.

  38. I conversed with Lois via email. This organization should not allow testing without training. I was told that by reviewing the glossary and related articles, I should be able to pass the certification. I was inquiring for my organization and was concerned as much data on the glossary and articles was not related to business testing. However, I reviewed the glossary and articles for several days and took the exam. I scored 10 points less than required. Lois advised that many people come in with “swagger” and attempt to take the exam and fail. I manage testing and I am working on my PhD – I know how to study and retain information. The exam question only “somewhat” touch on the glossary and the articles mentioned on the webiste never appeared. This was misleading and was basically to take money and if you pass great. In that sense, any person could take this test and get lucky and pass – the certification means nothing!

    [James’ Reply: Their own data shows that the test has little correlation to knowledge of the material. Lois has a lot of swagger, herself, for one so impressively without reputation… or knowledge or ability… or ethics.]

  39. I remember my first employer forced me to do the ISTQB certification when I started my career as a software tester. So I said that I’ll do it after they’ve hired me (I couldn’t say no, because I didn’t know anything about it).

    So I got hired and started taking the online “exams” to show my enthusiasm and willingness to learn fast. But somehow it felt wrong. I had no experience and I just had to force myself to learn all the definitions, right answers and get this exam done quickly. ISTQB didn’t have any workshops or practical exercises to really study testing, so I felt like a robot in a factory packing candies in the box day after day (never-ending-horror). Jari Laakso wrote a good blog post about it: Test is dead vs. ISTQB kills people.

    But it all ended well, the time went on and in the end I left the company having 0 certifications and tons of enthusiasm and energy 🙂

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