Certified and Proud? A Tester’s Journey: Part II

This is the second part of tester and uTest Enterprise Test Team Lead Lucas Dargis’ journey on becoming ISTQB-certified. Be sure to check out Part One from useravataryesterday.

The test

After about 3 minutes, I realized just how ridiculous the test was. Some of the questions were so obvious it was insulting, some were so irrelevant they were infuriating, and others were so ambiguous all you could do was guess.

Interestingly, testers with experience in context-driven testing will actually be at a disadvantage on this test. When you understand that the context of a question influences the answer, you realize that many of the questions couldn’t possibly have only one correct answer, because no context was specified.

You are allotted 60 minutes to complete the test, but I was done and out of the building in 27 minutes. That I finished quickly wasn’t because I knew all the answers — it was rather the exact opposite. Most of the questions were so silly, that all I could do was select answers randomly. Here are two examples:

Who should lead a walkthrough review?” – Really? I was expected to memorize all the participants of all the different types of meetings, most of which I’ve never seen any team actually utilize?

Test cases are designed during which testing phase?” – Umm…new tests and test cases should be identified and designed at all phases of the project as things change and your understanding develops.

According to the syllabus, there are “right” answers to all the questions, but most thinking testers, those not bound by the rigidness of “best practices,” will struggle because you know there is no right answer.

Despite guessing on many questions, I ended up passing the exam, but that really wasn’t a surprise. The test only requires a 65% to pass, so  a person could probably pass with minimal preparation, simply making educated guesses. I left the test in a pretty grumpy mood.

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Certified and Proud? A Tester’s Journey: Part I

useravatarA Gold-rated tester and Enterprise Test Team Lead (TTL) at uTest, Lucas Dargis has been an invaluable fixture in the uTest Community for 2 1/2 years, mentoring hundreds of testers and championing them to become better testers. As a software consultant, Lucas has also led the testing efforts of mission-critical and flagship projects for several global companies.

Here, 2013 uTester of the Year Lucas Dargis here shares his journey on becoming ISTQB-certified, and also tackles some of the controversy surrounding certifications.

In case you missed it, testing certification is somewhat of a polarizing topic. Sorry for stating the obvious, but I needed a good hook and that’s the best I could come up with. What follows is the story of my journey to ISTQB certification, and how and why I pursued it in the first place. My reasons and what I learned might surprise you, so read on and be amazed!

Certifications are evil

Early in my testing career, I was a sponge for information. I indiscriminately absorbed every piece of testing knowledge I could get my hands on. I guess that makes sense for a new tester — I didn’t know much, so I didn’t know what to believe and what to be suspicious of. I also didn’t have much foundational knowledge with which to form my own opinions.

As you might expect, one of the first things I did was look into training and certifications. I quickly found that the pervasive opinion towards certifications (at least the opinion of thought leaders I was learning from) was that they were at best a waste of time, and at worst, a dangerous detriment to the testing industry.

In typical ignoramus (It’s a word, I looked it up) fashion, I embraced the views of my industry leaders as my own, even though I didn’t really understand them. Anytime someone would have something positive to say about certification, I’d recite all the anti-certification talking points I’d learned as if I was an expert on the topic. “You’re an idiot” and “I’d never hire a certified tester” were phrases I uttered more than once.

A moment of clarity

Then one fine day, I was having a heated political debate with one of my friends (I should clarify…ex-friend). We had conflicting views on the topic of hula hoop subsidies. He could repeat the points the talking heads on TV made, but when I challenged him, asking prodding questions trying to get him to express his own unique ideas, he just went around in circles (see what I did there?).

Like so many other seemingly politically savvy people, his views and opinions were formed for him by his party leaders. He had no experience or expertise in the area we were debating, but he sure acted like the ultimate authority. Suddenly, it dawned on me that despite my obviously superior hip-swiveling knowledge, I wasn’t that much different from him. My views on certifications and the reasons behind those views came from someone else.

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After Five Years of Debate…Tester Certifications Still a Touchy Subject

Mention certifications to testers and you’77ba97b0c4ll run the gamut of responses, from those that have found valuable experience and advancement in their careers by being certified, to those that preach that a certification is no substitute for cold, hard experience.

We all know how testing luminary James Bach feels about them, going on to say that “The ISTQB and similar programs require your stupidity and your fear in order to survive,” and that “dopey, frightened, lazy people will continue to use them in hiring, just as they have for years.” Suffice to say that James won’t be sending the ISTQB a card this holiday season.

Rarely has a topic been as polarizing and heated in discussion, to the point of after five years of the initial topic being launched in our uTest Community on the subject, hundreds of responses have been logged, along with sequel/knockoff threads (sequels that were actually still engaging and not superfluous like A Good Day to Die Hard).

Here are just a few of our favorite viewpoints from these discussions:

Are certifications bad? Not necessarily.
Are certifications that base their exams on multiple choice bad? Most likely.
Do certifications meet the needs of my organization? Perhaps.
Is there even a best practice in Software Testing? Not likely.
Do certifications tell you how good you are as a tester? Hell no.
(Glory L.)

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Three Ways for Testers to Take Their Careers to the Next Level

6a00d8341c64d253ef0120a5aa8aa3970c-800wiI had lunch recently with a few recruiters that asked me for referrals for performance testing roles. They had a number of open roles and could not find anyone suitable.

The discussion reminded me of possible ways for a tester to take his or her career to the next level. There are a few things that can be done.

Staying the Course and Improving Your Skills

The first is to continue to do what you know well and aim at becoming as good as possible. Most of the testers take this road and choose to learn mostly about manual, back box testing.

One image that comes to mind for the tester that pursues this road is the small fish in a big bowl. Since the bowl is big, there are many other fish around, and the competition for space and food is high. For testers that do just manual testing, there is a high level of competition for new jobs, the rates are not that high (due to the size of the market) and the demand is up and down.

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uTest Non-profit Partner Brings 150 Software Testing Jobs to the Bronx

extralargeIT job training non-profit Per Scholas plans to bring 150 new software testing jobs to the Bronx, New York, this Fall when it opens a large software testing center there.

According to a DNAinfo.com news story:

Per Scholas, which is based in The Bronx, and the IT consulting company Doran Jones plan to open the roughly $1 million, three-story, 90,000-square-foot software testing center at 804 E. 138th St., near Willow Avenue.

All of the entry-level jobs will be sourced from Per Scholas graduates, and the boom of 150 new jobs is widely expected to open a lot of doors not usually available in the urban Bronx neighborhood. Keith Klain, co-CEO of Doran Jones, hopes to see the center eventually grow to 500 employees.

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Testers Should Be the Bearers of…Good News

Interesting interview here from the good folks at SmartBear Software — Dawn Haynes, Principal Trainer and Consultant at PerfTestPlus, Inc., mentions that when she used to walk down the development hallways as a tester, devs would run inside their offices.


Testers are often the bearers of bad news and thus unintentionally paint themselves as negative ‘Debbie Downers’ in the process. Who’d want to stick around for a hallway chat…with that?! Dawn argues that testers have the obligation to themselves to be the bearers of “good” news once in a while even if their primary job is to find bugs and point out faults. Do you agree?

Check out the video below of her interview.

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Four Ways Testers Can Change the Developer-Tester Dynamic

Before reading, be sure to also check out the first part of this article which details common perceptions of and questions testers have about dimagesevelopers.

So we’ve examined some of the questions testers have about developers — for instance, ‘Why do they look at us as the competition?’ As testers, then, how do we begin to change how developers view us? There are a few things that we can do to help change the dynamic between ourselves and development teams for the better.

Use a positive tone of voice

The way you word your bug reports is very important, not just from an informational standpoint, but also because it will directly affect how a developer receives the information you’ve provided. With a positive tone and general terms, your bug report will come across as informational and helpful.

Avoid including your personal opinion

This is also a good general rule of QA/testing, but it’s definitely worth repeating here. It’s okay to disagree with how a feature or app works, but we should not always express our opinion on the matter. Our job as testers is to be objective and unbiased. Additionally, it is extremely hard to convey emotion and intent in a written bug report, so while you might be expressing a benign opinion, it might be interpreted as hostile or accusatory.

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Three Common Questions Testers Ask About Developers

In my opinion, the greatest challenge someone in testing or QA faces isn’t their complex projects, the tight deadlines, the heavy pressure, nor the workinDeveloper-Vs-Tester-4g environment they’re in. Sure, those things do all impact the life of a tester, but they don’t compare to a common issue facing every tester in the world:

A tester’s effectiveness and happiness can be made or destroyed by the working dynamic between tester and developer.

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to and working with many a tester and the most common concerns I hear boil down to: “Why are developers so defensive? Why do they look at us as competition or enemies? How can we work with a team that thinks we’re out to make them look bad?”

Those are very valid questions that need to be answered. Let’s take a step back and examine the root of the problem, one question at a time.

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Testers: Follow Your Passion…Or Not

Some say “follow your passion,” others, “follow your effort,” “do what contributes” or even “forget passion, forget goals.” In my case, the advice ‘follow your effort’ worked best. But I consider Scott Adam’s point of view equally as important, of ‘work hard, fail, try again.’

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban

Testing, my work passion, is not the first IT job that I had. Over the years, I worked also as IT analyst & manager, software developer and web support manager. The web support manager position was temporary by replacing someone who took maternity leave. When that person came back to work, the testing opportunity that came up was too good to miss since the company did not have a testing team then.

It took a while to build the team and the department, but testing was not a passion at that time. An interesting job? Yes. Passion? No. I kept working at getting better at testing, read everything I could find and trying new things all the time.

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6 Tips for Testers When Talking to Mobile Developers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s a good idea to keep the developer on your side.devtest

The end goal that both developer and tester share is the exact same in software quality, so if you’re a tester constantly at odds with the other side, not only will you not reach that quality zen that you so much want, but you’ll lose a lot of dev allies…and probably your credibility to the higher-ups in the process.

Since testers and developers have to play a team sport to get to this software quality ideal, especially when it comes to mobile which is here to stay, uTester Lena Houser has put together this must-see list over at uTest University of tester tips to note when talking to mobile developers:

  1. Treat devs the way they want to be treated.
  2. Do not interrupt and give them time to finish their task(s).
  3. Come prepared. Gather your evidence and facts to help build a case.
  4. Shrewdly communicate and present your findings.
  5. Do not be negative or arrogant.
  6. Testing involves a lot of ego management.

Be sure to also check out the full course over at uTest University to get all of the context behind these six steps to success when communicating with mobile developers. In the meantime, is there anything here that you’d add to the list? Be sure to sound off below in the comments.