In part II of our interview with Dr. Cem Kaner, we discuss advice for current and prospective testers; the future of software testing in higher education; tester certifications; the Software Consumer Bill of Rights and more. Catch up by reading part I and be sure to check back tomorrow for part III of the interview.
uTest: Even in the less than perfect economic conditions that we’re currently facing, software testing is one profession that seems to be bucking the trend. Why do think this is the case, and what single lesson or piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering a career as a tester?
Kaner: Develop skills that will be genuinely valuable to your (current or prospective) employer, and once you get the job, use them. Being able to demonstrate that you know how to DO something that is difficult is worth much more, with a competent interviewer, than being able to talk about that something or provide its definitions.
uTest: James Bach, among other past Testing the Limits guests, has been a harsh critic of the way testing is taught in higher education. However, when we interviewed him last year, he mentioned you as a great exception. What are you doing so differently? What’s the biggest thing that can be done to improve the curriculum?
Kaner: I did a lot of 3-day commercial-course teaching from 1993 through 2000. I taught on my own and in several different groups, chatting with other instructors about what we did, what our clients and students expected of us, and what kinds of learning we expected to help students achieve.
I was a popular teacher. I made very good money. But I gradually came to the conclusion that this was an inefficient way to teach and an ineffective way to improve the state of the practice in our field.
I’m not as disappointed with formalized education as James is, but most testing education (especially commercial training) is failing. People don’t learn much, and not much of what they learn is useful, and even less helps them develop the cognitive skills needed to learn more, faster, on their own.
To learn how to teach more effectively, I decided to teach at a university and do research on how to blend academic and practitioner-oriented teaching methods. I presented some ideas to the National Science Foundation, got research funding, and have been trying to develop better ideas for teaching testers for the last 10 years.
You can see my instructional videos at http://www.testingeducation.org/BBST. (Note that they are free.)
The Association for Software Testing and Rebecca L. Fiedler (my wife, the education professor) and I have been developing interactive courses for practitioners (courses with the same videos but with live teachers who give guided tasks and feedbacks). These are currently free to members, but the cost structure has been making this look impossible for the future.
I paint the contrast between academic and practitioner education, and lay out some of the challenges of developing a free education-ware community, here: