Crazy houseSince I still hold the first job I obtained after college graduation, my training as a tester has been practical, sometimes specific to my circumstances. While this makes me very good at my work, I always feel that I could be better. Perhaps to satisfy that perfectionist urge, over the years I sought different ways to improve myself. One strategy that never fails me is certification. I know that some testers seek certification as a means to fulfill job description requirements or “level up” at their companies, but my situation is distinct. You see, I am a nerd. I love learning, sometimes for its own sake. Back in the day, I would have happily engaged you in conversation about tuple calculus or graph theory, but now testing software is clearly my calling and I want to be the ultimate quality engineer. I don’t feel compelled to compete with anyone else for this distinction; it is purely a competition against myself to see whether I have plateaued or can continue to improve. For this reason, I love certification as a chance to objectively measure my progress.

“I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Both times I completed a certification class and the subsequent exam, I returned to work “fired up” for the next big push. Since my training has been largely on-the-job, I did not make distinctions between certain testing terms that my more experienced co-workers did not emphasize. Having exposure to industry standard definitions helps me to clarify problems. In addition, the precision appeals to me as a theory nerd. With the goal of establishing a common language within my testing team, I introduced some of the things I had learned and accepted the group’s idiomatic usage as well. After all, communicating with my testing team and my development teams is the most immediate and effective use of my book learning. I found the rigor and structure of the courses helpful. I did not take these courses expecting to learn the One True Way of Software Testing. I wanted to expand my horizons to include other approaches and viewpoints. Did the certification courses make me a better tester? Yes, they did. They renewed my passion for my work. Formal training increased my confidence in my understanding of the software testing field. I brought back insights about areas for our improvement and I think we are a better department for having this input. Did I need to use a certification course to accomplish this goal? Certainly not. I don’t think that all testers need to be certified. I could have completed self-study through textbooks, websites, blogs, and industry contacts. I suppose that is similar to the perspective of recent news articles declaring college to be a waste of time. For me, the formality and structure of training classes and the certification process help to reinforce learning, which may not be true for everyone. A friend recently posted thisto his blog:

There’s got to be a structure around the knowledge, and practice in applying it, for it to sink in. College works good for that. … Nowadays, I learn by reading textbooks on my own. And it’s harder, because I need to bring my own structure, motivation, and discipline.

As long as we continue to improve our testing skills, remain open to new possibilities, and continue to investigate pressing questions about the quality of our software, we can congratulate ourselves on being certifiable testing zealots, whether we are certified or not. Image credit