What learning and development activities are on a tester’s CV?

BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT were pleased to welcome three energetic groups of participants to discuss all things learning and development for testers. Tia Shortall, Marketing Manager, BSC Learning & Development, highlights the topics discussed and debated at the TEST Focus Groups.

Every single participant was able to identify a development activity that they’ve undertaken that they felt worthy of putting on a CV. On average, our focus group participants were each generating 2 ‑ 3 activities that they’ve completed during their careers that they’ve found relevant and valuable. These could be formal certifications, but also included training courses and mentoring. The most common answer was the ISTQB® Foundation and the BCS/ISEB Intermediate certifications, with over half of participants saying they’d gained these.

Where things got more interesting was when we turned this question on its head and asked what recruiters would like to see on a candidate’s CV. Certifications now featured more heavily than informal training, with participants generating a longer list of 5 ‑ 7 requirements each. We started to see a shopping list of potential qualifications and training opportunities emerge, across a broader spectrum of non‑technical as well as technical skills. ISTQB certifications continued to feature heavily, but with intermediate being the sought‑after standard and agile tester certifications also coming up repeatedly. Also making the list was PRINCE2® project management.

Which areas did participants feel were most important for testers to invest time in developing?

It was clear that there are some hot topics that are increasingly sought after amongst testers. There was a lot of discussion around agile, and almost all agreed that testers needed to be confident operating in an agile environment. Hiring managers would look for agile tester certifications as evidence of this, especially when coupled with experience on agile projects. Mobile testing and test automation topped the list of ‘hard to fill’ skills, with security testing also mentioned. Our discussions took us to user experience (UX) and usability and our groups agreed that responsibility for UX spans the life of the project from design, through development, to testing. Everyone felt that knowledge in this area would be valuable to testers, and BCS Foundation level UX certification was seen as beneficial.

What role do certifications play for testers?

Certifications were described as outwardly‑visible proof of knowledge. Most participants felt that ISTQB Foundation is a minimum to get a foot through the proverbial door. They felt this provided a ‘rubber‑stamp’ of knowledge, but that the interview process then needed to examine experience and soft skills. Certifications are seen as a visible way of demonstrating that candidates have the knowledge to do the job, and building this over time. Hiring managers felt that certifications give their team credibility in the wider organisation and help them to be seen as experts.

However, our groups stressed that not all certifications are created equal. Examination method plays an integral part of the perceived value of a qualification. Many in the group felt that ‘certificate of attendance’ training contributed little to proving an individual’s competence, while at the other end of the spectrum portfolio‑ or scenario‑based examination were seen as a very good indicator.

What challenges do testers face when deciding training and development activities?

We saw a spectrum of approaches from employers with some applying for a slice of a departmental training budget, while others receive a substantial training allowance per head to ‘spend’ as they see fit. What all participants shared was a need to be able to demonstrate tangible value from training that they and their teams undertake. Can you show what has changed as a result of your newfound knowledge? This was the question that all were being asked, and all found it difficult to justify investment in training if they couldn’t.

So what’s the answer? What training and development is most valuable to testers?

It’s never quite as simple as that, is it? There’s no doubt that a well‑rounded software tester will have certifications that evidence their strong technical skills. The ISTQB Foundation and the BCS Intermediate certifications remain the accepted standard. Certifications in emerging areas – such as mobile and test automation – are very sought after. And agile tester certifications would certainly make the list.

However soft skills such as team leadership and collaboration are equally important, as is a broad range of experience across a variety of projects. And there’s one must‑have that everyone agreed on; testers need to be constantly learning because testing doesn’t stay still for long.

For those interested in pursuing certifications and continuous professional development, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT has been guiding IT professionals for over 30 years, and has delivered over 105,000 professional certifications to date.

Edited for web by Jordan Platt