By: Michael Larsen – Incoming Chair, Education Special Interest Group


The Association For Software Testing is going through a change. It’s common for people who have been involved to choose to go indifferent directions, and people who have not been involved before to take opportunities and contribute where they can. I happen to fit into the latter category. When I was elected to the Board of Directors, I had a single focus, and I still have that single focus. How can we help get education initiatives out to our members that can be of benefit to them?


My goal was to assist in the work. Since my election, that assistance has become something much more. I will be taking over as the Chair of the Education Special Interest Group at the end of March 2012. This means that I’m not only “assisting” in the work; I’m actually directing the work and deciding what initiatives will be best for us in the long run.


I feel it important to explain that, while the Black Box Software Testing courses are valuable, and I am happy to be an instructor for them and to lead in their presentation to our members, they are not AST. AST is the collective brilliance of all its members. Therefore, I think the future and direction of AST belongs to you, to me, to us. We all have a say, and we all have the ability to make this organization something even more tremendous in the industry. I say even more tremendous because I believe we are already doing great work, but we could be doing so much more.


On the education front, there are many questions. Does BBST as it is designed cover enough of the areas we as testers need to know? Of course not. Even in its current form and with the three classes we actively teach, we are just scratching the surface of what we could be doing. The Black Box Software Testing focus is a good one, and the testimonials of those who take the classes speak volumes about its value to them. Yet with all that, there is still much more to explore and discover.


It’s with this in mind that I am looking to, in the next few months, begin to expand on what we currently offer. While I think BBST is a great format and very valuable, some people just will not have the time to commit to that level of involvement to take the classes. Rather than say “why aren’t they taking the classes”, perhaps the better questions is “what can we offer that will engage them?” Perhaps it’s short courses or screencasts on testing principles. It could be shorter length courses related to test automation or exploratory testing. What if we could create a series that breaks down and discusses context-driven testing in a meaningful way? What if we made it possible for many voices to contribute, not just mine or a select few, but as many members as would like to participate?


The fact is AST has a tremendous pool of talent. We have practitioners in just about every conceivable industry. That’s a large pool of brilliance that could be shared. A single flashlight only shines so far, but a thousand flashlights could really light up a field! My goal is to help bring education options to our members in the best way I can. I want to expand what we are currently offering, and I’d love it if the entire membership would be willing to pitch in some of their brilliance to help make a light that will really shine, both now and well into the future.

Michael Larsen is Senior Tester at in San Francisco, California. Over the past seventeen years, he has been involved in software testing for products ranging from network routers and switches, virtual machines, capacitance touch devices, video games and distributed database applications that service the legal and entertainment industries.

In addition to being a member of the Board of directors for the Association for Software Testing, he is an active instructor of the Black Box Software Testing classes, is the co-founder and primary facilitator for the Americas chapter of Weekend Testing, a Black Belt in the Miagi-Do School of Software Testing, and the producer (and on-air personality at times) of Software Test Professionals “This Week in Software Testing” podcast along with fellow board member Matthew Heusser. Michael also contributed the chapter “Trading Money for Time” to the book How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing and writes about testing topics for publications like The Testing Planet, ST&QA magazine, Techwell and others. Michael writes the TESTHEAD blog and can be found on Twitter at @mkltesthead.