The Software Testing Club recently put out an eBook called “99 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Tester“. Some of them are really general and vague. Some of them are remarkably specific.
My goal for the next few weeks is to take the “99 Things” book and see if I can put my own personal spin on each of them, and make a personal workshop out of each of the suggestions.
Suggestion #40: Resist the temptation to go after bogus certifications. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. I’ve got 99 ideas on how to become a better tester, but certification ain’t one. – Johan Jonasson
There is definitely a theme in the testing world, and no matter how much I want to shy away from it, I can’t. Regardless of my personal connections to AST and teaching BBST courses, regardless of my own personal misgivings with the methodology and financial incentives associated with ISTQB and its certification model, the fact remains that there is a movement in the corporate world towards requiring certification/credentialing of people and skills. Much as I would love to ignore the issue entirely, the marketplace and the fact that certain companies in other parts of the world will not hire software testers if they do not have a certification means I have to speak to it.
This next suggestion is a big one. It’s not going to be a simple “just go and do this, and you’ll be a better tester”. This is a lot bigger, and it’s more than some techniques or workshop. This is a total paradigm change, a complete rewiring of your expectations and way of thinking. Even if you don’t follow through on this one, at least consider it, and the ramifications of what you might to do make it happen.
Workshop #40: Have a body of knowledge/skill to show to others that would help you work without a resume, a degree, or a credentialing of any kind

This comes straight from Seth Godin‘s book “Linchpin“. He deserves all the credit for this.
Imagine if, tomorrow morning, I were to go out and completely erase every online resume you’ve ever created. Removed every reference to any university degree, deleted any reference to any certification exam you’ve ever taken. In short, there’s no paper trail or “official documentation” anywhere to justify who you are, what you do, or your value in your line of work.

How would that affect you?

In some jobs, it would be devastating. Lawyers cannot be licensed if there isn’t proof they passed the bar exam. Doctors cannot practice medicine and dentists cannot work on teeth if they don’t have a license. At this current point in time, there is no “credentialing” that is required by law anywhere for software development or software testing (at least none that I am aware of). If all reference to traditional means of “proving your worth” in the HR space were to disappear tomorrow, those of us who work with software testing would still be able to do our job, still be effective, still be very useful and of good service to those who would employ us.
Ah, but now you don’t have a degree to reference, a credential to point to. Heck, you don’t even have a resume to give anyone. If you stay where you are, that’s probably not a big deal. If, however, you were interested in exploring a new opportunity… what would you do?
I said that I’d erased anything related to a credential or a resume. That’s it. I haven’t erased any of the actual work that you’ve done, or anything else related to it. In this brave new world, how would you get noticed?
Godin offers some great suggestions, such as:
– have five letters of introduction from the greatest thought leaders in your industry.
– have a live web site that has your product or some actual demo that anyone can go to and interact with in as much details as they might want.
– have a blog that is so compelling, people cannot help but read and take notice.
– participate in projects and do so well with them that your name becomes an industry standard.
These are all amazing ideas, and for most of us, we’d just shrug and say “well, yeah, all of that would be great… but I don’t have any of those things”.

Godin says to this “yeah, that’s my point!”
This was the kick in the teeth that convinced me to start up TESTHEAD, and for me personally, many of the opportunities that I’ve been able to become a part of stemmed from this concept, and from that action.

Put yourself out there for the world to see. Give a lot of what you know, what you learn, and what you hope to learn out there (and do it for free/make it free). Get involved with a variety of initiatives, especially those that really excite you. Having a visible and actively growing body of work. Over time, this will help grow a reputation that makes people come to you. It’s a virtuous cycle; the more we put out there, the more opportunity seems to come our way (well, so far, that’s how things have worked for me, and yes, I want to see it keep on working that way 😉 ).

Bottom Line:
The whole point to this thought experiment and potential outcomes (github repository, blog that gets many interested and influential readers, product demo, thought leader recommendations, record of written articles, videos of presentations, slide decks, etc.) is to change the dynamic of the discussion entirely.
Not everyone is going to want to do this. It requires a lot of commitment, a desire to be involved in the broader community, and a fair bit of personal marketing to get your name and “brand” out there. Doing so, though, will show that a “self credentialed tester” can stand toe to toe with anyone else out there.