Saturday, 5 February 2011

Part 2. A bit of history about ISTQB certification

(Continuing from Part 1 where I was surprised at reactions to certification as "evil")

In the early 1990s, software testing was not a respected profession; in fact many thought of testing at best as a “necessary evil” (if they thought of testing at all!). There were few people who specialized in testing, and it was seen as a “second-class” activity. There was a general perception that testing was easy, that anyone could do it, and that you were rather strange if you liked it.

It was then that I decided to specialize in testing, seeing great scope for improvement in testing activities in industry, not only in imparting fundamental knowledge about testing (basic principles and techniques), but also in improving the view testers had of themselves, and the perceptions of testers in their companies. I developed training courses in testing, and began Grove Consultants, named after my house in Macclesfield. One of my most popular talks at the time was called “Test is a four-letter word”, reflecting the prevailing culture about testing. The UK’s Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing (SIGIST) was started by Geoff Quentin in 1989, and was the only gathering of testers in the UK.

It was into this context that the initiative to create a qualification for testers was born. Although I was not the initiator, I was involved from the first meeting (called by Paul Gerrard at a STARWest conference in 1997) and the earliest working groups that developed the first Foundation Syllabus, donating many hours of time to help progress this effort. This work was carried out with support from ISEB (Information Systems Examination Board) of the British Computer Society (meeting rooms, travel expenses and admin help). The testing qualification was modeled on ISEB’s qualifications in Project Management and Information Systems Infrastructure, which were perceived as useful and valuable in their respective sectors. One of the aims was to give people a common vocabulary to talk about testing, since at the time people seemed to be using many different terms for the same thing.

The first course based on the ISEB Foundation Syllabus was given in October 1998 and the first Foundation Certificates in Software Testing were awarded at that time. But an important aspect of the scheme was that it was not necessary to take a training course in order to get the qualification; you could just take the exam. (Some other schemes were based on attendance at courses which seemed too training-provider profit-oriented to us.)

The success of the Foundation qualification took everyone by surprise – there seemed to be a hunger for something that gave testers more respect, both for themselves and from their employers. It also gave testers a common vocabulary and more confidence in their work. The Foundation qualification was meeting its main objective of “removing the bottom layer of ignorance” about software testing.

Work then began on extending the ISEB qualification to a more advanced level (which became the ISEB Practitioner qualification) and also to extending it to other countries, as news of the qualification spread in the international community. I was a facilitator at the meeting that formed ISTQB in 2001 in Sollentuna, Sweden.

I became a member of the working party that produced the first ISTQB Foundation Syllabus in 2005, and I am amazed at how ISTQB has grown; it has certainly changed over the past six years. While working on the update to the Foundation book, I was rather surprised and disappointed at the apparent lack of review the before release of the 2010 Syllabus.

In Part 3 I return to the criticism that current certification schemes do not address tester skill.


mithun said...

Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

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Kashif Ali Habib said...

Really great post.

It helped me to clarify many questions that i had in my mind about certifications.

Now i am quite clear about my point of view about certifications, I got the chance to go through the contents of ISQTB foundation level syllabus, and you are right, it is quite well composed, and i am finding no reason for un necessary criticism

Adauco said...

Excelent post! I was investigating the history of ISTQB, and found this as the most useful source.

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