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Challenge # 10: Getting Trained In Testing

by William E. Perry and Randall W. Rice

Adapted from Surviving the Top Ten Challenges of Software Testing. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. See below for copyright notice.

A commonly held belief about testing is that anyone who can operate a system can perform testing. The truth is that testing is a professional discipline, requiring unique skills that are anything but intuitive. Without training, testers are ill-equipped to meet the rigors of testing, especially in technically difficult situations. The people-related challenge of the following is to secure adequate support for training.


Without adequate training in testing techniques, testers are left to their own devices. Some of their tests will find obvious defects but will miss the subtle defects that can cause system failure. Untrained testers often do not understand the features and functions of the software they are assigned to test.

Some companies start entry-level people in the testing area as a form of training and move them to the "more meaningful" jobs in software development after they learn how to use the system. In such situations, one reason for the lack of support for training is that management is not aware of the value of testing.

Raise Management Awareness

Following are some steps you can take to raise management's awareness of testing and the need for skill-building:

  1. Calculate how much testing costs your organization. Don't forget to include the cost of planning and reporting.
  2. Educate management in the cost of testing. Show ways that the cost can be reduced through the use of more effective techniques. Most organizations can quickly reduce the cost of development and testing by at least ten percent by eliminating the waste and redundancy found in ad hoc testing processes.
  3. Explore other motivations for the benefits of testing. For example, effective testing will help streamline your testing process and shorten the time to delivery.
  4. Build testing skill development into your personal goals and objectives. Demonstrate to your management that you are committed to learning more about testing to add value to the organization. This means you might have to buy books on your own, but a little initiative goes a long way.
  5. Keep your eye out for articles about testing. Route these articles to your management as you find them, to highlight the contribution skilled testers make on critical projects.
  6. Discuss your training needs with your management. Explore ways together that you can find answers to your questions. If there is a relevant course available, discuss the possibility of attending and reporting the information back to the rest of the team.
  7. Find out if there is a training budget for your organization. If there are funds available, it might be feasible to schedule an in-house training course for twenty or more people at a reasonable price.
  8. Be creative. Buy another copy of Surviving the Top Ten Challenges of Software Testing, place a paper clip at this chapter, and leave it in your manager's in-basket as an anonymous gift!

Make Time for Training

The paradox of training is that when you need it the most, there isn't enough time. You'll want to put training into practice as soon as possible, but how do you make the time for training in the first place, when there is hardly time for testing? Here are some steps for getting the time for training:

  1. Build time for training into the project plan. This makes training a planned event, not something extra to be squeezed in as time allows. In a typical project, you would have a test plan document for each project checkpoint, such as requirements definition, design, system testing, and so forth.
  2. Budget for training activities. This will allow you to plan in advance which training you can secure.
  3. Match the training to your need. To learn about many aspects of testing, you may require a week-long course. For a specific aspect of testing, a one-day course may suffice.

Develop Your Own Skills

As a tester, you have the ultimate responsibility for developing your skills. If your management supports your efforts in the form of paying for your training, that's great. If not, then you will need to find ways to develop skills that can fit into your personal budget. There are many tangible ways to develop your own testing skills:

  1. Make a list of your personal development goals. These goals should include completion dates and what it will take on your part to achieve them.
  2. Build your own testing library. Start with the books that address basic testing topics.
  3. Keep a clipping file. This should include testing articles and other articles of interest that appear in computer trade magazines and other publications.
  4. Participate in local software quality organizations. For example, the Quality Assurance Institute Federation is a worldwide network of local groups. Call (407) 363-1111 for information.
  5. Continue the learning process. As technologies change, so must your tool kit of techniques.

Certify Your Testing Skills

As you gain experience and training, you should apply to become a Certified Software Test Engineer (CSTE). This will add to your credibility and enhance your testing career. It tells your employer and others that you have developed the skills and obtained the experience to test software effectively. In addition, certification is something that you can carry to your next job to show evidence of demonstrated testing skills.

The Quality Assurance Institute (QAI), mentioned above, has a certification program for people with two or more years of professional testing experience.


If you really want to build your skills in testing, no one can keep you from learning and refining them. Along the road of learning, you will likely face impediments that will require creative solutions. Many of these present themselves as "what if" questions, such as the following:

What if my management will not support my training needs?

Even if your current management does not support your training needs, there is hope. Things change and your situation a year from now can be greatly different from what it is today—that is why it is so important not to wait for management to start your skill-building process. Buy or check out the books you need to read, network with testers in other companies, and generally do what it takes to learn on your own. If your current situation does not change, you might choose to take your skills to an employer who will recognize and reward your initiative.

What if I do not have enough money to attend a testing seminar or conference?

If you're on your own to get training, courses can get expensive. Take advantage of every opportunity to network with other testers, attend local presentations on testing by test tool vendors, and check out testing sources on the Internet. In addition, many local libraries have books on testing that can start you on the road to gaining testing knowledge.

What if I do not have enough time for training?

The urgent often takes the place of the important. Ask yourself this question: "If I really knew what I was doing, would it take as long?" Probably not. Sometimes you have to make time to do the truly important things. Training is an investment that pays big dividends in both efficiency and effectiveness.


  • Set personal goals. If you set personal goals, you will be in a three percent minority of successful people. Success seldom happens without planning.
  • Seek management's assistance in building your testing skills, but don't wait for it. Enlightened managers invest in people and reap dividends in prevented problems. Unenlightened managers focus on cutting costs, do not provide the tools to do the job right, and will instead spend much time and money on fixing problems.
  • Strive to add value to the testing effort. Job security in America is a thing of the past. Companies are looking for the people who add value. This is the case whether you work for yourself or for someone else. A trained tester adds value to a project by knowing and applying sound testing methods. Effective testing methods can help eliminate waste and redundancy while increasing the number of defects found.


While we have addressed solutions and impediments, let's look at an overall plan of action that ties everything together into your master approach for building testing skills.

1. Get management on your side by showing them

  • how much money is being spent on testing
  • the critical nature of software quality to your organization—that is, what could happen if a defect is found by users or customers
  • how much time and money could be saved by applying effective testing methods
  • the value that you personally could bring to the organization as a result of increasing your skill
  • initiative by starting to build your own skills

2. Develop your own skill-building goals and objectives by

  • making a list of what you need to learn to be effective
  • identifying resources for training and skill-building in testing
  • planning to spend the time and money it takes to meet your skill-development goals
  • staying on the lookout for training opportunities that you can easily participate in, such as local special interest groups, vendor test tool presentations, and the like
  • getting certified as a Certified Software Test Engineer

3. Never stop learning!

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This excerpt from Surviving the Top Ten Challenges of Software Testing: A People-Oriented Approach [ISBN:0-932633-38-2] appears by permission of Dorset House Publishing. Copyright © 1997 by William E. Perry and Randall W. Rice. All rights reserved. See http://www.dorsethouse.com/books/stt.html. The material contained in this file may be shared for noncommercial purposes only, nonexclusively, provided that this Copyright Notice always appears with it. This material may not be combined with advertisements, online or in print, without explicit permission from Dorset House Publishing. For copies of the printed book or for permissions, contact Dorset House Publishing, 1-800-342-6657, 212-620-4053, http://www.dorsethouse.com, info@dorsethouse.com, New: 3143 Broadway, Suite 2B, New York, NY 10027 USA. Additional rights limitations apply, as presented in the Legal Disclaimer posted at http://www.dorsethouse.com/legal.html.



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