ISTQB Fan-Mail

Not too long ago I received an email from my then CEO bringing my attention to an email he had received.  For some context, I will say that this CEO was very much in touch with all his staff, he wasn’t ‘removed’ in anyway so it wasn’t uncommon to receive an email from him (a brilliant trait I might add).

Upon my first read of the email I thought it was a joke. Have a look for yourself, then I’ll provide some thoughts.

(names, and various identifying factors have been removed – because I’m nice like that)…

Email 1:

Subject: Issue in relation to a [company name] staff member

Good afternoon Gentlemen,

May I please draw your attention to an issue that has recently been discussed in social media networks, in which one of your staff members has been quite vocal on.

Recently there was a post submitted by an obviously disgruntled group member of ANZTB/ISTQB, which he blogged about, and then published many posts on social media – such as LinkedIn and Twitter. (refer: http://itesting.com.au/2013/06/17/the-tester-certification-debate-just-got-very-personal/)  (This was brought to my attention by one of my staff members)

What was of concern however were some comments added to both LinkedIn and the blog post by a staff member of [company name] – David Greenlees.

Mr Greenlees has expressed obvious, and very public, criticism of ANZTB/ISTQB in social media forums and blog posts on the current discussion listed above.  He has also been very critical of ANZTB/ISTQB during the special interest groups that he runs in Adelaide, and also in other social media forums over the past 18 months.

Based on the above, I have great concerns about [company names]’s association with ANZTB/ISTQB.

I support and encourage people expressing their opinions, however, it is very unprofessional to have a staff member of a company which is affiliated with another organisation, publicly criticise (to the point of hate mongering) the affiliated organisation.

I understand how hard it is to find the line on when to “police” staff member activities, as I also struggle with this line with a couple of my very opinionated staff members.  However, staff should realise that while they are in the employment of a company, they are the public face of the company.  Any comments they make in social media forums not only reflects on them, it also reflects on the company.  I have worked with large organisations such as [company name], [company name], [company name], etc, any public criticism of the company or affiliated organisations would have resulted in disciplinary action.

I truly hope that Mr Greenlees’ public criticism on ANZTB/ISTQB are not representative of [company name]’s relationship with ANZTB/ISTQB, given your website shows that you are an ANZTB/ISTQB accredited training provider.

It saddens me that there is still a lot of animosity within software testing circles, and having discussions like these isn’t very productive to the ongoing development of the software testing industry.  As software testing professionals, we should be looking at ways to improve the industry, not make a mockery of it.

Thank you for your time.

[name1]

Email 2:

Subject: Re: Issue in relation to a [company name] staff member

Hi [name1],

Thank you for your email.

It is difficult to police what staff write about on social media sites. Based on your concerns, we will look into this matter.

Out of interest, what is your connection with ANZTB/ISTQB?

Regards,

[name2]

Email 3:

Subject: Re: Issue in relation to a [company name] staff member

Good afternoon [name2],

Thank you for time and interest in this issue.  I understand how difficult and intrusive it can be to monitor staff activities on social media.  It is definitely not one of the highlights of managing teams in the era of social media.  These difficulties didn’t exist 20 years ago.

In regards to your question, I don’t have any connection to ANZTB/ISTQB, except for attending a couple of their special interest groups that they run in Adelaide.  Since relocating to Australia [number] [time] ago, I identified all software testing related forums, conferences, and special interest groups and have attempted to attend them when time permitted.  I encourage my team to regularly attend these forums to assist their learning and development.  They have been more successful at attending them than I have been.  I have worked in software development and testing for the past [number] [time] throughout Europe, Asia and recently Australia.  I gained my ISEB Testing Certificate in the [location] in the early [time]’s, and have put staff through ISEB and ISTQB training over the years.  I have also attended many conferences and forums throughout Europe, Asia and Australia, run by various organisations, not just ISEB/ISTQB.

The software testing industry as a whole has done a lot to assist software testers to grow and develop.  Not only the ISEB/ISTQB training and certification, but there are now a lot more courses and forums from other organisations which are beneficial to testers, which we didn’t have 20+ years ago.  Testers are now spoiled for choice for learning and development, yet I don’t understand the mentality to bad-mouth and dismiss these opportunities.  This was probably the main driver for my email to you.  When I started out in software development and testing, I very much enjoyed the software testing aspect of my job.  However, it was hard to be recognised as a professional if you only did software testing.  I struggled over the years to have these skills recognised.  When the certification was introduced in the UK in the late 90’s, it was a relief for struggling software testers like myself – at last we had some sort of recognition.  This may not mean anything to software testers who have only started in the industry within the last 10 to 15 years, but it does mean a lot to us oldies still working in the industry.

Apologies, I seem to have gone on a bit in my response, but I hope that it gives some rationale behind raising this issue with you.  I would not normally make an issue out of something like this, however, I see that your company provides a variety of training for software testers, and it would be a shame for an individual to compromise the good work you are doing with enhancing tester’s skills.

Many thanks again for your time.

Regards,

[name1]

Firstly, I’d like everyone to know that I have invited this person to engage in a conversation about this issue… and I’m yet to receive a reply. Also, I had a great conversation with my then CEO and he was ultimately supportive of me. The way he handled the situation was amazing, so credit to him.

While there are several points in the email that bother me, I’d like to call out a just a few…

“What was of concern however were some comments added to both LinkedIn and the blog post by a staff member of [company name] – David Greenlees.”

If you go back and take a look at my comments in relation to Colin’s post you’ll see that there really isn’t all that much to them. Am I wrong?

“He has also been very critical of ANZTB/ISTQB during the special interest groups that he runs in Adelaide”

Prove it. What exactly did I say? Besides, what is wrong with being ‘critical’ of something? Isn’t that what we testers do? Be ‘critical’ of things until we have gathered enough information to not be ‘critical’ anymore. I have spoken to individuals about certification and that I don’t believe it offers all that much to our industry these days. I have never spoken about what it offered when it was first introduced, as I was only a puppy at the time and I know better than to assume too much.

There are people that need to accept that the industry has moved on since the certification was introduced, and they need to rethink what it now offers rather than living in the past.

“(to the point of hate mongering)”

According to dictionary.com, a hatemonger is a…

‘person who kindles hatred, enmity, or prejudice in others.’

Really? Wow. To be honest, this was the part of the email that really got to me. It sounds cliché, but I really do struggle to hurt a fly (if they weren’t so damn annoying I’d leave them alone). When I think of hate mongering, I think of things like the KKK, or those idiots that protest about gay and lesbian people and that the almighty will ‘strike them down’. That’s hatred.

I DO NOT push my views on to others. I give my opinion and I allow others to have theirs. If they differ, let’s have a discussion as to why, or let’s agree to disagree… I’m cool with that.

Hate mongering, pfft!

As software testing professionals, we should be looking at ways to improve the industry, not make a mockery of it.”

Hello? Have you met me? Have you done any research on me whatsoever? Have you heard of OZWST? Have you heard of Miagi-Do? You clearly know about Adelaide SQSIG. Should I mention that I do all of these in my own time, and that they cost ME money? Or that the sole purpose of these is the betterment of our craft?

You know what I think makes a mockery of our industry? Emails like the ones above.

“yet I don’t understand the mentality to bad-mouth and dismiss these opportunities.”

I don’t bad-mouth, I state my opinion. I also don’t dismiss. I have two testing certificates, and have sat through the Advanced Test Manager training course. I KNOW what they have provided me, therefore I class my opinion as an educated one.

“This may not mean anything to software testers who have only started in the industry within the last 10 to 15 years…”

And that is exactly why I never comment on certification as it was back in the day. However, this does bring me back to a previous point… what it was when it was created is NOT what it is now. It can’t be, the industry has changed too much for that to be the case. Think about that.

I strongly believe that by me (and others) voicing my (and their) opinion in a constructive way while being open to other’s opinions does our industry a service. It’s how we progress; critiquing the ‘accepted’ way in order to make it better. What doesn’t is correspondence like the above. It would have been a far better approach to contact me directly rather than the three most senior members of my then employer. One question I would like to ask the sender is, “What were you hoping to gain by sending such an email?” By contacting me directly the sender would have quickly seen how open I am to discussing these issues like adults, and while we may not have come to agreement, I’m sure we would have come to a point of mutual respect.

Author: David Greenlees

About David

http://www.dmg.name/

6 thoughts on “ISTQB Fan-Mail

  1. Dismiss the email as someone taking personal offence over a professional criticism. As the person said, ISTQB was relevant and helpful once upon a time but if that was 20 years ago then the face of Software Development has expanded and changed so drastically that (to some) it is no longer the case. The thing is, just because some people no longer find it relevant does not invalidate the person’s history with it or appreciation of it. Out of curiosity, does ISTQB require a person to update their certification status every couple of years? Because if it doesn’t, then a 20 year old certification won’t mean much in any industry.

    Of course, my opinion could just be dismissed out of hand as I am one of those “younger” testers with only a 5 year long career under the belt and from a very alternative industry to your average software dev company/team… although, dismissing a point of view without consideration in our line of work seems like pure folly. I wouldn’t dare risk it.

    Having said all that, and (apologetically) without having read your articles on certification, I’d say that ISTQB has it’s place but it’s becoming a pidgeon-hole award. If you work within a strict, heavily controlled industry (government, military, bloated corporation) then it seems like it could be a boon to help with understanding and contributing to bloated process and red tape. If you work in any kind of Agile environment then it doesn’t appear to be keeping up with the times. I barely have time to catch up on my blogs, let alone get a certification that no job has ever asked me for, which may or may not provide me with anything valuable that I don’t already know. My best learning comes from lateral thinking articles and blogs.

    Interesting read, David.

    • Thanks for the comment Adam.

      I’m not aware of the ISTQB requesting their certified testers to ‘refresh’ said certificate. I’ve had mine for about 6 years and I haven’t been. Maybe they suggest it somewhere, but the syllabus changes so rarely I can’t imagine it would be worth the effort. Another criticism in itself!

      On your last point… there is a large amount of work happening as we type in relation to context-driven testing in regulated and strictly controlled environments. There are people doing it quite successfully, and more of those stories will be shared in the not too distant future I’m sure. So keep your eye to the screen! 😉

      • Definitely keen to hear more about that. I’ve dealt with a bunch of testers in my time who have come from those environments and they tend to have a hard time adapting to more fast paced companies. I’d be glad to hear of changes to any regulated/strictly controlled environment which allow for more progressive and efficient workflow.

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