Another certification, another scam? Martin Jansson
In a recent blog post  on Informator-blog, Magnus C Ohlson articulates the idea of pilots having the flight hours but not the actual flight certificate. He insinuates that the artifacts from requirements and testing would be better if people were certified, if I understand him correctly. Furthermore he explains that testers need education, knowledge and experience which I agree with fully. But he promotes that to ensure that someone has the right competence is by having a certificate such as ISTQB or REQB. According to him, you would then know if he or she is a skilled tester.
Here are a few personal experiences that relate to certification, as I see it:
When I did the military I got the opportunity to train for driving a trailer. We did a two-day theoretical exam, and then they let us out on the roads. After studying text books succeeding with a little exam they determined we were ready to start driving. I had no problem passing the exam, but I was a terrible driver. I had only a few months prior to this been able to take the driving license for driving a car. They let out a large amount of trucks, trailers and other vehicles into the small town of Boden. I managed to get around town without getting killed, but all in all the lot of us managed to demolish several traffic lights, some road signs, some trucks and a few light poles. The cost of this adventure was huge. I guess we learned a lot, but the idea that we were ready based on reading a textbook was a bit strange. Months later, after a few hundred miles of driving we started to get good at it, but the 2-3 day theory in the beginning was almost meaningless then. I see the test and requirement certification as having the same symptom, we do not get much value of something so intensive and theory focused.
In the early 2000 a doctor told me I had diaphragmatic hernia. At the same place, a surgeon went through with me the procedure how to get this fixed. She told me that I need to change the way I lived my life, but that it was almost pointless to try according to her. If I were to go through with a surgery, they would have needed to open me up, lift my chest and move around several organs. The whole procedure was very dangerous and the risk for death was high. As part of the surgeon’s analysis, she performed a gastroscopy. This procedure took between 10 and 20 minutes. It was hard for me to determine, after a while I understood what torture was all about. Some years later I met a doctor who hinted that there were other experts in the field that could help me out. I ended up with probably one of the best doctors in the field, who told me a whole different story. He recognized the name of the original surgeon who had given me the first statement. According to him, the original surgeon was not able to perform a gastroscopy in school as well. This new doctor performed a gastroscopy as well, which took 1½ to 2 minutes which is the time it should take, according to him. He then said that an operation was possible with minimum risk to my life. The last 10-20 years they had been using keyhole surgery, the methods the previous surgeon talked about are not used any more. Even if the first surgeon got her license, she was apparently not interested in keeping herself up-to-date with the changes in her craft. Comparing this with testing and requirement certificates, even if you are certified does not mean that you keep up with changes to the craft and that it is applicable.
A friend of mine was troubled about being forced to become certified. He was basically forced to certify himself as a project manager. The curriculum of the certification was solely based on waterfall methods. My friend has been working with agile projects for a while and has left the world of waterfall behind him. He does not see the point in keeping old facts up to date but instead try to learn new things. The person who wrote the curriculum for the certification did not know anything about agile. Comparing this with testing and requirement certification, we will have single point or points of failure in keeping up to speed with changes and improvements in the craft. If the creators of a syllabus are not top notch in the craft, then everyone who needs to certify themselves must lower themselves to the creators level. Even if they are top notch, they cannot compete with the wisdom of crowds, where the crowd is the joint knowledge of the test community.
Another friend of mine took an intensive course to drive a car. She travelled to a small town in northern Sweden to take a two-week course. She took it easily and got back home to Gothenburg. But the driving in the small town was a bit too easy with no highways, very few cars and an environment that did not match what was in her home town. She got the license and got home. When entering the traffic in Gothenburg she became too scared and dared not drive anymore. If we compare this with testing and requirement certification, an intensive course that results in a certificate might only mean that you have paid money to get something that is not valid in your actual context, in your project or hometown.
In a previous article called Testers Greatest Nemesis , I wrote about the intent that Dorothy Graham had when they initiated ISTQB. According to her blog posts the original intent was lost over the years. In Sweden there is a movement that has started certification of requirement experts called REQB. I see consultancies are offering the training and certification of it. I do hope this is just not a scam to make money, where recruiters will start filtering out those with 10+ years of experience of requirement handling to those with the name REQB in their CV.
I do not believe the complexity of organizations, projects and business is displayed in a generic multiple choice questionnaire that someone with no knowledge could accidently pass. I hope the movement in REQB learns from previous mistakes that have been seen by introduction of ISTQB. Dorothy and several who comments on her blog has identified a few things to consider.
A certificate tells one story about a person, but it is very fragile. I prefer talking to references, looking at their renown, public appearance, blogs, articles and papers would perhaps give a more vivid story.
 Varför certifiera sig inom krav och test – http://informatorutbildning.blogspot.se/2012/10/varfor-certifiera-sig-inom-krav-och-test_10.html
 Testers Greatest Nemesis – http://thetesteye.com/blog/2011/05/testers-greatest-nemesis/