TMAP Testing – Educating Software Testers

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“We don’t need no education” – so is the first line of the song “Another Brick in the Wall” by “Pink Floyd”. What I suggest in the following is not that harsh but I share some experiences with TMAP that brings that line to mind.

I work in a Danish IT company called Systematic. I have been there for 9 years working primarily with quality assurance. We have a mantra at Systematic. It says, “We would rather educate our employees and risk that they leave, than do nothing and risk that they stay”. For the 9 years, I have been with the company our struggle has been the same. How do we educate our test professionals?

Our test professionals come with very diverse backgrounds. Some are IT educated, some have domain backgrounds, and some just stumbled into the field of testing by coincidence. You should think that the ones that are IT educated learn about testing but we do not teach our IT students in Denmark to be testers! They are actually lucky to hear about testing at all. They hear about user experience, management, leadership, and of course, development but they hear very little to nothing about testing. When you think of how much of the time we spend on quality related activities in our company besides unit testing it is actually a bit frightening that they spend so little time on it in school.

Testing with TMAP

So how do we educate our test professionals? Here in Systematic we have leaned very much towards the test certifications. For many years, it has been ISTQB foundation and advanced but a couple of years ago we decided to renew and now we use TMAP Next Engineering as well. We have a knowledge network in our company where all the test professionals meet and it was in the knowledge network we decided to try out this new certification. Some of the feedback we got from our knowledge network members after studying TMAP was that it was hard applying all these learnings in our daily work. We decided to throw some workshops where we could try out the process and some of the test design techniques on real features from some of our projects. What we saw at these workshops frightened us a bit……

Systematic is a CMMI level 5 company and we expect our testers to work somehow similar with the process. This workshop was an eye-opener to the leadership of the knowledge network that designed this workshop. Our testers handled the test tasks we gave them in very different ways. A part of the group used the theory from TMAP and got through the process as we expected it but another part did not. Some started with little nitty gritty details in the design and some were flying around in a helicopter the entire time and never got to detail. Neither was a good approach and neither was what we thought TMAP taught us. In all these years, we had expected that our testers and test managers were doing what the certifications had taught them but these workshops opened our eyes. We did not have a clue that what we got out of the certifications was SO individual.

Education?

So what did we learn? We learned that it is very different what we bring with us when we are educated. We learned that our testers and test managers could not just start using the learnings we get without the help and support of our processes. Last but not least we learned that for all these years we had been looking at the education and blaming it for our failures or missing engagement. We were looking for more education to apply to our test organisation. Instead, we should have been looking towards ourselves. We don’t need no education! At least not, right now. We need to stop and implement what we have already learned.

So what now the interested reader might ask? Well now we have stopped. We have started two major improvement initiatives instead. In headlines, they are as follows:

“Maturing the test process”: Our test process has been very stable and has not changed for the last 5 years or so. Only problem is, that the world definitely has changed around us. We need to mature our process. Build in the things that we have learned. Build a process around us that supports us and supports the different size projects that we have.

Test Education in Systematic

“Test Education in Systematic”: It is a good thing to have a stable process and to send our new testers to get a TMAP certificate but we need a way to teach our newcomers all the realisations we have right now. We want our test professionals to move in the same direction so we have to teach them how to walk in the same direction. Therefor we have started working on an internal test education for Systematic testers and test managers.

With these two initiatives, we hope to accomplish making a more mature organisation with an excellent group of test professionals. Right now, we are a ‘learning to test organisation’ but in the nearest future, we will be a ‘testing to learn organisation’ instead using our energy on what is truly important! Helping our teams gain knowledge of the quality of the applications we are so fortunate to create. Maybe then in the future, we will be ready to face the world again, to gain some inspiration, and maybe even to take another test education.

So what about you and your company? Are you good at stopping up? Are you good at implementing the things you learn in the entire organisation?

About the Author

Camilla

Find out more about @cellyton

4 Responses to “TMAP Testing – Educating Software Testers”

  1. what me struck the most, is the incredible focus on (test)processes. At a conference in the Netherlands I stated that “following a process such as TMap you have an excuse not to find important bugs, because you can say that you’ve followed the process”. There should be much more focus on ‘what is the focus of the test and why are you testing?’ and processes around testing should be focusing on facilitating this process. This also means that if testers want to improve themselves, you should focus on learning more about skills, such as asking questions, critical thinking and how to stimulate curiosity (and these things are not taught enough during you IT education and also not during ISTQB or TMap training). Education should be focusing on how can I improve myself and then I am referring at intrinsic motivation: how well motivated are the testers to do a better job? If they need to be extrinsic motivated you can wonder if you will reach a higher level of testing. If they have intrinsic motivation (reference: the book “Drive” of Daniel Pink) then they will find there own way and come to you. They will tell you what they need to improve themselves and how to improve testing. So it is not about education but about motivation and the strive for mastery.

  2. Camilla

    In general I agree but the processes are not hindering our creativity. If everybody needs to use time on inventing the same sheet for doing risk analysis over and over – where is the time for being creative? The processes help us having more time to care about what is truly important – the strive for mastery and adding user value.

  3. Hi Camilla

    Remember the next line, and give your testing people space to develop. It’s a cultural thing too, where you have to be willing to make mistakes. Are you ready to accept mistakes?

    “..we don’t need no thought control.”

  4. Hi Jesper
    Where on earth do you read in my text that there are no place for mistakes or that they do not have space to develop. In Systematic we have a good culture about making mistakes. As our CEO has expressed it: We have never fired people for making mistakes. We have fired people for not trying. We expect pur testers and test managers to develop and become even better and in that process we all make mistakes. The processes are helping us along the way to have time to actually develop.

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