By Erik Davis
I’ve been thinking for some time (where some time = on and off for the past few years) that trying to find new testers is far more difficult than it should be. I’ve been in enough discussion threads in the past year to feel comfortable saying I am not alone in this thought.
The biggest issue I see is that almost no one outside of tech companies knows what software testing is. There are no real programs offered for software testing in colleges or universities in my region, or much of the rest of the US for that matter (except for FIT of course). Before anyone jumps on the fact that I am talking about testing degrees, let me get my point out. Many (if not most) high school graduates in the US continue to be pushed into post secondary education. Like it or not, that’s where many possible candidates go and learn about the world and the jobs it has to offer. Have you talked to Computer Science majors in your area lately? Do they know what testing is? Do they know it is a profession? An intentional career choice? Not in Cleveland. What about MIS/CIS? Surely testing is touched with the broad brush that is MIS? Not around here.
So what can we do about this? Some people have suggested trying to work with local schools to start programs (maybe not degrees to start) that could eventually lead to testing degrees. This would reach the “I don’t know what I want to be” students and possibly convince some of them to get into testing right out of school. Some people have suggested reaching out to schools to try and get professors of certain majors (CS, MIS, CIS, Accounting, Psychology, Philosophy,??) to advertise local tester meetups as extra credit (or something) for their students. This could reach students already heading in a different direction and possibly convince them to look into testing once they graduate.
I see merit in both approaches, they both require a lot of leg work.
Another idea that came up recently (and hasn’t come to fruition yet) is to start younger. I happen to work for a large technology company in the Cleveland area (if you know the East and West side tech “giants” in Cleveland, I am on the westside). As such, we get asked by local schools to put on various technology events for middle and high school students. We started bringing students to our office and having them shadow testers and developers for a few hours to give them a basic understanding of what we do. We also accept high school interns from local schools, especially in testing. We have done talks and presentations in the past, but in my eyes those are much less impactful than having students sit with professionals. After thinking about these for a while, our HR team had the idea to put together a team of people from a variety of tech positions within the company that could travel out to schools to discuss technology jobs. For the testing portion, we proposed using games to help show the kids how much fun thinking like a tester can be. Specifically, we discussed things like Art Show and “the dice game” and possibly even Zendo for High School students.
I don’t exactly know where to go at this point. I am not all that pro-degree (I personally don’t feel degrees prove much about a person or their abilities in many majors beyond being able to follow a schedule and pass some tests), though I understand that the number of people that go to a college or university is too large to ignore. Sure, I hire people from all sorts of majors, even ones that didn’t complete a degree, it just seems like it might be easier if some of them came in with a background in testing. I admitted a long time ago that hiring testers is a difficult, time consuming process. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, or sit back and suffer. I don’t believe there is much, if any value in certifications (in testing that is) so I see no point in pushing for those in my area. Reaching out to kids is an awesome idea (and I plan to push for it to happen), it just means waiting several years to see if it worked at all.
What ideas do you have? How are you trying to find the next generation of testers? What new places can we look for testers?