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Education Software IT

A Case For a Software Testing Undergrad Major 220

Posted by samzenpus
from the major-learning dept.
colinneagle writes "I have spent the last couple of days at the StarEast conference, listening to people explain to a roomful of testers about modeling workflows and data transitions, managing test environments in the cloud, writing automation scripts for regression tests, best methods for exploratory testing, running mobile test lab. And as I look around the room at the raw intelligence of the people who are not only absorbing that information but probing deeper into it during the Q&A sessions, I have to wonder how much easier their careers could have been if they had been able to major in Software Testing in college. It's time to give employers a testing workforce that is competitive and trained so they can stand toe-to-toe with the development team. Imagine the power of being able to hire a recent college graduate who has been taught how to develop system diagrams, build complex SQL, run log analysis, set up a cloud test environment, and write automation scripts. No more crossing your fingers that this eager young face in front of you can really pick up those skills, and no more investing so much time and money in training them on the job. We ask no less from Technical Writing and Development. Why do we have such different expectations for one of the most important functions on the team?"
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A Case For a Software Testing Undergrad Major

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  • by cold fjord (826450) on Monday May 06, 2013 @11:41AM (#43643833)

    It is fairly common to see electrical engineers specialize as either design or test engineers, in function if not career. But as far as I've seen, they still have the same academic training. I'm not sure that software would need to be done differently, at least at the undergrad level. Although I do think that having more course work available on testing would be a good thing.

  • Developer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by andy1307 (656570) on Monday May 06, 2013 @11:44AM (#43643869)

    Imagine the power of being able to hire a recent college graduate who has been taught how to develop system diagrams, build complex SQL, run log analysis, set up a cloud test environment, and write automation scripts.

    If I can do all this, why would I want to remain a tester? Why wouldn't I get into development?

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday May 06, 2013 @11:44AM (#43643883) Journal

    It's time to give employers a testing workforce that is competitive and trained so they can stand toe-to-toe with the development team.

    But then you'd actually have to pay them like developers.

    Also, I think this is a good example of 'career training' VS 'education.' Do you really want to graduate from college, after paying all that money, and have your primary skill set be "to develop system diagrams, build complex SQL, run log analysis, set up a cloud test environment, and write automation scripts?" That sounds like a couple semesters at DeVry.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 06, 2013 @11:45AM (#43643891)

    It's about starting kids on a path that will take them through the remaining 70 years of their lives, not a jumpstart on the job market for the next 5 years (after which a lot of what they learned will be obsolete and not very interesting to employers). Of course, there are professional schools and technical schools that focus on the latter.

  • by langelgjm (860756) on Monday May 06, 2013 @11:47AM (#43643905) Journal

    No more crossing your fingers that this eager young face in front of you can really pick up those skills, and no more investing so much time and money in training them on the job.

    So, basically, you think it's time for someone else to conduct your on-the-job training at no cost or risk to you.

  • by phizi0n (1237812) on Monday May 06, 2013 @11:47AM (#43643909)

    The best QA testers are usually the people overqualified for it. They're not doing it because they want to, they do it for a paycheck while waiting to land a dev job. If QA testers start needing degrees then why would anyone choose studying QA over CS when the skills overlap but most of the fun and pay is in CS?

  • Re:Developer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday May 06, 2013 @11:47AM (#43643915) Journal

    If I can do all this, why would I want to remain a tester? Why wouldn't I get into development?

    Believe it or not, some people actually like testing. I don't understand these people, but it takes all types.

  • The primary purpose of higher education is to develop individuals who are capable problem solvers, who are capable of understanding complex ideas, and who have a broad base of knowledge for the context of those ideas. We need such individuals to have a thriving society and robust democracy. Few people seem to realize this.

    Developing skill sets for the workplace is a decidedly secondary task of higher education. This isn't unimportant, but it isn't the primary purpose. This is why we don't have classes in plumbing or home finance, although those subjects could easily be taught at a university. Purely technical skills are valuable, but only to the degree to which they are generally applicable to a wide field.

  • by Cenan (1892902) on Monday May 06, 2013 @12:11PM (#43644251)

    It needs to be required curriculum.
    The shitty developers won't even know they need it, the rock star developers think they're too good to need it. Although, I took the course on testing with my degree and now other developers just piss me off for even more reasons, so that might be a reason not to teach it.

  • Re:Developer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Uber Banker (655221) on Monday May 06, 2013 @12:26PM (#43644469)

    Imagine the power of being able to hire a recent college graduate who has been taught how to develop system diagrams, build complex SQL, run log analysis, set up a cloud test environment, and write automation scripts.

    If I can do all this, why would I want to remain a tester? Why wouldn't I get into development?

    Because a tester is not a developer? While some testers are wanna-be developers, IMHO the author of TFA seems to get some things horribly mixed up, despite her position and experience. Developers unit test their code, and smoke test the product, surely? That's the job of a developer. Testers should have an understanding of development principals to faster nail the bug and help the developer, they mostly need to understand:

    • Business requirements: How to translate these to testing scenarios;
    • How to identify what's a show-stopper, something major, and something that's an error but doesn't hinder functionality as defined in business requirements;
    • How to go head-to-head with a developer face-to-face, via email, or via telephone and motivate the developer to prioritise their fixes; and as testing is typically at the end of the development cycle
    • How to project manage a lot of conflict. Communications are more important than knowing how to set up a development environment, though both are useful.

    A developer, seeking to do the above, while still in their heart a developer, is not going to enjoy their job or be as good at it as a tester, unless they really like punishing themselves. They'll also be a lot less respected by the actual developers than a sassy tester who just loves doing the above.

    The best testing teams I've seen are those with a big mix of varied technical and arts skill. A lot have been in emerging economies: English language majors are increasingly important.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday May 06, 2013 @01:06PM (#43644933)

    The whole idea is utterly stupid. It's bad enough that people become hyper-specialized during the course of their careers, but asking 18-year-olds to decide on which exact specialty they want makes no sense at all. That's why university degrees are supposed to give you a broad foundation, with only a certain amount of specialization in an undergrad major (and only in the last two years there usually). Furthermore, as you point out, having EEs get the same degree and specialize later works just fine, and for good reason: you need to understand how stuff works in order to test it properly.

    A class on software testing in the CS curriculum would make a lot of sense, but a whole separate degree is ridiculous.

  • Re:Developer? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pspahn (1175617) on Monday May 06, 2013 @01:16PM (#43645015)

    You probably would need to be rather humble as well. I would imagine a good proportion of the screw-ups you'd find would be reported, and then a week later you hear back that "this bug is not critical" and it ultimately gets ignored because fixing would cascade too much work onto the desks of other people, and there are fishing trips, bbqs, and dance recitals that need to be looked after.

    Of course, then you get to be smug down the road when the product releases, bugs intact, and you can point out to others, "see that bug? I know how to fix it, have told the people responsible for fixing it how to fix it, yet, it never gets fixed."

  • by dcollins117 (1267462) on Monday May 06, 2013 @01:28PM (#43645161)

    Can't imagine that a career testing software would be compelling. You'd get yelled at from the user and from the dev side, except for the more thoughtful devs.

    I can't imagine being a marriage counselor is much better - you have to be able to deal with a lot of anger. Still, there are people who still do it. One I talked to flat out said that other people's anger doesn't affect him. This is the type of guy we need doing software testing!

  • Re:Developer? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ahem (174666) on Monday May 06, 2013 @01:33PM (#43645209) Homepage Journal

    If I can do all this, why would I want to remain a tester? Why wouldn't I get into development?

    Maybe you like breaking things, not building them.

    Actually, I didn't break it, I discovered where it was already broken when it was given to me.

    If I'm doing my job right, I build tools that automatically identify where something is already broken. Then we can use that tool to give actionable insight to the developer about where they strayed before they've swapped their brain to a new context.

Some people have a great ambition: to build something that will last, at least until they've finished building it.

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