Professional development

May 23, 2003

My wife and I were talking at dinner tonight and she brought up the question of how someone new to testing would find the various resources that exist to help testers grow professionally.

I thought for a moment, and realized that I couldn’t come up with a better answer than “do a google search”. A couple of other methods came to mind as well (“browse the bookstore” and “break into a network of colleagues”), but neither one is necessarily common.

For example, when I was doing technical interviews for a consulting company, I would always ask a question that I had been asked in an interview — “What publications (books, magazines, mailing lists, web sites, etc.) do you read to grow and maintain your skills in testing (or development or whatever)?” A remarkable person was one who could list even one source. Several people responded they picked up random magazines their developers left lying around some times. Most people responded with “I don’t know” (which cost them points in my opinion of whether they should be working for a consulting company). Some of that last class did manage to win back some (but not all) of their points — they asked me what sources I used.

My experience in technical interviews is not widespread — I’ve done maybe twenty or twenty-five, and they were all in one geographical area and for one company. Maybe results would be different now. I also did these interviews no more recently than a year ago, and perhaps the economic climes have made people think to do more of this kind of development.

So, given that there is this wealth of information out there, is there a better way to make it accessible to people coming into the field? Part of me feels like there should be, though I can’t for the life of me imagine what it would be. Another part of me says that if I can have found the pieces of information that I have (and I make no claims of knowing all of them, though I can overwhelm anyone who asks me for testing resources :), other people should be able to, and they can find a lot of it simply by using google. A simple search on “software testing” yields around 227,000 entries.

But if I put aside this curmudgeonly attitude (“Bah! In my day, we didn’t have google! We had to write the articles ourselves and we liked it!”), I come to the two-pronged question of if people aren’t doing the basic searches to find information that will help them grow in their chosen careers, why don’t they do these things and is there some way to make people aware of the resources available to them?

The first part of the question is answered most often by the simple fact that people don’t think the information is out there and/or just plain don’t think to look for it. The people that I’ve shared resources with have all been surprised that such things existed. I do have a bias in this, in that if I think someone wouldn’t appreciate a reference, I’m not apt to go digging it up and sharing it in the first place. Still, let’s assume for the moment that the cause of people not doing the search is the idea never occurs to them. Tgis then makes the second part of the question even more important. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer to the question. The concept of not thinking to do a web search and browse a bookstore (or search an online one) is so utterly foreign to me that I’m having trouble envisioning a solution. Maybe I’m completely heading down the wrong track even — it’s easy enough (or so it seems to me) to get a deluge of information, that what I should be thinking about is more how to filter that information down.

I’m not sure… I feel like there’s an idea bouncing around in my head, but it’s not ready to come out yet. This is still a new feeling for me (it’s happened multiple times since I became a graduate student, but rarely before that (and never as strongly). This will probably be a topic I revisit…

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