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Software testing can be sexy, too

There are some great software testing training programs out there, including one with some high-profile backers.

This guest post was submitted by Lorinda Brandon, Director of Strategy at Smartbear Software

I almost don’t know where to start this post.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about code.org and the lack of relevant organizations that focus on software testing.

Well, I am happy to say that I stand corrected.

Not only is there a newly minted organization that is trying to increase the availability of training and internships for wannabe testers, but I was also happy to find out they have some celebrity backing as well.

RELATED: Why programming classes need to cover software testing, too

I spent some pleasant hours on the phone this week with testing professionals who are putting their knowledge, time and passion into a new program called SummerQAmp. OK, “internship program” isn’t exactly accurate. It’s a coaching opportunity, with online training, and a community… that revolves around hands-on paid training at a software company. As I listened to Michael Larsen, Keith Klain, and Kevin Haggard talk about what they’re putting together and more importantly, WHY they’re putting it together, I also watched via video as they gestured, leaned in, fidgeted, and good-naturedly interrupted each other. They love what they do. And they love teaching other people how to love it too. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks. Here’s what the program does:

  • Works with partners to find qualified young people between the ages of 18-24
  • Provides coaching on soft skills like interviewing, grooming, and resumes for those kids
  • Work with interested companies in the supported cities (right now, New York, San Francisco, LA, Chicago, Boston, Austin, Washington DC, and Atlanta, but they hope to just keep expanding every year) to build company profiles
  • Match the newly trained interns with their companies and set up interviews for them

And that’s where the rubber meets the road. At that point, the hiring negotiations occur between the intern and company, and the intern learns what it means to work hands-on in a business environment. What’s interesting about this is that there is no single definition of what “business environment” means in software development – a tester at a Fortune 100 company is probably not having the same day-to-day experience as a tester at a cool new startup. But what they have in common when they come from SummerQAmp is training, opportunity and a focus on context-driven testing.

The training curriculum is something these guys are deeply passionate about (but honestly, they were deeply passionate about a lot of things). Spearheaded by Michael Larsen who also leads a lot of the training for AST (Association for Software Testing), the training focuses on web and mobile testing, and encompasses everything from “what is software testing?” to test design. According to Larsen, they also heavily emphasize context-driven testing, knowing that one size does not fit all in this industry.

Another one of the core principles of the SummerQAmp curriculum development is to make it all Open Source. They have partnered with CK12 to convert everything they put together into OSS, publicly maintainable media. This is not about people trying to make a name for themselves; this is about people who truly love and value the art of software testing, and want to bring the next generation of testers into the industry with that same level of passion.

As Keith Klain pointed out, we as a country have devalued the role of the tester despite how essential it is to developing quality software. We have pushed so much of our testing activity overseas that other countries have built up the expertise and we have created a shortage here at home. What Klain, who serves on the board of the AST, and the others would like to do is not only bring those skills back home but increase the availability and accessibility of this kind of training and job opportunity. Ideally, colleges and universities would start offering majors in Software Testing so we can set young people on a path toward testing as a career. (Note: That may be my opinion, not theirs.)

At this point, you’re probably wondering about the celebrity endorsement I mentioned at the top. Kevin Haggard, who is the Director of Quality Engineering at Retailmenot.com, was one of the founders of SummerQAmp along with Steve Martocci, co-founder of GroupMe. In a vignette that is too unlikely not to be real, SummerQAmp was born in 2012 as the result of a conversation between Martocci and … wait for it… musician Jon Bon Jovi. Yep, you heard me right. Martocci’s difficulties in finding new qualified testing talent and Bon Jovi’s involvement in the White House initiative SummerJobs+ paved the way for an introduction to Aneesh Chopra, former CTO of the White House. Bon Jovi remains involved with the program, much to his credit, and provides fundraising assistance as well. I guess when it comes to software quality, “Living On a Prayer” isn’t very appealing, even to Bon Jovi.

And is there life after SummerQAmp? You bet.

“We are trying to give them meaningful life skills that will last them a lifetime,” Larsen said, while the others nodded emphatically. These guys seriously love what they do. Have I mentioned that?

Between the AST’s Black Box Software Testing and a crowd-sourced, community-based program called Weekend Testing, there are other places for software testers to hone their skills and share their knowledge. All we have to do is get the word out and make it sexy. We got Bon Jovi for the second part – now we just need to accomplish the first part.

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About Lorinda Brandon, Director of Solutions Strategy at SmartBear

For more than 25 years, Lorinda Brandonhas worked in various management roles in the high-tech industry, including customer service, quality assurance and engineering. She is currently Director of Solutions Strategy at SmartBear Software, a leading supplier of software quality tools. She has built and led numerous successful technical teams at various companies, including RR Donnelley, EMC, Kayak Software, Exit41 and Intuit, among others. She specializes in rejuvenating product management, quality assurance and engineering teams by re-organizing and expanding staff and refining processes used within organizations. She has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Arizona State University. Follow her on Twitter @lindybrandon.

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