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STeP at Per Scholas: Comprehensive training for passionate Software Testers

A great example of the value of training for software testers.

By Lorinda BrandonDirector of Strategy at Smartbear Software

Anyone who reads my regular posts knows that I am a strong advocate of software testing training. Software testing has not only become more complex in the past decade with the addition of multi-device, multi-browser, cloud-enabled applications, it has also received renewed attention as we move our financial, health, and federal services into web applications. Quality has become not just desirable, but required. And, as a result, so has skilled testing.

So, of course, I was happy to go to the Per Scholas campus in Bronx, NY to announce the new STeP curriculum for their students. An add-on module for a small select group of students, STeP provides classroom and hands-on training from some of the most renowned names in today’s software testing. To have my name linked with theirs is an honor I still shake my head about, with a stupid amazed grin on my face.

In short, STeP provides:

  • Pre-training program, where students learn communication skills and the basic concepts of software testing.
  • Training period, which includes a visit to a key sponsor, Barclays, whose training this program is modeled on, and hands-on training from industry experts.
  • Post-training period, which provides the invaluable addition of 2-3 weeks of internship/training projects, career development and job placement, and ongoing mentorship.

As I entered the room, my first observation was that this was not the crowd I had imagined. I was greeted by a sea of faces from every racial and ethnic group and covering the whole range of generations. How much more would I have gotten from college if I had had that kind of diversity in our classes, I wondered? The range of perspectives and life experiences in that room practically vibrated.

In my 30 years in this industry, I’ve done my share of presentations. I’ve even gotten used to presenting other people’s slides with very little notice. Like most of us who present on a regular basis, I’m accustomed to delivering my insights to the tops of people’s heads while they text and email, or to the back of their laptops while they half-listen and half-work. I think I hadn’t really realized how used to that inattention I’ve become…until I stood in front of 70ish Per Scholas students who sat through the whole hour of me blabbing with no laptops or smartphones, no tapping on any keys, just sitting in their chairs and (gasp) looking at me.

Not just looking at me, listening to me… popping their hands in the air to ask questions – smart, insightful questions, too – and then taking notes as I answered.

They wanted to know everything, from what kinds of activities were involved in software testing to whether you needed to be able to code to how they could study the concepts ahead of time.

The STeP curriculum is one that is near and dear to my heart – ranging from basic coverage of testing methodologies and philosophies to hands-on experience at Barclays. The idea is to give students exposure to additional career choices and also prepare them for that first crucial interview as a junior tester. Without the availability of software testing classes in most college programs, testing is often the hidden career that most people don’t have visibility to until they stumble into it. With the complexity of today’s software requirements, we need testers who have some background in the discipline before they walk in the door. Per Scholas’ mission is to prepare their students for real employment so it’s more than just teaching the basic skills – it’s making sure they can compete in that initial interview. And these students want those interviews. And those jobs.

By the time we finished our discussion, I could see in some of their eyes the same appreciation for software testing and its criticality in today’s software-focused world that I feel. Their enthusiasm was more than I expected or could ask for. Before they left the room and went back to class, many of them came up to shake my hand and ask if they could email me – again, I was struck by their poise and confidence… and oh, the eagerness. I was still in the taxi on the way to the airport when I got the first batch of LinkedIn requests and emails – pretty impressive. I’ve traveled across the world for business meetings that were less engaged and engaging than this afternoon with a group of students in the Bronx.

And it wasn’t only the students who were fully invested in the conversation, so were the staff members. I met with them before and after the student session and tried my best to answer their questions about what employers look for and how they can best prepare their students for success. Of course, we talked about women in tech and how to best inspire women to join the IT industry.

As I watched them thinking and talking through various approaches, I couldn’t help thinking that these people were weaving a little bit of magic here in their corner of the Bronx...changing people’s lives every day in ways that will ripple through multiple generations and families. I was honored and humbled to be allowed in for a day, where maybe a word or a sentence that came from me will be woven into that magic as well. As I watched NYC fade behind me on the ramp toward the airport terminal, I read the earnest and courageous emails I’d already received from staff and students and I thought...I would hire all those people.

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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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