Professional testing organizations

There are a couple of professional organizations out there. I joined a few of them. How did I pick the ones that to join, you ask? This blog entry serves as an overview, and a decision aid for tester folks also looking forward to become more professional in their work life.

An overview

There are a coupe of professional testing organizations out there. For me living in Germany, there is the German Testing Board which spreads knowledge around ISTQB in Germany. My network never really consisted of people around that board. I never attended a class from them. I never felt addressed by their material.

Then there are the folks from the ASQF. These organize local user group like events. I attended a couple of these. I always found that these folks were quite open. They helped spread the word about a variety of topics. That is worthy content. However, I think you need to be connected to one of the organizers locally to get to know about these events. To attend a meeting, I joined their announcements. From that day on, I feel more connected to them through their announcements every 2-3 months. And I also get updates regarding the next upcoming events.

At some point the Association for Software Testing appeared on my networks. At first, I didn’t know what they were doing. Over time, I noticed that AST kept on coming up with an annual conference. And they ran online courses on software testing. At a certain point in my life, I decided it was worth the 80 bucks a year to join them, and support the work they did. They appeared to move forward the idea of context-driven testing. That was a fruitful thought. Also, they supported local peer conferences, and as organizer you could get some financial support if you organized a workshop on your own.

Back last year, I was contacted by the founders of the International Association for Software Testing. I knew all of the founders from the Let’s Test conferences, and knew whatever they started would have a good basis. I decided to support them from early on. While I don’t know yet, what they might deliver over time, I stay curious how I might contribute to that. But then, on the other hand, I seem to be pretty busy these days. Time will tell.

Picking the right one

First of all, be aware that most people working in professional organizations are putting in most of their work on their leisure time. The problem with good professionals and leisure time is that it’s hard to balance the daily job with the community work. Both are important, and ideally both should support each other. Sometimes they don’t.

That said, from the outside most of these organizations may appear that they hardly achieve anything. That makes picking the right one more difficult. Most of my picking had been by peer recognition. The folks I met at conferences that talked about something reasonable were also the ones that listened dearly to. From those folks I could grasp what they received from those organization, but also where the criticism in the others were.

My personal background consist of a giving attitude for most stuff. For example I joined three different swimming related clubs in my past after having received so much from one swimming club for ten years. I felt that I needed to pay some of that back. 16 years later, I decided to move on, still wondering whether I paid enough back myself. I still feel connected to these institutions, and look forward to every news entry from them. I am still a paying member for that swimming club that I joined when I was 6 years old.

The same applies to professional testing organizations. For example take the Association for Software Testing (AST). They helped Cem Kaner create a set of online classes, that they are now teaching in a peer fashion. Instructors are grown based upon attending and facilitating classes. When you attend a class, you can give some of that learning back to others. That attitude is pretty much in congruence with my underlying value system.

Help advance the craft

When it comes to professional testing organizations, one thing stood out for me: peer recognition. That comes with a chicken-and-egg problem. If you are not out there talking to other testers outside your company, you are unlikely to get one recommended. That’s a pity, since most of them provide learning content that can help you become a better tester on your own. I think some of these organizations might do well raising the outreach by visiting large companies, or providing online learning material like courses and webinars.

To get in touch, try to look for an event near you. Attend it, and ask people how they keep on learning about their profession. Over time you will not only be connected to several folks in the industry, but might also find people that make more sense for you. Listen to these folks with an open mind.

A final piece of advice: before pre-maturely joining one organization, first observe what potential value they bring to your craft. You want to avoid spending a tremendous amount of money before you know it’s worth giving to them.

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