Finding the Next Generation of Testers

I’ve been thinking for some time (where some time = on and off for the past few years) that trying to find new testers is far more difficult than it should be. I’ve been in a number of discussion threads in the past few months to make me feel comfortable saying I am not alone in this thought.

The biggest issue I see is that no one outside of tech companies knows what software testing is.  There are no real programs offered for software testing in colleges or universities in my region, or much of the rest of the US for that matter (except for FIT of course). Before anyone jumps on the fact that I am talking about testing degrees, let me get my point out. Many (if not most) high school graduates in the US are still pushed into post secondary education. Like it or not, that’s where many possible candidates go and learn about the world and the jobs it has to offer. Have you talked to Computer Science majors in your area lately? Do they know what testing is? Do they know it is a profession? An intentional career choice? Not in Cleveland. What about MIS? Surely they hit testing with the broad brush that is MIS? Not around here.

So what do we do about this? Some people have suggested trying to work with local schools to start programs (maybe not degrees to start) that could eventually lead to testing degrees. This would reach the “I don’t know what I want to do” students and possibly convince some of them to get into testing right out of school. Some people have suggested reaching out to schools to get professors of certain majors (CS, MIS, CIS, Accounting, Psychology, Philosophy,??) to advertise local tester meetups as extra credit (or something) for their students. This could reach students already heading in a different direction and possibly convince them to look into testing once they graduate.

I see merit in both approaches, they just both require a lot of leg work.

Another idea that came up recently (and hasn’t come to fruition yet) is to start younger. I happen to work for a large technology company in the Cleveland area (if you know the East and West side tech “giants” in Cleveland, I am on the West side). As such, we get asked by local schools to put on various technology events for middle and high school students. We started bringing students into our office and having them shadow testers or developers for a few hours to give them a basic understanding of what we do. We have also done talks and presentations, but those are less impactful in my eyes. After thinking about these for a while, our HR team had the idea to put together a team of people from several tech positions with the company that could travel out to schools to discuss technology jobs. For the Testing portion, we had the idea of using games to help show the kids how much fun it can be to think like a tester, without having to set them all up to test software. Specifically, we discussed Art Show and “the dice game” (though that could ruin part of the RST market in Cleveland in a few years) and possibly Zendo for High School.

I don’t exactly know where to go at this point. I am not all that pro-degree (I don’t feel they prove much about a person or their abilities in many majors), though I understand that the number of people who go to a college or university is too large to ignore. Sure, I hire people from all sorts of majors, even ones that didn’t complete a degree, it would just be much easier (maybe) if some of them came in with a background in testing. I admitted a long time ago that hiring testers is a difficult, time-consuming process. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. I don’t believe there is much, if any value in certifications (in testing that is) so no point in pushing for those in the area. Reaching out to kids is an awesome idea (and I plan to push for it to happen), it just means waiting several years to see if it worked at all.

What ideas do you have? How would you go find the next generation of testers? What new places can we look for testers?