In my last post, I talked about the concept of possum testing: Doing testing-related activities that the tester does not value, motivated on some level by fear. I'd like to extend this concept out, and talk about the fundamental problem I have with ISTQB certification: It's a possum certification.
If possum testing is testing that the tester does not value, motivated on some level by fear, then possum certification is the acquisition of certification that the receiver does not value, and the attainment of that certification is motivated at some level by fear.
ISTQB rely on deceiving their customers that what they will be getting is a valid qualification. They have successfully created a vicious cycle where employers believe that ISTQB certification is somehow some kind of valid measure of a tester's skill so they ask for it in their job ads. Prospective employees see it in the job ads, and therefore think it must be a valid qualification, after all, look at all these companies asking for it, so they go out and get it. Employers see employees with it on their CV, and thus confirm in their minds that ISTQB certification is a valid certification, after all, look at all these applicants with it on their CVs. And on the cycle goes. Meanwhile, ISTQB do nothing to correct the situation. But why would they?
I can only conclude that the ISTQB is deliberately exploiting the fearful, at the point in their careers when they are the most vulnerable. Instead of helping possums cross the road safely, they are creating a deception in the industry. The name itself "International Software Testing Qualifications Board" has been deliberately constructed to dazzle employers into thinking it is somehow an official industry board. They are taking our craft, and diluting it into a three day dictionary definition course, and passing it off as a legitimate qualification. They are stifling innovation and critical thinking by indoctrinating new recruits into the field with "best practices" and definitions that don't even hold up to a moment's critical analysis.
They are making money off the fear of new testers, who fear that they aren't employable without certification, and the ignorance of employers who don't understand the field. They perpetuate the ignorance by giving themselves an official sounding name that implies universal acceptance and authority.
To me, it is wrong for ISTQB to be intentionally misleading employers, and exploiting the fear of newbie possums. If you feel the same way then speak out, and stop letting this ruining our profession. Stop the spread of folklore and myth that the ISTQB syllabus teaches, and perhaps we can take back our profession from those who seek to only profit from it, rather than study it.
EDIT 21 August 2014
Karen Johnson has written an eloquent piece about certification here. If you feel the same way, then I urge you to sign the Professional Tester's Manifesto is available here: http://www.professionaltestersmanifesto.org/