Performance Engineering Skills: Raising The Bar

Note: This is an article originally written by James Pulley for Loadtester.com 11/23/2003 and has been migrated to the Northway Solutions Group web site.

It is unfortunately clear that everyday more and more people enter our quality assurance profession with very little software architecture of engineering background to draw from. This is bad enough on the functional side, but is getting darn near catastrophic on the performance side. And, by the way, this is for all vendors, not just Mercury. It just may be more apparent here due to Mercury’s dominant market presence in this arena.

Sure, one can separate oneself from the crowd with Vendor certifications and years of experience, but it sure does look like the noise is beginning to overwhelm the voice. It’s true on message boards and it’s true in the marketplace as well. Salaries and per/hour rates have dropped as people with really questionable skills have signed on as performance testers. People who I would not even allow to use LoadRunner unsupervised are calling the shots on performance tests and providing some really inaccurate analysis. And, darn it, I think it’s damaging our industry and the respect that performance testing gets from peer organizations. Even Mercury is acting to raise the bar with respect to changing the certification program to weed out questionable individuals. Is this a bit of arrogance or some degree of being an old codger? “Oh, I remember when…” Possibly. That’s your call.

What I am interested in speaking about today is how all of us might raise the bar for levels of technical ability and professional capability. What complementary credentials can we all take a look at which have a higher degree of respect in the rest of many business organizations which would cause the rest of the company to step back and re-evaluate the perspectives they have (and share) with the rest of the company. Certainly the certification de jour in the quality arena seems to be in the Six Sigma category. Forbes magazine recently cited Master Black Belt certified individuals as having the highest average starting salary of professionals @ over 95K US dollars. The QAI certifications still seem to suffer from the “Oh, that’s software QA” thing, with the industry neutral quality certificate carrying none of the stigma.

ISC also offers some interesting certifications on the security front. Some of these are tied to HIPAA, great to have if you’re working in the healthcare profession with LoadRunner. Some have a more neutral bent. Like the Master Black Belt, an ISC security professional carries a high value in the marketplace.

So what are the rest of you doing to raise the bar? I have left my vendor certifications behind while retaining others, instead relying on my years of experience to get me in the door. ( I also found the break of the CPI thing more than a little distasteful. ) In January I am going to pick up a Green-belt 6 Sigma Class and possibly an ISC security class in March. I do have a couple of other vendors certifications in the works, but that’s really more of a “union card” stamp than the vendor neutral items.

What is everyone else doing? Do you demand that all of your testers have a degree in Computer Science or equivalent work experience? When was the last time you took a statistics course? Could your public speaking skills stand to be improved? For me? Yes. Too long ago. Always. Let’s raise the bar to eliminate those that are pulling down the respect, and in turn, the compensation for our profession.

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Scott Moore

About Scott Moore (153 articles)

With over 20 years of IT experience with various platforms and technologies, Scott has tested some of the largest applications and infrastructures in the world. He is a Certified Instructor and Certified Product Consultant in HP’s LoadRunner and Performance Center products. He currently holds HP certifications for ASE, ASC, and CI. A thought leader in the APM space, he speaks regularly at IT conferences and events