to bring their material in. We now have dozens of books available in our "Test Team Library" for our testers to borrow and learn from at their leisure. So far the library has been very successful and we have received very positive feedback from both management and the testers. We are even looking into opening our library to the rest of our IS department soon. Who knows, at some time our library could even serve as a companywide resource.
Some companies offer a book purchase policy that will cover the cost of books or periodicals related to the business. Our team is in the process of establishing a metrics program and so decided that a book on software metrics would be a valuable addition to our library, and our company purchased it. Each time you add content to your library, you very affordably increase the knowledge of your team, contribute to their individual professional development, and increase your team's value to the company.
Lunchtime Learning Sessions
"Lunch and Learns," "Brown Bag Sessions"…whatever you call them, lunchtime sessions can be a very effective and inexpensive way to broaden the knowledge of not only your testing team, but anyone else in your company who is interested. The concept is simple: once a month (or however often you decide), someone presents a thirty- to forty-five-minute presentation on a specific topic, with the goal of having the attendees gain a better understanding of that topic.
For example, one member of your team may have expertise in automated test design-more so than the rest of the team. If you can convince that individual to present the topic of automated testing to the test team over one or more lunch sessions, then that knowledge can be effectively distributed to the rest of the team. My employer, for example, has a QA core department with individuals well versed in process improvement. These individuals could provide a valuable presentation (or series of presentations) on how to improve processes. Often, the biggest challenge is to convince the employee to make the presentation. This is where token rewards can be helpful. Offering to buy the employee lunch or a gift certificate can entice the otherwise unwilling participant to present a topic. Spending fifty dollars for a gift certificate is still much cheaper than bringing in a consultant to present the topic. Furthermore, in some cases you may be surprised how willing team members may be to demonstrate their advanced knowledge. Often, there are individuals within your company (other than the test team members) who would be more than happy to make a presentation on their area of expertise.
Certifications and Study Groups
Over the past few years, a number of testing- and QA-related certifications have ppeared in our industry. QAI's CSTE (Certified Software Test Engineer) and CSQA (Certified Software Quality Analyst) certifications are just two of a growing number of industry-recognized QA certifications. These certifications not only enhance the employee's value but also the value of the team itself. An individual who is certified has proven his or her knowledge in a specific subject area. By encouraging (and paying for) an individual's certification, you can affordably increase the employee's knowledge level and morale. Additionally, certification study is generally self-directed and can be done on an employee's own time, limiting the resource constraints often faced during work hours.
One way to augment the value of a certification is to encourage groups of employees to become certified together and participate in study groups. By gathering a group of employees with different backgrounds and knowledge levels together to study toward the same goal,