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Conferences and Vacations and Learning (Rhythm of Testing)

On October 23, 2010, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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So, my lady-wife and I don’t do “anniversaries” – we do “annual honeymoons.”  We (try to) take a week and go be sweet-hearts.  With the schedule at the day-job, getting a week off this summer was “not highly likely” which meant that a day or two here and there was the best one could hope for.  However, I was able to schedule a full week off for our “honeymoon.”  We had planned to return to Beaver Island, in Lake Michigan, where we had gone after our wedding.  Then, interesting things happened. 

A colleague (well, highly regarded tester and speaker on testing and test consultant) asked if I’d be interested if she put my name forward as a possible candidate to fill her spot on the schedule at TesTrek, run by QAI.  I was a little surprised, well, a lot surprised, and said I’d be happy, and honored, to be considered.  The only drawback was the timing – the week slated to go to Beaver Island.  That could be a problem.  The week we try and reserve just for us would turn into a little bit of “us time” and a lot of “conference/work” time.  Positive side, it was in Toronto.

With a little concern, I approached my Lady Wife and asked what she thought.  Her response was “I LOVE Toronto!”  So, away we went.  As things happened, I found myself in a position to prepare an abstract and submit it to the folks at QAI.  It was approved, which meant getting a presentation together that consisted of more than vague ideas. 

The topic was one that I suspected may be a big draw – Test Process Improvement.  That is one of the “Almost 124.7% certain to be on a Conference Agenda” topics, along with Estimation, Automation and Requirements.  Now, this was not the intimidating part.  The intimidating part was that there were a stack of people who were going to be there who would very probably disagree with me.  I don’t have a problem with that.  In fact, I’ve gotten quite good at having people disagree with me.  I can even be gracious when people can explain why clearly, and with a reasoneid argument.  I’ve been known to get along quite well with people with whom I have a professional disagreement.  Mind you, some folks have a harder time with that.

The thing was, I’ve done lunch and learns and training sessions and presentations for teams I’ve been on and led and worked with.  I’ve been doing drumming workshops for many years, in addition to the group and private lessons I’ve done.  The thing was, these weren’t novices or non-testers I’d be speaking to – they were testers and test managers and consultants and maybe famous testing people.  Gulp.  Some of them were bound to know the topic better than I did.  Then I remembered the Abstract I worked on and the presentation I had worked so hard on. This was sharing what I had learned – not what some expert said was the “right” way to do things.  And that was my starting point. 

I do not have answers nor do I have a magic wand to reveal the secrets that need to be revealed.  But I can talk about what I learned myself.  And if some of the people who wrote the things I read and tried some of their ideas were sitting in the room – fine!  My hat’s off to them and I’ll credit them with being the source for ideas.

Now, I had done “practice runs” with the slides and watching myself in mirrors and such – and done a dry run with volunteer co-workers.  I had three possible paths planned for the exercise portion, depending on the number of people, the room layout and, frankly, how the lead up to it went.  Five minutes before I was to start, I had the projector ready, a bottle of water handy, the way-cool remote clickey thing to advance the slides was hooked up – and the wireless mic was clipped to my belt.  No worries.

The “Track Host” walked up to introduce me and… the next 30 seconds were a warning.  The “click on” for the wireless mic didn’t.  The cool remote thingie… didn’t.  I muttered something about testing software and not hardware and dove in.  The next 90 minutes flew by.  I asked questions, people answered, people asked questions, I responded – then attendees responded – then all of a sudden things were cruising. 

Moral of the story – If you have never tried to present on a topic, ANY topic – try it.  It does not need to be at a conference where “major names” are speaking.  It could be a local testing group meeting, a company lunch and learn, something.  Maybe a “lightning talk” at local meeting or regional conference?  It does not need to be a 60 or 90 minute presentation.  But make it something, somewhere.

The fact is, you know something that may help someone else.  Someone else may likely have the same kind of questions you did.  If you ever wondered what you could do to improve yourself – this may be it.  Do something that may help someone else and learn about yourself.  It may also help you meet some really way cool people. 

Oh, we had a great honeymoon, too.  Toronto’s a great city to visit.

 

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