Gary Miller Candidate Questions
What do you think the AST board has historically done well, and what do you think needs to change?
I think the current and past boards, as far back as I’ve been a member, have done well at keeping conference prices competitive and planning and making CAST happen, which is a lot of work. The social media aspect of AST has been great these past few years. I’ve enjoyed the new CASTcast series leading up to this year’s CAST and I really appreciate being able to access video content online, long after the event. A great move by the board was to introduce the instructor honorarium for BBST instructors, and to refresh and update the content of its courses to make them more relevant to today’s testers.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know what needs to change, exactly. As a member and volunteer, I have a limited view on the internal workings of the board, and thus, my insights into any need or opportunity to change are limited to that view. I expect that as part of joining the board, new members begin to learn how the board works, what it does well and not well, and can then work on change. Here in lies one of the things that I would like to see changed, which is visibility and transparency into the workings of the board and it’s membership. I don’t know what problems the association or the board faces, or how many members we are, so I think my time is best spent learning what those are and then think about what needs to change.
Is there an area where you feel AST is lacking in its role as a professional organization? If so, what would you suggest doing to begin to change that and increase the value to AST members and the testing community at large?
AST has need for volunteers to help with all types of tasks, from volunteering as an instructor for a BBST course, helping to update BBST course content, running social media and blogging, maintaining the website, giving a webinar, and even being on the board. I think we are a large group of members, and I’m not sure how large we are, but we need to better harness our membership to make our association that much better for us. I work on the grant committee and am surprised how few people submit requests for grants. Why is that? Is it because members don’t know it exists? Or do they not have a need for it? I work as an assistant instructor for BBST Foundations and for a large part, I see a lot of the same volunteers signing up to teach and coordinate classes. Why is it that we don’t have a large mix of instructor volunteers? Is it because members don’t have time? Is it because they don’t like instructing? Or is it because they don’t enjoy the volunteer opportunities we have? I’m not sure, but I’d like to find out this membership intelligence and start steering towards that. We need more instructors so that we don’t burn out the ones who consistently volunteer. We need to take care of BBST because it enables us to have good things available to advance our mission, including putting on a good conference, good webinars, and having money to grant to those know could really use it. What could we accomplish if we had a volunteer bash (like a bug bash)? How much more value could we bring to our organization by putting in a little volunteer time? I think you’ll find a little goes a long way, and we need you to take us further.
Conflicts of Interest are not always obvious, but they can be insidious. Even if the Board Member believes they can safely navigate the conflict, the external perception of a conflict of interest could these conflicts worth identifying and discussing. Every Board Member will encounter potential Conflicts of Interest. What matters is how they are identified and handled.
While conducting AST business, if any potential conflicts of interest arise, you should be the first to notice the potential conflict. You might ask the rest of the board if you should be recused from the discussion and any potential votes. In other cases, you may need external perspective to see the potential conflict; the rest of the board may need to offer this help. The rest of the board would generally consider the nature and severity of the potential conflict, and decide whether recusal is appropriate. Here are some examples of potential conflicts of interest for an AST Board Member:
– You will need to vote on issues relating to the support, expansion, pricing, management of BBST. If you offer testing training as part of your professional life through any direct relationships or partnerships, you should consider how it might appear to have them make decisions about BBST.
– You will participate in planning CAST and other conferences. If you are involved in producing another testing conference, some potential conflicts could arise:Which conference gets your best ideas and energy?Could you participate in selecting a tutorial leader, speaker, or chair without the perception of a quid pro quo if you lead a tutorial, speak, or chair a conference someone else organizes? Another issue could arise from sponsorship for a conference, whether AST sponsors or AST is sponsored.
– AST provides Grant funds to non-profit meetups and certain conferences. Being a recipient and a giver at the same time could be an obvious conflict. It’s also worth considering some of the other angles mentioned in the previous example for conferences, specifically around quid pro quo relationships.
– Any employee-employer, supervisory, business, or mentoring relationships/partnerships a Board Member has can introduce a potential conflict. An example of this is if the person a Board Member has a relationship with is asking for grant money, applying to speak at CAST, or sponsoring CAST.
Please describe any potential conflicts of interest you could personally encounter as an AST Board Member.How would you recommend the rest of the board address these conflicts?
My partner is a meeting and event planner. His skills and experience intersect with the planning of our yearly conference. If I were to be involved in finding a location, choosing catering, negotiating a price, there could be an opportunity for conflict if I were to hire him through AST to perform that job for me. I would then benefit by that income coming into my household. To address this sort of conflict, any existing relevant policies should be applied. There might be a defined policy for hiring a contractor which includes a bidding period to make it a fair playing field, for example. If policies don’t exist to handle the hiring of contractors or handling conflicts of interest, such as hiring a family member, then I would suggest to the board the creation of those policies. As for the terms of employment and the decision to hire, I would recommend the board that we make the decision together, but that my vote, while recorded, wouldn’t apply towards the resulting decision.
As for grant money, I already face such a potential conflict as a member of the grant committee itself and the Bay Area Software Test meetup, which could request money from the AST to help put on one of it’s meetups. In such cases, which we have faced on the committee already, any committee member who is a member of the meetup under consideration for a grant, does not participate in the deciding vote.
How should AST promote diversity, of all kinds, within our own organization and within the wider testing and technology communities?
There are many opportunities to diversify areas of AST, but the question remains, which areas need it the most? With so many areas where we could improve on, it is important that we direct our efforts in the areas that need it most, and can in turn serve our organization’s mission and our membership. While I don’t have the all of information I would like to help me think about where AST should promote diversity, I can think of a few areas where it might be important or desirable.
Many people come to the AST to take it’s BBST courses. There are likely to be some number of them that did not take the course, or couldn’t afford all of the courses, and was unable to take a class. To increase access for low or no income learners, AST might offer ways for those people to take BBST courses, perhaps through scholarships or grants, or in connection with step-up or educational programs related to software/IT. Another area that might increase participation and access to BBST courses is providing them in-person, for example, in connection with our conference. Online learning is not for everyone, and having assisted in the instruction of a few BBST classes myself, I have witnessed many students challenged not only by the content and schedule, but by the online-only format. We also need to continue the upgrading of the BBST material to make it more relevant and accessible to the context of our students and the world around us.
Member benefits might also be an area to diversify, with the primary benefit being a discount to the conference. There is also access to the BBST courses. One way to diversify benefits might be to link up with other organizations and provide access or benefits to other context-driven test organizations and conferences. There also is a lack of online premium content that is member’s only.
The volunteer effort at AST also needs some diversification, in that we have a lot of dedicated and reliable folks helping out, and we don’t want to burn them out! I can’t imagine we have too many volunteers, but being busy people, often wearing professional and family hats throughout the day, finding time to volunteer can be difficult. One way that we might make volunteering easier, and thus having more volunteers, is to create micro ways of volunteering. We might find that by breaking up tasks into smaller chunks, we might get more people able to pull from the ‘volunteer’s needed’ bucket.
Historically, AST has been rather North America focused, hosting all of its conferences there, until recently. I think AST should continue to diversify the locations of its conferences, thereby increasing the diversity of the speakers and content, as well as bring awareness to our organization outside of our typical geographic area of operation.