Raj Subramanian – AST 2018 Board Candidate Questions and Answers

1. How do you intend to promote diversity within the AST? How could AST promote diversity, of all kinds, within our own organization and within the wider testing and technology communities?

I firmly believe in having diversity in all parts of life that includes conferences. In the context of conferences, diversity to me means bringing men and women from different backgrounds, countries, novice to advanced level speakers and giving equal opportunity to everyone. That being said, in this current era where the technology field is being dominated by men, I want to work hard to bring in more women representation at conferences. Based on the topics proposed during call for proposals, I would work hard with my team to give a better chance for women speakers to get into the speaker list as well.

Outside the speaking at conferences aspect, I would also like our board, volunteers and anyone interested to do 2-3 volunteering events helping underprivileged people learn technology and get them exposed to the tech world and its possibilities. I currently do this as part of my personal life along with my wife and would like to get more people to contribute to the society. Also, I would like to have a program similar to Speakeasy to give free coaching to all men and women from all ages to get better at public speaking and work with them to submit proposals to CAST and other conferences. Again, I have already been doing this in my personal life and have successfully helped 10 people to speak at conferences in the past 3 years. A few of them have become pretty well known in the testing industry as well.

2. Please share your vision for the future of the AST’s BBST program.

I was the first batch of students who took the BBST course. I still remember the days where we had a hardware device sent to each of the students to monitor us during our final exam. Those were fun times :-).  Anyways, I personally have completed all the courses in BBST. I have great respect for Cem Kaner and the team who formed this awesome program for us testers. I truly believe that it encourages testers to think out of the box and help sharpening their critical thinking and testing skills. The program needs to continue through AST.

In terms of vision, I would like to be a catalyst to the BBST program by continuing to promote it to other testers and get as many people involved as possible, in terms of mentoring, coaching and signing up students for the course. Also, I would do some updates to the examples used in the course; although they are super helpful I think it is pretty outdated and the examples need to be more relevant to testing current systems.

3. What do you think the AST board has historically done well, and what do you think needs to change?

First of all, we need to appreciate whatever the AST board has done till now. It is not easy to organize a conference like CAST as it takes a lot of time, effort, strategic vision and many hours of dedicated work to pull off such a great conference. Trust me, I know this first hand, as I was board member of couple of conferences and founder of couple of meetups. It takes a chunk of time from your own personal time to give a truly great experience to the attendees. Also remember the board members do not get paid for doing this work, as it is completely voluntary and they do it  for the greater good of the testing society. So, all my respect goes the board and kudos on whatever you have done for us testers.

Secondly, it is easy to point fingers and say you guys can do this/do that without actually understanding the effort the board puts into this conference. That being said, I have no right to say what to change in AST but given a chance I would like to work with the existing board to

  • Bring in more diversity in the conference as I would love to see more women speakers and encourage them to come out and share their experiences. I know so many people who have great experiences to share, but are looking for an opportunity to do so

  • Would like to do some minor changes to the format of the conference. As part of the conference schedule, I would like to see:

    • More open space meetings included in the conference. This could run parallel to track sessions or in between track sessions to encourage participants to discuss with other peers what they want to hear and learn about, instead of just listening to one person speak. This encourages more networking and interaction between attendees and most importantly encourages learning.This is the concept of unconferencing in case you are wondering what I am talking about.

    • Would like to reserve some sessions for just first time speakers to encourage them as well. I feel most of the conferences currently have the same set of speakers presenting and because of this other less experienced speakers are not able to get a chance to speak at conferences (I am guilty of it as well and I accept it, I started turning down conferences for the same reason). So, having certain track sessions reserved for first time speakers could be a good start. I can definitely talk to this because 4 years ago if one of the testing conferences (will not name it here) had not believed in me, I would have never got an opportunity to speak at conferences and I would have never risen to this level where now I get invited to speak in almost every domestic and international conference. I owe it all to the group of people who believed in me. I would like to give the same opportunity to other people as well

    • I believe as testers, we are passionate about testing but we are also passionate about other things as well like beer making/drinking, food exploration, traveling, lock picking, jewellery making, knitting, making robots etc. I would like to give the opportunity to attendees to showcase their other passions apart from testing, in our conference as well. So, I would like to have an evening track after the talks are completed, for people to showcase and talk about the other passions they have apart from testing and get other like minded people involved in this decision. This helps to build lasting relationships between attendees and makes the conference experience even better.

4. If you are elected to serve on the board, what is your vision for the future of AST and what do you hope to accomplish as part of the board?

I think I need to start with my own personal story to give you an idea about how passionate I am in serving with other members of the CAST board and giving back to the community. My first ever testing conference was CAST several years ago when I was a beginner trying to discover my skill sets as a tester. My then company was not ready to sponsor me to go the CAST conference; so I put $3200 of my own money to come to the conference and it included flight and hotel accommodations that I had to do for it. People thought I was crazy for spending my own money for the conference and it was the talk of the conference. Now, looking back several years down the line, I am so glad that I made that investment in myself as CAST propelled me to where I am today. So until now, if you did not believe that I am passionate about doing everything possible for CAST and giving back to the community, this story should help you paint a real picture of what motivates me to serve on the CAST board.

If I am elected a board member at CAST, I would like to-

  • Work along with the current and past CAST board members and learn from their experiences on what historically worked and what has not worked for the organization

  • Based on my learnings, I would like to work with the group on the following items-

    • Increasing diversity in the conference

    • Giving opportunity to new speakers to share their experiences

    • Include more fun activities in CAST apart from just having regular workshops and track sessions

    • Would like to get a complete understanding of the grant program we currently have and try to see how we can better serve people who are passionate about testing but do not have the monetary and moral support from people to attend conferences and share their experiences

    • Would definitely like to have 2-3 volunteering events per year to give back to the community in terms of education, mentoring and doing physical work to build something for the people in need. This is apart from the monetary donations we can make to different charity groups

    • I personally do not associate myself with any schools or thoughts of testing. I am a tester that is it and love hearing/learning from all aspects and thoughts about testing. I would like CAST to be an organization that encourages all views on testing and encourage participation from any tester who is willing to share their ideas and can have a constructive discussion about it. We need to be known as the group that provides a safe place for people to have a professional constructive discussion around testing without any discrimination. This is what CAST should stand for and I would like to work hard with the board to instill this feeling for people.

5. Many people come to be AST Board of Directors candidates through a long history of community involvement. This community involvement usually involves teaching, creating and running peer conferences, creating and running regular conferences, and working with commercial entities.
These are all wonderful and valuable activities, but they might create conflicts for board members. One problem is that a board member spending time helping a personal conference to thrive means less or no time spent on AST events. The other problem, and the more important one, is that knowing program and financial information of a personal event will affect decisions made for AST events and initiatives and vice versa.
Please describe any current initiatives you participate in that might affect your ability to serve on the AST board, and serve the AST membership.
I currently volunteer to help out Software Test Professional (STP) conference and the Selenium conference. My main involvement is doing logistics and support work as and when needed. I do not get any monetary benefits from this and also work on bringing more diversity to these conferences. I also write, speak and give workshops at various conferences – http://www.rajsubra.com/presentations/. Finally, I have worked with high schools to encourage young kids to get involved in science and technology as part of the STEM program.
6. (Optional) Would you like to provide a short (250-400 word) introduction to go on your candidate page?

Raj Subramanian is a former developer who moved to testing to focus on his passion. Raj currently works as a Developer Evangelist for Testim.io, that provides stable self-healing AI based test automation to enterprises such as Netapp, Swisscom,Wix and Autodesk. He also provides mobile training and consulting for different clients. He actively contributes to the testing community by speaking at conferences, writing articles, blogging, making videos on his youtube channel and being directly involved in various testing-related activities. He currently resides in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected] and on twitter at @epsilon11. He actively blogs on www.testim.io and his website www.rajsubra.com . His videos on testing, leadership and productivity can be found here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoeNB2yyzE5WQDKeJCF0iOQ