Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quality to the rest of the world

A few months ago one of the coordinators for VanQ - the Vancouver QA Users Group approached me and asked if i was interested in giving a talk at one of their monthly meetups.  I don't do a lot of public speaking but i am not stranger to it but one of the reasons that i started this blog was that i want to give back some of the experience and wisdom that i've gained in my 16 years in this business. 

I wracked my brain for a few days trying to think up topics that might be a little interesting to a crowd of mostly QA's and the one that I kept coming back to time after time was the difference between Quality Assurance the term as we use it in software QA and the term Quality Assurance as the rest of the world uses it.  After all, it was coming to the job i currently have that really opened my eyes to the breadth that quality has in the world. 

Before offering it up to the coordinator as my topic, i floated it it to my team to see if they'd be interested in such a topic.  I didn't get a lot of feedback but the feedback i did receive was, centered around the fact that the topic got regular observance in VanQ discussions.  i was saddened by this response a little so i found another topic that i could talk about that was a little more standardized in the software QA realm and floated them both past the coordinator as options.  He indicated he was excited by both of them and would love if i'd present both but would like the one Quality in the wider world one first as he thought it would be well received by the VanQ crowd. 

It was an interesting process for me, putting together the slide deck for this presentation.  In the past i have, of course, done numerous professional presentations within my workplace.  But for those you almost always have the target audience well sorted while you're producing the materials.  They're a known commodity because you know the people.  The other types of presentations I've done have been roasts of colleagues for going away parties, birthdays, retirements etc.  For those i've also known the people i was talking to and could rely on a series of prop "gifts" and materials that i knew would hold some sort of relevance to the audience.  For this it was a lot more like going in cold.  i didn't know what they would find funny or interesting. 

The first preparatory step i had available to me is going to see a couple of VanQ presentations from other presenters.  Luckily it was still a couple of months out and there were two presentations i could go to.  That was excellent for me because the presenters were people just like me.  Not super polished professional presenters but people with some experience who wanted to share it with others. 

I showed up at my talk fairly nervous but not afraid, something they tried to make worse by telling me that they were going to record my talk, the first one they'd ever done.

All things considered it went pretty well.  People laughed when i wanted them to laugh and didn't when i didn't want them to.  The message was proven to be on point when a person from a similar field but much closer tied to the material validated the things i was saying during questions.  There were some things that i learned;what to do with my hands, to repeat questions from the audience when only i'm mic'd, to rehearse a little better and not to rely on being able to see the laptop screen for the presentation unless i know i'm going to be able to. 

The coordinator told me that i was very good for the crowd, making the generally dry presentations a lot more amusing and accessible.  He asked if i'd come back and i said yes.  Who said growth, personal and professional isn't good for you?

Here's the recording...

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