Monday, August 22, 2016

CAST 2016 - Presenting, Learning, Enjoying

Last fall I learned about AST for the first time.  That's AST - The Association for Software Testing.  Prior to this I haven't spent a lot of time involved with professional organizations, mostly because they haven't seemed very aligned with my professional interests.  I was with ASQ for a little while.  I learned a lot from ASQ and my time with them but for the most part they weren't focusing in the areas that I was and they were just too formal for me to relate to them well. 

AST is a little different.  They do have conversations about things that I consider pertinent.  Whereas ASQ is at the very formal end of software testing when it talks about testing at all, AST is having the conversations that I'm interested in.  Like, how to make exploratory testing safe and relevant.  Or, how much automation to really do and how to do it.  Or is Test Manager a dying title.  Relevant enough that this year I asked to speak for them.  I didn't make the first cut but I was brought in as a backup when another speaker had to bow out.  

I had been working on a talk for a little bit that had as its core intent making testers understand Agile better, understand their place in it and what it can do for them.  With this information in their toolkit, when it comes time to iterate the process and make it better, (something core to the agile ideal) they can change the system in a way that makes more sense for testing and therefore quality.  

I thought that there would be a little bit of fun in walking through a list of reasons of how agile is good for testers.   When I started my process I arbitrarily picked the number 23 as the number of reasons that I would have.  Upon reflection, partially for timing in a 40 minute presentation and partially because 23 was a daunting number, I settled on 17 reasons.  In the end I didn't have a lot of trouble coming up with 17 reasons and could have done 23 if I had to. 

In the last session of the conference I still managed to get 35 people into a room to listen to me talk about agile and the reasons why it's good for testers.  I do recommend that you NOT assume that the schedule from day 2 to day 3 of the conference you're attending is the same just because it looks the same.  I thought I was 10 minutes early for my talk, time to get setup and relax, but rather I was 5 minutes late.  The crowd was pretty tolerant though.  The talk went well.  This was my first conference, both attending and speaking and the talks weren't that much more stressful than a meetup talk.

Because, I believe, I said that I was happy to facilitate and did have some experience, I received the honour of facilitating 3 talks at the conference as well.   This was made even more interesting by the k-card conference facilitation system, which I learned on the fly at the conference.   After seeing a couple of sessions operate with the cards I was totally on board with the concept and was all prepared to facilitate the hell out of my first session. Facilitating at a CAST conference means getting up at the start, giving a brief introduction for the speaker, dealing with any issues and then sitting down until the end unless there are crowd necessary interruptions.  Anne-Marie Charrett was my first speaker.  Anne-Marie, the self-titled Maverick Tester, came and and told me that things had gone awry.  Her newly acquired laptop couldn't perform and she was going to hold a discussion group sort of thing instead.  I said, 'no problem.'  We never touched the k-cards and had a hour long discussion about trust, what it means, how to gain it and how to lose it.  It was one of the high points of the conference for me.  Anne-Marie also gave a good keynote about whether the idea of 'Test Manager' was dead. 

The next day I was completely floored by a presentation called, hmm, Neurodiversity in Software Development (i think) by Sallyann Freudenberg.  It was astoundingly riveting and fascinating.  Never before had I seen the case for including a neuro diverse group of people on your team put so well.  So many things to think about there.  The rest of my day on day two was spoken for.  I facilitated two more discussions, one on implementation of exploratory testing and one on lessons learned in 25 years of being a rockstar in testing.  They both went well and the facilitation wasn't particularly challenging.  Well, in the latter I had to track people who were voting on songs to indicate they were Canadian artists.  But that just made it more fun. 

Last session of the last day fell to myself.  I took the session before off to review my notes.  Not sure it made a large difference.  I was ready, and as I said above, I was late.   I went into the auditorium 10 minutes early, something I'd been doing all day because of facilitation.  Only this time there were 22 people sitting there already.  I made a joke about keeners and was told that I was actually 5 minutes late.  And they were right.  I was embarrassed, so I got set up as quickly as I could and got started, without my facilitator (who was also late).  I sailed through my presentation, barely looking at my notes.  Everything went very well.  As far as I can tell, I do OK as a presenter.  I could have slowed down some but I didn't so that I could make sure I got through all 17 of my reasons.  I was worried about the late start.  It wasn't a problem at all though and I finished a couple of minutes early.  There were some good questions.  Enough people had filtered in that I had 35 total attendees.  Given that there were four presentations going and it was the last presentation of the conference, I was pretty happy with the outcome. 

Link to the slides - 17 Reasons Why Agile is Good for Testers

I will go to a conference again.  I will probably speak again as well. 

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