On the week beginning 12th March 2018 I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend two conferences – UKSTAR in London and TestBash Brighton. I was attending UKSTAR as a speaker, where I presented for the first time and I was fortunate enough to win my TestBash ticket through the Testers Island Podcast. These were my first two testing conferences as I have never been in a position to self-fund or secure funding through work prior to this.
I want to write about some areas that stood out for me over the course of the week. It’s a bit of a brain dump!
My First Talk
On the Monday at UKSTAR I presented my first talk. Prior to this I had delivered a 15 minute lightning talk at a local testing meetup. Unfortunately I wasn’t on stage until after 4pm (the last talk before the closing keynote) so I had to the whole day to build myself up. Sometimes concentrating on other talks was a struggle because I kept thinking about my talk later in the day.
Surprisingly, I didn’t really feel properly nervous until just before my talk. I was lucky in that there was a 25 minute break between the previous talk finishing and my talk starting. This gave me plenty of time to get some water and get everything set up before I began. Alan Richardson (@eviltester) was great at talking to me right up until he introduced my talk, which distracted me from my nerves.
I think overall my talk went well. I got a lot of good feedback in person, on Twitter and from the official feedback from attendees. I know that I had a pretty long pause in the middle which I put down to nerves as I completely lost my train of thought. I still found it really hard to shut out my own critical voice as people were complimenting me. I decided beforehand that no matter what I was going to accept the praise, but inside I was thinking ‘yeah, but what about when I…’ or ‘I should’ve done this…’
The overall ‘buzz’ afterwards was great. It made the hours spending writing, re-writing, creating slides, rehearsing, re-writing and rehearsing again all worth it. I definitely want to talk at a conference again, but I don’t think I want to do more than one a year. Advice to myself in the future would be to include notes within the PowerPoint presentation in case I have a mind blank again and to prepare the talk a bit further in advance!
Now that the event is over, and I’ve had the positive feedback, I’m ready for some constructive feedback. Feel free to get in touch to offer me some.
As well as performing my first full talk I also gave a 99 Second Talk at TestBash. It was an idea that I had the day before so on the morning of the conference I wrote it in a notebook and throughout the rest of the day adding to it etc. The final result can be found here.
The thing I was most excited about when heading down to London and Brighton was meeting people who I had followed on Twitter for 1-2 years. I’d been speaking to Danny Dainton (@DannyDainton) a lot before the event as we were both speaking for the first time (and I’m delighted I got to see his talk in person!) at a conference in the same week, so I was particularly excited about meeting him in person.
I felt that UKSTAR had a good community vibe during the breaks etc and I met a lot of great people there, but TestBash’s feeling of community was on another level.
Everything at TestBash is designed to enable conversation between attendees. The Meetups throughout the week, the UnExpo, the single track conference and the Open Space on the Saturday. I’m not sure if it’s because Ministry of Testing (MoT) put events like this in place that means the community feel is so big or if it’s the community feel that allows MoT to host these type of events throughout the week, but it works really well!
One thing I found difficult was actually introducing myself to people. Richard Paterson (@rocketbootkid – who gave a great talk) covers it well in his blog about UKSTAR. I think I said hi to most people I recognised, but I found it quite a scary thing to do.
The testing community is a great thing though. I really enjoyed the networking I did and I know if I have technical challenges at work I can reach out to some people for advice.
One thing that was mentioned at both events was the value in testers attending non-testing tech meetups. I’m going to attempt to attend a few local ones over the course of the year as I believe it will be valuable to me to understand what developers, architects, DevOps engineers etc are discussing and how testing fits into this.
Communities of Practice
One of the big themes for the week was around Communities of Practice. This wasn’t a term I’d heard before the start of the week but after hearing Christina Ohanian (@ctohanian) deliver a great keynote on the subject at UKSTAR, Emily Webber (@ewebber) open TestBash with a brilliant talk on the same subject and identifying a couple of TestBash Workshop and Open Space sessions on CoP, I decided it’s something I’m going to need to explore further.
I’m in the process of setting up a community around improving our Continuous Delivery process at work. I initially called it a guild but I think community will be a better word for it.
This blog post by Lee Marshall (@nu_fenix) seems like a good starting point to me, as well as Emily’s book ‘Communities of Practice’.
One thing at UKSTAR which perhaps didn’t work so well were the one and a half hour workshops. I attended two of the technical workshops and I don’t feel that you could get hands on enough in that time slot. That’s not to say that the sessions weren’t valuable, Dan Billing’s in particular gave me a lot of good ideas.
The Conversation Track at UKSTAR was a cool idea. I enjoyed the session I attending with Simon Prior (@siprior) and Joel Montvelisky (@joelmonte) about introducing testing as a career to Universities and offering more value than simply testing. It consisted of two great shorter presentations and then the floor was opened to attendees and presenters to discuss the topic further. I think it worked well.
I really enjoyed TestBash’s single track conference format. I think it’s great to have everyone at the conference watching the same talks and it means that there’s extremely high quality talks on a good variety of topics.
I had a great time attending both conferences and I can’t wait to attend my next one. I feel like my ‘conference week’ has and will help me grow in my career.
Now that I’m finally back at work I need to put some of the ideas I’ve gathered from the different sessions and interactions into practice. I need to prove to my company that sending people to conferences is worthwhile.