Wednesday, 31 August 2016

About testing conferences - Part 1

The beginning
It all began in the year 2012, when I was googling for software testing related learning materials. I recollect the intent of this search, I wished to learn from knowledge sources other than the ones that I was exposed to in the confinement of my work place. Being bogged down by listening to the process obsessed people, it finally pushed me to look for other learning sources.
This search lead me to link to ISSTA 2012 software testing conference. I began my learning by researching on how to apply, what to fill in, and to do my best and hope for the best. Post this preparation and submitting my statement on why I wish to attend ISSTA 2012, this happened -  an email from General Chair of ISSTA’12,Mats Heimdahl landed in my inbox. It was my first attempt at applying for any conference and this response was treasured. 
The awardees for the Google ISSTA'12 Diversity Grant have been selected!  I read and re-read this email.

My happiness knew no bounds, from around the world and amongst us learners, educators, graduates, professionals, 3 applicants had been granted this opportunity.
Google awarded the selected candidates a grant to participate in the International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis.

The Aftermath
My colleagues were clearly excited about my selection. I then had to check with my manager for his approval. I did not then know this would be a hurdle! The tough part of applying, submitting, being selected was done as per my knowledge. I arranged for a meeting with my immediate manager and went to him with this news. If you are from the typical “power obsessed professionals” background, you can guess what this manager’s response was. What followed was utter disgust, it’s repulsive to even think about that response today. I came out sad and my colleagues advised me to go ahead and not wait for anyone’s approval. You have this opportunity and you shouldn’t miss it. They said.
I was not as courageous as I am today, so I had to let go of this opportunity due to the huge expenses that I had to incur for this trip. I am glad that the Test Lead, a sensible person stood by me that day. I thank him for his guidance.
I thought about reasons why the manager’s response was negative. Leaving the reasoning to rest (for then), but not my attempts to look out for different knowledge sources I met few critical thinking testers, learners and test practitioners that same year who introduced me to the WORLD OF TESTING. The vibrant testing community, to whom I am indebted to date.

Since this event, I have been at the receiving end of the wealth of knowledge from several mentors / gurus. And doing my best to give back to the community from whom I have received so much.
The first ever software testing conference that I attended is STePIN-Summit, which was a year later post the aforementioned aftermath.
I have shared that experience here - Why should we attend software testing conference?
Since then I have been on this journey of learning from varied knowledge sources. Listening to many learned test practitioners is what I look forward to when am at conferences and learn from every person and situation is what keeps me happy and going strong. If you have seen me all quiet, this is one of the reason :) I like to listen.

Fast forward to year 2016
The most recent conference that I have attended also happens to be STePIN-Summit, Bangalore.
What’s the major difference from then to now?
I know from my own experience that being brave, investing in self learning and asking with an intent to know, learn, negotiating are skills that are needed for any learner. Some testers (Parimala Hariprasad, Dhanasekar, Ajay Balamurugadass to name a few) I know invest heavily in self learning and it is all worth it (if the reader wishes to know). If you need help the testing community is supportive. There are several sponsorships offered for testers willing to attend conference and who can contribute in their own way to this vibrant community of testing. Maaret Pyhäjärvi, a pioneer at sponsoring is someone who I became aware off. She runs conferences and sponsors every speaker to get to it without having to worry about the huge (if you are trying to go from one continent to another) expenses incurred. In another instance, our community came together to help Kim Engel attend Let’s Test.

Tips to new testers attending conferences
     Bring your thinking hat and wear it too
     Take what teachings / learnings fits your need as a learner and leave the rest for later (or when equipped to make decisions on such matters)
     Attend all conferences initially, learn which ones to frequent and which ones to not
     Inspire your colleagues / friends to attend conferences. There is an added advantage, you can split among yourselves which talks you attend and learn from the other parallel tracks
     Learn with people who share from their own experiences of failure and success
     Network and SHARE what you learn at conferences with other learners

STePIN-Summit 2016
A bird view of what I learned at this conference.

Note: Click on the images below to view it in it's original size.

Web, mobile analytics - All about data

UI / UX Learning - Micro Interactions

To Automate or Not to automate - what, how and when to automate!

Above all, network and learn

Hope this attempt to draw the attention of testers to the world of software testing conferences has inspired the reader to attend meetups, arrange, organize, speak, participate, volunteer in your own capacity.

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