Saturday, May 1, 2010

Conference Mode

I recently returned from a week in Dallas for QAI's QUEST (Quality Engineering and Software Testing) conference. The first two days consisted of either tutorials or a "Managers Solutions Workshop." The next three days were track sessions, presentations, keynote addresses, meals, snacks, coffee, tea, juice and all the trimmings that most people associate with "large" conferences. Its natural, I suppose, to compare it to other experiences.

Last October I was at TesTrek in Toronto, also hosted by QAI. There, I had the distinct and exciting opportunity to meet in real-life two people whose articles, books, blogs, etc., I had read and learned a great deal from. When it dawned on my that the "Fiona" sitting next to me at breakfast was Fiona Charles, I was, well, excited. A few minutes later, Michael Bolton sat down at the same table and struck up a lively conversation (as always!) This was 8:00 Monday morning - the first day of the conference! What a way to start the week!

Later in the week, Michael grabbed me for a round of "testing games" - yes, his case of dice came out and we went to it. In the course of the game, conversation touched on many, many topics, as these things tend to do. Soon, there was a table full of people engaged in ideas on metrics, measurement, performance, general testing. The dice were set aside and introductions made round.

That is when I met Lynn McKee and Nancy Kelln, from Calgary. They were also presenting at TesTrek - and struck me as smart, well spoken, up-and-coming testing and agile practitioners and speakers. We had a wonderful conversation then, and touched base the rest of the week. When the opportunity came to attend QUEST came up, I was excited to hear Lynn and Nancy give their presentations.

My boss/immediate supervisor went with me. We met Lynn and Nancy early on in the week and agreed to meet again for dinner and more testing games over the course of the week.

On Thursday morning, as my boss and I were having breakfast, we compared notes on our impressions thus far. I thought it was interesting how similar our own views were.

In short, it bore out my belief that the most important part of conferences is meeting people and building relationships with colleagues, and maybe developing those relationships into friendships. Don't tell conference planners this, but I find some conference presentations to be less about sharing information and experiences, than they are about the "sales pitch" for their product. (I make a habit of not sticking around for those presentations.)

Don't get me wrong - I like the "roundtable" format of the Managers Workshops at TesTrek and Quest. It allows peers to compare notes on problems that are confronting them right then. I like the presentations that describe "real world" problems and experiences.

Mostly though, I like sitting down with people who do what I do and compare notes:
  • How do you help people break away from this approach and introduce other, alternative ideas to them?
  • When you were working on the transition to Scrum what did you encounter with folks whose experience was more rigid and less nimble?
  • When you were trying to develop metrics that mean something to developers and testers, how did you implement that in a way them so they saw them as a tool for their improvement and not a threat to them or their position?
Yes - It made for a very tiring week, with many hours "conferencing" and then more hours trying to stay in touch with the office. And it was well worth it. It is invigorating to be able to meet and talk with people as passionate about what they do as I am.

"Conference Mode" absolutely rocks.

1 comment:

  1. Pete,

    Excellent to meet you as well last year at TesTrek and reconnect at QUEST. I look forward to seeing you at CAST 2010!