The Association for Software Testing (AST), a non-profit professional organization dedicated to advancing the understanding and science of software testing, has announced a call for nominations for the Board of Directors for 2020-2022. This means my two-year term as a director is coming to an end. I feel fortunate and grateful to announce I’m running for a second term. The AST has helped a lot of people including me. For this and a few other reasons described below, it feels like the right moment to reflect on what it has been like to help run this global non-profit.
The Golden Ticket
I was elected in August of 2018 while attending the Conference for the AST (CAST) in Melbourne, Florida. An AST member since 2012, I started volunteering in 2013 after I became an AST-BBST Instructor. Coming up through BBST, I thought educational advocacy was one of the AST’s most important community services. You can’t advance the understanding of the craft until testers have a solid understanding of what already exists. I really wanted to improve our offering and felt the best way was to help set priorities at the board level.
AST Board of Directors
Elections happen every year with roughly half of the 7 person board up for election each year. The election process starts with a call for nominations and then candidates introduce themselves via questions posted to the web. Finally voting takes place during the time of CAST (typically the first week of August) and on the final day of the conference a new board is announced.
As a member-elect you are elected to a position by the sitting board members based, in part, on your preferences. In 2018 during a discussion with existing board members it came up there was a need for someone to take on the Treasurer position. It wasn’t the role I initially wanted (VP of Education was my first choice) but I felt reasonably competent so I accepted.
As with any official board position it’s a starting point for your contributions. I really wanted to focus on education but my fellow AST-BBST instructor Simon Peter (with whom I taught countless classes) wanted the position as well. We quickly both decided it made sense for him to take VP of Education and I take Treasurer. Just like we had done in our teaching we decided it would be fun to collaborate on the many changes we wanted to see in AST-BBST. I had my official role, Simon had his and yet we worked together whenever we could to improve our educational program.
The board typically meets in-person three times a year with one of those meetings taking place during CAST. Locations are agreed to in advance and are either related to potential landing spots for the conference or central locations for easy travel amongst the members. In addition to board meetings we meet monthly for hour long calls and as appropriate might have even more frequent calls if we are working on a particular project.
At the end of April was my fifth board meeting (we have six per 2 year term) and our first ever virtual meeting (thanks to COVID-19). As is customary for our meetings we had an agenda (built collaboratively with the whole group) which required us to do a little bit of homework in advance. Meetings take place on weekends and typically consist of a full 8-10 hours on Saturday (with food breaks in between) and 4-5 hours on Sunday.
The board spends most of its time on 3 key areas: Membership, Education and CAST. Of those 3 we spend the majority of our time on CAST, our annual conference. It is the biggest thing the AST does in terms of time, money and effort.
Of the 7 elected board members 4 officers are required to be President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Individuals can hold multiple roles BUT the President and Secretary can’t be combined. I currently serve as both Vice President (VP) and Treasurer, becoming VP in my second year. The VP assumes presidential responsibilities when the President can’t. This frees the VP up to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
As Treasurer I have monthly responsibilities that include keeping an up to date ledger of financial transactions, making payments to vendors, making reimbursements and distributions, handling vendor and customer requests. Basically anything money-wise goes through the Treasurer. Then during our monthly calls and board meetings I provide status updates and guidance as to how well we’re doing fiscally.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that
As with all the board members, I do a little bit of this and a little bit of that all across the organization. Whether it’s updating our website, creating marketing campaigns, tending to expenses, planning a conference, marketing a conference, following up with speakers or just helping out other members get access to organizational programs there’s always something to do.
As I mentioned before Simon Peter Schrijver and I have been working to improve our educational program. We’re almost done revising all 3 AST-BBST courses slides. This will be the first of many content updates. Second, we’ve begun updating our course delivery platform and tracking the issues associated with it. Finally, we started planning a self-study option for those who don’t have the time or energy for the classes.
A little bit more
Being on the AST Board of Directors is a whole new level of involvement and visibility but it’s also a natural extension of the volunteering work I was doing. All the work is done in our spare time and in less than two years we’ve made significant progress on many fronts especially with education. There’s still plenty of work to do but I feel good about the direction and the benefit to the greater software testing community!
Thanks to James Thomas and Eric Proegler for reading drafts of this.