CAST 2021 Recap

When I hit publish on my article CAST 2021 is AFK a few weeks ago I said:

I’m in an airplane for the first time in years on my way to Atlanta, GA for CAST 2021. CAST is both my first conference in-person and the Association for Software Testing’s first since 2019. I’m pretty excited to confer safely at an in person conference AND to see people from the community.

Me

I was so excited (and nervous) to be at an in-person conference I recorded video of the trip and made a short 2 minute overview of the conference and the AST’s board meeting afterward.

A 2 minute narration of the conference
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CAST 2021 is AFK

Made in Atlanta

I’m in an airplane for the first time in years on my way to Atlanta, GA for CAST 2021. CAST is both my first conference in-person and the Association for Software Testing’s first since 2019. I’m pretty excited to confer safely at an in person conference AND to see people from the community. While it’s always fun to see friends, I’m probably most excited to meet people in the Atlanta testing community.

As an Engineering Manager I spend a good deal of time on LinkedIn and Twitter talking about my team, what we do and connecting with individuals who I might want to hire. Honestly, it’s one of the few parts of being a manager I enjoy. Connecting to peers, talking about testing + quality problems and helping out where I can is important.

For weeks now I’ve taken a similar approach with regard to CAST. Reaching out to my few connections in Atlanta I asked about their interest in attending. I got a sense of who they knew (friends, co-workers or others) who might also be interested, until I was connecting with the Atlanta testing community organically. (Small but organically).

Those connections and conversations have had me pumped to get to this conference for weeks. Nothing against the CAST program which looks quite good, I am definitely looking forward to meeting those new people whom I have some connection and back story with. Add on top of this new board members, many of whom I haven’t met in person, and it’s going to be a good week!


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Came for the training, stayed for the community

When I look back on my nearly decade journey in the testing community, it all started with the Association for Software Testing. I came to the AST seeking their BBST courses, but I stayed for the supportive community of people I met both online and afk.

Once Upon a Time

In 2011 at StarWEST I took an Introduction to Rapid Software Testing. Somewhere during the class it was suggested I look into the Association for Software Testing and their BBST classes. Subsequent conversations and online research also confirmed the value of the classes.

I joined the AST and took the first course, BBST Foundations. It was intense and yet very rewarding. Over the next two years I went from Foundations to Bug Advocacy to Test Design with a cohort of testers.

By 2015 I was attending my first Conference of the AST (CAST) and even I was surprised by how many people I “knew” through the community; it was truly special. That same year I attended my first peer workshop (which happened to be hosted by Cem Kaner and facilitated by Andy Tinkham). More than a few people at that workshop were AST members who again I had “met” through the community (and whom I still talk to this day).

Patience and Dedication

Much of my journey toward better understanding my craft has depended on the patience and dedication of people who care to help. Who spend their free time trying to do something for others in the pursuit of making the world just a little bit better. This is the world I came up in and I feel the need to do the same.

I became a BBST Instructor for this reason. I’ve made other connections in the testing community seeking to learn and help. From mailing lists to skype groups to conferences there were (and still are) many overlapping communities and sub-communities in the world that offer a very similar “helping hand” for those who are looking to learn more.

I owe a great deal to the community the AST has fostered over the years. This isn’t to say I don’t also owe a big thanks to all those other communities because I do, but it’s been the AST’s community which has driven my understanding of the field and in many ways my success today.

My Testimonial

In my search for help I read Lessons Learned in Software Testing, which led me to the Association for Software Testing. Through the AST I found the BBST courses which changed the way I understood software testing. Each course brought a greater level of understanding and a deeper respect for the complexities of the problems we seek to solve with software. I decided the best way to continue learning was to teach it. It’s been a huge part of my life and my contribution back to the community. I’ve been an AST member ever since!

My testimonial from the AST site

Even today as I help run the AST I’m looking to carry on and evolve that community so that others will say they also stayed for the supportive community of people.


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Better Tester Training Materials

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Last month the Association for Software Testing (AST) announced a new partnership with Altom, the owner of BBST®, that enables the AST to refresh our curriculum lineup with the new BBST® Community Track and help fund the future growth of the materials. This partnership and refresh are a huge milestone for the AST. 

For some perspective: Cem Kaner developed the BBST courses over a long period of time, starting with Hung Nguyen in the 90s. In the 2000s after Cem Kaner was recruited to Florida Institute of Technology he and Becky Fielder received grants from the National Science Foundation to adapt them into online courses. Some time later Cem began collaborating with the AST to teach and develop the courses further. Those courses became known as AST-BBST to differentiate the way they developed and were taught (by passionate volunteers). Eventually Cem formed his own company, developed BBST® further and sold it to Altom after he retired. 

BBST® classes are well known for their depth of core testing knowledge and focus on improving through peer review work. That’s great for students but frankly it’s a maintenance challenge. Long before I started with the AST the problem has been, how do we properly maintain and evolve the materials and classes?

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Not good enough

An Easy Place to Hide

A month ago someone on LinkedIn thanked a website and the person running it for helping them learn. They recommended others use the site. When people in my network commented on how the site wasn’t any good, I took notice. It reminded me of what Seth Godin said in ‘Not good enough’ is an easy place to hide:

The people who are paying attention are the ones who are trying. And shaming people who are trying because they’re not perfect is a terrific way to discourage them from trying. On the other hand, the core of every system is filled with the status quo, a status quo that isn’t even paying attention.

Seth Godin’s Blog

This is a really hard but important distinction to remember: It’s easy to criticize work in the name of peer review but end up on the bandwagon of not good enough. (There’s a fine line between effective peer review and unwanted comment).

One major lesson I’ve learned from interviewing testers is most aren’t paying attention. They aren’t looking around at how to improve. They don’t read blogs, books or take classes. So while it’s tempting to criticize the work people are putting out, it’s more impactful to reach out to those who are doing nothing and encourage them to try.


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I’m Speaking at TestFlix

It’s true, I’m speaking at TestFlix on November 28th, 2020. You should sign up to join; it’s free to register!

I recorded and submitted my 7 minute talk on “Using Test Idea Catalogs for Better Testing”. The premise is:

Testers can develop a set of tests or test concepts for a specific object or risk and re-use them in similar projects or products. Catalogs come in many shapes and forms, they can be lists or more detailed. They can be public or private. They can be developed by individual testers or as teams within companies. But they all help you test better!

Slides

References

I plan to write more on the topic of Test Idea Catalogs in the near future but I mentioned a few in the presentation that I’d like to call out here: