Monthly Archives: June 2014

Why user groups and networking are important

Starting a user group is probably the biggest challenge I’ve taken upon myself in a long time. Getting sponsorship and paying for it, finding a place to have it and an amazing speaker – that’s been the easy part. The hard part is creating that community. Getting people to understand that a few hours after work each month are worth it. I understand people have families and other important things to take care of after work. What I don’t understand is when the priorities of all of those other things come before bettering yourself, furthering your career, and networking with like-minded people every.single.time. Do you think you’re the smartest person at work? LEAVE THAT COMPANY. If you don’t think there’s anything to learn… hell I don’t know what to tell you. I feel sorry for you, actually. There’s ALWAYS something to learn and ways to grow personally and professionally.

Michael Dell: Never Be The Smartest Person In The Room

Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships. ~University of Texas, 2003

 

I’m not a model citizen when it comes to user groups and networking meetups – I don’t make the meetings every month without fail. Other things happen – I totally understand. But I keep up with folks on Twitter in between, and go every few months to .NET user groups (like MIGANG) and networking meeups (like IT in the D). And I’m starting a tester user group to get that part of my passion and career rounded out (Motor City Software Testers). There’s also online networking groups, like Software Testing Club, to keep me up to date and networky.

Why are user groups important?

So many reasons! You’re keeping up your knowledge about your industry. You’re meeting new people/catching up with old friends – all that you can share ideas with, or just bitch. You get free food and swag (usually). Maybe you’re getting some public speaking experience, and sharing your passion. You can’t go wrong! Maybe the speaker’s topic doesn’t apply to you – big deal! You still learn, you still broaden your horizons, you still meet new people or just socialize – you still get amazing opportunities to grow in your chosen field.

Also, going to the bar after with the group is the best. Socializing, sharing ideas over a drink, NETWORKING!

Why are networking groups important?

As the IT in the D guys say, if you start networking when you’re desperate for a job, it’s too late. You need to start building those relationships early, and keep them up. I got my first job in the software industry by going to a Women in Tech networking lunch. At that first lunch, just chatting with one of the ladies, she says “you’d be a great QA, just by your personality. We have an opening at my company…”. It doesn’t happen this way for everyone – I was very lucky to have found the career I love by going to one networking lunch. BUT! The important thing is that I didn’t stop going to those groups. I keep up with networking, I keep up with folks on twitter. That’s why I routinely get messages from respected people in the industry offering me a job – not just recruiters that found me on LinkedIn.

I don’t worry about losing my job (even though it’s very secure, there’s always the possibility) – I feel like I would be able to get into a new job very easily. Because of networking. Because of user groups. Because I’ve kept up those relationships.

Just go already!

THAT is why user groups and networking are important. It’s a small price to pay to spend time away from family and other things. But if your career is a priority – if being financially secure is a priority – it’s totally worth it.

 

On being a (not so newbie) speaker

A few months ago, I received an email from someone that attended my very first conference talk, at QA or the Highway in February. They were from $Company, and lead a QA team there. They thought that my talk would be great for their team to hear, and asked that I come to speak to the team. Instant freakout! That was my first time speaking at a conference! Holy shit!

I replied that I was interested for sure, and we set a day and time. I got my talk ready, by making a few changes from the conference, updating a few points and adding some things.

I also started setting up a drinkup for the time I would be there, to catch up with testers in the Columbus area. That turned out to be an excellent decision. And Mr. Keith Klain introduced me to the Per Scholas folks in Columbus, and asked that I stop by and speak to them as well – a casual conversation about being a tester and just being a IT professional. And that he’d pay for the drinks! Bonus!

So now I was on a mini speaking tour. Time for the Imposter Syndrome to kick in…

I drove down on Father’s Day, checked in to the hotel, and went to the bar. The original one we chose was closed, so we moved on to another – we’re testers, we adapt well to adverse situations!

Now for the conversation at the bar. I met up with Damian Synadinos and Diana Wendruff – two awesome folks in the test arena in the Columbus area. We talked about why I was in town, and who I was speaking to. Damian offered some advice that proved incredibly valuable to me – this could be a “quick fix” by management, try to make everyone get along by bringing in this speaker. Some of the folks there in QA are *not* testers by profession, they probably don’t want to be there. That, in itself, was extremely helpful. I had not thought about it yet, but here’s what I realized:

speaking at a conference, people have chosen to be there or at least chose to be at your session, and can walk out at any time if they feel it doesn’t apply to them. Speaking at a company, people are most likely made to attend your talk. They have other stuff to do, and if they don’t want to be there or it doesn’t apply to them, they can’t leave – they can only sit there. You’re giving it your all, showing your passion to them, and some of them just don’t care. Maybe even resent you.

AND THAT’S OK!

Speaking in front of an audience like that was intensely different than at the conference. At the conference, the attendees were engaged and interested, and they laughed at my jokes! At this company, I was just like “management” to most of them – throwing a message at them that they didn’t care about or believe in.

Now I’m not saying every person that I spoke to there felt this way – there were a few attentive faces. But for the most part, it was the “ugh, I’d rather be doing my job right now” face. Without that realization – without that conversation at the bar! – I wouldn’t have been prepared. I would right now probably still be crying from the experience 😛 Lesson here – always get drinks with your buddies! Or something…

 

Then I went, directly after, to Per Scholas. Per Scholas is an amazing program that provides IT training and job placement to low income folks. This audience was the complete opposite of who I spoke to earlier in the day – they were excited to have someone come in to speak to them that was doing in the real world something that they could do in the very near future. I gave a quick rundown of my resume essentially, and opened it up for questions. Some great, intelligent questions and excellent conversation. They asked for my contact information and business cards (nobody at $Company did!) which I happily provided – I’m happy to answer any of their questions privately, or connect with them on LinkedIn. They are an awesome group of women and men that have a very bright future ahead of them, thanks to the Per Scholas program.

A few of the points I tried to make there:

  • You absolutely do NOT have to know how to code to be a great tester
  • However, knowing how code comes together will help you (the process of dev)
  • When I was hiring for testers, I was looking for:
    • Passion for software quality – beta testing games? providing bug reports for software you use every day?
    • Excited by puzzles – if you have to figure something out, you don’t get frustrated easily
    • Intelligent and willing to learn – I don’t care if you have a degree, but if you’re not willing to learn buh-bye
    • Admit when you’re wrong or don’t know – srsly, don’t lie or inflate your abilities. It won’t end well
    • Some technical aptitude – you have to be able to figure out how to troubleshoot. Or Google well 😛
  • Network network network! Look for meetup groups. Networking is how I got into this industry!

 

All in all, my mini speaking tour was great. I gained a lot of experience speaking in front of a not-so-accepting crowd, and got to meet the amazing Per Scholas organizers and students, and of course drinks with some great testers (paid for by Keith Klain!).

I’ll be speaking at the Quicken Loans internal Technology Conference in July, and then again at CAST in August. Then I think I’m done for the year! And I’m getting married next year, so probably not doing much next year… Though I started 2014 with the hopes of speaking at a single conference, and am ending up speaking at 3 plus privately for a company and Per Scholas. So who knows!

Testers meet up in Detroit – let’s do this!

Hey all – let’s get this going. If you’re interested in speaking – either full session, leading a workshop, or doing a lightning talk, let me know.
I’ll get started on the location, day and time. I’d like to do this monthly!
W00t w00t let’s do this!

 

ETA: Here’s the meetup group!

http://www.meetup.com/Motor-City-Software-Testers/

Tester Drinkup in Columbus 6/15

Hi folks! I’ll be in Columbus speaking at Nationwide and Per Scholas on 6/16, but I’ll be getting into town 6/15 so let’s have a Testers Drinkup! Suggestions on a place? I’m staying in Dublin, so near there would be preferable…

What: Testers Drinkup
When: 6/15 8pm
Where: some bar near Columbus, OH
Why: to hang out and ease the nerves!