Monday, August 17, 2015

Trip to Grand Rapids - CAST 2015

Warning: This is going to be a long blog post.

It was January 9, 2015. 7.20 am IST. As usual, I checked my emails first. There was this email from Matt Heusser asking me if I would be interested to do a keynote at CAST 2015. Pete, the Conference Chair was copied on the email too. It took me less than a minute to reply and I gave them a green signal. In two weeks, the abstract was finalized. And time flew. Soon, it was July and I had not formally prepared anything for this conference. Thanks to Suresh from Sanky Travels, Bangalore who took care of the flight and currency for this trip.

Last week of July
I read the abstract multiple times to understand what I promised to speak on. I then thought about the different ways to deliver the keynote. Should I go the Prezi way or the XMind Pro way? Should I have word clouds or just images? Should I hire someone experienced to help me create the presentation? These were some of the questions which were dominating my thought process.

When I started my testing career
I failed many times. I could not deliver what was expected of me. Many friends, colleagues helped me cross the stage. Some of the best lessons I learned was from the developer friends who pointed to me on how I could improve my testing. I tried thanking most of them through this mind map.

I started thinking
about everyone who helped me in this journey.
My school teachers who gave me the confidence that I can dream big.
My parents who supported me at every stage of my life. My grand parents and relatives who continue to bless me with their wishes. Immediately, I realized that I could start my keynote by thanking everyone who helped me. There were many people whom I had to thank but could not fit on the slide. It does not mean that you don't matter. It just means that I trust you that you will not mind.

Reached Chicago on 31st July
Dhanasekar S joined me and we both reached the Amway Grand Plaza at 11pm. We got the Luxury suite and it was too good. The next day I wanted to attend the Test Retreat conducted by Matt Heusser. We did have pizza for dinner and were surprised by the 14" sized pizza. We could finish only half of it. (Next time, do pay attention to the size before placing the order).

Test Retreat - 01st Aug
The venue was at a walking distance from the hotel. Thanks to Google Maps, I found the venue and Matt was right there at the entrance. We had an issue. The lift was locked. In few minutes, we had that sorted and we got started. Each one proposed a topic to speak on. There were three rooms - one for each group and we split based on the topics we chose.
The discussion was good and most of them have been captured here with links to Michael Larsen's blog.

02nd Aug - Rest day
I slept for most part of the day and also prepared for my keynote while most of the Test Retreat crew went on a boat trip.

03rd Aug - Tutorial by Fiona Charles
Location doesn't matter to me and I tend to sleep well irrespective of the location/time-zone/weather/sound/light. I got up early around 6 am and got ready for Fiona's tutorial - Speaking Truth to Power. Dhanasekar was also ready for presenting his tutorial - Mobile App Coverage Using Mind Maps. I had never been in any session by Fiona and was really excited to attend this tutorial. When I arrived, there was no one in the room. Soon, Fiona arrived and set up the laptop and Erik helped us set up the flipcharts and projector. I don't like PowerPoint approach a lot and when Fiona started with PowerPoint, I was slightly disappointed. What followed changed my whole mindset and I really liked the approach. She split us in teams of 3-4 and gave us an exercise. This exercise gave me a new insight about the different contexts tester can experience.

I met Barbara Streiffert there who works with JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). Her thought process was so clear and structured that I was happy to be part of this team. I also met Ben Simo in the tutorial. It was a dream come true after fours years.

I also had an opportunity to interact with Carol Brands, Kate Falanga, Diana Wendruff, Mark Parratt and many more testers whose names I am not able to recollect.
The different teams, their experiences and the role play exercise helped me come up with a few lessons for myself. The simple act of asking everyone to drop their posts with lessons learned and asking people to read out lessons from others was an interesting experience.
One long post to absorb would be the one on SATIR Interaction Model by Dale Emery - Untangling Communication

04th Aug - CAST Day 1

Tutorial by Karen JohnsonIt was cold outside and in the room where the keynote happened. If it was not for Karen's inspiring keynote, I would have left the room within five minutes. She has close to thirty years, yes, thirty years of experience in software development. Check out the diversity in her experience - presentations and publications. After her keynote, I attended the talk by Carol Brands - Learning to Lead: Making an Impact By Improving Yourself. This was her first talk and was mentored by Speak Easy team. I was impressed on how she tied every slide to the main theme.

After lunch, I attended the tutorial by Fiona Charles - What's My Context?
We had to come up with factors that affect the 'context'. Our team came up with the following:

After the tutorial which went till 3pm, I went back to the room and prepared for the keynote next day. I had a good night' sleep and left room early for the 9am keynote. 

05th Aug - CAST Day 2

I was quite nervous as I had never given a keynote. It went well. There were many tweets (more than expected) about the keynote. Few testers came up to me and told that they were inspired by the keynote. :) It was a happy moment.
After the keynote, I attended the talk by Erica Walker and here is my mind map from the talk.
And the next talk in the same room by Jeremy Traylor. Immediately after the talk, I had to give a talk on 'The Power of Exploratory Tester'. Mob mind map from the session is here:

And we played games - SET, SQUISH and few other games I could not participate. There was Pizza and Lightening talks :) And we officially wrapped up CAST 2015.

I went back to my room, slept well and left for India the next morning.
The twitter feed was still about CAST and we made new friends, met old friends and learned a lot.
Till next time, take care...

The Future is Here

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