Are you a new test engineer? Or do you want to put yourself out there, but aren't sure how to contribute?
Maybe you're the lone tester in your organization, having to seek support outside of your firm. Are you trying to start a software testing community from scratch because your area is lacking one?
If you're an introvert like me, you may be asking, “Why is a testing community so important?”
Read on to learn more about:
- Reasons for software testers to join a software testing community
- Tips for running a successful meet-up
- Things to avoid during a meet-up
Why is a Testing Community Important?
Joel explained that when he first started out in his testing position, he was the only tester at his company.
Attending his first meet-up was mind-blowing, since he had been searching for similarly-minded folks who wanted to learn more about testing as well.
We can, of course, learn on our own, but having a community to fall back on is even better.
For many testers who are the sole tester at their firm, a meet-up provides a space for them to not only discuss what they're currently working on but also to identify what technologies other companies are working with.
Joel feels that it was helpful for him, and believes it would be similarly beneficial for others in the same situation.
The Lonely Tester
I know that everyone loves “Agile” (and I'm sure it’s a cultural issue), but in my experience, working as the only tester on a sprint team can be lonely.
Back in the day, I was part of a large QA testing team that was separate from development; it was easier to collaborate and work with fellow testers that “got it.”
What Joel and I have found is that as companies move toward vertical teams with embedded testers on each sprint team, each group customarily has a different reporting structure.
With all of our testers reporting to different people, you can start to feel kind of fractured from your community. The majority of the time, in fact, it feels like the developers and managers just don't get it when it comes to the testing side of things.
Meet-ups are a great place to talk shop. They’re awesome forums for like-minded folks to share tips and commiserate.
Meet-ups are great for networking and making connections that can help further your career.
Julie found a meet-up that was really beneficial to her when she was starting out in QA at a time when many Austin-area firms were beginning to hire more folks with automated, as opposed to manual, testing experience.
Back then, it was difficult to find software testing jobs if you weren't already in software development. The meet-up was her way of getting involved in the community and trying to make connections, network, and develop the skills that she most needed to learn.
Evan had a similar experience in 2015 when he attended his first-ever meet-up. He was totally new to test automation back then but was able to learn everything he needed from the meet-up community and make connections.
Meet-ups are also great for folks who are interested in getting into conference speaking.
Speaking Opportunities at Meet-ups
As organizers of meet-ups, Julie, Joel, and Evan have some great tips to offer folks who would like to start speaking at events.
First, they use a Slack channel for their meet-ups to share ideas.
Often when someone reaches out to them, they’ll collaborate together to choose topics that will be beneficial for the community as a whole.
Julie explained that it’s also a great time to encourage new speakers to share their experiences with the group.
While speaking with the different members of your community, it's essential to recognize when someone brings up a topic that could be a great talk, and then encourage them to submit it.
Even if they don't want it submitted as a full talk, you might try persuading them to commit to doing a five-minute lightning learning speech.
Evan agreed, explaining that if someone is uncomfortable with the idea of speaking for an extended period, doing lightning talks can help them get their feet wet.
You should also be flexible, allowing software testing professionals who are in attendance to talk not only about testing and automation DevOps-related items but whatever issues they're experiencing.
Folks will sometime still resist, one of the most common reasons is the imposter syndrome. Meet-ups are an excellent way to get over this as well.
Get Over this Imposter Syndrome?
Julie feels that if someone is displaying the symptoms of imposter syndrome, it's helpful to remind them they're not alone in what they're feeling.
Many people worry that their ideas might be a little overdone. Or, just because they’re living in their own ecosystem and talk about the same things at work every day, they don't know what everyone else is going through.
Julie thinks it's crucial to say, “Hey, look—you don't have to be alone in feeling this, and you also don't have to be alone in giving your presentation.”
Suggest having them present it in a group or encourage them to collaborate with someone they respect to put their talk together. It can even be part of a series of smaller talks.
The point is there are multiple ways to present an idea, so be creative.
Imposter syndrome doesn’t only affect new speakers. Even industry experts can experience it.
Joel said that he himself recently felt like he didn't have anything worthwhile to say about DevOps when someone in their community reached out looking for help in that area.
It's common for us to think that what we are working on wouldn’t be helpful to anyone else. We have the curse of knowledge.
But a community will let you know that you, in fact, have something that needs to be shared with the group.
Dos and Don’ts of Running a Meet-up
If you've read this far, perhaps my persuasive writing has excited you so much that you might actually want to start your community-building journey and organize your own meet-up.
Here are the do’s and don’ts when organizing a meet-up:
- Location is significant. You want to go to where your base is. So if you have a lot of people working in one area of town or that are free during a time, there might be a little bit inconvenient for you to prioritize the group as a whole over yourself as an organizer and make it easy for them to go to.
- Find a sponsor. They provide pizza and beer for your upcoming events, and having food at a meet-up helps a lot. It also just helps to have a sponsor that is a champion of the event to help with the promotion and publicity.
- Consistency. Have a meet-up at least once a month. It doesn't necessarily have to be at the exact same time and place, but for consistency, we do try to have it on Thursday, the third Thursday of every month. But you can always throw in extra exciting events; just always try to have a core meet-up.
- Understand the value that this community can bring to each other.
- Make everyone feel welcome. It's a social event. People leave work. They're showing up to the meet-up, and it's just one of those things where you know to just talk to everyone.
- Don't always only have a beer — have options.
- Don't be discouraged. A lot of people quit meet-ups really early. Sometimes when people see that there are only five or ten people at a meet-up, they might get discouraged. But you got to keep in mind the long-term goal you're never going to get a hundred people to every meet-up right off the bat. You have to build to that.
- Don't have a meet-up dedicated to a single framework or tool. If you call it just the selenium meet-up now, Cypress turns into the new hot thing, and no one's going to come to that because it's the Selenium meet-up. If you have a QA meet-up, then it can include both those things.
- Don't just bring in speakers from tests vendors. Julie, Evan, and Joel said they had a couple of companies come to do presentations, and they were expecting really a technical discussion on the software testing field, and it turned out to be a marketing sales guy pitch. Not all vendors are like this; just be careful about how many of those you bring in.
Other Benefits of Joining a Meet-up
Are you convinced in the power of a software testing community?
Remember, if you're an introvert like me, another great option is an online testing community like TestGuild Conferences, where you can interact with like-minded testers all from the comfort of your home and still get all the benefits we talked about here.
In fact, TestGuild Conferences are attendee-led online events, so YOU get to choose who speaks and what topics.
Fill out the quick survey and let me know what you think: https://forms.gle/w6HB2JCPYb78FEuo8