STPCON 2012 Reflections on Excellence

If you’re like me, when you get a chance to attend a professional conference you look forward to meeting up with other people in “your tribe” (as some say).  I love these opportunities to connect with colleagues and peers who I’ve not seen for months or years sometimes.  Sometimes it’s people whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting in-person.  And always I’m meeting new people – with new ideas and new solutions that open my mind to new things.  My experience in the Spring of 2012 at the Software Testing Professionals conference (STPCON) in New Orleans (NOLA) was an excellent example of all these reasons.  Here’s a rapid-fire reflection on the folks I met and why it’s so valuable to be at this conference with our tribe!

For starters, I met up with Matt Heusser right away and that’s like diving into the deep end of the STPCON pool – he’s so intense, passionate and excited about testing it’s hard to believe.  During our late-night dining at Daisy Dukes, he invented an alcoholic milkshake made of warmed milk and Kahlua.  (Apparently not bad!)  Oh yeah, we also got caught up on work for future conferences and also giving a referral to a customer near his family in Salem, OR.  I got to chat with Jon Bach for 10 minutes before his presentation and introduced myself as a fellow responder to Alberto Savoia’s “Test is Dead” industry-bashing scandal.  Jon’s treatment of the subject in his keynote was a very professional response to the naiveté’ of Alberto and James Whittaker. 

Then, in my first track presentation on Conscientious Testing I noticed a familiar face, Ben Simo (@QualityFrog) in the back – lurking, but also smiling a nodding quite a bit at the review of how to be an ethically aware software tester.  At the same time my excellent friend Scott Moore was also in the session bringing up points of reference from his experience in performance test consulting from the last 20 years.  I stayed on for Scott’s session on Peak Performance Planning which was excellent!!  Later that day I had my second session on Performance Testing Metrics and Measures – which was exhausting, packed, standing-room only – and I got to sync-up with my mentor and peer Scott Barber.  Basically, if you have a job today in performance testing or as a load tester or performance engineer of any kind…you probably owe some thanks to Scott for his undying commitment to our discipline and industry.  That evening I got to hang out with the team from HP Software (John, Sylvia, Heather and Kristin) - chatting about the latest & greatest news from our favorite old ex-Mercury product vendor.  Scott Moore also taught us a new way to properly taste single-malt scotch.

The next morning I participated in Breakfast Bytes – taking an interactive survey of participants on the topic of Performance Engineering vs. Performance Testing titles and careers (to be summarized in a later blog post, coming soon).  I got to meet up with Lanette Creamer, who I recalled from the last STPCON in Fall of 2011 in Dallas, TX.  Lanette is a very sharp tester and presenter with a great sense of humor to keep you going!  At the reception that evening I got to have a marvelous chat with Fiona Charles about her own writing on ethics in software testing. She’s also worked closely with Jerry Weinberg and sent me a few references and readings to consider.

I finally met Dan Bartow from SOASTA in-the-flesh – and he’s really a great guy; enthusiasm for performance is not his weakness in any way.  Brad Johnson and Dan went with a group of us out to the Old Absinthe hotel and like true testing geeks we just hung-out and told stories about testing.  Sure we had some absinthe (the less-potent, legal kind) which was tasty actually.  As the conference continued, there were presentations from several other excellent testing guru’s out there like Kerry Fields, Griffin Jones and Brian Lynch – each of whom gave marvelous presentations, with depth and experience.

But there was a moment that really struck me at the very last day when I saw Ben Simo again and he responded to me:  “I realized – I need to do this.”  [referencing the idea of getting out and presenting, speaking and sharing and participating in the community].  I smiled and said, “Absolutely you should!“

What Ben was experiencing is the kind of buzz at the STPCON event, which is highly positive and uplifting, and that is being surrounded and immersed in testing excellence.  It’s so different from the conflict-ridden existence we typically face each day in our jobs as testers.  It’s different from the politics or the negativity we sometimes are forced to deal with in our work, in business or on our teams.  At STPCON all of that noise just fades into the background and you are surrounded by testers!  You’ll find (like me) that every conversation is filled with opportunity to learn and to share something excellent about software testing. 

See you in Miami – STPCON FALL 2012!!

PS – special thanks to Abbie, Fiona, Rich, Matt and the STP Crew!  This couldn’t happen with your excellent support.

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