The morning of June 24, I opened my email and found a message that said, in part:

…you have been nominated for AST’s 2011-2012 Board of Directors Election. The Nominations and Elections Committee needs to confirm you are willing to run for the Board Of Directors. Can you confirm or disconfirm your interest in running?

Gobsmacked does not begin to describe my reaction.  Astounded?  Thunderstuck?  Not even close.

I asked a few questions.  Actually, I asked a lot of questions.  They involved expected time commitment, level of involvement and things of that nature.  Mostly I was looking to weigh those expectations against the needs of my family and my day-job, you know, testing.

My problem, as my lady-wife well knows, is this: When I agree to something, I dive in head first and will put in massive amounts of time and energy to fulfill that commitment.  In the past, it has sometimes been to the detriment of other things.  I have learned to limit myself carefully.  It can be a struggle to set aside things that are emotionally and mentally rewarding to deal with things that are more mundane, yet pressing, like painting the house or fixing that drip in the kitchen faucet.  Let’s face it, some things are just more fun than others.  Sure, they all leave you with a sense of satisfaction, like, the house looks really nice or the annoying drip is not wasting water and costing money.  Still, they don’t have the mental stimulation that sharing time with people equally passionate about things as you are does. 

I had come across the Association for Software Testing some time ago.  How long ago, I don’t rightly recall.  It was while reading “Lessons Learned in Software Testing” that I read of the “Context Driven School of Testing.”  What I read made sense.  It rang more true to me than the more procedural or dogmatic oriented approaches to testing.  There was a reference to a Yahoo email group in the back of the book, and I signed up, and was accepted.

I remember reading in there of the Association for Software Testing and organizing a conference.  Me, I stayed on the sidelines and dealt with other things, watching and observing the discussions with interest.

Fast forward several years. 

In the fall of 2009, I found myself at a conference in Toronto, going in place of my boss, who could not attend at the last moment.  I landed there.  While I was sitting at breakfast, realizing that the nice friendly lady at the table chatting with the handful of us was Fiona Charles, whose writings I had read for some time, a voice rang out.

“Pete Walen! The last time we talked you had just been fired for doing your job!” With that, Michael Bolton sat down next to Fiona and tore into his breakfast along with the rest of us.  (Talk about instant street-cred with a table full of people you have never met…)  Mind you, we had “talked” by email and discussion forum posts and never in person.

Later at the same conference I met Lynn McKee and Nancy Kelln.  Both left me absolutely amazed at their energy and excitement.  In the midst of a lively discussion around measurement, metrics, goals and the like, huge issues for the company I was working for at the time, Michael and Fiona both said “You should join AST, you’d be very happy with that group.” (Actually, that was a paraphrase of what was said, but you get the idea.)

Later that month, after returning home, I bought myself a birthday present of an AST membership.  Shortly after returning home I met (in person) Matt Heusser.  Rarely have I met someone with as much drive, energy and focus as Matt.  He confirmed that joining AST was absolutely the right thing for me.  Since that first meeting, Matt and I have worked to get the local tester group meeting, and helping its members, on a regular basis. 

My first experience at CAST came the next summer.  Another eye-opening experience.  I met Fiona again, was introduced to Griffin Jones and a whole host of other people.  I blogged very excitedly about it at the time.  (See?  Here and here.)

This spring I took the BBST Foundations course.  The coursework was only part of the experience.  Meeting people of differing backgrounds from around the world, even cyberly, was fantastic. I remain in contact with several of the class particpants through Skype and Twitter.  Gotta love technology. 

James and Jon Bach, Karen Johnson and others I met in person and was able to spend time in conversation with helped me better my undersanding of my chosen craft.  Each of them are inspirational in their own way.

I was asked once, quite recently, what I liked about AST and why I kept my membership current, and did I think it was “worth it.”  Is it “worth it?”  Absolutely.  Why?

That took a bit more thought. 

I realized that at the core of it, was the community that was the center of the Association.  I found a group of people who may not agree with you (or even each other) on a topic and were willing to discuss ir like, well, adult professionals  Many of the members I have met demonstrate traits that I associate with people who are true masters of their craft.  They will discuss an idea with you in order to learn, and posibly inform their own understanding of the concept.  Of course, there is also the chance of teaching you and sharing their understanding with you.

Another thing I find attracting me to AST is the focus on Context.  It is not merely being Context Aware.  It is keeping Context at the center.  It was the idea of Context Driven Testing that I found appealing originally when reading Lessons Learned.  It is still sppealing to me.  This recognition that context can and must color and drive testing and discussions arouind testing has pushed me to be a better tester, a better colleague and professional, and a better craftsman.

There have been many people who have encouraged me and pushed me forward in my development as a tester.  Those I named stand out for the mark they made and their willingness to talk with me easily, without let or reservation.

That is the third and most important point to me.  Many AST members, from the very famous “someones” to the other faces in the crowd, are willing to put in time and effort to better the community of testers as a whole.

I am deeply honored to have been nominated for the Board of AST.  I realized that if I had the opportunity to pass on the gifts I had received, I would.  Someone like me who is not a jet-setting “famous tester” or author of testing books or a famous consultant, yet is one of the many who want to better themselves and those around them in their trade and craft, has a choice.  We can allow the great ones of our craft to engage in this work alone.  Or, we can say “Should I be elected by the members, I would serve.” 

I see it as an opportunity to “do my bit” for the greater good.  Therefor, as I responded to the email, I am interested in running for the Board of Directors. 

I was told I would need to prepare a short statement about my interest in AST.  I’m suspect this is not “short” enough.