Thursday morning at TesTrek, in Toronto started with a keynote presentation by Michael Mah from QSM Associates on Offshoring, Agile Methods and the idea of a “Flat World.” I could not stay as I was presenting in the first track session immediately following. My presentation on Integration Testing went over reasonably well, I thought. There were a fair number of people who were willing to participate and generally engage and some interesting discussion afterward.

To unwind, I went to Fiona Charles session on Test Strategy, She has given this as a full day workshop. Cramming it into a 90 minute session was challenging, but I thought gave a reasonable idea around the challenges of looking beyond templates and boilerplate.

I had a nice lunch conversation, again with Fiona and a handful of other people sitting around a table. 

The balance of the day was a rush of impressions for me. I know the afternoon sessions occurred. Still, I found myself in interesting conversations with a people – many of whom I have named already. The thing is, without establishing relationships in the past, these conversations may not have happened.

Much of what I learn at conferences occurs in the “hallway track” – talking with people and discussing concepts of interest to us, whether they are on the program for the conference or not.  There are a lot of people smarter than I am, with more experience than I have. The fun part for me is learning and sharing what I learn and have experienced.

The beauty of smaller conferences is that they give the intimacy that allows participants to meet a large number of people if they are willing to step outside of themselves.  I can not encourage people enough to take advantage of that opportunity. 

One thing that struck me was that I saw only a few people talking with other people they did not work with or know in advance.  I’m always curious about that.  The thing I consider to have been fortunate in is that I learned to swallow hard, overcome my shy, introspective tendencies and talk with people.  Walk up, say “Hi, I’m Pete.  Are you enjoying the conference?  What have you been learning?”  Sometimes it leads to interesting conversations.

Other times it is a little, less interesting.  Folks say “Oh yeah,  I have a session to go to.  Maybe we can talk later.”  OK, no worries. 

The thing is, I learned some time ago, and have blogged about it, that you need to allow time to talk with other people.  It is a remarkable conference that has really significant, information-packed sessions in every time slot.  Now, this is not a dig at TesTrek, don’t get me wrong.  I just find it interesting that there was not as much socializing/networking/confering as I saw.  (There may have been more, in places I did not find, but I did not find or hear about them.) 

I tweeted a few times inviting people to talk about anything to do with testing.  Now, I had some fantastic conversations with Fiona, Adam Goucher, Tommas, Stephen and more.  But what I found interesting was that of the tweets I sent out, the invitations (including the link to the blog post inviting people to confer at TesTrek) , resulted in one person saying “Are you Pete?  I’m Heather!  I saw your tweet!”  That person was Heather Gardiner, with tulkita Technologies.  We had a nice conversation, then we both had to deal with other things.

The thing is, and I think this holds for more testers, don’t be afraid to meet and talk with other testers.  Even folks like conference speakers, yeah, the “experts”, like learning new things.  You may not agree with them, and they may not agree with you.  But, people who are thoughtful testers with a desire to learn and to share, are good sources for you to learn as well. 

This, I think, is the great opportunity for people going to conferences:  meeting people with a different viewpoint and learning.  Smaller conferences, like TesTrek, give you the opportunity to meet people like you and have the chance to talk with every attendee. 
Meet people.  Talk with them.  You never know what you might learn.