Looking back at my previous year-ending posts and those that looked forward to the coming year is something I’ve come to enjoy.  Partly, I get to see how close I was in my expectations to what would happen, and did happen.  At times I was very close – other times, not at all. 

And so I launch into another consideration while sitting in my house on a quiet Saturday morning in December. 

Overall, this has been a good year for me.  I’ve grown and learned and developed in ways I did not expect to.  I have strengthened bonds of friendship, loosened some others and discovered much about myself and those around me.

I participated in several conferences this year.  I find conferences to be enlightening on multiple levels.  I know many people go to learn new things.  Some people go to enhance their reputation.  Others go simply because their company is paying for it.  For me, yes, even when I’m presenting, it is an opportunity to meet people I do not know, or have never met in person.  I try and keep an open mind, although sometimes my reactions to what appears to be rubbish get the better of me.  I try hard to not attend sessions by people I know, unless they are presenting a topic new to me – I really do try and avoid epistemological bubbles.

The contract-consulting thing is going well for me.  I stepped out in 2012 away from the perceived security of being an employee of some company and became a privateer.  I’ll do work for your company, but only on terms I’m OK with.  If something is stupid I reserve the right to say “This is stupid.”  Mind you, I did that before – but the sense of ‘they might fire me’ is gone.  I realized people can pay you for doing good work and speaking factual truth to them.

Sometimes doing so bluntly is called for.

Oh, you don’t need to be a contractor or a consultant to do those things.  realizing you are responsible for your career and your growth as a craftsman is the first step.  Speaking truth is part of that.  Removing the wall of fear about “losing your job” is a huge one.

Once that fear is gone – you are free.

So, yes.  I participated in regular meetups and some conferences and a few workshops.

Conferences & Workshops

These stand out in my mind:

STPCon in San Diego was fun.  I got an excited email from the organizers about the huge number of people who were in the room and the massive number of “5” ratings my presentation on leadership got.  Apparently more people liked it than not. 

CAST in Madison, WI was a lot of work. I found myself really busy – more busy than I expected to be. I learned much and enjoyed that conference greatly.   

Agile Testing Days in Potsdam, Germany – my second outing there – was also much work and much fun.  My workshop had generally positive things in the twittersphere and blogosphere – and that the numbers of participants increased after the break half way through may speak to something – but I have a feeling none of the participants filled out the official “rate this session” web page.  The Halloween costume contest was much fun.  I was a bit – along with Matt Heusser, Huib Schoots and my dear lady-wife Connie.

WHOSE – the workshop on self-education in software testing – in Cleveland – Oh, my.  I have much work to do from that still.  This was an AST function/event to derive a list of skills needed for software testers.  I drove down on a Wednesday evening after work, had a good night’s sleep – then did not get much more sleep until Saturday night after driving home.  Mentally exhausted does not begin to describe the state I was in.  I need to blog on that soon.  It was good – and a good deal of work was done.

Personal Learning

Loads of people have helped me learn this year.  Some of these were engaged actively in that learning, others in conversations (where they thought they were the ones learning) and others through their writing.  Thanks to these in particular – Matt Heusser, Robert Sabourin, Michael Bolton, Chris George, Dan Ashby, Mike McIntosh, Ben Yaroch, Ben Simo, James Bach.

There have been others, of course.  Many people contributed.  Some greatly and positively – Some have shown me how not to be or act (I did not name any of those folks.)

I have two major areas of interest I am working on now.  One is an ongoing quest for “What information around testing is of value to the business?”  The other is one I’ve been dealing in fits and starts – and for the last two or three months have been looking into more deeply – “What skills does an organization need in their software testers?” 

These are related questions.  They are tied into work I have been doing at my client company of late.  They are also things I am wrestling with in my own mind.  I can see these as being fairly extensive in my studies and effort into the coming year.

The Future

Conferences – People ask me what conferences I will be attending and participating in this year.  I don’t know.  The number I am considering submitting proposals to is fairly small.  My calendar is messy – I have projects at my client that need help – that is why I am there, after all.  When this contract is up, then perhaps this will change.  Sometimes, the idea of hopping on jets and flying hither and yon seems cool.  I spent enough time in airports waiting for that to have lost some luster.  I don’t feel the need to travel giving talks about some aspect of software testing.  I’d rather be doing the testing and talking a little about it.

Writing – My writing has fallen way off this last year.  I want to get back to that some more this coming year.  I have a bunch of projects that are in the “Outlined” stage but have not had the effort given to them to actually develop them into something useable.  That needs to change. 

Work – My current client is “reviewing contracts” for the future.  The projects I am on are slated to run through much of the summer.  Its interesting, but like everything else in Corporate-land, nothing is certain.  Folks, this is normal.  Every company does this regularly.  Sometimes they are dealing with contractors/consultants – sometimes they are dealing with employees.  “Job Security” is a myth for most folks doing software, or any form of Information work.

Meetups – The GR Testers are going as always.  We get together monthly and discuss topics of interest to the group.  Sometimes there are presentations, other times, it is organized chaos as we go through ideas.  Other things in the works – when I can, I get to a (fairly new) Code & Coffee meetup that happens in the morning before heading in to the office.  I find it an excellent way to start the day.  Others?  The Mid-Michigan Testers Meet Down gets together in the Lansing, MI area, sporadically.  I’d like to attend more than the 1 time I did this year. 

All in all – I’m looking forward to 2014.  Not the wide-eyed wonder some folks have, or think they should have.  More of “I bet something interesting will happen.” 

I’ll leave notes along the way so folks can come along for the fun of it, if you want to. 

Cheers –

Happy New Year!