The first Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST) was held in 2006. This year, we are holding the tenth CAST in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Three more years and we can claim to have raised a teenager :).

I discovered AST in 2010. By the time I had joined and learned what CAST was, I was unable to arrange to attend that year. I did, however, commit to attending CAST being held in Seattle in 2011. Part of that was made possible because James Bach specifically invited me to attend, to demonstrate a real world Weekend Testing event as a workshop. Additionally, I took the opportunity to offer a short talk as part of the “Emerging Topics” track, titled “Beyond Being Prepared: What Can Boy Scouts Teach Testers?”.

What I found most interesting about CAST, as compared to other conferences, was what appeared to me to be the complete lack of commercial involvement. I was tired of conferences and webinars where sessions were mostly about “here, buy this tool, and all your problems will be solved”. Instead, I was treated to real world situations, with speakers who are actual day to day, in the trenches software testers. The material was memorable, but more to the point, it was actionable. I could actually use what I learned. Since this first experience, I have participated in each CAST to date (Seattle in 2011, San Jose in 2012, Madison in 2013, New York in 2014 and now Grand Rapids in 2015).

Additionally, I appreciate an emphasis on having new speakers take part in CAST. Last year, I had the pleasure of presenting a talk with a brand new speaker, Harrison Lovell, about “Coyote Teaching”, which was about mentorship. This year, I had the chance to see many new speakers get selected, and I am pleased to say that AST working with Speak Easy helped many new speakers prepare and present at CAST. It’s this willingness and openness to new voices that, I believe, sets CAST apart from other conferences.

As the President of AST, I understand the effort it takes to present a conference, encourage people to attend, recruit speakers to present, and ultimately produce a program that is second to none. Today was our tutorial day, and from the conversations I’ve had so far, I firmly believe we are well on our way to making that a reality for this tenth CAST. For all of you who took the time to travel and carve out your schedule to be here, either to participate in the audiences or to deliver messages as speakers, workshop presenters, facilitators or volunteers, you have my gratitude. For those who were not able to attend in person, remember, you can still join us by watching webCAST with us.

Here’s to the next few days, I think they will be marvelous :)!