It’s Wednesday, and to be honest, the events of the past several days have become a blur. I’ve been in Grand Rapids since Friday, and I’ve been moving non-stop since I’ve been here. Test Retreat, conference setup, facilitator meetings, elections, logistics, rooms, venue preparations… it’s easy to lose track of where we are and why we are here. I joked a few days back that I and the rest of the board and conference committee were busy doing all we could “to make all your wildest conference dreams come true”. I’m not sure how we’ve delivered on that, but from the tweets I have seen, and the comments directed to me thus far, I think we’re doing pretty good on that front :).

I was excited to see that Ajay Balamurugadas was chosen to be Wednesday’s Keynote speaker. Ajay was one of the first software testers I had the pleasure to interact with when I chose to plug into the broader software testing community. Many testers were saying things and spouting ideas, but Ajay was rolling up his sleeves, doing stuff in real time, and sharing his results, both good and bad. Ajay introduced me to Weekend Testing, and then encouraged me to bring it to the USA. He stayed up late for his time to shadow me and offer suggestions for the first few sessions we did, and then he let me fly on my own. He has participated with many of our Weekend Testing sessions, including a session with flawk, which is a company my friend Matt Coalson has been building the past few years. Matt’s literal words to me about the session was “Dude, that guy, Ajay? Wow, he’s the real deal!” Ajay has put the time and the energy in to prove, time and again, that yes, he is indeed the real deal!

Ajay did something pretty bold for a keynote speaker. he put up a mind map of his talk and the details titled “Should I listen to Ajay?” In a nutshell, he says that he will be covering Learning opportunities, a trend in who tests, testing education, testing & other fields, Standards and schools, and his own thoughts. He then said he invited those with more important things to do to leave, and he would be totally OK with that. Notice I’m still typing ;). Right now, this is the most important thing I can be doing :).

Ajay starts with a quote from Aldous Huxley… “try to learn something about everything, and everything about something”. In a nutshell, to borrow from Alan Page (and yes, others say it too, but Alan is famous for talking about this on the AB Testing Podcast) “be a generalizing specialist as well as a specializing generalist”. Be T-Shaped, a jack of al trades who makes a priority of getting genuinely geeky with a few areas that you enjoy and feel are valuable. Don’t just be a software tester, actually learn about software testing. Some ideas are going to be better than others, but dig in and try ideas out. Learn as much as you can, even if it’s to decide what you will discard and what you will keep. Why do we so often welcome new testers with test cases? Do we not trust them to be able to test, or do we just insist on them doing what we tell them of front, with hopes that their creativity will appear later? If they are given prescriptive test cases, and told to execute them, don’t be surprisedif that hoped for creativity does not appear.

there are several organizations taht exist to help teach software testers, some obvious and some less so. Ministry of testing, Weekend Testing, BBST Testing Courses, Udemy, Coursera, Test Insane’s Mind Map collection, the Software Testing World Cup… there’s *lots* of places we can learn and try out new ideas.

Ajay said something pretty cool (attribution missed, will fill in later).. “If you would like to double your income, triple your learning!” we each need to take the opportunities we have, and we need to apply them. I personally believe that my blog exists for this purpose. Sometimes I have let several days go fallow without writing because I feel I don’t have anything unique to share. However, I have had such a rush these past few days writing summaries and interpretations of each of the sessions I’ve been involved in since Saturday. Before August, my largest number of blog posts for any given month was nine, and sometimes I felt like I struggled to get those out. Right now, I’m writing the eighteenth blog post for August, all of which inspired by my being here in Grand Rapids, with the activities I’ve been participating in. If all goes well, I may have four more to offer by the end of today. Seriously, that’s twenty-two blog posts in five days! What’s interesting is that, as I’ve written so many, I’m feeling energized, and I want to keep that energy going. That’s the power of diving into your learning, and creating in the process. I want to see what it takes to keep it going.

Ajay has asked why you need a title to be a leader? The truth is, you don’t. You can lead right now, and you can be an example and a guide to others. You do not need to ask permission, you just need to act with conviction and determination. Figure out the things you can do without having to ask permission, and dig in. If a process is slow, try another one. In parallel, if you must, or totally replace the old efforts with a new approach if you can do so. People may feel frustrated if you go and do something without asking, but they will likely keep what you are doing if you deliver a better result than what they were getting before.

What do you say when someone says “I’d like to become a software tester, what do I need to know?”. Do we tell them the truth, that it can be exceptionally hard, and that there is so much to learn? Do we tell them that there’s a lot of things they can get involved with? Do we encourage their curiosity, and get them engaged where they are? Personally, I think we can do a lot of good by starting with where people are and showing them the fun and experience software testing can be. Granted, it’s not always fun, but there’s plenty of opportunities to explore and be curious. De-emphasize the mechanics of testing, encourage the curiosity. Software testing classes are developing. I’m biased, but I’m pretty fond of the BBST courses and what they offer. Still, there’s a need for more, and we have an opportunity to help make that happen. It will take time, of course, but there is a need for excellent software testing training. Let’s do what we can to foster and develop it.

My thanks to Ajay and his devotion to our craft. He’s a role model that I believe any software tester would do well to emulate, myself included. At this point I need to get ready for Open Season and help facilitate questions and answers. Thanks for playing along with me today, I’ll be back in a bit :).