On October 15/16, the 2017 AST Board was sat, and their first full board meeting occurred. Robert Sabourin and Anna Royzman are the new board members this term. In this post, I wanted to talk about some of the subjects and themes that were touched on during the meeting, with some background for context. I also want to talk about the people who are involved in AST, and note their contributions.

We started with onboarding, sharing all the AST systems with the new board members and removing access for retired board members. Over the last year, with the help of volunteers, we’ve improved many of the operational aspects of AST. Some of this is represented in a password management system, a Slack instance, cloud-based storage, Google Apps for Non-Profits, and rationalizing of web hosting plans. Monthly expenses are down, and much of the new technology has been updated. One last big project remains: replacing the existing web site, which has taken longer than expected. Much of this work has been done, and we’re hoping that we can complete it soon. Many thanks are due to “Web Hero” Perze Ababa and Chris Kenst for their contributions.

Next, we talked about our meeting schedule. Board Members are required attend three or four in-person meetings per year, with one of them held at CAST. Additionally, the Executive Committee meets monthly via conference call. All Officers are on the Executive Committee. Historically, some members of the board have not served on the Executive Committee, but all members of this board do. There are a lot of time zones, day jobs, family obligations, and other complications in making these work, but it gets done.

This leads naturally into a discussion of roles and expectations. Each of the board members is working full time, and active elsewhere in the testing world as well. This, plus family obligations makes it very difficult to find bandwidth for getting large projects done (see website). In fact, just maintaining continuity for BBST, CAST, and other AST programs isn’t possible without volunteer assistance from outside the board.

We talked about how the Grant Committee no longer had a Board Member on it. We decided to continue with the current Grant Committee as is, who are doing a great job. Many thanks to Carol Brands, Gary Miller, Vivien Ibiyemi, Jesse Alford, and Erik Davis for their service.

We had a pretty significant conversation about conflicts of interest next. We talked about our responsibilities as members of the board, particularly in how we conduct our other business. The struggle to avoid the appearance of conflict is constant, and requires help from peers to see around our blind spots.

Next, we talked about CASTx17 in Sydney. As of this writing, tickets are available, and a very promising program is taking shape. Then, we talked more about CAST 2017, and some programming ideas. Look for news on this front soon.

We discussed how to update and increase the BBST course offerings. We are pursuing a couple lines of research in this area, but this is a huge task that will take significant investment in time and money.

BBST might be the most important thing AST does, in terms of member service. We know that we provide a great deal of value in education in the craft, spreading the principles that inform our community, and helping people build their careers. Hopefully, when we help a tester blossom, they will continue to be AST Members so that other people can experience the same boost.

Many thanks to the BBST Coordinators and Instructors: Michael Corum, Jeremy Wenisch, Brendan Connolly, Chris Kenst, Peter Schrijver, Karlo Smid, Georg Lysen, Dan Gold, Lalitkumar Bhamare, Isaac Howard, Maik Nogens, and Michael Larsen for volunteering this year. My apologies for omitting assistant instructors and everyone who took the Instructor Course this year. We should also thank the long-term pool of instructors and volunteers found here, and of course, Cem Kaner and Becky Fielder for their hard work in creating the BBST courses in the first place. All of these people are paying it forward in one way or another, and make no mistake – AST is honored by their contributions, not the other way around.

Next, we talked about membership levels and membership recruitment. We discussed why people are members – why do they join, why do they leave, and what is it that we provide that makes it worth their while? Besides CAST discounts and BBST, why do people join? How do we answer someone who has benefited from these things, and still asks “What does AST do for me?”

We hope to build an organization worth ongoing support from all testers, because of what AST means for the practice of testing and to the careers of people who engage with it. At any given time, about three out of four members have been members for three years or less. While we have an extremely potent collection of long-time AST members, we also see well-known community members fall off after just a couple of years of membership.

This led to talking about what we provide as membership benefit. For example, should we reserve the opportunity of speaking at CAST for members? That is a valuable opportunity that can mean a lot to someone’s career. Or should we continue doing what we do now – build the richest CAST programs we can, and benefit our members that way? No consensus for changing our current approach was reached, but it may be discussed again in the future. We also discussed our webinar program, and whether that should be reserved for membership.

We spent some time talking about marketing and sponsorship, and what examples we see for informing our efforts in that area. We invested in some sponsorship of other conferences last year, and did not see much of a return in terms of increased membership from these events. We will consider smaller and fewer sponsorships for this year, where it can help the community.

We talked about our hopes for supporting peer workshops. We can connect trained facilitators and grant funding for travel with people who want to go really deep on testing subjects. We’re hoping to formalize these plans soon.

This post doesn’t describe everything that was discussed, or even most of it. Hopefully it provides a window into the sorts of issues the board works on.