What do you think the AST board has historically done well, and what do you think needs to change?
While I have only been a member for 5 years (or close to that number) the most valuable aspect for me personally has been the introduction to a variety of amazing people through CAST and subsequently through Twitter and other avenues. The people I have met through AST have helped shape my career and I am extremely thankful for their support and inspiration. While I have not personally taken any of the training courses that have been offered I know many that have and have found them useful. In addition the recent website update has brought some much needed clarity and polish. While the goals and values are now more clearly outlined it still isn’t very clear why someone should be a paying member. There are many professional support groups as well as many conferences and training opportunities. What makes the Association of Software Testing different? There will be many answers to that question but a clearer answer is necessary in my opinion. This is a question the new board should tackle. Another agenda item I would suggest for the new board is a greater focus on advocacy. The software development world is evolving rapidly. While, in my opinion, software testing still trails behind in many ways we still need to work through what our evolving role in software development means. It will be difficult to get a consensus on what’s important and what to do but I think AST can do more to not only support the community but also advocate for it.
Is there an area where you feel AST is lacking in its role as a professional organization? If so, what would you suggest doing to begin to change that and increase the value to AST members and the testing community at large?
As I mentioned the two main points of change would be to develop a clearer value proposition for membership and to develop a program for advocacy.
A clearer value proposition can be developed in a variety of ways. A place to start could be to poll current members to find out just why they decided to pay to become members. I would also be interested in getting similar information from non-members of the testing community on why they have chosen not to be paying members. A discussion can be had at that point based on that information as well as incorporating any other new initiatives. The updated value position can then be added into a marketing campaign to ensure testers understand who and what we are and what we can do for them. My background working at an Advertising company can aid in this effort.
My second area of change is one in the area of advocacy. For the most part AST has been focused on communicating directly with testers. In the spirit of advocating better testing as well as contribute to a stronger value proposition as an organization I believe part of the focus of AST should be shifted to advocating for better testing to a wider audience. There have been efforts made previously in regards to standards and certifications but that discussion was still largely within the community itself. AST should be reaching out to other communities that overlap with our own such as Agile and DevOps and look into ways to cross pollinate ideas more strategically. These groups have arguably more influence in the software development world and a partnership would be to our advantage. In addition we should find ways to reach a new audiences of common stakeholders such as CTOs, Technical Managers, and other professions who commonly make decisions that affect software testing within companies. I have seen first hand how decision makers are struggling with how to work through the evolving role of software testing. The collective bargaining power of a large community of testers can take advantage of that opportunity. Membership with AST would not only support testers with skills but also help create positive and supportive work environments.
Conflicts of Interest are situations where a Board Member has to make decisions concerning AST while there are potentially other factors that influence their decision-making.
These factors might be based on competition with other business or nonprofit interests the person has, or they may arise from relationships that could be potentially affected by decisions the Board Member makes.
Conflicts of Interest are not always obvious, but they can be insidious. Even if the Board Member believes they can safely navigate the conflict, the external perception of a conflict of interest could these conflicts worth identifying and discussing. Every Board Member will encounter potential Conflicts of Interest. What matters is how they are identified and handled.
While conducting AST business, if any potential conflicts of interest arise, you should be the first to notice the potential conflict. You might ask the rest of the board if you should be recused from the discussion and any potential votes. In other cases, you may need external perspective to see the potential conflict; the rest of the board may need to offer this help. The rest of the board would generally consider the nature and severity of the potential conflict, and decide whether recusal is appropriate. Here are some examples of potential conflicts of interest for an AST Board Member:
– You will need to vote on issues relating to the support, expansion, pricing, management of BBST. If you offer testing training as part of your professional life through any direct relationships or partnerships, you should consider how it might appear to have them make decisions about BBST.
– You will participate in planning CAST and other conferences. If you are involved in producing another testing conference, some potential conflicts could arise:Which conference gets your best ideas and energy?Could you participate in selecting a tutorial leader, speaker, or chair without the perception of a quid pro quo if you lead a tutorial, speak, or chair a conference someone else organizes? Another issue could arise from sponsorship for a conference, whether AST sponsors or AST is sponsored.
– AST provides Grant funds to non-profit meetups and certain conferences. Being a recipient and a giver at the same time could be an obvious conflict. It’s also worth considering some of the other angles mentioned in the previous example for conferences, specifically around quid pro quo relationships.
– Any employee-employer, supervisory, business, or mentoring relationships/partnerships a Board Member has can introduce a potential conflict. An example of this is if the person a Board Member has a relationship with is asking for grant money, applying to speak at CAST, or sponsoring CAST.
Please describe any potential conflicts of interest you could personally encounter as an AST Board Member.How would you recommend the rest of the board address these conflicts?
I have two potential conflicts of interest. One would be as a co-organizer of the NYC Testers meetup group. While the organizers are also members of AST there are no official ties between the two groups. NYC Testers is intentionally independent from all groups including AST. There may be a conflict if a competing NYC based group asked for a grant. I would recuse myself from any NYC based decisions due to that potential conflict.
The second potential conflict would be that my current job at an Agency involves working with many different companies and organizations. The possibility exists for some kind of business level conflict. I would work both with the AST board as well as with my employer to help identify and clarify those instances in order to determine next steps.
I would expect the other board members to collaboratively work through potential conflicts with honesty and professionalism. I believe any problem can be overcome through good communication and a focus on the goal of serving the testing community over personal interests.
How should AST promote diversity, of all kinds, within our own organization and within the wider testing and technology communities?
First would be to continue to work with Speak Easy (http://speaking-easy.com/) which is a program designed to increase diversity in tech conferences. I have benefited from this program as a mentee and have had the opportunity to mentor others. CAST has historically partnered with this program and should continue to do so. A diverse community also means diverse ideas and diverse communication styles. This diversity of communication styles should be embraced more than it is currently. While critique can be necessary and healthy it can also be off putting. This has historically led to some voices being silenced. In order for testing to evolve effectively we will need to encourage and support fresh voices. AST can help by creating a Code of Conduct for members that encourages open dialogue in a professional manner. Diversity can be a difficult topic to explore. This is especially true when the term has different meanings in different cultures and countries. While AST is based in the U.S.A. it is a worldwide organization as shown with the recent addition of the CASTx17 Conference in Sydney, Australia. Having a safe place to talk about those different views helps foster understanding. Through that understanding hopefully successful initiatives can be formed both within AST and throughout the global community. A working group made of people from different countries, religions, races, sexual orientation and other diverse backgrounds can be created to explore how diversity affects hiring, learning, and working for testers. That working group can help inform AST advocacy efforts for not just good testing but a good working environment for all testers.