Software Testing Meetup – Kent / South East

In London, it seems that you can’t throw a brick without it crashing into the middle of a Software Testing / QA Meetup*. But once you get outside of the big cities, things tend to thin out quite a bit. And as far as I can tell, there’s absolutely nothing going on for Testers / QAs in my neck of the woods – Kent.

So, are there any Software Testing / QA meetups happening in Kent that I don’t know about, and that I could get involved with?

If not, would there be any regular interest in either attending or speaking at one if I were to organise it?

If I were to put a meetup together, I’d like it to be an open, friendly environment where junior testers can seek advice and learn their craft, where experienced testers can help mentor while sharing experiences and ideas, and for all involved to discuss any recent innovations or working practices they’ve found which worked really well, any issues they’re facing, any interesting articles or media they may have found and so on. As a result, everyone involved would be helping to build and contribute to a local support network where questions and ideas can be floated, issues can be discussed, and feedback and answers given in a positive and productive way.

The contacts I’ve made in my other life mean I’ll have no problem getting a room sorted out in a pub somewhere, so we can get together and talk about our industry, and our particular discipline within our industry.

As for location, if I were to put something together in Ashford, that could potentially capture Canterbury, Folkestone, Hythe, Romney Marsh, Dover, Deal, Thanet, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Tenterden and Tunbridge Wells – so, the majority of South Kent.

If the interest is there, I’ll happily organise the meetup via… erm… meetup.com – but I need to know the interest is there first. So feel free to share this post far and wide with folks in the Testing / QA industry across the South East – the interest it receives will be the key factor in deciding whether or not to go ahead with a dedicated meetup in Kent.

*Please note – I do not advocate the throwing of bricks in London as a means of finding a Testing Meetup.

What IS a QA Evangelist, anyway?

Short Answer: I am.
Longer Answer: Read on…

Short Answer: I am.

Longer Answer: Well, perhaps it’s better to start with the things that being a QA Evangelist DOESN’T mean.

Despite the name, my current position and title have no religious connotations. I don’t deliver my presentations from a pulpit, I don’t wear tech-branded vestments, I don’t swing incense about the place, and I don’t go door-to-door preaching the gospel according to software testing… at least, not in a way that makes people turn off the telly, hide behind the sofa, and pretend they’re not at home.

Certainly one of the best parts of having an unusual job title is that it’s a great ice-breaker and conversation starter when I go out and meet people. Believe me, when you tell anyone in the technology world that you’re a QA Evangelist, they immediately want to know more. So here’s the story of how my role came about, and exactly what it entails.

I first conceived the role about 18 months ago, as I felt it was something that should have existed in our company. A role that would fit my skills, make me more useful and valuable to the business, and would help to raise the profile of our company in the wider technology community. As a company, we knew we were (and indeed, still are) very good at what we did, we know we were at the cutting edge, and we knew were innovators. It was high time other people knew it too.

My idea involved taking the QA Manager role I was currently filling, and reinventing it. I didn’t want to just be responsible for the day-to-day management of software testing, as the folks we take on generally know what they’re doing, and don’t need someone standing over them the whole time. But of course, I have a great deal of knowledge around both our profession and our company, so I still wanted to be a point of reference and guidance, and I still wanted to be first line support for the QA team. I also wanted to retain my responsibilities for recruitment, mentoring new hires, and all the other good stuff that the traditional QA Manager role entails. It was, and still is, very important to me to keep an eye on the day-to-day stuff so I can make the most appropriate recommendations and offer the most relevant advice possible – but it’s no longer my single raison d’être.

I also wanted to take responsibility for showing our QA team that there’s a world outside their individual delivery team. I thought it was important to regularly share blog posts and industry articles to get the team thinking more about what they do and how they do it, and to encourage them to create and share their own work in this way. I wanted my teams to look at interesting conferences and webinars, drive engagement with other teams, other areas of the business, and even other companies to share ideas, strategies, and seek solutions to issues they’re encountering. And I wanted to encourage teams to get out and do this stuff themselves – to present at meetups and conferences, to trumpet their successes to the wider testing world, and to really build themselves testing communities that they can easily reach out to. All of which would also benefit the company by raising our profile in the wider technology world.

I, personally, also wanted to act as an advocate to other areas of the business, and to other companies – to tell the rest of our business about the value of proper testing and QA in software development, as well as getting guest speakers in for our teams, putting myself out there to speak at other companies, meetups and conferences. So in that respect, I guess I do sort of go door-to-door preaching the gospel of software testing.

I spent the best part of a year pitching the concept of the role to everyone who might be affected, refining it and tailoring it for our business, and doing the groundwork to establish myself in that position. All the while, I was nervously waiting to see if the Technology leadership understood the role and its value, if the new organisational structure created to accommodate the role would successfully navigate any red tape thrown up by our (excellent) HR department.

Finally, in March this year, I was promoted into the role, exactly as I’d conceived and pitched it, with very little in the way of enforced change from Tech Leadership and HR. And it’s no exaggeration to say that the conception and implementation of the QA Evangelist role, and my promotion into that role, is my proudest professional achievement.

Since taking on the role officially, I’ve attended a few conferences and delivered my learning back to my teams. I’ve launched an internal-only podcast, which I’m planning to put out to the big wide world once I’ve got the formula nailed, and I’m getting out there and doing more speaking about our profession. I’m busier, but more satisfied in my work than I’ve ever been.

I feel it’s a natural evolution of the QA Manager role in an industry that is moving towards expertise being prevalent at all levels, and towards iterative and / or continuous delivery as the norm. Being able to not just lead, but to influence and guide my teams, to get them to really communicate about what they do and how they do it, to demonstrate the value of our role in the delivery of quality products, and to share the stories of our success to the widest possible internal and external audiences is, to me, the wave of the future for software testing.

I’m proud to have nailed my colours to the mast in the first place, to have driven this change in the way we think about and execute our testing, and to have put our company in the position to be on the crest of that wave.

EvangelistPunk SPEAKS!

I’ll be delivering my talk ‘Bug Hunting – A Masterclass: The mindset for analysis, identification and classification of problems in software” at the SDET & Automation Network Meetup in London on Thursday 13th October.

Event details are here if you’d like to attend.