An Introverted Experience At TestBash Manchester
By Emma Elkan
A little about me: Before testing, I was a full-time housewife and if we're being honest it was more of a supervisor role. I luckily landed my dream job as a Trainee Software Tester 5 months ago and I love it, like a lot. I enjoy testing so much that my weekends usually involve doing 'fun work' at home and learning various things to help me be a more well-rounded tester. The Ministry of Testing website and all the free learning resources it provides played a huge part in helping me get through the interview process to where I am today. So thanks, everyone.
Setting The Scene
A fairly defining attribute of mine is that I'm a shy introvert, which makes for an unfortunate mix of personality traits. I'm sure other introverts of a certain nature are thinking, 'why would you apply to attend a conference? That's an awful idea, who would want that?'. The truth is I applied because I was sure someone more deserving would be given the opportunity over me, and I just would not have to worry about it. This would be a safe way of 'going outside my comfort zone' and 'making the most of life's opportunities' without any real risk of having to woman up. Then I received the email from Richard, kindly offering me not just one conference day ticket but a ticket for both days. I excitedly accepted, declared to my husband that I must be magic and then the inevitable dread set in.
Misguided Adventures In Networking
It's the day before TestBash, I check my email to find that there are now spaces available to attend a meetup at the BBC. The agenda for the meetup sounds really interesting and I think to myself this will be a good introduction to meeting people and learning something new before the big conference day. For some unknown reason that now baffles me, I didn't research what networking was or how to do it. I rolled up hoping to make some buddies to hang with during my time in Manchester, yet I can't recall a time in my life where I've instantly made friends. Oddly, people are rarely into nervous energy and awkward silences. Even though my wildly over-exaggerated expectations of friendship were doomed to fail, I did take a lot away from the evening and I'm very happy I attended. I managed to introduce myself to a couple of people and I learnt lots of cool new things.
The Big One
If hell had a tenth circle I'm certain it would involve 8 am lean coffee. When I arrived, the check-in process was a breeze and the volunteers were great at being welcoming and explaining the swag situation. I decided to stand awkwardly to the side of the room, not really sure what to do with myself. After 10 or so minutes a volunteer came over, she was super nice, explained to me the concept of lean coffee and even offered to introduce me to a table. I feel it goes without saying that I awkwardly declined this offer but it struck me how this simple gesture would help most introverted people get involved and get their day off to a good start.
After a quick welcome, we were asked to introduce ourselves to the people around us, normally a thing of nightmares, it was so spontaneous that doubt didn't get a chance to creep in, and for me, it really worked as an icebreaker. The morning talks were great, with this being my first ever conference I was surprised how varied the presentation styles were and I took a tonne of notes. It was all good stuff.
Just before lunch, we were asked to get into groups to discuss what, as testers, we wanted to learn. What should have been a simple task quickly turned into a full situation of my own making: I failed to join a group. I cursed myself for letting this happen and did a silent prayer that I'd go unnoticed rather than being forced into one of the happily established groups I was now surrounded by. The discomfort of being group-less passed, lots of great ideas came out of the exercise and then it was lunch.
I skipped the hustle and bustle of lunch and retreated to the quiet room.
The afternoon went by without a hitch, again I enjoyed every talk and took away a shed-load of useful information and ideas. The 99 second talks were inspiring, different, and there was even a poem. Very cool stuff! I severely underestimated how tiring being around people would be and ended up in bed by 5.30 feeling like I did a lot more than sitting on my butt all day.
The Home Straight
Test.Bash(); played out almost exactly the same as day one with an effortless check-in and a warm welcome. I felt much more confident knowing the lay of the land and found a sweet corner out of the way to stand in until it was conference time.
I enjoyed the first talk by Bill Mathews so much that I thought about saying hello and thanking him during the break but I settled for looking at him oddly then scurrying away back to my corner, real smooth. Like the first day, all the topics were interesting and offered something different, and there was a lot of great information to learn from and take back home.
My whole TestBash experience has been an amazing opportunity for personal and professional development that I'll be forever grateful and thankful for.
For the socially anxious and introverted, it is possible to attend a TestBash alone and you'll gain an unbelievable amount from the experience. But if you can go with a buddy, you'll have a much better time.