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Networking, Mentorship and the Value of Conferences

Networking, Mentorship and the Value of Conferences

12th Apr, 2022

Hello to the Testhouse family! This is what I hope will be the first in a series of blog posts aimed at sharing insights into things I have learned or experienced in my career in testing to date. If you find anything that sparks your interest, or have follow up questions, then please do let me know.

 

This first blog is about mentorship, conferences, and the value of networking; I hope you find taking a few minutes to read this will be time well spent!

 

A couple of weeks ago I received a call from Paul Gerrard, who I have collaborated with on several software testing conferences and forums. He is currently the Programme Chair for HUSTEF 2022, the Hungarian Software Testing Forum. HUSTEF attracts approximately 750 delegates from over 22 countries, and as such it is one of the largest international testing conferences in Europe. Paul asked me to be on the team (programme committee) helping to curate and deliver the programme for this year’s conference.

 

Paul, apart from being a recognised, award-winning thought leader in the Software Testing industry, happens to be a good friend of mine. He was once my mentor and as he got to know and trust me, he started asking for some help with event management and delivery of testing conferences.

 

I first got to know Paul when I attended the Test Management Forum in 2009, a networking and knowledge sharing event that Paul had been running for a few years. I had my first job in Organisational Testing Strategy and needed some input from more experienced practitioners, who could act as a sounding board for some of my ideas and challenges. I was recommended the Test Management Forum as place for learning, debating and ideating solutions with industry peers.

 

I was glad I attended and I quickly became a regular as I truly valued the open, honest and supportive nature of the event. The insights I gained, and the experiences others shared with me provided me with focus, and the confidence I needed to perform well in my role. I became part of the fabric of that community and soon started giving my first conference talks and facilitating discussion sessions.

 

This platform led me to speaking at other events, and I delivered my first keynote in 2015, addressing the “Evolution of Testing” at the QA & Test Conference held in Bilbao.

Mike delivering keynote in Bilbao

Mike delivering keynote in Bilbao, 2015

I then started to help arrange conferences as either a committee member, or a programme chair as I was interested in the logistics and mechanics of bringing an event “to life”. I particularly enjoyed helping to organise and deliver Eurostar in 2014, UKSTAR in 2018 and chairing the Technology Leadership Forum for five years.

Mike introducing the Technology Leadership Forum in 2018

Mike introducing the Technology Leadership Forum in 2018

I have always loved helping people in my teams develop their skills and careers, through mentoring and coaching. Conferences have played a pivotal role in helping me understand emerging trends and approaches to deliver great working software, and I always learn valuable lessons and take away insight from the stories that speakers share from the stage, and in the networking and discussion sessions. I pass on as much information to mentees as I can, however I always recommend forums, meetups and conferences that my mentees could attend, as I see the value these events can provide alongside mentoring, coaching and more formal training to help them advance in their professional development.

 

I was only too happy to accept Paul’s offer and get involved, as I recognised the value that attending conferences provides delegates, and I like to give back and support the development of others

 

Being a committee member means you get involved in identifying keynotes, writing a call for papers that outlines the theme or focus of the conference and reviewing submissions from people who would like to speak or hold tutorials at the event. From that review process, you down select a range of speakers and topics that will make a compelling programme that is marketable for the organisers, and attractive and valuable to delegates. I will also get involved in marketing, “speaker support”, finding sponsors and helping to host the event in October this year.

 

So, why am I writing this down and sharing it in a blog? I think there are valuable takeaways for people who are following a career in Testing.

  • Mentors are great at opening doors for you to step through to advance your career, leading to opportunities you hadn’t previously dreamt of…
  • Conferences, meet-ups and forums are a good place to find a mentor – I’ll cover this in more detail in a future blog devoted to mentorship
  • Conferences are a fabulous way to learn from others and build a supportive and powerful network – a good network is especially useful when you need help, e.g., to solve a problem, or hire a good person into your team
  • Attending conferences will always give you new perspectives on how to overcome challenges, understand new developments in technology, and contribute to other people’s experience by sharing your stories
  • Speaking at a conference or working on the committee is a great way of getting a free conference ticket, and possibly travel and accommodation expensed too. It’s a great way to see the world…make friends and influence people
  • Being engaged in events helps you grow your profile within industry. It also helps promote your company as one that supports thought leadership in the testing industry. I am grateful to Testhouse, a company that allows me time to support the broader Software Testing industry as part of my role

 

As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, please feel free to ask me anything on the above!

 

You can contact me at [email protected]

About the author

Mike Jarred | Director of Client Success

Mike helps companies release amazing working software and coach
technologists to achieve the career of their dreams.
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