My first public talk!

I began my professional career as a software tester just over 3 years ago. Back then, if anyone had asked me if in 3 years’ time I would be presenting a topic to a bunch of fellow professionals I would have thought they were crazy.

The first conference I attended was back in 2013, just a year after I started at Redgate. I was encouraged to go by my line manager who was once a tester and also Chris George who headed the testing function around here. Credit where credit is due, without Chris and Ben, I would not be where I am today in my professional career.

During that conference one thing that I briefly thought about was how cool it would be to tell my experiences to others, obviously with the caveat at the time that my experience was very short. But time didn’t stop and as I gathered more experience I decided after attending Agile Testing Days 2014 that I would work on a talk to submit for next year’s event.

When that time came I knew that I wanted to talk about my experience within my team and the design architecture that we have adopted and decided to follow, so I could tell people how my approach to testing had changed. One of the hardest things for me during the whole process was passing the message that I wasn’t there to tell anyone how to test micro services, but to tell them how I’ve done and continue doing, and how my testing was different to what I had done in the past. The reason for this is that I have always worked in the same company, within the same team, and mostly, around the same people.

So my talk got accepted and I was invited to be in the “Young Agile Talents” track which took some pressure off, but at the same time the “talent” word added some on top. It’s great that conferences are giving young (in terms of age or experience) people the chance to give talks and to share their experiences. If you are looking for help, Speak Easy program offers you the chance to be mentored by an experienced speaker who will help you all the way from coming up with an idea for a talk or workshop, to the delivery. They also have agreements with a lot of different conferences where there’s a guaranteed slot for one of their mentees.

After a few months of just thinking about my talk it was sort of time to put ideas into an actual presentation and I used a lot of my peers for this, as well as external people. Within Redgate I must thank Gareth Bragg, Chris Auckland, Andrew Fraser, Robin Hellen, Danielle Ainsworth and Toby Smyth who saw a very rough draft of my talk and literally grilled me afterwards with questions and feedback. Outside, I must thank Emma Armstrong for also looking at a very rough presentation and providing me with encouragement to make it better. And finally thanks to Chris George for giving me an alternative order of my slides which no doubt made a lot more sense.

All in all it was a very fulfilling experience, one that I would most likely try to repeat.

You can find my slides here if you are curious to know what my talk was about:

I was also asked by InfoQ to do a short Q&A which you can read here:

What I learned (for someone that has never presented at a conference before)

  • There are a lot of conferences out there in most fields, pick one that has a good track record at giving people opportunities like lightning or consensus talks;
  • Work in small chunks on your presentation and iterate on them - yes you will most likely still make changes the day before but hopefully that won’t have any impact on the presentation itself;
  • Get feedback as early as possible, even if it’s just on what you are thinking about presenting;
  • Act on that feedback very soon after you get it, otherwise you will lose some of the context;
  • Enjoy the occasion, and try to still enjoy the conference you are at!
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