I think of software testing (and development) as learning activities, and I’m particular fan of exploratory testing that isn’t only founded on learning, but is an approach for learning with an external imagination: any piece of the system we’re building.
I like learning from people, and I find inspiration and energy from people. So for me, in hindsight it has been a natural progression to become a community facilitator from a selfish starting point. What would be a better way to access people and their ideas, than have them available in an event sharing what they do?
I speak in conferences to learn. I share and people tell me of their similar or conflicting experiences. Speaking is a great way of meeting people with similar interests, especially to someone like me who is comfortable talking deep about testing and development topics I’m into, but close to panic when the topic is general, like sports, current american presidential election (unlike politics otherwise, this is a smalltalk topic), movies, books or beers. My idea of random small talk I’m comfortable in conferences is to ask people if they speak in public and if they would, what their topic would be. But I love a discussion over lecture, and while there’s a lecture or two in my back pocket, I prefer to try to pay attention to both parties in conversation contributing.
I sometimes wonder if the time I spend for conferences is giving me what I seek, and if there would be better uses of the same time. But usually I find someone from the conference that makes the investment worthwhile - a meaningful discussion that inspires me. The time I spend in conferences is time I spend growing a speaker community.
The very same reason of learning has driven me to volunteer to coach speakers, both with Speak Easy and with the Ministry of Testing Gems webinar series. I’ve had a chance to hear (and discuss) in detail some great experiences making their way into a polished talk for some conference. I feel privileged to have these people’s attention one on one.
I suggest you try learning this way too. Volunteer to help a local meetup or just organize a meetup of your own. Think of something to share, be a Speaker and let the meetup organizers know of your existence, the local stages have often hard time finding their speakers. And volunteer as mentor for SpeakEasy as a mentor, your view can be really relevant in helping find a great story the world of conferences needs to hear. While learning about our craft, you might learn a thing or two about being active and organizing, and those lessons might be invaluable in your career. They’ve been on mine.
Don’t do it because it’s the right thing for the community to contribute and give back a little, do it because it’s the right thing to amplify your own learning.