Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Am I Really So Ordinary? - a #PNSQC2019 Blog Retro

This has been an amazing few days. I've received a presentation award from my peers here. You all voted with your evaluations and you felt my score warranted the second most highly rated presentation of the conference. WOW!

I'm humbled by this but I'm also a little embarrassed. Why would I be embarrassed? Because for the past five months, my blog has been quiet. Why is that? Because I've felt that I don't have anything important left to say. TESTHEAD has been on the air for almost ten years. There are over 1200 blog posts I have written. What more could I possibly say without repeating myself? What can I possibly add that would be even remotely interesting?

I don't know if anyone else has these thoughts from time to time... or often... or every single day... but yeah, I do. I had a great conversation last night with a fellow presenter (they may or may not be cool with me sharing this so I'm cloaking in a little anonymity... but I'm pretty sure anyone who knows us can guess ;) ). As I was talking about how I struggled to come up with an idea this year and that I wondered if my experience would even be all that interesting, we recapped a few things and thoughts:

- experiences are all we can really share and there what people actually relate to. Me setting myself on high and offering pronouncements is boring. Me telling how I got completely lost or frustrated with a situation and what I learned from it is much more valuable.

- I joked that so much of my talk was "blinding flashes of the obvious" and the response back was "was it really? If it was so obvious, why was it a revelation when you addressed it?" Point being, what may seem patently obvious in hindsight may be hidden or not understood by everyone else. In short, if you are confused, it's a good bet a lot of other people are, too.

- it takes a lot to get people to get up on a stage or in front of a group of people to be willing to speak. What we may see as banal and every day is a major step out of the comfort zone for 95% of people. The act of presenting is courageous in and of itself, much less someone willing to do it again and again, year after year.

- what's more, think about what people do to agree to come to a conference in general. They give up their time, their families, their work commitments, their home commitments, many of them pack themselves into a plane for several hours and are not at all thrilled about the experience, yet they go because they want to hear what might give them an edge, a new idea, a new angle to help them do better work every day. They want to hear what you have to say, and really, the only worthwhile thing that you can share is your own experiences.

I should also mention that the thoughts for my talk didn't come together fully formed. The paper I submitted went through three revisions and extensive feedback from two other individuals that helped me take ideas that were half baked and get them to make more sense, as well as to be able to step back and help me emphasize the areas that needed to be and push back or disregard areas that didn't add as much as the parts they suggested I emphasize. For those who voted for my presentation, I must be absolutely clear that "I HAD HELP!"

Others have asked if I will be back next year and what I might talk about? The answers are "likely, yes!" and "I really do not know at this stage" but I have a few ideas. One thing I want to do is go back and review the other "30 Days" challenges that the Ministry of Testing has put together. I have several areas in my own work environment that is requiring me to step out of my comfort zone (have I mentioned I'm trading in my MacBookPro for a Windows 10 machine? Have I mentioned that I'm looking into what it takes to program in C# and run on .NET Core? Yeah, those are new realities for me. If you asked me last week, I might have said "yeah, no one is really interested in that." Today? I have a totally different opinion on that front. I'm still learning things and there's a lot to learn so it only seems reasonable I keep learning in public the way I've said I would :).

PS, I've been on a voyage of musical discovery with my younger daughter recently and part of that has been to introduce singer/songwriter Paula Cole to her. Today's title borrows from her first single "I Am So Ordinary" so credit where credit is due ;).

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