Listen to the sound from deep within…..

…’s only beginning to find release

Thursday February 27th 2020 will be a date that I will always treasure.

It was the first ever Geordie Test Atelier, and I made my debut speaking at an external test conference.


I thought I would take the time to note down a few things that led to getting this opportunity.

Here we go….

Why would I want to talk?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a software testing conference until 2013, 9 years after I first started testing. It was EuroSTAR in Göteborg….starting small there.

Special props to Michael Bolton, Maaret Pyhäjärvi and their committee for organising something that was so life changing.

The speakers whose talks stood out for me at that conference were:

Zeger Van Hese, Pekka Marjamäki and Alexandra Casapu.

The whole experience blew my mind, I found it such a positive and uplifting experience, that I felt wholeheartedly motivated to give something back.

So, after the closing remarks, they invited people to answer the call for papers.

I didn’t what that meant, but I felt that I wanted a piece of that. If I could feel so motivated from such an experience and some wonderful sessions that I had attended, why wouldn’t I want to be able to inspire others.

How do you come up with an idea?

This is a loaded question, because we all have ideas, but being testers all our ideas come with questions.

I started to think about my journey as a tester, and what I could bring to the table, that maybe others wouldn’t. I’m less a teacher, and more a storyteller. But I had an idea.

Then there’s imposter syndrome and other reasons that we don’t even entertain the idea of submitting an abstract.

Submit an abstract…..what the hell is an abstract?

Well here’s the thing. If I didn’t know what a call for papers was, then I wasn’t going to know what an abstract was. But, in general it was like filling in a form, suggesting your ideas and takeaways that you hope that the delegates will have.

In retrospect, I can highly recommend a few things to look at, if you want to submit an abstract. As you will learn, I need to take this advise still….

Rob Lambert wrote an article on LinkedIn: Blazingly Simple Guide To Submitting To Conferences

Rik Marselis did a webinar on the subject (and he’s the committee chair for EuroSTAR 2020): How to Write an Incredible Submission for a Conference

I can’t write an abstract.

Yeah, I’m not so good at this. My thing is that I’m better in person that in prose. I find that when I make a proposal in person, I go on an interesting and meandering journey to who knows where, until we sometimes find the right route.

Now, I knew what I wanted to talk about, in fact, I even knew the format that the talk would take.

I knew what the slides would look like.

I knew what I would say in the session.

But condensing it into something that made a proposal that actually would be enticing.

Not so much.

First rejection.

Unsuprisingly, my first ever abstract, submitted to the only testing conference I knew, EuroSTAR, was rejected.

I took the opportunity for feedback.

Dealing with it.

I didn’t really deal with it very well.

I dismissed anything that came out that was remotely positive, and only dwelt on the negatives, the reasons that it wasn’t accepted.


Doing nothing.

I really ceased any personal development, drive to dive into the community, drive to give something back and I plateaued.

The reignition came through my attendance at TestBash 2016.

Start a blog.

Having rediscovered some drive and the wonderful world of testing Twitter, I decided to try and blog.

I had started to share with my testing colleagues a bunch of blog posts that I found thought provoking, interesting and directly applicable to our situation.

In doing so, this blog began.

Write about an idea.

I didn’t know what I was doing, but I thought I’d give it a go.

I wrote a post: First blog post – it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it…..

I shared it with some friends and colleagues.

Blog some more.

The second post I wrote, was directly related to that first proposal that I had submitted.

I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret…..

Then I went on to post about different things:

And many more things.

Come across an idea that could be a talk.

Writing blogs is a wonderful discipline to have. It can be a bit of an echo chamber, but also can serve as a way to explain your way of thinking, what you have been up to, or even what you aspire to.

But, how many of them actually turn into something that you might deem worthy of being a talk at a testing conference.

Trial the concept a little in a test team meeting.

I have had the distinct pleasure of running monthly test team meetings at my workplace. The goal for these has always been to bring the wider test team together, to share and to grow together.

There is no better place therefore, to introduce ideas.

At one such meeting, I ran the meeting based on two quizzes:

And then we just had a chat about them after.

Include it in a blog.

After attending some coaching training, I included references to the latter quiz in a blog post: In my mind, my body and my soul…..

Write an abstract, in classic last minute Chris fashion – not saving a copy or anything useful.

So, here’s been my big failing. I’m a touch last minute with these things.

My History teacher at school used to called me ‘Billy No Work’, in reference to the classic moniker ‘Billy No Mates‘.

I had/have an awful habit to leave things to the last minute.

Some of that is due to ADHD, I latterly realised.

Anyway, I managed to submit something.

And, I was invited by a Testing Peer friend to speak at his office’s test team meeting.

Give talk to test team.

Anyway, I made slides and tried to give the talk in a test team meeting.

It wasn’t great.

I wasn’t great.

But, I got feedback.

Try again somewhere else.

As I said, I was invited to speak elsewhere. It never happened in the end, but it forced me to prepare better.

I put out a few feelers to speak at various meetups, and in such conversations got in touch with some more awesome testers who offered there help!

Receive rejections, but always ask for feedback.

Once again, I received a rejection.

But in any of these situations, receiving feedback is so important to know if there is any appetite for the talk and why the submission wasn’t successful.

The EuroSTAR process again was too last minute, even though that talk was formed, the abstract was sub-par.

What I can tell you though, is that the European Testing Conference process was very different. We had a Skype call, for which I felt horribly unprepared for, but nonetheless, Maaret and Julie put me at ease and I was able to talk a little about my ideas.

Give talk at internal conference.

Some of my testing colleagues then had an idea to run an internal conference.

They invited me to submit to speak, knowing what I had been trying to do.

I probably wrote my best abstract to date for it, but maybe they were just being kind?

Anyway, the talk was well received and it gave me new impetus to drive on some more.

There was something here.

Apply to more places.

I threw my hat into the ring for Agile on the Beach and the TestBash continuous call for papers, as well as a new conference in Newcastle and back once again at EuroSTAR.

The good people at the Geordie Test Atelier only went an invited me to talk!!

Receive a rejection.

Even with that good news, I received another rejection.

A lot of the feedback I had received from any submission was that there was a nice idea, but a lot was unclear.

In a proposal you are encouraged to list some key takeaways that the attendees will have, and I think I have been a little too abstract here.

Like, I don’t want to give too much away, but that side of things is definitely letting me down.

Give talk.

Anyway, the big day arrived.

It was awesome.

I wasn’t, but the experience was. I found the attendees engaging and really enjoyed myself.

People were really kind, and I have received some positive feedback.

There’s always room for improvement.

Receive another rejection.

I reveived another rejection from the Ministry of Testing, but with the caveat that this was an interesting idea and that I should continue to work on it.

Kudos to Richard Bradshaw for the time taken to giving that feedback, I shall. But, I will be reaching out to people to help me, as clearly I can be an ideas man and I feel like I can present quite well, but I’m not very good at writing proposals.

Try again.

I will endeavour to try again. I have what I believe is a good talk that is relevant. So keep your eyes peeled.

I’m hopeful that there will be more ideas that could potentially turn into talks in the future as well.

Blog post title lyrics from: Listen – by Beyoncé.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.



3 responses to “Listen to the sound from deep within…..”

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