I was at STAR East this week, facilitating some sessions with Esther Derby. The session was fun for us and the attendees seemed to learn a lot.
For me, one of the best parts of conferences is meeting new people, making new friends, and learning about new things. Some of us bloggers got together for a little BOF-thing at the cocktail party (hey, is it a geek cocktail party without a few computers?):Brian Marick (who still hasn’t linked to me, who may never link to me, but whose writing I still read and whose friendship and review I cherish, and now I get to tease him about this linking business :-), Esther Derby, Cem Kaner, Andy Tinkham (who’s working on a new tool so he can syndicate sites without RSS feeds! Whoo-eee Andy!), Bret Pettichord, and some folks without blogs: James Whittaker, Scott Myers, Lee Copeland, Rick Craig.
Some of you familiar with these names may be thinking, “Oh, JR’s just name-dropping. Hmm. That’s strange. Why would she do that?” I’m not just name-dropping. I know these people. I respect them. I don’t always agree with them, but that’s ok. We are peers, and we use each other to read and review our writings, refine our ideas, and challenge our ideas to make them better.
I don’t know how much influence I’ve had on each of these people. I suspect it ranges from none to some. It doesn’t matter to me how much influence I’ve had on them; it matters more to me that they’ve influenced me. Cem, Brian, and Bret have explained to me in multiple ways that the kinds of testings I take for granted are not normal for much of the testing community, and if I want to reach that community, I need to explain what the heck I’m doing. James and I both enjoy speaking, and I’ve learned from James that if I chose to dance around on the stage, people might not walk out. (I’m still not sure I’ll actually dance, but it’s an option.) When Scott spoke about “Just Plain Stupid” design, I felt as if I was back at Symbolics, and was thrilled that he encouraged the testers to call developers on wacko designs. I’m not sure I would have considered facilitating an open-space type of session at a conference without Esther.
I’ve learned from my friends and colleagues. I know they’ve influenced me. I suspect I’ve influenced them too.
If you’re not attending conferences now, consider it. You don’t have to make friends with the speakers, but I recommend it. If you have no money to attend conferences, attend local professional group meetings. Read articles and books. Correspond with the authors. You’ll make friends, people you can ask for informal help if necessary. The speakers and authors speak and write to influence you. And the more you correspond with them, the more you’ll influence them.