Not only, but even more in these days we understand how important it is to have friends to talk to, colleagues to chat with and learn from, and groups to have fun with.
As testers we know the pain of insecurity (“is this finding worth the trouble?”), of not being taken seriously (“I know, quality is important, but…. “), and the constant thrive for new knowledge (“hm, how can I understand this better”). Can we remedy that alone? Or should we even try that at all?
Obviously, the answer is a clear no. Testers cannot survive without exchange! And “not surviving” is not even the point: testers want to thrive on their work context.
And there are many possibilities, to create exchange:
“I get everything I need from my team”
Most of you probably do not feel that alone, as you apply your agile practices thus working closely with your team. In case you have questions, you google it, ask for help on twitter, or visit some of the great resources about testing, for example as provided by the Ministry of Testing (MoT). But if you need more?
“My company got more people like me”
In some companies there is a testing community of practice or a quality guild – something, where the testers organize an exchange and help each other while exchanging knowledge, experiences, … across teams. While I believe that this is very important, I strongly believe in sharing across company borders:
“Wow! That is an interesting approach!”
Across all the world, there are testing communities, that invite testers (actually everybody interested) to join and be part of a cross company culture. This is inspiring and fosters the feeling to be part of a greater something. Often, other companies have different questions to be answered, they have different technologies, so that you can broaden your knowledge. Sometimes they do similar things and you can pick up an approach to experiment with. You might learn to better respect diversity, as testers are at times very diverse. All testing communities have in common that you can always learn to improve your communication skills. These communities live on exchange, the drug, testers need…
There are many such communities, to give some examples:
- EuroSTAR Huddle – the community in context of the EuroSTAR Conference (“EuroSTAR exists to help provide Content and Connections for the Community “)
- Ministry of Testing (MoT) – starting from an online community, they have developed to a huge community, also providing conferences, training, free and paid content and more
- ASQF Probably the oldest German Testing Community, also with local events
- Many local meetups, like the StugHH (software test user group Hamburg) or StugRM (Frankfurt)
This list is by no means complete, just mentioning a few I had contact with during the last year. Both, the Huddle and the MoT also have local meetups to bring the experience to you. And that I think is a very important part of community work.
Think Globally, Act Locally
So – have you found your crowd yet? In 2020, there suddenly was an opportunity to see and participate in other testing communities – online only. But from Sfax to Belfast, from Hamburg to Vienna – all the events showed what a great community we are. A community that rightfully and proudly can carry this name. So, you have the choice. Or don’t chose and be a bumble bee flying from flower to flower.
Sorry, I have to go… to meet my friends at local testing community event!
As long time member of the moderators team of the StugHH, I see some benefits of a local community over just online communities. And I do that with the help of my community friends: in January 2020 we celebrated our 10th birthday with a big party. (Party, you know, that moment where people meet, eat, drink and have fun. Testers, also have fun while talking about testing, so we did that, too…) We asked them, what they like about the StugHH and you can see the answers on the pictures.
On that party we looked back on 10 successful years of community work. And here are some of the (never outspoken) goals, that made our StugHH successful:
- Create a trustful learning environment
- Create bonds between people
- Create opportunities to gain inspirations
- Create a place where people feel welcomed to show their passion for quality
- Have fun!
- Have Food!!!
Obviously, you could do that online as well (to a certain extent). And in 2020, we did that. But with a local community you have on top:
- You meet the same people more frequently and relate very much to each other, also chit chat about private stuff, or careers, or …. thus building strong bonds!
- At least in our case: local language also reduces barriers
- Short ways and no costs
- Local companies usually love to host the events, and even provide drinks and food.
We, as StugHH do not have any budget at all. As the speakers are from our own group or friends, they do not expect money. But they get a very vivid audience and great discussions. The listeners do not have to pay anything to join. But they are expected to take an active role. Having no budget sets the expectations clear: You have to create win-win situations. And if you do not have a speaker, there are other options, like discussions. And at least at the StugHH, that is crucial: we love to discuss!
The only exception to this “no money” rule is the QA Barcamp, the un-conference we organize together with other people and companies, where we need to pay the speakers, as they are either travelling or have some more effort that needs to be covered. Also, we have other expenses, like complete meals, licenses or giveaways.
You say, you don’t have a local testers community? CREATE YOUR OWN LOCAL COMMUNITY! The local community adds the personal touch! The plus beyond professionalism. The Plus. Period.
What? I should create one? But…
Maybe the start of a community is rough. As any start. We also started in 2010 with few people and are by now, on our 11th birthday, around 1500 members in the XING group we use for organization, out of which roughly 40 people join meetups so frequently that I would call them the inner circle… Depending on the topic and the speaker, we have between 8 and 50 participants at real life meetups, in average about 25.
The good news is: you don’t have create a local meetup alone. On the one hand, there are other people who have done that and are probably willing to support (I would be…). MoT even offers support with branding, tools, and good tips, as you can find on their website. But the important message:
You don’t moderate a meetup alone!
You are just the catalyst of the group. There might be times, where it feels as if you have to work alone, but that does not have to hold true: First, I would recommend to setup a moderators team (for the StugHH, currently Maik Nogens and Lars Scharrenberg and I form a team with very different backgrounds). Second and even more importantly: let the community be part of it. Ask them what they would like to hear or what they could provide. Third: Don’t have too high expectations. It does help in the bonding process to meet regularly, but there can be times, where life has different priorities. Ask for help then. That is what a community is for. And never take yourself too seriously. If the community does not ask for the topics you would like to see, start an experiment to find out, if there might be more people who are also interested, just not speaking up yet.
Is it a lot of effort? It does not feel like it. For me it is rewarding enough that it feels like free time. And rewarding for me as moderator is a happy community supporting the community such that the moderator really only needs to moderate. So, if you create your own community, I hope you can join me in saying:
Thank you, testing community for being such a nice community!