March 8, 2018

Ministry of Testing - Boston: An Origin Story

For most of my twenty year career, I have been searching to become a part of a software testing community. To find myself running one after so long of a search absolutely astounds me. 

Ever since I became the Meetup Organizer of the Ministry of Testing - Boston I have been having the time of my life! I really have given my all to the group, having a heck of a lot of fun planning events, meeting people, and trying to build a community of software testers here in Boston. I love the challenges of growing the membership, running fun social media campaigns, finding interesting speakers, and making connections here in Boston. And all of this has been in the past year! 

So much has happened since we moved from being the Greater Boston QA and Testing Group to under the umbrella of Rosie Sherry and Richard Bradshaw's Ministry of Testing:

Are you an organizer for one of our many Ministry of Testing Meetups in the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Middle East, or are you part of another software testing Meetup? 
  • What is your Meetup’s origin story? 
  • How did your group come to be? 
... As a new organizer of the Ministry of Testing - Boston, I would love to hear your origin story! Let's compare notes! Add your voice to The Club on the Ministry of Testing website!

How Our Group Was Founded

Two years after the Boston QA and Testing Group Meetup first met at GSN Games to play board games, eat pizza, and listen to Harmonix talk about the trials of testing Rock Band 4, the founder of the Meetup group, Conrad Hollomon, had two announcements:
  • First, the group would be coming under the umbrella of the popular United Kingdom based software testing group, the Ministry of Testing. The Boston QA and Testing Group would be rebranded the Ministry of Testing - Boston in hopes of attracting new members.
  • Second, due to both Conrad’s military commitments and his commitments to Operation Code -- a nonprofit charity that provides job opportunities, career guidance and resume reviews, and prep for technical interviews -- Conrad would not be available for the next couple of months. Would anyone like to volunteer to be a co-organizer?
I had known about the Ministry of Testing, a UK-based software testing community, for a while. It was the Ministry of Testing that gave me the initial support when I started Adventures in Automation three years ago. With their love and support, I found my voice with this blog.  

I remember, before I ever discovered the Boston QA and Testing Group, listening to Episode 20 of Joe Colantonio's TestTalks Podcast: Rosie Sherry: Founder of The Software Testing Club Reveals Her Secrets on Testing and Life, wishing that such a group existed in my neck of the woods.

When I heard that Conrad needed help running the group, I immediately approached him to express my interest. 

I had been an active member of the group ever since it had invaded Fitbit’s Boston office back when I was on the team writing automation framework for Fitbit’s eCommerce site. I had been looking for a while to become part of a local software testing community. I couldn’t believe my luck when one crashed my workplace!

And when I heard we were going to be affiliated with the Ministry of Testing, I was astounded and overjoyed!

Why I Started Volunteering With The Group

There’s one neat trick I’ve learned if, like me, you are deathly shy and awkward among crowds of strangers when first joining a new group: Volunteer to help out with whatever is needed.

Volunteering is a very good way to break the ice and meet people. Participating in these activities will force you to interact with the other members, making you feel more comfortable:
  • Arrive early to help set up the event.  
  • Ask if there are any errands to be run before the event. 
  • Stay later to help the organizers break things down. 
  • Volunteer to give a thirty minute talk on a subject you love. 

If you think it is too scary to speak in public as a solo speaker, but you know you really need the practice overcoming your fear, ask if you could be part of a panel discussion, like I did when initially starting giving talks about how to pass a coding interview.

Becoming The Meetup Organizer

How did I go from co-organizer to organizer of the group? By default!

I thought I would only be running an event every now and then, initially. I wanted initially to just start off slow. Get my feet wet. Start with the training wheels. 

I had some experience running a Meetup: For three years, I had been very active with the Nerd Fun - Boston Meetup crashing several hundred lectures historical, technological, and scientific at Harvard, the Museum of Science, Harvard Medical School, MIT and the Broad Institute. But it was much different informally getting together herds of nerds to first crash somebody else’s event than it was to be the person in charge of running the event. 

This would be very different. Planning events and putting them together is quite different than invading them. 

As luck would have it, only a week after I became co-organizer, Conrad was called away, first back to active duty, then to help run Operation Code, a group that teaches veterans how to break into the software field, from coding.

The Leadership Team of the Ministry of Testing - Boston became a one-man band: Just me, myself, and I. And our group had other problems:
  • We weren't used to meeting regularly: It was too difficult to find speakers, sponsors, and locations to meet!
  • We were working off a zero dollar budget for food, drinks, or other refreshments. 
  • We only had one company, Izotope, our only established contact in the software industry, who allowed us to crash their company. 
With the next article, I will talk about how I tried to tackle these problems one-by-one.
Happy Testing!
-T.J. Maher
Sr. QA Engineer, Software Engineer in Test
Meetup Organizer, Ministry of Testing - Boston

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