Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Test Leadership Congress - Mind blowing experience

Test Leadership Congress 2019 - New York
I recently spent a week in USA attending The Test Leadership Congress conference. It was the first time, I conducted a tutorial in a conference in USA. So, let us look back at the whole experience from where it started.

Preparation - Background dots
Anna Royzman - the conference founder is a good friend of mine. We met at Agile Testing Days or at CAST - I am not sure but what matters is that she is the founder of two conferences - conTEST NYC and Test Leadership Congress and is a true leader. We have had multiple interactions over Skype and she helped me learn a lot about test leadership. So, I kept hearing about the conferences and there were multiple good reviews about the conference. Meanwhile, I had also attended Problem Solving Leadership workshop facilitated by Jerry Weinberg and Esther Derby in 2016. In the recent roles at multiple companies, I was handling key leadership roles. All of this dots connected well and I wanted to present the Problem Solving for Leaders and Managers at Test Leadership Congress. The proposal was accepted and I was all set to travel to New York for the first time. 

Acceptance and Marketing
Once the proposal was accepted, I was super excited and wanted to give it my best shot. I conducted multiple workshops in India on the same topic and was happy with how the audience liked the overall experience. With any conference, there is a lot of marketing just close to the conference dates and you get very less time to know the speakers. In this case, everything was well planned, in advance. There was a separate Slack channel created for the speakers. There was no push to get the slides in by a certain date. The information was passed to all the speakers in one email and it was slowly turning to be a huge gathering of close friends. What surprised me was the list of events before the actual events that the speakers could volunteer to be part of and get their brand visible. The hotel information was also provided well in advance. 

LinkedIn posts about each speaker were posted regularly and not bombarded. Individual attention was given to each speaker. You really wanted to know more about the speaker after reading the posts. Even before the conference started, you could sense that this conference was going to be a totally different experience.

Hotel and Speakers Attention
The hotel was 2 mins away from the conference venue and there was speakers dinner, reception and after party arranged for the three nights. There was individual attention on the speakers and any request was met with a standard - "Of course - it can be done" attitude. There were just three tracks. I am happy that there were just three - I will tell you soon, why!

There was not much of a crowd. You could sense that it was on purpose - every attendee got to meet/greet every other attendee at least once everyday. It helped break the barrier and know more about each other and share knowledge. Most of them were either test lead, director, team lead, qa manager helped as everyone was literally on the same boat. Guess what - the badge did not carry anything about company or designation. Just the name and an indication of whether you were a speaker or an attendee. It was just BRILLIANT. Talk about inclusion.

happy attendees
About Program
The topics were diverse. No one topic was repeated. The entire schedule was designed as if an artist had separated the silk strands and arranged it based on thickness and color. Such precision and judgement of which session should follow which other session and excellent diversity in terms of experience, context, first timer vs seasoned, country, gender, age, roles, designations and presentation styles. I had so much difficulty in choosing the track to attend not just once or twice but for the entire 2nd day - yes, the entire second day! Luckily, one of the tracks was recorded. There was no "You sponsored, get a slot and sell your product" kind of talk. Every talk was selection worthy. 
People keep getting the questions in many conferences about which track has which talk and which room. In this case, everything was on Sched and the room number was clearly mentioned. Here is where attention to detail was highlighted. On the second day, when you clicked on Schedule to check, you would expect to see the first day schedule too and then scroll to the second day! In this case, it was updated to the closest hour. What an excellent user experience. Loved it.

About Conference
The entire conference started and ended on time. The wifi was excellent and there were lots of power slots available and end result - I could tweet without worrying about battery or internet. Many would agree to my points as they also tweeted happily. Check out the tweets here with #leadtest: Link My tweets are available at ajay184f 

Workshop collage
The simple stuff was brilliantly handled:
- Stick to schedule
- No sales pitches
- Excellent wifi and food
- Photographer to capture key memories
- No nonsense of speaker felicitation and wasting time

Last Day
The whole three tracks was now just one track for the last day. Looking back, there was talks, keynote, games, breaks, hallway discussions, group discussions, tutorials, performances. There were first timers, seasoned speakers, experts and plenty of networking opportunities. You could sense that whatever happened was the right thing to happen.
 If I have to summarise in one line - Jerry Weinberg would have been proud of this test leadership conference

Thank you to Anna for inviting me to the conference. Thank you to the program committee (I got to know who you are ;) ) for selecting my proposal. Thank you to the speakers who gave your best and made it a wonderful learning experience. Thank you to the attendees who trusted in all of us and made the whole experience beautiful for everyone. Thank you to all my well wishers!