Monday, November 13, 2017

Why do I (try, and sometimes manage to) speak at conferences?

In here, Maaret shared her reasons for speaking and attending conferences, and finished with a question - why do you?
So, I'm only starting my way in this area, and from where I stand, conferences are really fun. At every conference I find someone to wander with and have really interesting discussions. I get to hear ideas that open my eyes to other ways of working and I get a small peek at the challenges other people are facing. At this phase, at least - it's a marvel every time.
But, how did I get to the point where submitting a talk is something I even consider?
Well, that story starts with me watching a video - I was watching CAST-live in August 2015. Not ideal, as the hours were diving deep into the night with 7 hours time difference, but still, I enjoyed watching the talks. One of the talks I saw and stayed with me was Ioana Serban's talk: Taking control of your test environment, which is a really great talk to watch, especially for people at the start of their career. It was then that I really thought "hey, it could be nice to actually try and attend one of those in person" I did ask the place I work for to send me to cast that year(by some odd chance, cast was the first conference I heard about that looked interesting), but when they couldn't find the budget for it in the short notice I gave them ("hey, I found this conference, wanna pay ~3500$ to send me there?"), I just shrugged and moved on. Watching this talk put one thought in my head - there are cool ideas at conferences.
Then, lucky me, Maaret posted this, and I thought to myself - I really appreciate Maaret's ideas and writing, Romania is not expensive and is fairly close so the flight should be cheap as well, so if she's asking me to trust her to create a conference and in the by process I can also get a conference ticket in a price I can afford myself, I'm jumping on the opportunity.
I got to the conference, and the experience was amazing. People were very kind and I got a ton of new ideas and experiences. One funny thing I noticed was that with one single exception everyone with whom I had a conversation turned out to be a speaker. At the conference lean coffee session, I ended hearing from a developer about her experience in working with some doctors on a software for them and we had a nice chat that continued a bit into the break. The day after I attended her talk. I got a bit late to a workshop and started working with Gita Malinovska, who apparently was also a speaker. After hearing Emma Keaveny talk about dark patterns we had a talk that caused us all to be late to the closing keynote of the day. Later at the evening conference party I had a really nice talk with a friendly tester I then did not know by reputation (I was even less connected to the global community than I currently am), but Richard Bradshaw turned out to be a very interesting person to talk with. At a mobbing demo I got to work with some people including Abby Bangser that gave a talk I really enjoyed the day before, and somewhere in the conference I got to speak a bit with Franziska Sauerwein and Simon Schrijver  - both speakers at the conference. So, I figured, that's where all the cool kids are. I want in on that club.
It also really helped that in the conference slack channel (which I really liked) there was an open-space, and I got to talk a bit about my experience with threat modeling, and had a great time doing so.
But, then, sometime as the conference was coming to a close, Maaret said to me "I heard you spoke about software security, maybe you should try submitting a talk". That, probably, was the point where everything was decided - I had a string motivation (cool kids, remember?) a positive, safe, experience, and the little very needed nudge.
Next August, when I got my workplace to send me to CAST in Vancouver, the experience did repeat itself (though less strongly) and my resolution to start speaking got another confirmation.

So, next year I tried to submit a talk to ETC, and was rejected (Having attended the conference in Helsinki, I can attest that every talk there was at least as good as my submission, and most of them far better), but the rejection notice came with a suggestion (Nordic Testing Days are looking for speakers, why don't you try?), and they gave me the opportunity to speak there.
Talk's over, and at least for now - I'm hooked.

So, why did I start speaking?
I think that every reason we can find can probably be traced back to Maaret or something she'd done - Thank you.

Why do I speak?
 - As I mentioned, it's where there's a high concentration of cool people. This way I get in that circle and get to meet more of them.
- It's cool to share ideas that might help other people who face similar challenges.
- I can allow getting to more conferences, and, if that would be relevant, I have a good reason to ask my workplace to help financing me travelling (Quite happily, most conferences I'm interested in attending are covering expenses, which I see as ETC slowly achieving one of its goals of changing the conferences world, and for which I'm grateful).
- Preparing a presentation forces me to formulate my ideas and give people a chance to poke holes in them. It's challenging and fun at the same time.

You should too.
And, regardless of whether you speak or not, you should attend ETC. It's in Amsterdam this year, and I already regret not being able to be in three places at once to hear the talks I want to. Here, have a look.
(no Hebrew this time, at least not currently).