Last Friday, I fulfilled one of my own personal goals by giving my first ever talk at a Conference. This wasn’t just any conference, this was at the place where it all started for me – This was the conference that ignited my passion and my love for Software Testing nearly 5 years ago.

To me, TestBash Brighton feels like I’m going home to see my family, the place holds so many great memories and I’ve met so many great friends there that, in their own way, have helped me during my testing journey.

My ‘talk’ was basically a story of my life – How I failed big time during my school years, discovered my love for learning in the British Army and how this was amplified to new levels when I found the wonderful world of Software Testing. The slides and my speakers notes can be found here, if you would like to take a look.

As this was my first ever talk at a conference (I didn’t even practice it anywhere, other than in my house) I had a massive fear of the unknown – I knew that people wanted me to succeed and not fall flat on my face but that doesn’t really tell my brain to stop panicking about it all.

This photo was taken by Matthew Parker when I arrived at the venue, although I have a smile on my face, that might be from the ‘grumpy’ massage I was getting from Patrick Prill, I was in fact having an internal meltdown. It’s really strange, I’ve been to places like Iraq and Afghanistan but nothing compares to the anxiety that you feel when you know that you’ll be up on that stage, with multiple eyes on you for 30 minutes.

Pre-Talk Smile
Getting a ‘grumpy’ massage from Patrick Prill

I got a huge case of the ‘next in line effect‘ while I was sat there listening to Emily Webber‘s talk – I could hear her talking but the whole time I was going over in my head what I was going to say during my talk. As the clock ticked closer to 1000, I literally couldn’t remember any of my talk, I kept opening my laptop to read my notes again trying to make it stick in my mind.

I had opted to go for a slide deck full of images so if I couldn’t recall the words, I was screwed because I had nothing to read. Thankfully, I could see my notes on the laptop in front of me during the talk so I could roughly see what I had written and this jogged my memory.

Before the talk, I told myself to just focus on one or two people to help me relax but that went out the window in the first few seconds and for about 30 minutes, I don’t think I looked at a single person directly in the eyes – That’s what panic and fear does to you, you can plan to do something in advance but ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’.

I managed to get through it in the end with my credibility hopefully intact and was absolutely blown away by the overwhelming kind words I received from different people. It means a lot to me that people enjoyed the story and found little bits of it that they could relate too.

A huge THANK YOU needs to go to three amazing ladies that helped me shape my shell of a talk into something that I was proud to share with everyone in the room.

My absolute hero Rosie Sherry who has helped me so much over the years that I’m sure she’s sick of me mentioned her name now. Gwen Diagram who is just an absolute ball of energy and made some killer suggestions and helped me see the light and change areas of my talk that basically looked a bit crap. Finally the incredible Deborah Lee, her constant support, encouragement and just being there for me, is something that I will never forget.

A special mention needs to go out to the people who sent me private messages of support before my talk – Thank you all so much! Hopefully I did you all proud.

Once again, the magical wonderfulness of Testbash gave me the same feeling that I always have when I leave Brighton and hopefully will continue to do so forever.