Sunday, May 14, 2017

Adventures Of A Tester: Brighton, England, UK (Part 3 of 3)

There was a brief stop-over in London to switch trains and then head farther south. What I didn’t know at the time is that there was a terrorist attack happening not very far from the tube station I was using to switch trains. I managed to get on my train and I was headed out of the city by the time the news reached people on the train and phones started ringing.

The news mostly sounded like someone had stabbed people. It wasn’t until I reached Brighton that I heard about the full extent of what happened, and after finding a WiFi spot, realizing people were looking for me wondering if I had been in London. It wasn’t until later I realized how lucky I had been to have not been too affected, nor have my travel delayed only by luck of having booked my second leg 30 minutes prior to the incident.

London and the rest of the UK carried on as if it was only a small interruption to a normal weekday of commuting. It was that difference that made me aware of how scared we are as a culture in America. The threat color/level would have been drilled into the airwaves and we would have had non-stop coverage of the event until something more grotesque came along.Train stations might have been locked down, extra security would have been in place. I saw no evidence of any of this. People refused to be scared out of their routines, but they were talking about it.

Transition To The Sea Side

If anyone thinks the hills in Scotland are hard to walk, they should visit Brighton. Those hills by the shore could give the higher elevations a run for their money. I felt like I was either walking up a hill or down another most of the time I was there.

And I was there to talk my face off. Mostly. I mean, what do you do at a conference? I usually end up hoarse by the end of it from all the talking I do. I love it. I feel like it gave me the much needed boost of ideas and community which has now become a must have for me at least once a year.

TestBash(es) are addictive. I have been to three now, and I have spoken at 2 of them and volunteered for one. It continues to be one of the best conference series I’ve ever attended. It’s sister conference, European Testing Conference, being the only other conference coming close in comparison, at least for me.

At Brighton, I spoke to the Thursday workshop day crowd in the afternoon presenter’s slot. I was sure people were going to pass out and I’d have five people left in the audience. I think in my head that’s how I kept myself from getting too freaked out about the full auditorium that suddenly sprung into view at 5p that day.

Talking with Vernon and Mark, it was a surreal moment for me. I don’t remember the transition of the nervous, unsure me to the speaker on the stage, but somehow it happened. I felt comfortable up there. I think it might have been that I was holding onto the mic like it was the most important thing in the world at that point, but that’s OK. By the end I felt like I had easily talked about all of my points, I missed a few things, but that always happens in a talk you’ve practiced. Some things don’t seem relevant as you are speaking. I haven’t seen the video yet but my hope is that it came off as well as I think it did.

Several people came up to me later and spoke about how they enjoyed the talk. People seemed to be engaged with the ideas of the presentation. One person mentioned that they planned on using some of the things from the talk at work the following week. Another turned their badge upside down to attract attention and have people ask him about his badge, which was an opening to creating a conversation. I had so many wonderful conversations throughout the conference and at the meetups and later at the open-space.

For those that didn’t get to attend the open-space, you missed a lot of really good discussions. I got to participate in my third podcast for the year called ScreenTesting by Neil and Dan. I had a wonderful conversation led by Mike Talks and Gem Hill on mental health. I came away from the open-space with a larger sense of community, knowing I could reach out and chat with any of the folks who were there and connect with them on topics and discussions. More online friends with faces, rather than just people with screen names or twitter handles, who I’ve chatted with so many times over the last year or so.

The only mishap through the whole trip was trying to get back to London to catch my flight on Sunday. All worked out in the end thanks to planning, patience and a cabbie that was willing to drive from downtown London Victoria out to my hotel near the airport. It was a small fortune, but I didn’t mind. It was my last night in the UK and riding out in a black cab seemed like the most touristy thing I could possibly do.

Not much has changed about London in 20 years. The underground smelled the same. The people were as welcoming as ever. Well, actually a lot on the surface has changed, including me. I had a sense of renewed passion for my craft and a closer connection to the community we've all help build. It was an experience I won't forget.

Special thanks to:
-Rosie Sherry, for inviting me to speak in Brighton.
-Vernon and Mark, who shepherded me through my first large speaking engagement.
-Gem and Mike, for being the awesome, open, and lovely people that they are.
-Claire Reckless & Heather Reid, for being a super supportive persons through all of my prep for my talk and helping me bunches with the Ministry of Testing writers group.
-Abby Bangser, for a large dose of support, friendship, and encouragement.
-The Ministry of Testing Writers Group - you all rock and I thank you for giving me tons of things to read and look forward to every day. I couldn’t me more happy with the progress we’ve made and I’m looking forward to all the progress we will continue to make through the rest of this year.

FYI - I’ll be at TestBash Philly this year one way or another. Let’s chat and Let’s Laugh. I am already looking forward to seeing so many familiar faces and all the new ones too.

Adventures Of A Tester: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (Part 2 of 3)

If you’re not careful, Scotland can sneak up on you.

I was sitting on the train, writing some, and editing articles when I realized I was pretty dizzy and really tired. I wasn’t sure why. I wasn’t late at all. It was mid-afternoon, the sun was out, the countryside was rich in color and it had just finished raining. My curiosity was peaked.
I have one of those sports monitors on my phone. It came with it actually. I decided it might be interesting to check my stress, pulse and oxygen levels. I checked my pulse first and found it was indeed at a resting state. Lower than my usual pulse actually. I felt relaxed and even posted about it to friends how incredibly relaxed I felt, until I decided to check my stress levels. The stress meter measures pulse, oxygen and stress factors based on what the sensor in my phone picks up. I realized pretty quickly, while I was less stressed than I normally was, my oxygen levels had dropped pretty significantly. It was to the point of nearly passing out. (Normal is 96-98% SpO2 and mine registered at 79%.) I took a couple of deep breaths and everything shot up to normal levels for me. So much for relaxing euphoria of lacking oxygen. But that’s how Scotland sneaks up on you. You don’t know you are there until it’s literally taking your breath away.

When the train stopped in Edinburgh, I found myself to be pretty tired and hopped in a cab. I was disoriented at best, and really tired from having traveled all day at worse. I was looking forward to the small room I had rented on the east side of the city within a 30 minute walk of Holyrood Palace (Or Palace of Holyroodhouse - the internet was unhelpful in determining which one was more correct).

That evening, I seemed to have enough energy to walk about a mile to meet up with a friend for dinner. Many awesome bits of conversations were had over a pub dinner and beers at the Queen's Arms. I went back to my room on a similar cloud of euphoria as earlier, but it was probably due good conversation and alcohol.

The next two days in Scotland were pretty touristy. I walked and shopped and checked out bookstores along with using any available WiFi spot I could grab to answer emails and post on social media. I visited the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens and The Britannia, the former royal yacht. All of that was pretty interesting, especially walking to the botanical gardens through older parts of the city.

At one point on the second day, I took a bus ride out to the suburbs. I only wanted to see the countryside without someone yakking in my ear about this feature or that person or whatever was there. Maybe I should be more interested in the history, but for me, I was interested in what I could notice, what I could enjoy seeing on my own. When the bus reached it’s end point, the driver hopped out for a smoke. I got out too. 

The driver informed me that this was the end of the line and he was going to turn around. I was OK with that I said. I wanted to ride the bus and see where it took me. His accent was Scots and not the British I had been hearing most of my trip. He had many of the easy manners and phrases that I couldn’t hope to repeat but made me laugh about one thing or another. He was surprised I wanted to ride the bus until the end of the line. I explained that I wasn’t much into tours, that I preferred to pay four quid to take my own tour. He told me it was a good idea. He continued smoking, and we talked about Texas, and then New Zealand where he vacationed the year before with his wife.

Scotland captured my imagination and I won’t soon forget it or the people I met while I was there. Three days was too short and it only made me want to go back and visit again. I boarded the train and headed to Brighton. My next adventure was the most exciting and scariest yet!