06 November, 2013

A Decade in Software Testing - My Tryst with Speaking Engagements

I often wondered why musicians and artists travel all over the world to showcase their work. While money appears to lure them, it’s hard to believe that these people live between suitcases only for money. There is something else that drives them beyond money. What is it?

Many humans want to remain immortal through their work. They want to leave their footprints before they move on from this world to another. They want to feel useful and needed to mankind (or womankind J). They want to be known for their work long after they are gone.

Passionate Humans believe in something bigger than their own self

In 2009, I went to a testing conference in Bangalore. The conference was driven by tools, technologies and processes. No one really seemed to worry about skills and values. After attending few sessions, I thought I could do better as a speaker. I brimmed with over-confidence.

In subsequent years, I submitted abstracts to many conferences where the jury asked me to take part in regional rounds, requested me to send detailed slide decks and even answer questions on email. My abstracts got rejected several times. Conference chairs hardly saw meat in my sessions during regional rounds. My storytelling ability was too weak.

At times, I was apprehensive of the jury partly because they valued topics like ‘Global Trends in Testing’ or ‘Future Trends in Testing’ more than ‘Emerging Need for Test Leadership’ or ‘Test Strategy for Web Apps’. I also thought that conferences were driven by “what the audience paid for” rather than what could help create a better world. There is a proverb in Hindi, ‘Nach Na Jaane, Aangan Tedi’ – meaning there used to be a dancer who blamed that the floor is not good and hence his dancing was bad. I was in that dancer’s state of mind, perhaps.

In 2013, I told myself that I will build on my speaking skill. It was one of the important goals for this year. I actively applied to conferences as a speaker. I started to practice writing abstracts and/or proposals seriously. I spent time learning how to make impressive slide decks (long way to go). I even sent abstracts to many conferences outside India. My testing heroes/sheroes Pradeep Soundararajan, Lisa Crispin, Carsten Fielberg and Maria Kedemo helped a great deal this year by reviewing my abstracts and provided detailed inputs. I appreciate their patience and support. It’s heartwarming to have colleagues who are so helpful. I got rejected again and again and again and again this year. As I write this post, an email arrived rejecting two more proposalsL. It’s painful to get rejected even after putting so much effort. And then, I was reminded of this proverb:

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you’re a good person is like expecting a bull not to attack you because you’re a vegetarian ~ Dennis Whole

Invited Speaker
I recently presented at Chennai on ‘Testing Mobile Apps using Heuristic Test Model COP FLUNG GUN’. It made me very happy. This was my First speaking invitation ever (without the hassles of abstract, regional rounds or selection process). I believe this invite came only because the program chair of this conference had seen me present during one of the regional rounds for a testing conference in Bangalore. Of course, my paper for Bangalore conference was rejected for political reasons [Quoting Jerry Weinberg, “All decisions are emotional and political”]. However, the same team invited me to present at their Chennai conference. I rehearsed well. My talk went really well. I pulled my phone out and made my talk highly interactive. Heads and Directors of many testing companies were glued to their seats. I received great feedback for my talk afterwards.


WonderingThis  left me wondering. How is it that my abstracts get rejected, but some people think I am worthy to be invited to talk? How is it that people like my talk?  I have spoken at Aditi, BlrTmm, Bug DeBug and WCNGT Chennai and the feedback I received was positive.

Here is what I think. Many program chairs must have heard you speak somewhere or received great feedback about your talk or interacted with you (and believe you have great ideas) in order to offer speaking engagements. People like me need speaking engagements to be able to speak so I can become a better speaker with each attempt. It’s a Catch 22 situation.

The Spirit of Fighting Back
I believe I have great stories to tell. I have my fair share of experiences which I have learned and can help others. I see a large number of testers in Academy at Moolya benefit from what I coach on while I learn along with them. I am confident I can do better in speaking. I continue to practice. I observe other good speakers speak. I listen to YouTube videos. Hey, I plan to attend a storytelling workshop too!

Pradeep recently sent me a link to UXIndia which I registered. He nudged me to apply and I did, without any help from anyone – all on my own. I got selected for a 10 minute Rapid Fire Talk. I had a blast presenting at UX India 2013. This experience has boosted my confidence by many levels. Thanks to Pradeep for the nudge!

Presenting at UX India 2013 to an audience of UI/UX designers
Until two months ago, I was very desperate to speak at conferences. Very very desperate! I wanted to do anything possible to make it to conferences. I guess I was focusing my energies in the wrong place. I am no longer desperate. I decided I won’t worry about getting rejected anymore. It’s a waste of my time. I will continue to try, but won’t feel bad or sad as I used to. Instead, I’ll wear each rejection as a badge of honor for the effort I am putting in. At least, I am trying. It keeps me calm and grounded. There are many things that are under our control and lot many more that are not under our control.

The best way to deal with it is to get better at what is under our control and let of what is not under our control.

By the way, it’s not been all that bad. Here are my speaking engagements so far. Two talks this year is decent progress.
  1. Test Estimation – BLRTMM, Bangalore, April 2010 [Invited]
  2. Myths of Test Estimation – Aditi Technologies, Bangalore, November 2010
  3. Heuristics of Usability – BugDebug, Chennai, March 2012
  4. Testing Mobile Apps, WCNGT, Chennai, August 2013 [Invited]
  5. Heuristics for User Experience (Rapid Fire Talk) – A Testers Perspective – UXIndia, Bangalore, October 2013 
  6. Lunch Talk – A Retail Company, Bangalore, 2014 [Invited]
  7. Ecommerce Testing – A services company, Bangalore, 2014 [Invited]
  8. Heuristics for User Experience, India Testing Week 2013, Bangalore, December 2013 
  9. Testing, Learning and Inspiration - SAP Labs, Bangalore, December 2013 [Invited]
Someday, you’ll hear me speak at TED!

I bet!

Parimala Hariprasad

Addendum on 16th Jan 2014 
Hey! I am already invited for 4 conferences this year, 3 in India and 1 in US. The seeds I sowed last year seem to be sprouting already ;).


  1. Great to read, these experience notes from you.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Srinivas Kadiyala

  2. Good one ..I have also the same problem. But i have joined toastmasters which is really very helpful.

  3. You have a great Blog right here Mate. Adore your articles or blog posts quite informative, Please hold up the great work.
    Nidhi Infotech

  4. Great blog and interesting post. Congrats on your increasing success as a speaker!