My name is Veerle and I was at the EuroSTAR Software Testing & QA Conference in Prague. This blog is about how making connections are a huge part of my conference experience and how your perspective can change.
When EuroSTAR announced the launch of their conference app, I initially only installed it to make use of the handy agenda function. This function allows you to get a personalised overview of your conference schedule, with the possibility to set reminders. How convenient, I thought.
Then I stumbled upon the Icebreaker section, which seemed like a fun way to get to know some other delegates before the conference started. Soon I was chatting away to others, responding to discussions, signing up for meetups and generally getting super excited for the conference and ‘meeting’ other attendees before I’m even there. It was fantastic.
Then suddenly I get a notification: ‘Congratulations! You are now 7th on the leader board.’
Leader board? I click the notification to see where it takes me, and true enough, there is a leader board for the most active members. I’m 7th. I check out the other names. 4 of those people turn out to be in the organising team. One of the others is a certain Hanna. I don’t take it seriously at first. ‘Who cares?’, I think, ‘I’m not here to prove anything, I’m just having a laugh with the other delegates.’
But somehow, when something is turned into a competition, I get competitive!
Soon I’m up to fifth, then third place. But this Hanna keeps bumping me down, we seem pretty evenly matched. So when I read a comment of hers saying she’s about to board the plane for Prague, I think: ‘Good! That’ll give me two hours to get ahead!’ What can I say, I get competitive.
Monday morning, the conference is about to start.
I’m at the coffee machine, talking to another delegate, when a young woman with long hair and a fringe walks by. She looks familiar. We make eye contact and recognise each other.
‘Hi!’, she says, ‘I’m Hanna!’
‘I KNOW YOU!’ (I tend to get very excited.) ‘You’re the Hanna from the leader board!’ I tell her about using her plane time to get ahead of her and she laughs. I can’t help but instantly like her. This is no rivalry, this is meeting someone who’s just like me. I immediately ask her if she wants to be on a team with me for the pub quiz that night. Surely a team with two people who are so competitive will have to win?
We don’t win. But we have a blast!
We exchange contact details, hang out together for a lot of the conference, get to know each other, tell each other about our experiences in testing. When there’s a spontaneous call for proposals to do a 4-minute talk in the main auditorium (Diversity Strikes), we both submit something…
… We both get picked and we experience the thrill of speaking for a large audience together!
And now we’re keeping that vibe alive. We’re encouraging each other to submit proposals for other conferences, we bounce ideas off each other, and we’re making plans to visit each other in our respective countries. Without the Whova app, I’m not sure any of this would have happened. I’m so grateful it did.
PS: Hanna won the race to the top of the leader board. I got too distracted by the excitement of being at my first international conference to keep up with the app much, but Hanna is an early riser and made use of her mornings to keep up. I couldn’t be prouder, because in the end, I didn’t see her as a competitor anymore. The two of us became a team, and even just one of us winning felt like a victory to me.