Packing today for my third visit to the Eurostar software testing conference - this time in Gothenburg.
The first time I went was in 2008, in The Hague - I'd won a free ticket at SIGIST, and my company kindly agreed to pay for my travel. To my manager's surprise. Though he was even more surprised when I said that if they couldn't find budget for me to travel there, I'd pay my own way, but could they give me the leave? He almost fell off his chair, and spluttered something along the lines of "I knew you were interested in testing but...". And then recovered himself enough to request that I get him a particular kind of cheese while I was in the Netherlands. :)
It was a pretty mind blowing experience for me. Before SIGIST, I had never been to any conferences, and I was a bit afraid that everybody else at "Europe's #1 Testing Event" would be a test manager, consultant, or some other kind of big expert and that I would really stand out as a mere humble tester. I wasn't actually 100% certain I was even supposed to be there. I felt I had to explain that I was there almost by accident.
Those doubts vanished fairly soon. I arrived there interested in testing. I went home obsessive about testing and plunged right into the testing community, eager to find out whatever I could. I attended whatever meetups or conferences I could manage, but Eurostar again was out of my budget, and that of the teams I worked with. Then someone pointed out that one way to get to a conference - is to speak at a conference. I discovered Manchester Eurostar in 2011 had a minitrack of short talks to encourage first time speakers. I applied with a lot of help and feedback from Stephen Allott and Rob Lambert on my submission - and got accepted!
And now I'm attending my third Eurostar. It looks like a fantastic programme - given that I'm doing a track session, this is both a good thing and a bad thing. I hope at least a few people come to my session, but I've got some stiff competition!