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Start with the End in Mind - My first presentation at a tech meetup!

I was at a football coaching session the other night, and some other coaches put on a training session for us, so that we could learn and critique it. This is not an easy thing to do, to put something on for your peers and open yourself up to criticism is a difficult thing to do. One of the comments from the president of the club was that in order to develop yourself you need to push yourself and step outside of your comfort zone which it was evident that these coaches were doing.

QE Roundabout

I took this to heart in many ways, a few weeks ago I signed up to do a presentation at a meetup that was only a couple of meetups old, The QE Roundabout. I was in contact with Zoe Canning (the event organiser) and I knew it was something I wanted to do, but it's like anything, saying you want to do something and then putting yourself in a position to do it are sometimes two very different things. Anyway, I volunteered to do one, the theme was Automation & Architecture, and we were free to talk about something that aligned to that theme.

18 months or so ago I'd worked closely with one team in particular, and a big piece of that work was building a culture of Continuous Integration, and how things like the build pipeline, the test automation that we had and the deployment process were as fundamental to the software as the software itself. If we couldn't have confidence in the foundations of the software, then how could we have confidence in the software itself.

I decided to do a talk about that, I thought it was interesting, it was something that I was proud of and it was something that I felt tied in nicely to the theme.

This was it now, I'd volunteered to do it, I just had to spend time working on the slides and the presentation itself. This was relatively straight forward, over the course of my time working with them I had given numerous talks to the teams involved on the changes that we had made, why they're important, and what the result of said changes were. It still involved tying it all together in a coherent way, as I had given multiple presentations, there was nothing that tied it all together. So I spent quite a bit of time fine tuning, making sure the theme was present throughout and ended up with some slides that portrayed the message that I wanted, the message itself ended up being "Start with the end in mind" (which is also one of the 7 habits of highly successful people, but I digress).

By understanding where we wanted to get to, we could figure out just how to get there separately, and ultimately by making that visible and clear to everyone, it ensured that we all understood what was required and what the benefits of it were.

Anyway, I was dreading the talk itself, luckily for me I had a public speaking engagement on the Saturday before the meetup, it was my brothers wedding, so I had prepared a speech, I stopped short of giving the presentation to that crowd, as I wasn't sure they'd be too familiar with Applitools, Akamai, Saucelabs and other things I mentioned in my presentation, but nevertheless it was good practice in front of a friendly crowd!

The day came, I'd done a few practice runs in the office to some peers who provided me with some good feedback, I felt I was in a good place to deliver a good talk, that would hopefully showcase the journey that we went on, but also help people understand that by understanding where you want to go, you can figure out how to get there after. Sometimes people get too bogged down with figuring out the how, that they forget just what the end product should be, and that applies to a number of things in life and not just in technology.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

I gave the presentation, I spoke clearly and as slowly as I could. I think it went okay, I know there were times that I stumbled a bit, but soon picked up again, and I do need to work on my presentation skills (things like body language), but ultimately for a first talk at a meetup, I think it went relatively well. There were more people there than I thought would be (I think there were about 80 people there), but that's not a bad thing! If I were to do it again however, I think I would spend a bit more time actually doing the presenting with peers as opposed to walking them through the slides, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!

The video should be available soon-ish (I think), and hopefully the people who were there enjoyed the talk, there were a good few questions at the end which can be a good sign... or it can be a sign that nobody knew what I was talking to, but I am hoping for the former!

I'd like to thank QE Roundabout for giving me the opportunity, and I would happily do something similar again, which is a good thing!


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