Sydney tester meetups – a history

A few people have asked me how the Sydney tester meetups began.

Back in early 2010, I started working with a guy called James. James and I could talk about testing pretty much indefinitely. Then one day, James and I heard about another keen tester named Marlena who had just moved to Sydney to work for Atlassian. She invited us out to meet her after work one evening, so James and I set out to the Red Oak brewery cafe for a few beers and a chin wag.

Well, we nerded it up like nobody’s business. Talking testing with other testers is fun, we said. We should do it more often, we said. So we kept meeting up and having some beers and talking some testing and we liked it a lot. Then we said you know what would make this even better? More testers. So we put the word out that’s how the Sydney tester meetups were born.

At first we tried to spread the word via Twitter, email and word of mouth, and we had some monthly meetups in bars. There were no topics or talks – we’d just sit around and have a few drinks and chat for a while. But we found it hard to get more than a few people to attend. Finding interested testers was difficult, and the bars could be pretty noisy.

It was pretty close to a year since that first tester meetup, when the three of us met at Darling Harbour for the last time. James was moving back to England and Marlena was moving back to the USA. Our meetup group numbers had dwindled down to a total of four that night. That could have been the end of the Sydney tester meetups. But our fourth member was Anne-Marie, who had just moved to Sydney from Ireland. And Anne-Marie wasn’t ready to let the meetups die just yet.

Anne-Marie approached SoftEd for sponsorship, mainly so that we could get a bigger and quieter regular venue for our meetups, and perhaps entice people with some free refreshments. SoftEd happily agreed, and they also sponsored our new Meetup.com subscription (which is only about $4/month). SoftEd was also running James Bach‘s Rapid Software Testing course in Melbourne, so they talked to him about doing a talk at our tester meetup, to which he agreed.

Meanwhile, I and asked Andrew from Atlassian if they would be willing to host the next meetup. Atlassian was happy to host, so that was our venue problem solved. Google was also supportive, and offered to host a future meetup.

So I think through the power of Meetup.com and the drawcard of James Bach, we managed to get around 50 people for this meetup. I had to close it off to new RSVPs a week before the event, because the venue couldn’t host any more! Bruce picked up some snacks for hungry testers. The talk was very well-received, and it was followed by an enjoyable dinner with a few of the testers there.
Since then, I’ve organised a couple of meetups at City Hotel, where we have a quiet room to ourselves and a bar tab courtesy of SoftEd. The first was a games night, where we divided into groups and played some games designed to challenge some of the same logic, lateral thinking and reasoning skills that we use in testing. The second meetup had no specific format – just a chance to get to know other testers in the group. The attendance for each was somewhere between 10 and 20 people – testers and other IT folk from all kinds of workplaces, just talking testing.

The thing I love most about these meetups is that everyone there offers a different perspective, and an enthusiasm for what we do. One of the greatest things to hear is someone saying “Huh. I’d never thought about it that way.”

If you’re in Sydney and would like to come to one of our meetups, just sign up at our meetup.com site to stay updated about our upcoming events.

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