On the 29th and 30th of June I attended LAST (Lean Agile Systems Thinking) Conference. The reason for my attendance was my first conference presentation. With Lee Hawkins (@therockertester) we presented our experiences of setting up the EPIC Testability Academy (ETA), running the classes and things we have learnt (aka, things we can do better). ETA is a software testing training course for people with autism. I have written about this in an earlier blog https://beaglesays.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/change-this-is-going-to-be-epic/. Lee has also blogged https://therockertester.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/a-new-year-and-a-new-challenge-the-epic-testability-academy/. You can also find more details at EPIC Recruit Assist http://epicassist.org/au/epic-testability-academy/ and http://epicassist.org/au/epichub/eta/.
Public speaking, at conferences, has not been a real focus of mine. The opportunity to co-present with Lee (who has a long history of conference speaking) and getting the spotlight onto EPIC Assist was an opportunity I was not going to let pass by. Preparing the talk and delivering it was a lot of fun. I guess it’s not that hard to tell the story if it is your experience. We have 2 requests to deliver this talk again and we are waiting to hear about a third.
There was something else that happened while I was at LAST, I clocked up 6 months with my new employer, Travelport Locomote. I mention this because ETA has a story attached that highlights the difference between my former employer and my current one. I’m not going to mention the name of my previous employer. If you’re curious you can find it on my LinkedIn profile, it’s not exactly secret. Regardless, it was toxic, made so by poor and indifferent management. This is a company that talks about assigning resources rather than people. A complete lack of trust by management towards their resources (with the exception of a chosen few), and a “carrot and stick” approach where the stick was much more prevalent. Management liked to point fingers, lay blame and seek retribution (I’ve got some incredible stories) Management formed meeting groups that included only those that echoed back what they wanted to hear. These were “group think” meetings. I didn’t get invited to many, I tend not to “echo back”. I prefer to challenge and suggest ways things could be better. In such an environment it’s not a survival strategy. In another blog I’ll talk about how learning to cope in such a high level of toxicity impacts you, even when you leave. It’s not pleasant and it’s more widespread than it should be. I know more than a few people that have gone through similar.
About 6 months before resigning from my former employer the EPIC Testability Academy became “a thing”. Funding had been approved, we had a vision, we had a name and the name had been registered. I was really happy that we had got this far. As things had been going along and building I’d been talking to friends and colleagues about the progress. There was a lot of interest and I had been asked by a lot of them if I could talk on it for 5 or 10 minutes at a monthly meeting that everyone attended. It sounded cool, I was up for sharing the story and answering questions.
The workplace was very much “chain of command”. I mailed my manager with the idea of speaking (because it had to be formally raised). He forwarded the idea to his manager for approval. “His” manager was the Development manager and owner of the monthly meeting. A response came back with astounding speed. “No, it isn’t a charity we support. You can’t present on it”. Not withstanding he hadn’t asked (EPIC is a not for profit organisation, not a charity) and that we had previously raised money for a charity we didn’t officially support. So it was bit of authority assertion, a power play. It felt pretty personal and it felt very petty. The response from colleagues when they found out was very supportive (and in some instances somewhat aggressive towards management thinking).
Let’s fast forward about 9 months. I’m at Travelport Locomote. Many of my colleagues know that I am part of ETA. They have asked questions, chatted about what we do, been genuinely supportive. I mention that I will be presenting at LAST Conference. The interest and enthusiasm is enormous. I”m provided with 2 days to attend the conference. No need to hit my annual leave. Our Sales people get me a new Travelport Locomote T-shirt (proud to wear it). I’m asked if I can provide some photos from the presentation. When I do the photos are:
Later this month Lee and I will be delivering our talk at my office. I’m really looking forward to this. It will be a thank you for the support from a great group of people that form an incredible and supportive company.
When I resigned from my previous employer I hoped, and really believed, I was going to somewhere much better. Six months on and the proof could not be clearer. I’m yet to see any sign of a stick and there is lots of support and encouragement from Management. It hasn’t been without struggles but I worked through those with company support. Toxic relationships linger, in damaging and near invisible ways. That’s a story for my next blog.