I have been doing a lot of interviews in the last year for permanent and consultant testers and one question I always ask is who they follow in blogs or who they have read to learn about and improve their skills as testers. On the rare occasion that the interviewee actually gives me a name or source, I will ask them more about what they have learned from that person. Often, it comes up that I may have met the person at a conference or peer workshop. That’s when things get interesting, because how they react to the idea of actually talking to an “expert” in testing tells me a lot about how they think about themselves as testers and the probability of them becoming a major contributor to the team or an expert themselves.
Some interviewees get the “deer in the headlights” look and become very nervous about talking to someone who has actually TALKED to someone famous. My reaction is usually “This person will need a lot of help to build their confidence before they can become a solid self learner.”
Others keep talking, but then shake their head in amazement or make comments like “the fact that you even know that X doesn’t drink is astounding”. My reaction here is “If I keep exposing them to great resources and talk about them as normal people, perhaps they will reach the point where they start participating in the field and learning on their own.”
When I have talked to some of those “famous” people about this awe, I get a pretty consistent response from them: “I am just a normal person. I don’t want people to be all “OMG” about the fact that I write a /blog/book/present at conferences/.”
So to all of those testers who can’t imagine meeting someone they admire in the field, I’m passing this along not just from my opinion, but from those people. Go to a peer conference, sign up for CAST, or just post responses to their blogs. Let go of your fear and start a conversation. You never know where things will go and you will learn more than you imagine.