Meet Philip Lew, the new Program co-chair of the 2018 Pacific NW Software Quality Conference.
This year’s theme is “On the Road to Quality,” and since Phil travels often — as a frequent speaker and CEO of XBOSoft — he knows quite a bit about being on the road.
We sat down to talk with Phil about his involvement with PNSQC.
Q: You keynoted TestIstanbul 2017 in Turkey, Softec Asia 2017 in Malaysia, and have been invited to keynote at Testing Stage 18 in Ukraine. These are world-spanning conferences, but you have also attended PNSQC four years in a row. What are the key differences between other conferences you’ve attended and PNSQC?
A: PNSQC is the longest running software quality conference in North America, and maybe even the world, and people keep coming back year after year. Attendees reunite and talk about what they’ve been doing. This is different than other conferences where most everyone is a stranger or newbie. Another conference’s organizer once told me that 80% of their audience are first-time attendees. PNSQC attendees keep coming back! I’ve been involved at PNSQC for 4 years, and have developed a lot of friendships in that time.
Social connections are important to us. We try to bring new attendees into the PNSQC community with events such as our “Dine Around Portland.” After breaking bread at a local restaurant with other attendees and speakers, people develop long-lasting friendships. We are planning more new activities to drive engagement and networking for both returning and new attendees.
Many of the conferences I’ve been to, especially in the U.S., have vendors participate significantly more than we do at PNSQC. Hearing about vendor solutions is not a bad thing as long as it’s only a portion of the program. We prefer to let attendees troubleshoot each others’ solutions during build-in networking opportunities, and to let the program reflect important trends — and tested solutions — in the industry.
Community-driven content matters. Most other conferences determine the program in a top-down manner. At PNSQC, our attendees give us feedback, which is used to curate the program’s content. We put out the Call for Abstracts to the entire community — anyone can submit a technical paper. The selection committee is composed of experienced industry folks who know the current directions in our field. After abstracts are selected, we have reviewers work with authors on their papers, which not only increases the quality of the paper but also get reviewers deeply involved with the authors. Sometimes they become friends over email while reviewing the paper, and then finally meet each other face to face at the conference.
Q: What energy are you bringing to PNSQC?
A: I’d like to bring a positive energy for connectedness and change, and emphasize that it is OUR conference. With the definition of “OUR” meaning that all the volunteers, attendees, technical paper authors, and workshop speakers determine what the conference is about. This covers not only the content but also the vibe and feeling of the conference.
This year, we’re focusing on the program content: covering current issues and engaging with members of the community to work with us in creating a great conference.
Q: How are the speaker tracks different this year?
A: We are making the categories broad and also emphasizing management and people as a key part of being successful in attaining software quality. We’re bringing back a track called People, Management, and Leadership. Additionally, we are working toward encouraging authors to submit talks in more areas, such as artificial intelligence, big data, IOT, and API testing. We’re doing this by suggesting topics underneath each track to help foster ideas. Just a reminder that a lot of the change has been a result of examining the feedback in the surveys that we collect at the end of the conference. The survey is an important tool for all of us.
Q: What does “On the Road to Quality” mean to you?
A: I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to speak at conferences around the world. I think the reason they invite me is because I have a reputation for being interactive and connecting with the audience. Connecting with the audience is what we’d like to do this year with our theme at PNSQC as well. Reaching for and attaining software quality is a journey. Unlike a travel destination with fixed latitude and longitude, the location or definition of software quality can change. In PNSQC’s 36 years, we’ve definitely seen a lot of change in the industry and we’d like our technical paper authors to share their experiences in problems they’ve tackled along the road with their successes and failures.
Q: In your travels, you must have heard many different presentations. How do you think people get all these ideas?
A: Most speakers have a special knowledge they’ve gained through their work and want to share their knowledge, as well as the problems in those areas, and solutions they’ve found.
There are many types of speakers. Whether they are in the trenches actually coding scripts or doing manual testing, managers of technical teams, vendors, and consultants working with companies to help them solve specific problems, or trainers who teach professionally and also give talks related to their training content. Each person is trying to discover a new road to quality.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who is considering sending an abstract to PNSQC?
A: Go for it! We are only asking for one to three paragraphs on a problem or situation that you are encountering in your work, and how you approached solving it. Describe the problem: Why it exists, why it is important, how others may have tried solving it, and how you have solved it, or even how you failed. If your abstract is chosen by the selection committee, you’ll get to work on it with colleagues in your field to help make it a professional paper.
Q: Why do you volunteer at PNSQC and continue to do so — what keeps you coming back?
A: That’s an easy answer. I enjoy the people at PNSQC and “vibe” of the conference. Vibe is hard to explain, but I’d say it feels warm and welcoming, where you feel you can approach anyone and strike up a conversation. The speakers and authors are also available throughout the conference, so you can talk about specific topics they presented and maybe even get some tips on how they can help you as well.
Join Phil and rest of the conference organizers, speakers, and attendees at PNSQC 2018 in October!
PNSQC’s mission is to enable knowledge exchange to produce higher quality software.