My first talk at a College

Couple of weeks back, I was invited to provide a career talk on software testing at Don Bosco Institute of technology engineering college in Bangalore. I was sceptical initially since I had never talked in a college and I was not sure if I could even deliver it, but it sounded like a good challenge and so I accepted the invitation.

Friday was the day when I had to deliver the talk and I was occupied the whole week, Thursday I some how managed to leave early to home and was at home by 7:30 pm. luckily my wife was stuck at office and I had the whole house to shout and prepare for the next day session. When I sat down in front of my laptop I did not know where to start, the challenges in front of me were I could not use technical jargons, I cannot assume that they know testing, I cannot assume that they know software development process, what do I explain to them in software testing? How will I build rapport with the audience? Shall I crack some jokes? How will I face the professors, who I was sure would be pretty aged and experienced? Etc,

Loads of questions and I was looking for answers. I thought I shall reach out for Pradeep Soundararajan, my mentor, but decided against it since I felt I wanted to crack this challenge myself I am sure even Pradeep would be much happier to know how I cracked the challenge rather than seeking help from him.

I initially thought of developing slides to assist me in the presentation, but later ruled it out, and planned to prepare a checklist just for my mind. I did prepare a presentation of one slide with my blog address in it.

Friday, sharp 3:30 pm I was at Don Bosco campus and was thrilled to see my posters flashed on the compound walls, well, it made me nervous as well, the expectation I had set for myself raised higher. The overwhelming reception I got on the way to the seminar hall made me more nervous and the professors around me gave me a sort of look, may be because I am much younger.

I stood on the stage and saw more than 100 students looking at me, most of the stuff I planned and had made a checklist of looked like loosing its way. My first words to the audience “Hi All, this is the first time I am addressing such a big gathering, so my legs might shiver or I might miss/loose some words, but I might also get better as the time goes on”. Then I looked at the checklist, I felt I have to first engage the audience and thought the checklist I prepared the previous night might not work here in the same sequence.

My checklist asked me to talk about some of the History’s worst software bugs,but on the stage I did not feel like starting with it. I could hear noise from the back seats, and so I asked one of the students sitting at the back what his name was? He replied to my question nervously may be because everyone else were looking at him. I then came up with a scenario wherein Raju (name changed) had saved his pocket money for over 6 months to gift a mobile phone to his girl friend for valentines, now I felt I had more people listening to me. I went on “raju, the day before valentines walks to the store selects the mobile which he had done a lot of research on and gets it gift wrapped. On the 14th of Feb he gifts it to his girl, the girl so excited to see a big box, calls her friends over before she unwraps it, she unwraps the box, looks at the mobile and feels top of the world. She removes the mobile phone from the box, try powering it ON and what she hears a nasty noise which almost deafened her and her friend’s ears. – I asked raju how would you feel and I asked the audience how would they feel and this set the tone for my talk.

I was no longer nervous, I then put the same bug in a life critical context and then went on talking about the History’s worst software bugs and in turn justify why we need software testing.

I felt more confident with each minute rolling by and I felt I had more audience listening to me as the talk went on.

At the end of the session I was pretty happy that I could deliver a talk to 100+ students for approx 45 min, but what pleased me more was that there were questions from the audience both the professors and the students.

I liked questions like

  • How much does a software tester earn?
  • How can I become a software tester?
  • Is only software tested?

But one question was fantastic

  • How can you ensure that there will be no bugs after you test a product?

This experience taught me a lot of lessons.

  • The first one is never hesitate to take on a new challenge; you might surprise yourself.
  • Research and homework before a presentation is required, but one should be prepared to alter/modify the flow/content during the presentation if required.
  • You feel confident on stage when you sense more audience is listening to you, so it’s very important to engage the audience.
  • No slides for the presentation actually helped me, but I found the checklist very useful.


Pari said...

Good Start Sharath,
Speaking about testing be it in public gatherings, universities or conferences is a great way to entice people to get to know more about testing and create awareness among aspiring testers. I am glad you got an opportunity to do this and did it beyond your expectations.

Giving the example of the valentine's gift is a good way to set the audience on track for listening. Good Work.

Parimala Shankaraiah

achyutha said...

Great acheivement man! Its indeed a pleasure to have had you as my colleague...
Not many have the stuff to be invited to give a tech talk in an Engineering College...so it speaks volumes about the kind of respect you have evoked amongst your testing counterparts...

NAVEEN said...

Awesome man!! Way to go!! I am sure a lot of college chicks would have had a major crush on you :) But jokes apart, I am sure this would have given you some solid confidence, which will make a much better person out of you!! Cheers!

Sharath Byregowda said...

Thanks Pari,

I was a little surprised to know that most of the graduates from a engineering college in Bangalore did not actually never thought of software testing as a career option. Most of them were in the impression that testers are chosen from those who do not clear the exams for s/w development :)

Sharath Byregowda said...

Thanks Achyutha and Naveen...

It's nice to see the silent readers posting comments.

Prabha said...

Great, Sharath. Proud of you. Continue the spirit of being the brand ambassador of Testing! Did you let the kids know that you are married :-)

Ajay Gupta said...

First of all, my hearty congratulations on an interesting challenge and on the way you pulled it off successfully.
What was your comment on the question - "How can you ensure that there will be no bugs after you test a product?" in the college. I am curious as you need to get into lot of details about the testing process to answer this question which again could confuse the audience.

Sharath Byregowda said...

Thanks Prabha san,

One of the scenarios I used would have answered my marital status to the students :)

Thanks Ajay,

To the question "How can you ensure that there will be no bugs after you test a product?"

- I asked them a question "What do you expect from a mobile phone if you spend Rs 1000 on it and what do you expect from a mobile if you shell out more than 25k on it? - This question helped me to explain cost v/s value and then the next statement from me shocked many of them - "even after you shelling out 25k on the mobile phone it might fail" - well, the reason I tried my level best to explain how complex a software program is and the how the environment the program would run on could affect it, and hence why it is almost impossible to find all bugs, but I felt my answer did not convince them. (I did not feel I explained it well enough)

In fact I did not expect the students to agree with my answer, because I still see many people within our industry failing to acknowledge the existence of bugs after testing.

This is one document which explains the impossibility of testing and why bugs could still suggest brilliantly. “The Impossibility of Complete Testing - Cem Kaner” (http://www.kaner.com/pdfs/imposs.pdf)

Kavitha said...

Good start Sharath,

You have used right example for righ age people.If you would have used rocket launching as an example, they would have lost intrest or you need to put more effort to attract them to the subject.Good show.


Pradeep Soundararajan said...

I am glad you didn't want to consult me. You also did pretty well, I guess.

Nervousness will remain. Just that after a while you will get used to it.

Santhosh Tuppad said...

Hi Sharath,
This is the first post I have read completely of yours. I have learned from the lessons you have learnt.

Good learning. Keep it up. You rock.

Hema said...


I wonder if I could leave my comment over here, as I am just a passerby of this blog.

Your example was simply superb to give a overview on Software Testing. And the article is superb I hope you had a great experience.


QPT said...

Congrats for your good starting!!!
Easy learning

Test with me @