usually work with. Such groups often have interesting speakers, and they also provide opportunities for their members to present. Search on ASQ, SPIN, QAI, and APLN (and in Canada, CIPS) for local chapters.
Start Your Own Group
If your community doesn't have a quality group, why not start one? You'll gain opportunities to learn from the speakers you engage and get valuable management experience.
Do you need practice in negotiating, or perhaps in saying "no"? Create a group with others who are similarly interested, to share tips, role play scenarios, and critique each other. You could base sessions on problems your members face or on lessons from books.
Or start a lunch-hour book club with tester colleagues, reading and discussing the ideas in professional books and trying them out in your work.
A test manager I know hosts weekly "thinking" sessions with her team, where they play games and do puzzles and exercises designed to enhance their thinking skills while having fun together.
Most communities have innumerable opportunities for volunteer work where you can learn new skills, as well as gaining the satisfaction of making a contribution. Both hands-on and management work have benefits for volunteers.
Charities such as women's shelters, legal clinics, hospices, humane societies, housing cooperatives, amateur cultural organizations, sports clubs, and all sorts of other community organizations are usually run by volunteer boards. Many would love to give you opportunities to develop and explain a budget, work on a marketing campaign, hire staff, negotiate agreements, or do a myriad of other tasks that will enhance your business skills and teach you new ones. Some organizations have seasoned professionals happy to teach you; at others, you might have to figure it out by yourself.
Hands-on work has special rewards, whether you're answering a suicide help line, joining others to build community housing, or helping seniors fill out forms. An activity that helps you grow as a human being will also make you a better tester.
Hobbies and Avocations
Nothing teaches patience and flexibility like the heartbreaks and triumphs of gardening. Every gardener learns to work with less-than-perfect conditions of soil, lighting, weather, finicky plants, and pests. They must constantly adapt their strategies and plans, balancing the inevitable risks against their visions-and sometimes they win. (Do I need to draw the parallels with test management?)
People who make music with others learn to listen and blend their sound with the group. Sometimes your voice or instrument should stand out; other times, you support someone else or contribute your sound to the harmonic whole. Similarly with theater-individuals pool their efforts to build an ensemble performance none could achieve alone. Each concert and theater performance is the result of an iterative project, with testing integral to the process.
Besides teaching collaboration and teamwork, learning music has important benefits for the brain and hence for thinking abilities. Learning lines for a play improves memory. A play or a piece of music is a system, with its own logic. A play is a model of some piece of real life. And improvisation, in music or theater, enhances creativity and collaboration.
Playing and coaching team sports can teach important skills and enhance professional effectiveness. Sports generally are good places to develop valuable qualities, such as perseverance, independence, self-reliance, adaptability, and courage. Hikers, rock climbers, distance swimmers-all have opportunities to solve problems alone or with others.
And don't discount dog training if you want to learn patience! People who work with animals (or children) develop empathy, flexibility, problem-solving skills, teaching skills, and more.
About Those Conferences ...
Of course, it's still good to