​The Chicago Quality Assurance Association (CQAA) was founded in 1984 to “promote quality principles and practices within Chicago-area companies” and to provide “a forum for information professionals to present and discuss quality and process management within information systems, technology, and services.”

To celebrate their 30 years of service, the CQAA is hosting an event on July 31st at the Metropolitan Club in downtown Chicago’s Willis Tower. This should be a fantastic evening for all QA professionals, not just current members of the CQAA.

We had a chance to sit down with CQAA president and founder Nancy Kastl to learn more about the CQAA’s accomplishments over the last 30 years, and how they’ll be celebrating such an impressive contribution to the Chicago area.

Noel: First thing’s first, let’s talk about the big event coming up on July 31st. The Chicago Quality Assurance Association is celebrating their 30th anniversary and having a celebration in honor of that achievement. Congratulations on 30 years! I noticed that Tom Ticknor, COO of the QAI Global Institute will be a special guest, and then there’s also what looks to be a fascinating keynote that connects overcoming personal challenges to the Bushido Code followed by Samurai warriors! Can you tell us a little more about that?

Nancy: Well, CQAA is the second oldest chapter of the QAI Global Institute and we’re also the largest chapter with over 2,200 members today. We’re delighted that Tom Ticknor will be flying in from QAI’s US headquarters in Florida. Our members and guests will have the opportunity to meet Tom in person and hear his remarks about how QAI supports the QA profession past, present, and future.

For our keynote speaker, we wanted to do something different than our typical afternoon CQAA programs with a speaker on a technical topic such as test automation, agile testing, etc. Along with celebrating the past and looking forward to the future, we wanted a topic to energize our members and guests in their professional and personal lives. In the technology profession, we have all experienced constant change and change is now at an even more rapid pace. 

Just like the Samurai warriors of the past, we as QA professionals must embrace change over the next 30 years to be successful. I had the opportunity to hear John Godoy as a keynote speaker at this year’s Quality Engineered Software and Testing Conference (QUEST) in Baltimore. It’s an awesome talk with great messages for all of us and I look forward to seeing and hearing John again.

Noel: Thirty years ago, that was…1984. In the software world especially, that feels like centuries ago. You founded the CQAA in 1984 to “promote principles and practices within Chicago-area companies.” I wondered if you might be willing to share some of the more memorable accomplishments that you and the CQAA has been able to achieve in that time.

Nancy: The obvious major accomplishment is being a recognized, trusted provider of educational and networking opportunities to our Chicagoland community for now thirty years. We must be doing something right with 2,200 members and still growing! Since we are a non-profit organization of volunteers, this is a major accomplishment and shows the dedication of the CQAA Board of Directors and volunteers to keep the organization alive and flourishing. 

Looking back, our memorable events include networking lunch cruises on Lake Michigan onboard the Odyssey (back in the days when people had time to eat lunch), hosting the first QUEST Conference in Chicago in 2008, and joint events with other professional associations – PMI, IIBA, and C-SPIN.  By offering certification preparation classes, we have helped hundreds of people receive their professional certification in software quality and testing.

Noel: I noticed on the CQAA website that it’s actually free to join the group, that’s impressive enough on its own, but what are some of the other benefits that members receive by joining?

Nancy: As I mentioned, we provide educational and networking opportunities locally that are also free of charge, thanks to the many companies in downtown Chicago and the suburbs that provide facilities for our educational programs. The key benefit of CQAA is people meeting and learning from people – in person. In today’s world, it’s easy to access information and connect with people virtually through the Internet and webinars, but CQAA still provides the in-person connection between people who share a common profession – locally and at no cost. 

Noel: Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to let us know about the 30th anniversary celebration?  

Nancy: It’s going to be a great time. We will have an awesome view of Chicago from the 67th floor of Willis Tower overlooking Lake Michigan, which is a great setting for our members and guests. Drinks, appetizers, raffle prizes, networking games will also add to the festivities. We are reconnecting to people who were members 20 to 30 years ago plus past board members and volunteers, so it will be an exciting reunion for some! 

This event is also a great opportunity for people who are new to CQAA to join us, learn more about our organization, and be a part of CQAA during the next 30 years!  We are excited about our upcoming 30th anniversary celebration and are extremely thankful to our four sponsors for helping fund the cost of this event to make it a very memorable experience.  Our very special thanks to Parasoft, Skytap, Orasi Software and the QAI Global Institute for their support of CQAA and the Chicago QA community.

To learn more about, and register for the CQAA’s 30th Anniversary Celebration, click here!

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