Wednesday, May 4, 2022

German Testing Day 2022 - Let the Conference Season Begin

Compared to other years, this year is a bit special for me. I've started a new job and hence had to make a decision on how to balance this with conference speaking. In addition, I am still working hard on saying yes only to those things that I really want to do and that I also have the capacity and energy for. Therefore, I chose to keep the first half year mostly free of commitments outside work and then start slowly with "lighter" speaking engagements, meaning sessions I've already given before. I have to say thank you to my past self for this decision - it was very well worth it. This gave me the space needed to fully dive into the new company, new team and new product, and granted me the rest I needed to get this new job on the run.

Fast forward to today - where I just finished my first conference of 2022, German Testing Day! Many thanks to Thomas Rinke for bringing me to yet another edition, I really appreciate it. This year the conference was online which means I don't have any sketchnotes to share - I keep those for on-site events. That being said, let's still share what I experienced and learned.


Day 1

How else could it be for a testing conference? The first day was kicked off and we immediately faced audio issues. Kudos to the organizers for the quick decision to drop the integrated browser solution to join talks and refer everyone smoothly to the Zoom meetings instead. No more friction this way and a nice experience throughout the event from then on.
  • "Wie eine neue Kubernetes Version getestet und released wird" by Max KΓΆrbΓ€cher. Roughly translated: "How to test and release a new Kubernetes version". This was an insightful talk showing how such a huge (think: gigantic) open source project comes together. Coordinating all the people involved is no easy endeavor and a lot needs to be formalized quite strictly to make it work, like very explicit requirement / code / testing freezes. Automation is a foundational corner stone all the way and still humans are needed to review the changes and their impact. Also, change communication to consumers is key and worth a whole separate team!
  • "Remote Ensemble Testing - From Experiment to Common Practice" by Andrea Jensen. I loved how Andrea managed to 1) tell her story from problem to experiment to continuously evolving, while at the same time 2) explaining the approach of working in an ensemble, and always 3) keeping in mind how contexts can differ, hence 4) encouraging people to run their own experiments and last but not least 5) also providing helpful preparation steps and a cheat sheet to support them on their journey! A wholesome well-rounded skillfully executed talk that's simply inspiring. Great job!
  • Lean coffee hosted by Thomas Rinke. Whenever lean coffee sessions are offered, I'll do my best to catch at least one of them. On this day, I got lucky it was hosted during lunch time (if you know me, I'm anything but a morning person). I got the honor to facilitate one of the tables and we had a nice conversation on topics like test reporting tooling, helpful practices to give feedback and what to do when there's only budget for one conference yet limited space for the desired session. A nice side-effect: two new connections formed through these conversations where I had separate calls with each of them later that day and could exchange more experience.
  • "Tester trifft CI System - lessons learned" by Tobias Geyer. Roughly translated: "Tester meets CI system". What amazing storytelling of how a tester ended up improving the build pipeline in a very impactful way! Just loved the full focus on the story, supported by wonderful big images. Really related to the messages as well. Testing and CI system, how does it go together? Well, through critical questioning, measuring and observing, and rejecting to accept the status quo, Tobias could reduce the build time by a lot, hence feedback became a lot faster on all sides, and therefore also product quality improved. Now, you need to be "technical" to do this, right? No, you don't, we can use the skills we honed as testers already and then build on them and learn as we go - plus get support from others.
  • "'Mobi, bringe mich zu Ausgang Beatrixgasse' Indoornavigation in U-Bahnstationen fΓΌr blinde Personen." by Helmut Pichler. Roughly translated: "Mobi, get me to exit Beatrixgasse - Indoor navigation at metro stations for blind people". An interesting experience report how a research and development project looks like for an innovative new product - and how we sometimes have to recognize that technology is not yet capable of safely covering all scenarios in real life. I especially liked the insights in the everyday life of a tester on such a project and the workarounds they found to solve their issues.
  • "KEYNOTE: Testing in modern times: a story about quality and value" by Huib Schoots. What can I say, it might be my own confirmation bias speaking, yet I couldn't stop nodding in this great keynote. So much related to the focus on learning with short feedback loops, building learning organizations and changing behavior through doing and new experiences - experimentation for the win! Also, countering the (very unhelpful) learned helplessness I also faced so many times in my career (with others, and also myself). And if you wonder what all this has to do with testing and quality? Well, everything!
That concluded day one for me. There was a nice social activity planned on the evening, yet unfortunately I had to miss out this time. Still, a great first day that made me eager to see what the next day was about to bring.

Day 2

This day was the "workshop day" in my head, a day I wanted to focus on workshops - which included my own session.
  • "Being an Opera Singer Prepared me for a Career in Tech" by Anna McDougall. The day started out with lightening and pecha kucha talks, and among them this one really stood our for me. What an amazing short talk! Great storytelling, loved the similarities and differences between opera and tech. Anna managed to convey important messages in very short time (like: we need to leave our ego behind), and that in a super well structured way with amazing slides. Just awesome.
  • "Ensemble Exploratory Testing" by myself. I gave the same (okay, very similar) session at last year's German Testing Day as well. Last year, people needed to register for the workshop, and although fully booked, it was a real pity that only very few people actually showed up. I still got really nice feedback and made it into the top three sessions which also brought me back this year. Now this time, the conference decided to limit the participants by the first come first serve principle - and the session filled up! We could run five ensembles and practice together from wherever people were. I know that this workshop confronts most people with having to learn A LOT in very short time, it's like being thrown into lots of uncertainty for most - hence safety and consideration is so crucial for this session. Also this time, all five groups had very different starting and ending points - yet all stayed and also seemed to have taken away useful insights. You can imagine how happy I was when I heard that the session once again made it among the top voted sessions! One more important thing to say: huge kudos to Thomas Rinke for hosting this session with me this year, taking care of organizational things upfront, participating in the workshop, and also providing feedback. You made everything easy and smooth for me and things just worked - much appreciated!
  • "D.A.R.E. more, F.E.A.R. less - Journaling for Tech People" by Cosima Laube. This workshop really made me think! We learned not only about journaling techniques or how these can help us reflect and direct our next steps, yet also which direction we want to go into. What are our values, what is it that really matters to us? Why do we postpone or procrastinate certain tedious or scary tasks? How can we learn to respond intentionally to these kinds of stimuli? I am grateful that such important and foundational topics are getting addressed and the respective knowledge is being shared at conferences. Cosima managed to break down the complex theory in a very accessible and also actionable way - we can instantly use the approaches and tools she provided us with. 
  • "KEYNOTE: Deep Democracy – WiderstΓ€nde im Team verstehen – Alle mitnehmen" by Christiane Leiste. Roughly translated: "Deep democracy - Understand resistance in the team - Take everyone along". What if decisions are being made without us getting heard and included? How does resistance build up over time and express itself, from begin hidden to very openly demonstrated? What's behind this resistance? How can we uncover different and alternative perspectives from the start and actively include them in our decision making so everyone agrees that they can come along? This keynote was both very relatable and also provided a tangible way how to include more people and perspectives so we all can craft and go our journey together.

A conclusion?

Or rather the beginning! I'm really happy this conference provided a great starting point into my conference season this year. I learned new things, I met new people, I practiced my skills, I got inspired. Thank you to everyone making this a great event. Now I'm looking forward to more! The good news: the next conference with AgileTD Open Air is coming soon, only two more weeks to go.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Starting in Software Testing

Over the years, several people reached out to me asking for guidance to get into the testing and quality space. What drew me into this area, how to start this as a career, which resources to look into, how to practice, and so on. Today I answered a similar question once more and hence decided to make a blog post out of it - in case my (admittedly quite generic answer) might help more people.

First, credit where credit is due. This post now exists because of those people who had asked. I don't remember all of them, yet at least thank you to AfeezOdunayo, Chemierra and Abraham.

Also, I'm pretty sure there are more comprehensive or helpful answers out there. Here's the one I currently give, adapted to the context of the question asker.


Hi there! Great to hear you'd like to explore the testing and quality space! I relate to the overwhelming amount of (at times contradicting) information out there, it can be difficult to figure out on your own where to even start.

It most probably is not doable to get into software testing the same way I did, as I rather fell into testing by luck and opportunity instead of intentionally planning it as my career. In case you're interested to read about my story, I wrote about it here: How I Fell into Testing. I assume things are quite different these days. What I don't experience differently is that I'm still learning every day and I just love that. I feel in this space I can contribute to building a great product for people, and build that together with great people - as product development is a real team sport. Might be my personal bubble, yet I do feel we can have impact together and help move things to a better place.

Let me be clear that I can only share from my personal experience here and I'm aware I'm speaking from a very privileged position; so please know that any advice I can give you, anything what helped me in my context, might not fit to your situation at all. Feel free to see for yourself though, and I'd be glad if something turns out as valuable.

Coming to your question how to start in software testing. Let me give you a quite common tester answer: it depends! ;-) What's your context? What are you interested in? What do you enjoy? What's a current challenge you'd like to tackle? There's a lot more questions that would help provide you more targeted recommendations. Let me know if you have more specifics for me. For now I'll just go with generic recommendations, hoping they might help you already.

Resources: There's lots of great content out there. In general I can recommend having a look at the following to get started.

Practicing: Getting hands-on experience and trying things out is invaluable, and deliberate practice can make a real difference.

  • You might want to help out open source projects and practice there - probably the most real practice you can find. (Side note: I am sharing this as advice I heard from others, it's not part of my own journey so I cannot speak from experience here.)
  • There are lots of projects meant for practicing. A great list is this: Resources for Software Testers (You need to sign in to view it yet it should be visible with a free account.)
  • Consider joining forces and pairing up with people, or learning in a group. This sped up my learning so much I can't even emphasize this enough. For resources on working well with other people, see my page on collaboration.

In case you'd like to know anything in specifics, just let me know and I hope I can help or connect you with people who can.

Hope this helps! All the best for your journey.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Asking for Help

How is it that asking for help can be both so easy and the hardest thing to do? In my case, if I'm feeling calm and relaxed, I can ask about anybody to help me out. If they agree and do help, awesome! If they don't, well, it's a pity yet I'm calm, so it's not the worst thing in the world either. After all, things are under control anyway.

That situation changes completely when I'm feeling overwhelmed, fires are burning everywhere and I feel the weight on my shoulders (it might not actually be on my shoulders, yet perception matters). In this situation I happen to switch to one of two kinds of modes. Usually, it's my extreme "get things done on my own" mode, which let's me see only one way: pushing through until everything's done! And as I know how to do it, I just do it right away on my own to get things out of the way as quickly as I can. After all, I want to get back to a sustainable pace and things being under control as soon as possible. In this situation I don't feel I have time to enable others to do the same and help me out, I just keep going. On the other hand, I might be going on extreme mode for a while - then everything is getting slower and slower, while I still try to push through. I have less and less energy, so dealing with people is also not high on my list in this situation either. Don't get me wrong, I love people! Yet I'm very introvert and people interactions mostly drain me, unless we also do something together that gives me energy again (like getting valuable things done effectively - this is a real booster for me; hence effective pairing or ensembling does not drain me as much and also gives me back a lot).

Either mode - you don't want to get me there. It might help on the short run, and yes things are getting done - yet I'll do no good to anyone on the long run when I'm in this mode! It's been a while since I realized this and it was a tough pill to swallow. Wait, it's not me saving the world? No, and it never should be, and no, I'm not capable of that either, and yes, it's arrogant to think for a moment I could. And after all, I'm not alone, this is a team sport. Plus, I'm not doing my best work in this mode anyway.  I do my best work when I'm calm. Constraints can help, yes, yet I shouldn't get anxious or overwhelmed or drowning in too many feelings - this is usually throwing me off balance.

Getting back to asking for help: when I didn't catch a situation early enough to stay calm and enable others, and it got too far - then it's getting very difficult for me to ask for help. Especially, what help to ask for anyway? There usually are lots of people trying to help or who offer their support, yet what if they are not in the situation yet that they can actually provide help? Then I'd have to enable them first. Yet do I have the energy? Also, what if other people who would be closest to be able to help do not even see that I'm drowning?

What helped me in these situations are the following things. I'm sharing them here mainly as a reminder to myself. Feel free to go ahead, try them and see if they also help you as well.

  1. Do the right thing and ask for help. No, you're not alone, and there is a team to help out. No one should be left alone anyway, and if that's really the case in your team, then there are bigger issues to solve.
  2. If you can't directly ask for help for any reason, confide in trusted people and have them act as sounding board. They probably will tell you that you're not alone and yes, you really should ask for help! Some might ask you what you are afraid could go wrong if you ask for help. Think about this carefully.
  3. Okay, tomorrow you'll ask for help! Yet it's so easy to chicken out when tomorrow actually comes. What can help is to have someone to keep you accountable on what you committed to do, which is asking for help. In my case it really helps me to make this public (I learned that during my personal challenges). Might be scary, yet it's less scary than actually asking for help. Oh, and then everyone knows, so I'd better really do it tomorrow! Tricking my brain like this usually works extremely well.
  4. Point out and explain the challenge you perceive and how it impacts the team, how others can help you in concrete ways and why, and what part you will do yourself to get out of this situation. Just lay it out as it is. It's not about finger-pointing or blaming in any way how you ended up here, yet here you are. If it's too much work for one person, make the work visible. If it's lack of knowledge, make it clear. Whatever it is, let's get out of this together.
  5. Last but not least, for any situation where you ended up being the bottleneck and hence better ask for help: the only way to break out of a bottleneck and knowledge silo situation like this is indeed to stop and enable others. Yes, it will cost energy - and it's very well spent (I learned this the hard way last year). So do just that, enable others. Don't go on your own anymore. Pair and ensemble, document. Have others take over, trust them - accept different approaches and outcomes, they need to learn their way as well (and no, your way is not always right). It does not have to reach your quality bar either, by the way. You can still debrief and catch the most obvious issues - yet oftentimes, good enough is just that, good enough. Oh yes, and if it's not clear yet: Don't become a bottleneck in the first place. Yet if you really have to (sometimes there's just no other feasible way), don't continue this way and instead destruct it again as quickly as possible. It's about the resilience of the whole team. And testing should never be the bottleneck anyway, yet that deserves a whole other blog post.
Now that you (I do speak to myself here) know what to do, do it. What's the worst thing that can happen after all? Also, only if you do ask indeed, you'll know what actually happened (not what you imagined would happen).

Let me tell you what happened for me when I got into this situation again last week. In my mind, there were several crucial tasks to do that all ended up being on my desk, among them also lots of testing activities. Nothing that I could let fall down, I already cut what I could. In addition, everything needed to happen during the same weeks. I was a complete bottleneck and knowledge silo for the team. And I had planned off time from the next month on - and hence one task on my list was to get more people on the team enabled to help out with testing and quality in various aspects.

On Monday, I had conversations about this perceived situation with two peers. I shared I knew what I had to do and that I needed their backing to have the whole team help out. Both gave me the advice to ask for help indeed. They asked me the questions I needed to hear - what was it I was afraid of? Hurting my relationships with my teammates that I already invested in quite a lot? That things got done with less quality? That I needed to let go? I reflected on what they were saying and yes, I needed to fix myself here. So I tweeted about this to hold myself accountable and get me to really ask for help the next day.
Tuesday came, I summoned up my courage and wrote a message in our team channel, making things as explicit as possible (I asked for help quite a few times the last weeks, yet it seems the message didn't get through to them - I learned that sometimes I need to be a lot more explicit than I think I already am.) I chose the text format here as writing helps my thinking, and sharing on the fly in a call is very hard to  do for me. Second, I wanted it persisted so we could go back to this moment in time, have an artifact to refer to. Third, my team currently works mostly in an asynchronous way still, so I hoped this would fit them. In my message, I pointed out that I needed their help, the challenge I perceived (part of it was too much work in progress, hence people starting to block each other and trying to mitigate this by starting more new work before getting the old one done), what needs to be done when, how they can contribute to solve this challenge and what I commit to do to be part of the solution as well. Then I waited while I continued my work.

The good news: I didn't have to wait for long! The team responded amazingly well and I'm considering myself fortunate - and still they couldn't have responded that well if I never gave them the chance to do so in the first place.
  • One teammate instantly agreed to pair test with me on their story, clearly seeing it was too much for me.
  • One teammate took action right away and took over testing for two other stories, I didn't even need to bother further.
  • One teammate shared they're struggling as well with their task, yet I can ask any time and we can do things together.
  • One teammate had a chat with me and shared they got inspired by my message and took action to take over testing where they could.
You can't imagine how relieved I was! Also, it went really well. Yet I know from experience that these kinds of helpful bursts can happen and still, soon enough things go back to the previous normal again. I was curious to see how long it holds this time.
Wednesday came, and I paired again with the same teammate - just as the first session, it was amazing and we discovered lots of valuable information while also sharing knowledge. Now they know a lot more how to test these kinds of changes as well and what to look for.
Thursday came, and more good stuff happened! I asked the previously struggling teammate to pair on a specific story - and we did! I know this didn't come easy to them so I'm even more grateful. Again, really valuable insights in short time on both sides. I also had asked generally in the team who can pair with me on another story - and one teammate quickly volunteered, a person I didn't expect to do so! This was in itself such a nice thing that it made my day.
Friday - another pairing session with yet another person, hence enabling the team further, and it was a success just as well. Again, I'm aware this might collapse again, as it's hard and takes time to change behavior and mindset; there will be setbacks. Yet four really positive days in a row make me very hopeful. I am very happy I did ask in the end, and very grateful for the amazing response of my team. If we continue on this journey together, I do think there's a bright future ahead of us.

Overall, our work to do as a team already became more manageable in short time. I could feel the relief in my bones! I'm already a lot calmer. Which makes it easier to ask for help again. And if asking for help is difficult once more, remember you are not alone.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Consistency

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about consistency, mainly encouraged by two things. First, I've listened to the Dare to Lead podcast episodes in which BrenΓ© Brown speaks with James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits. Consistency and intensity played a big role in the conversation.

Second, I've had some beautifully inspiring conversations with my colleague Vernon Richards on how consistency can be key to a lot of things. One showcase example was his amazing series of "Ship 30 by 30" essays that had him write and publish posts each and every day. Check them out if you haven't already, they're truly insightful.

Overall, I can contribute lots of my own achievements to consistency. Not only my achievements, also my well-being - yet the same is true for the opposite as well. Be aware that this is just me speaking from my bubble here, things might look completely different in your context. Yet here's what's going on in my head about consistency.


Make Consistency Your Friend

Looking back, much of my success is rooted in consistently showing up and taking action. I've never been the best at what I do, yet whenever I did useful things consistently it paid off well for me. At work, this mostly shows when taking responsibility and also acting on my commitments. This can both create a perception of reliability, as I'm not only promising but also let action follow, as well as make me very visible - I'm showing myself through my contributions.

Another example would be trying consistently to improve things. It might be a tiny thing, yet if one tiny improvement is made every day, they add up. Make sure to check out GeePaw Hill and his approach of Many More Much Smaller Steps! Also, consistently delivering something good enough is a lot better than never delivering at all (and also never receiving feedback). This was a hard lesson to learn for me, yet allowed me to let go some of my unhelpful perfectionism - and the past years have proven over and over again that this is definitely the better way to go for me.

For my professional growth, consistency helped me a lot as well with my personal experimentation, my contributions to the community in various ways, even with just making time to learn and grow myself. Through consistently honing a skill - who would have thought - you gain lots of practice! Which again makes the next steps a bit easier. Also, I've built related habits for myself many years ago - tiny things I do every day that still help me achieve a lot. Not all of the things I tried worked out and became actual habits, yet once I figured what did work, I could keep them up for many years. And they paid off.

Looking into other areas of my life, consistency helped me a lot there as well. For example, doing a bit in the household every day does wonders for keeping things more under control than doing it sporadically in bursts. Or back in the day when I agreed to become a volleyball coach. I sticked to it over a longer period, and hence draw a lot of lessons for life and personal growth out of it. When consistently exercising, it's not as hard to do it anymore. When I stick to my sleep rhythm consistently, I'm feeling a lot better. Self-care in general! Since my last personal challenges, I made it a point to make time for certain activities that I only do for my own joy and pleasure - every week. Friends noticed I don't make much progress with these activities - yet the thing is, this way I do make progress at all while otherwise I would miss out completely.

As a side note, I do value consistency in general. I notice that when reviewing things, consistency (respectively its non-existence) is one of the aspects that usually sticks out to me, whether it was in focus of the review or not. When products are mostly consistent, I perceive them as more well-rounded than if they would not be. If texts use and spell terms consistently, they flow better and I don't stumble when reading.

On the other hand, whenever I let go of consistency that helped me (e.g. by dropping activities or postponing tasks), things quickly get overwhelming and I feel I'm losing my grasp. I observe this for example with all my private messages and notifications - if this pile grows too big, I feel its crushing weight. The more it grows, the less I want to face it and hence keep it growing. If instead I make sure to respond to some each day, it stays manageable. Also, when letting go of consistency, it gets so much harder to start again - like exercising, or just writing this blog post. I haven't been as consistent with blogging the last years as I had been before. Sustainable pace can really do wonders. That being said, I don't think we should keep up doing things just because we've always did them. We need to think about purpose, what's helpful and what not.

One of the worst things for me personally happened when I stopped showing up as I used to. I faced this with volleyball the hard way. I've put a lot into this sport for so many years and also had quite some personal achievements there. Yet as soon as I stopped showing up consistently and putting in that effort, I've taken myself out of the game - especially mentally. The more I put myself to the rim, the more I was put there as well by everyone else. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy - one that really hurt, more than I can say. Especially realizing I had a big part in that myself. And it was and still is really hard to pull myself out of there and show up again - consistently.


Be Aware of Impact

So, consistency is great, right? Well, as with everything, this depends a lot on what impact my actions have. If I do something consistently that's harming others or myself, I'd argue consistency works against people. A system, which is designed to maintain itself, might be consistent yet not necessarily be good at all. If I consistently overwork myself, my health will deteriorate. Yet also if I consistently grab a task at work, I'm contributing to creating a silo - this task might not be picked up by anyone else anymore, they might not be able to build up the required knowledge and skill to do it, and I'm stuck with it. Despite being consistent, the impact of our actions might not be desirable.

In my experience, the more consistent our behaviors or habits, the less energy it costs to keep them up. Independent from the impact they might have. Therefore, let's have a look at what we do consistently, which impact this has on us and everyone else, and if this fits to our values and what we want to achieve.

What about changing our behaviors to have different impact then? Isn't consistency contradicting change? While it might sound like it, they can instead even play into each other's hands. Just think of all the continuous improvement approaches and how to make consistent change.

The bottom line for me is that consistency is just an aspect that can work either way. So, let's make good use of consistency and have it work in our favor.


Look for Opportunities

Am I going back to consistently writing blog posts? Well, I don't know yet. I tried last year and it didn't work out then. If anything, we'll find out together. Fortunately, there are many other ways I can make consistency work for myself, every day.

Yet what about you? Think about opportunities where consistency would help you in your life. How might it look like if you started doing things consistently? And what's stopping you from trying it out?

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Onboarding Struggles and Strategies

Onboarding to a new company and new team for the first time after six years was something that felt like a daring challenge to look forward to. I was both excited and anxious, and hence tried to be strategic about it. It was clear that I would never have all the facts upfront and would need to adapt as I go. Here's what I imagined, what actually happened, what I tried in the situation and how it worked out so far. Brace yourself, this might be a long-winded road - so let me start right away with the helpful parts.

What Helped

Before I go into what happened from a timeline point of view, here's what helped me during this onboarding phase, and what will still help me when I go further. The good thing: these points more often than not proved to complement each other. A word of warning before you dive in: these things helped me in my situation and my bubble - they might not be the right thing for you. This is only intended as an offer to draw inspiration from plus a note to my future self what helped me in the past.

  1. Rest and forget about overpreparing. Before starting a new job, prefer recharging your batteries to the fullest - you're going to need your energy for the onboarding phase. Take some time off between your previous and the new job if you can, it's invaluable. Don't bother about preparing too much - it's going to be different than you imagined anyway, and it's better to learn it directly in the context. You're going to have enough time for that as well (and if not, this might not be the place to stay). The only thing valuable to prepare is to take note of any question you might already have which also allows you to feel you're not going in completely blank and quickly get back to resting again - yet nothing more.
  2. Build relationships. Relationships are the foundation for everything. Better get started right away to build a base to get and give feedback on, add to trust, and create the ground for bolder moves and changes. In the end, it's always coming back to the people, so let's put them first where we can. Try to opt for direct face to face calls to get to know each other - if the other one is open for them. Maybe get to pair or ensemble from the start and work together - again, given that people are ready for this kind of collaboration. Each day you can build on these growing relationships a little more.
  3. Approach with curiosity. Ask a lot of questions, and then some more - we're here to learn. There are reasons why things are as they currently are, and they can be manifold. Try to stay open-minded and focus on learning. When you understand the context better, questions like "How might we...?" can work like magic to learn about current thoughts, ideas and suggestions.
  4. Build knowledge hands-on and contribute as soon as possible. You won't know everything yet and that's okay - yet any chance to get your feet wet is an opportunity to learn more: more about the product, the processes, the people, the pains - and also praiseworthy things. The domain, the tech stack, the unique challenges. At the same time, you can bring something of you into all of these right away and give back - have people experience the benefits of having you here now. As especially the contributing part can be tricky if you haven't had much experience before, you can see it like this: if not anything else, working on something concrete is a wonderful conversation starter to deepen your super fresh new relationships. I've found it's easier to get talking with people and people talking with you when it's on a topic they can grasp and a topic that's (hopefully) safe and easy to speak about when not knowing each other yet (work compared to private life).
  5. Take tiny steps and improve as you go. Instead of waiting for big change initiatives or designing your own with lots of detail, incorporate small changes in everyday work right from the start. Anything that works better than yesterday already helps - and more often than not, people coming from different contexts first need to experience the benefits before they understand why we should change our ways and improve. Actions trump words all the time. Also: if you see something is incorrect and you can fix it - try fixing it yourself and suggest the fix along with the conversation on the issue. This could be anything from correcting the team constellation on a wiki page to updating onboarding material to submitting a pull request to make a project's readme more accessible.
  6. Meet people where they are. Which people use which wording? Are developers falling back on technical terms, product people talking about narratives for users? If possible, speak their language when aligning or working on something together. Are people are not used to pairing and have no experience what it entails? Invite them to show them something you detected to hear their thoughts about it, ask people to walk you through, ask for support - get them to talk with you directly on what you're trying to move further. Show your screen, take them along with you. Are people are not ready to kick stories off together and align before starting? Brainstorm test ideas and share them with everyone upfront, including assumptions and mental models. Invite people to join in and see if they detect any mismatch or missing points. Have people never done something before that proved valuable in your experience, let's say testing an API before testing the fully integrated system? Use it as an opportunity to learn why things were done differently (remember, people do have their reasons), and to share your experience - it's an opportunity to learn from each other.
  7. Observe and take notes. Gather as much information as possible from all kinds of sides. What you observe yourself, from conversations with people, what you overhear in group calls, and more. Especially look for pain points, needs, concerns, fears, waiting times, wishes for the future, praise and appreciations. After a few weeks, you can start looking for patterns - do several people mention the same things? Do you spot different symptoms pointing to the same cause? Is there something systemic about it? All the collected observations are the source we can draw from to decide on our first and next initiatives to work on. What does need change now, what's most helpful next?
  8. Focus with impact in mind. When you gathered lots of observations, identified your first patterns and have thought of where you want to end up at - it's time to pick one or two things to change first. If possible, choose small topics where it's feasible to have valuable impact in short time. You might have lots of ideas for initiatives for the future, yet refrain from deciding too early on big ones on a limited information base. Instead, focus on the one or two small ones for now. They will still take time to shape and drive. Be clear about when they are good enough, when it's time to move to the next challenge to tackle.
  9. Experiment. It might not be time to initiate experiments on a team or larger level yet, but that doesn't mean we have to stop trying new things. Why not experiment with your own way of doing things? Set out each day to try one new thing and see if it helped or not at the end of the day. Very informal. Not everything will work out, yet lots of new insights can come out of that. Bonus: you grow your own experimentation and learning mindset that you can share with the team and company as you go further.
  10. Make your boundaries explicit. You will probably interact with many new people with many expectations that are unlikely to be aligned. Be clear about your own boundaries and make sure to share them - explicitly. You can only do so much when you're new and don't have the full context. Also, this will help once you do have the context - as you're still human and can (and should) only do so much in the time given. Final plus point: making them explicit for yourself helps keeping your own boundaries as well.
  11. Take breaks, be kind to yourself and enjoy the journey. You might struggle with this one like I do - yet it's utterly important to remind ourselves again and again. Any onboarding situation will be a lot. It goes better with breaks and not forgetting the fun over all this! Enjoy yourselves, this new journey is part of your life after all.

Looking back at this, I realize this grew into a long list already. Are you ready for the full story, including the struggles? Then read on.

Before Starting

I'm more the anxious type, always trying to reduce uncertainty where I can (a trait that's often challenging yet also that really helped me with public speaking). So in the months before starting the new job I fought with myself many times. I was utterly eager to find out all about the new place in advance so I could prepare for it (whatever that might have meant).
I've focused most of my interview questions on culture... Yet what's the tech stack, the frameworks used, tooling? Maybe refresh my knowledge on approach A, or gain insights on concept C, so I won't look like a dumb one when starting. Starting with a lofty title anyway, oh my there will be lots of expectations. It's nice to hear they think highly of me, they hired me anyway - yet can I really match that? Or what if our mindsets are too incompatible and my way is the wrong way for that company? Sure, I can also apply somewhere else, yet I've already put my mind into this. Alright, stop it - not helpful! Yet maybe I can prepare somehow? No, let it be. There had been so many kind people from the community around me assuring me I should not waste my free time before starting and I can learn everything on the job. Hm... guess I should take that advice.
In the end, I found a compromise for myself. A community friend figured out and told me what the main tech stack in my new team will be like, so at least I could stop wondering. In my first days between the job, I limited myself to very minor research about it, then decided to prepare for my next conference instead and afterwards not do anything work related - the next months will show a lot of that anyway, and this free time to rest and relax won't come back so soon.

So, where's the plan in all this? Well, I did come up with a list of questions and thoughts of all sorts for my first month, to serve me as a starting point. Questions around culture, thoughts around my first focus topics. Just a raw brainstorming, nothing polished. Any time my brain came up with a new question, I could park it there and continue doing whatever else I was doing.

One thing that also helped me before I started was that I've received lots of invites for onboarding sessions way before my start date, so I knew quite some time ahead how my first days will look like in that regard. Such a relief! I didn't have to ask lots of questions myself this way, which was much appreciated. All hardware also arrived within a week before my start date so I could fully set up my new work space before. I was feeling prepared.

The First Days

Honestly: I've never seen such a smooth company onboarding. And that remotely! On my very first day, the basic computer setup was clear, we had a great introduction session on people, culture and the company, and I had a first talk with my new manager, getting briefed on what's coming. I received a prepared onboarding guideline with lots of pointers what to do next: resources to read up, people to get to know, trainings to do. I also happened to get to know my fellow quality people from the company's guild - amazing to see so many known and new faces and receive such a warm welcome!
What I was very intentional about was to quickly get a "working system" running. How do I organize myself with the new tools provided? Can I find something that's similar enough compared to what worked for me before? My urge to stay ahead and on top of things is high, and it's easy for me to feel like drowning in case I feel I'm losing my overview, so I wanted to have as good start as I can with this and neither let things slip through or let myself feel overwhelmed. I tried to stay pragmatic with my first approach, decide quickly and move from there, learning and adapting as I went. This proved really valuable in hindsight. Just as my decision to try something new every day! Experiments for the win.

Second day, meeting my new team for the first time. Another warm welcome. Further onboarding sessions, first team sessions. First calls with me team onboarding buddy, my fellow quality engineer Leila Gregory (thank you for making me feel welcome from day one and sharing so many insights right away!). First realization that I need a lot more access and permissions to tools - and that it wasn't clear which ones. My first challenge began! Besides that, I also had time to set things up for myself and schedule my first "get to know each other" sessions with a lot of people.

Third day, seeing the team in action, working together to investigate an issue and releasing a hotfix. More sessions, more relationship building, more local setup.

Fourth day, another issue - stepping in to help where I can with my very limited knowledge on product and context. It really felt good to get hands-on soon, even in a complex environment - learned a lot by doing so! More realizations on people and current procedures came along with it.
Fifth day onwards - first time realizing internal team dynamics and role understanding. What happened? Well, Leila was off and I was perceived as the one you could leave things to test with. Here you go, haven't you seen the wall yet? ;-) Kidding aside, I realized quickly that I needed to be very explicit with this new team about what testing is, what is needed (context would be a good start), what is possible and what not, and how I intend to live my role. After repeatedly stating my needs, the good thing happened! We did it together, and learned. And the next day. And the one afterwards the next developer said they wanted to pair with me on their story. And the next day as well. You know, little steps, wherever people are right now. These steps might not have been a lot for people used to pairing and ensembling a lot - yet it was huge for this team.

The First Weeks

What difficult weeks! I had lots of positive experiences and at the same time it was a real struggle. I was frantically trying to gather any bits and pieces I could gather to get a more holistic picture. Especially getting information from the team was proving to be difficult, it was hard to find anyone willing or able to tell me more or help me hands-on. I was trying to do a lot at the same time: get all the access and permissions I needed while having to figure out myself the missing pieces, setting things up locally as much as I could to be able to do my job, learning about mobile and the related testing difficulties, trying to figure out tooling to help me in this space, building up relationships with my team by working on first stories together with them (while still not knowing the product), trying to figure out what is required for compliance when testing and documenting notes, joining all my onboarding sessions (postponing any trainings to the end of the month) - and at the same time being pulled into everything already (which I appreciate) without getting further context or space to be able to do that (which I don't appreciate). I was really wondering how to manage all these contradicting expectations I encountered. Again, I had to be very explicit with people - a lot more than I was used to so far. I realized I crossed my own boundaries easily those first days, doing a lot more than I should. At first, I felt a bit pushed into it. The next weeks though... I felt I pushed myself into it. Yet more on that later.
So here I was, trying to get a grip on everything. What really helped me here was my experience from the past company. I knew a lot of the questions I needed to ask, and more often than once encountered people not being aware why I would ask for that in the first place. I was able to figure out the bits and pieces myself, yet it was a struggle. A struggle that I can do because of my experience, yet I wouldn't want that struggle for anyone, especially starting new.

Overall, the company onboarding was excellent compared to what I've experienced before. The team onboarding... well, it was clear that this will be one of the first topics I'll work on, especially given that the next new joiner was scheduled to start one month after me.

The Next Weeks

I've started the job in December, so there was another challenge at hand: upcoming off time for most of the team for the holiday season. It was very clear that people rushed to get everything done before, and I needed to be quick to build those relationships, especially with my new developers, within three weeks before they were off.

At least now I got access to everything, I received further help from my teammates and others, we managed to get more things set up. This way I could extend my reach, see more during testing, and show more value of what I do. Oh, and build those relationships (in case I haven't emphasized that part enough yet).

We had great conversations, things slowed down a bit, and finally I felt I could breathe a bit more.  Expectations on me could be managed better. I received first feedback from my team which was immensely helpful! I also had more opportunity to share where I'm coming from and why I'm looking for what I do, decreasing the current gap between us.
At the same time, I suddenly found myself putting in more hours and crossing my own boundaries - where was my own discipline? Oh yes, I was working now on something really purposeful for me, a new space, I finally enjoyed learning new things, pieces of the puzzle clicked together - and it was hard to stop and let go for another day. Oh my... that old trap again.

What really helped was the calm last week of the year. Less people, less work in progress, way more focus time. I managed to complete my overdue trainings, get more things set up, enjoy the learning part, and had even more of these good conversations. I managed to provide feedback on changes early on, earlier than people were used to - which resulted in even better conversations.

To add to that, I've already gathered so many observations from all kinds of talks and situations by now, and decided on what to focus on first over the next weeks - what would have the biggest immediate impact (like making onboarding easier for the next one coming right after me). All in all, I felt way calmer and more relaxed at this point. I knew the next year would get very busy and I needed that foundation to tackle it.

Starting The New Year

What a rollercoaster first week of the year. Learned a lot again, and once again found more challenges to tackle. Oh, and we could welcome not only one, but two new joiners to the team! So, so, so many things to figure out - things we all need to figure out as a team, while becoming a team. The whole team changing, product direction changing, company changing - it's a lot on people. A reminder to be cautious not to initiate a change at this point in time that's too big for people to come along with, without people starting resisting and the forming team breaking on the way. At the same time, lots of historical baggage as well, old conceptions and perceptions, old relationships as well as the lack thereof. The social foundation of teams can never be undervalued - we need to focus much of our efforts here as it's the base for everything: for working well together just as much as for delivering a valuable product of high quality.
Before joining the company and team, I was fully aware that not everything was in place and that there would be lots of opportunity to help shape things. And yet the extent of unclarity still surprised me. At least now I know that it's not me, it's just the current situation, whatever got everyone here. We can move on together.

There's so much to do. There's a lot of uncertainty ahead. There's a lot of freedom to shape and clarify things. There's a lot of great people involved. I do see a lot of potential and opportunity here. Which gets me thinking of how we might do all this in an incremental, iterative way and make the whole change journey easier for all of us, while enjoying our time together. Time will tell whether we found a good way! Whatever happens, I feel like I've already found a new place for myself to help discover and shape our future.

Monday, December 27, 2021

2021 - A Year in Review

There's a global pandemic going on for quite a while now and the whole emotional rollercoaster coming along with it. Lots of things were different the past year and nonetheless it's time to reflect and look back at what else happened.

Here's my raw list of things that came to mind. Events, achievements, struggles, and joyful moments. Everything I'm grateful for.

  • I've helped build and shape a fresh new team this year - completely remote - that grew into the best team I've ever been on so far. I'm very proud of the people I had the honor to work with and am sure they are well on their way. It was amazing to see them grow and hard to leave them. They have all my confidence on their further journey and their future colleagues will be fortunate to have them.
  • The first half of the year was a constant struggle that got me very close to burnout - and I came out on the sustainable end again. I do catch myself from time to time falling back into old behaviors, yet the good thing is I do notice this earlier each time so I have a chance to adapt course earlier as well. Also: I have amazing people around me checking in frequently and reminding me to take breaks even before I might remind myself. Ever grateful for these amazing humans.
  • A really remarkable thing this year was a series of six leadership workshops that I've co-created and facilitated together with Shiva Krishnan. It's been the first time I had a try on this territory, attempting to build quality in on a foundational level - and I learned so much from this experience. I've deepened my own knowledge of what it means to know yourself, build relationships, and shape the environment around you. I've learned a lot about pairing again - this time when creating such a deep and long-going workshop series together with Shiva (whom I'm ever grateful for to agree on pairing with me and go on this journey together). I've learned even better ways of how to do remote workshops in a manner that's beneficial for participants and facilitators. And I've learned yet again so many things about diversity, equity and inclusion - which is part of my personal vision.
  • After six years at the last company, I've found a new place for me to grow further. I've just been working there for about three weeks, yet I already see the potential in so many ways. Yes, there's work to do, and yes, I feel I'm able to contribute. People are great and we can move things forward to the better, together. It's amazing to work with so many wonderful quality people there as well, many of whom I know from our shared communities! Still can't quite fathom that I can call all of these my colleagues now. Also, I'm ever grateful to have found an amazing new manager! From day one, I've felt listened to and very well supported based on my needs, and I heavily appreciate that - so here's a shout-out to David Williams. Oh and I've dipped my toes into a new tech stack - exploring the space of mobile apps. Lots of learning ahead!
  • I've received a lot of feedback this year. Really, a lot. Probably the most in my career so far. And I am so, so grateful for that. Feedback is a true gift! Especially for someone like me, feeling the urgent need to know where I stand with people, how certain actions land with people, worrying whether I should course-correct or not, and more. I'm rather the anxious type and receiving feedback in time helps me massively to calm down and relax and just do me - knowing that if anything is off, I'll hear about it right away, and if anything is going great, I can enjoy myself just as well in time. So please everybody, if you have feedback for someone please offer it to them as soon as it's feasible, so that if they're ready to hear it, they can learn from it. It makes a whole difference.
  • I gave a lot more direct feedback this year than I've ever did so far. Especially on behavior, and  in specific on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. It's still a long learning journey ahead for me to stay on the candid and clear and hence the kind side of things, and not fall back to just being nice; and still: giving this kind of feedback from teammate to C-level and in between is something I am glad about and want to build on further.
  • I said "no" a lot more this year. I know it might not look like it as I've also said "yes" to a few things, and yet the majority was indeed on the "no", "not now", "not yet" side of things. Fun fact: I had the opportunity to attend a workshop to practice saying no more often - and managed to decline when it was scheduled just before starting the new job. So yes, I'm making progress! Still probably will say yes to that specific workshop if I get another chance.
  • My confidence grew a lot with this last year. First, with the new team at my last company where I could use all my past experience and pass it along, with people being deeply appreciative of that. Second, with them not questioning me for once whether I'm "technical" or not (whatever that means anyway). Third, with my first workshop that everyone (why ever they'd like to judge) can call "technical" that's all around growing your own technical confidence. And lastly, with my new current team where I now benefit from all the built up "technical" experience for a quick kickstart and where I can already share back as well on that end. Confidence really, really, really goes a long way. And makes not knowing so much less of a worry. Or at least makes me get over my anxiousness a lot faster towards a calm space again.
  • I've been nominated "Tester of the Day" two times this year and ever grateful for the recognition - thank you so much Thomas Rinke and Patrick Prill! And many thanks to Ben Dowen for this amazing initiative. If another quality minded person did something great you want to give kudos for, go ahead and nominate them. I can assure you it'll make their day.
  • Not many scheduled pairing sessions with community people this year - besides the regular sessions together with Peter Kofler on security testing. It's quite amazing that we're doing these since my Testing Tour back in 2018! Still learning a lot together.
  • Participating in one on-site conference this year was magical. It was a risk to be with all these people. Despite being super cautious the whole year, this was the one thing I couldn't resist to do. Agile Testing Days was my first conference ever back in 2015 and I've came back every year ever since. We were fortunate that it took place at all, that organizers made sure that people followed safety rules, and that attendees were seriously considerate and took care of each other. This one event will feed my soul for the whole next year if need be.
  • My dear power learning group people were there all along. Not too many group calls this year and still I cherished each and every one of them. Many one to one calls as well. Thank you all for being you and being there.
  • Really grateful for another group that evolved this year, formed by amazing people from the crafter community. Having regular calls, checking in, exchanging experiences, thoughts and ideas - knowing they have my back. Just feels really good.
  • I did not publish an official pact challenge this year. I had a sort of unofficial theme in my head, and there was opportunity to make it happen, yet unfortunately it turned out that the situation did not allow it. I never gave a full-day tutorial yet which came to be my secret goal this year. At first it seemed I could make it happen already in July, with the all day pairing workshop planned together with Simon Berner for Ministry of Testing. Not enough people registered to make it happen, though. Then there was another chance in November to give a full-day tutorial together with my learning partner Toyer Mamoojee at Agile Testing Days, on leading quality - well, that one too did not take place due to the limited travel situation during a pandemic. Well, next year, hopefully. Also, a new actual personal challenge hopefully - yet I won't decide on this before July. My focus during the first half year will be fully on my new job as I don't want to spread myself thin again.
  • I did not write a lot of blog posts this year. I did have lots of topics and ideas I could write about yet hardly found the energy and capacity to do so. I ended up with "only" seven including the present one, which is my all time low so far. No regrets on that part, though, given the situation.
  • For what it's worth, as of writing this blog post I'm three people away from reaching 5,000 Twitter followers. Not the widest and not the smallest reach - yet it does mean a lot to me. Special thanks to everyone who chose to stick around for longer!
  • I gave three keynotes this year which makes me arrive at a total of six keynotes so far. I'm still quite surprised it's that many already, yet now at least I can confidently tell myself as well that I'm indeed a keynote speaker. I don't have to be the best keynote speaker ever, that's fine with me. Yet I know now that I did stand my ground already and that I'm capable of doing so.
  • My best friend and sister at heart wrote four novels this year, published three of them already, and just started with the fifth. I am ever so grateful that she overcame the hurdle of writing something without instantly destroying her work, that she read these books out loud to me while creating, published them before she could change her mind, listened well to feedback, took the good parts from it and incorporated them in her next creation. You can really see her grow as an author with every book written, and I just love her very unique stories. She has a lot more to tell! After so many years of hardship she finally found her voice and along with it, also the courage to share it with the world. Couldn't be prouder.
  • I've created a website for the first time - for my freshly baked author friend, based on her wishes and needs. Never done this before and still learning, yet happy I can contribute and support her in some way.
  • I've "tested" a novel for the first time - as a copy editor. A job I have much respect for! My experience as a tester served me well in this regard, too - and still, domain knowledge and expertise cannot be underestimated. It was a fascinating experience and I hope I didn't do too bad a job. Well, there will always be errors, and after reading the published version again I've came across more, obviously. It's not as simple to published a revision though when it comes to printed books. Still, I really enjoyed the experience and am thankful for the trust put in me.
With everything that happened, I'm so grateful for the people who accompanied me through this year. A huge shout-out goes to my former and new colleagues, my sister, the wonderful communities I'm fortunate to be part of. Thank you all for being there, in hard times as well as in joyous ones. Let's continue taking care of each other also in the year to come.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Agile Testing Days 2021 - My Heart Is Full

The last week I've been to Agile Testing Days 2021, my very first on-site, in person event since twenty months. Here's my attempt of writing down my perception and hence enabling my future self to take a trip down memory lane.


Why It's So Special

How to even start describing what this conference meant to me. In our daring times, it most probably wasn't the smartest idea to take on the accompanying risk when Covid-19 figures are climbing through the roof, and still I recognized it was my only valid emotional decision. What contradiction, after so many months of being extra cautious, especially coming from my tester heart. I am ever thankful for the organizers and other participants to do their best to reduce this risk as much as we can and uphold any possible safety measure, while I'm aware there are factors we just cannot mitigate. The next days are going to be exciting still, and I hope for the best for all of us.

Here I am, fully rested after this amazing and emotional week of Agile Testing Days 2021. Probably one of the most special ones ever for me, given the situation. As I've been one of the few lucky ones that weren't hit as hard by the ongoing pandemic including lockdowns and more, I didn't realize just how much I missed and needed this reunion. It filled my heart up to the rim and I know it'll be what my soul will be feeding from for months. Keeping those memories dear to heart.

The very best part of this special conference-festival are the people. I'd usually point this out for most conferences, and for this one it's especially true. I'm totally biased here as this was my first conference ever in 2015 and lots of good things happened there for me over the years. And still, for me it stands: it's the people. And as the conference is indeed focusing on the people and their needs, it's becoming a whole magical atmosphere that's continuously improving each year (huge kudos this time for introducing pronouns on badges as well as all gender toilets!). The people alone make me return each and every year.

It was extremely special to see people again I haven't seen in person for at least two years. It was very special to get to know new people. I was very surprised that I didn't run out of energy - even though I'm very introverted and in previous months any bigger groups than four or maximum ten persons, as well as being out in public really drained me. So yes, this event was magical for me.

Another part I've learned about myself once more this year, is that I've grown personally over the years. This year especially I felt I can just fully be myself among all these people, if we knew each other before or not - I am welcomed. In previous years, I've realized a part of this when I wasn't judged for not wearing a costume to the party and still just being welcomed. This year, I've realized I wasn't anxious in workshops anymore, not even when asked to take over an important part of a role play - something I would have either chickened out of or be totally scared about in earlier years. I personally thrive in safe environments, the safer they are the better. All that being said: I am well aware of the privilege I have and a lot of it enables me to feel safe here. Hence this is what I am working on myself over the years: contributing to the space being safe, for everyone. It really pays off.

I loved the fun time together and I am really grateful for all the deep conversations we had on difficult topics. On what underrepresented and marginalized people have to go through, on how we can use privilege to make it better, on how not to support the status quo but take action to change this to a better place. To all those people: you know who you are and I deeply appreciate you.


What I've Experienced

Saturday

This year I arrived already on Saturday in order to meet a dear friend and colleague before the conference. Fun fact: my train to Berlin stopped in the middle of nowhere. When we heard about the reason why, I had to laugh even though it meant a huge delay and inconvenience. The train itself was perfectly fine, yet due to a software problem (who would have thought), we were not allowed to continue on the current track. They had to signal that the train was about to go on this fast-track part of the route, and just couldn't get the software to work with them. Rebooting the respective computer and so on, all troubleshooting did not help - we were not allowed to continue and had to go back to the previous station, get off the train and board a new one. Well - it didn't stop me from meeting said friend in the evening, even though we had less time than expected together. It was amazing seeing them again in person after two years!


Sunday

I decided to sleep in and gather as much energy as I could before seeing people. A great idea in hindsight! In the afternoon, I was finally ready to meet people and spent some amazing time together with Simon Berner. We've been in the same learning group for years, paired a lot together, facilitated workshops together - and never saw each other in person. Finally, this was our chance! Loved it.

In the evening, more and more people arrived and we could celebrate a few happy reunions. For example with Alex Schladebeck, Dragan SpiridonovElizabeth Zagroba and Joep Schuurkes. Sunday evening also meant going for dinner! This year I had a lovely group of five, just small enough to get used to the upcoming bigger numbers of people. Many thanks to Thomas Rinke, Mario Specht, Gerald MΓΌcke and Simon Berner!

Usually, evenings end up in the hotel bar or lobby, having a few more drinks. Non-alcoholic ones for me; I chose not to drink any alcohol from here on during the whole week as it both makes me really tired and it weakens my immune system. I rather wanted to have more energy to just be with people. More and more joined in the bar, more reunions! And finally meeting Samuel Nitsche as well whom I've only seen online so far! And also meeting some new people already, being at this conference for the first time. For example, Thomas Spengler - it was great experiencing this conference together with you!


Monday

Originally, I was meant to give a tutorial on this day together with Toyer Mamoojee. Unfortunately, we had to cancel it due to the given Covid-19 situation and related official regulations, which also meant that Toyer could not join us despite being vaccinated. I dearly missed him not being there and heard a lot of people feel the same. Next year, Toyer! Let's hope for the best.

For this day as well, I had decided to opt for the "be kind to yourself"-option and not join one of the other tutorials. It was hard to let go, and still a good decision. This way I could once more sleep in, fill up my energy reserves, practice for my workshop taking place the next day, and then start the day in the afternoon just being with people in the hotel lobby. More reunions! For example with Lena Wiberg, Kris Corbus, Gem Hill, JoΓ£o ProenΓ§a and Michael Kutz. Also, the first time meeting Bruce Hughes in person! And Sophie KΓΌster, and Veerle Verhagen, and so many more. Well, just loved being there and taking this all in.

I had planned to go to the first keynote of the event by Huib Schoots and Paul Holland. In the end, I didn't and instead opted for supporting my friends JoΓ£o ProenΓ§a and Michael Kutz, sitting in the dry run of their paired talk. Loved it and was already looking forward to hearing the actual version the next day.

Then it was time for speakers dinner. Each and every year the conference organizers have planned a nice get-together for all speakers with a tasty meal and great atmosphere. This year once more, I thoroughly enjoyed it and had even further great talks.

Tuesday

First official conference day! Here are the sessions I've attended.
At the end of the day, the Agile, Testing & Rock'n'Roll MIATPP Award Night took place! This time with an additional new format, the Keynote eXtreme that everyone could volunteer for and get the stage - on an unknown topic. The ceremony for the MIATPP was traditionally included as well, this year the award went to Raj Subrameyer, congrats! Oh, and we had a lovely meal where I especially enjoyed the variety of desserts. Yet the best part, as always: late night conversations on everything with people I am grateful to call my friends.

    Wednesday
      Another conference day, further sessions! Looking back, this was the day with the best sessions for me, with both the most valuable insights and the best delivery.
      • Keynote: Agile Comes with a Responsibility for Sustainability by Jutta Eckstein. Very thought-provoking keynote! Lots of new insights on sustainability and how it's everyone's responsibility to advocate for it in everyday life. And how to do it with very concrete question examples! Awesome that Jutta is leading by example as well! Can't wait to read her upcoming book.
      • Workshop: And now for something completely different! by Huib SchootsBart Knaack and Paul Holland. Absolutely loved it! Didn't regret one bit that I joined this workshop. I expected having to go completely out of my comfort zone and was surprised that it still was within my comfort zone - recognizing my own growth. We had lots of valuable conversations and insights in the various groups. It felt like a structured open space! Great job stepping back as facilitators and creating the safe space for it to happen, thank you! Also, wonderful idea to build on for own workshops.
      • Keynote: Limitless within our boundaries by JoΓ£o ProenΓ§a. Amazing delivery on a really important and thought-provoking topic! I now keep thinking about options and the paradox of choice that comes along with it, as well as how we can use constraints in a beneficial way. Can't believe it was the first keynote for JoΓ£o, hope it was the start for many more! Wonderful performance, very well deserved. Also: best slides I've seen for a long time!
      • Workshop: Resistance is futile by Anne Colder and Jantien van der Meer. What an amazing workshop! The presented models on the four basic fears and the elephant and the rider are extremely valuable and relevant. They are instantly applicable in any context where we want to overcome resistance and initiate change and provide us with the language and structure needed. Loved the pace and hands-on exercises, and felt very safe doing them, even during role play - this safety allowed vulnerable conversations. Also: so much appreciated the Star Trek theme!
      • Keynote: How to be an Ally to Non-binary Folk in Tech by Bruce Hughes. Legendary. Just legendary! The extremely important messages stuck and triggered lots of valuable follow-up conversations on these important topics with people. We really needed this, especially as not too many people were aware of how we contribute to a bad status quo and what we can do to actively work against the current system, for change. And all this, while it being the first conference talk ever for Bruce, and a keynote on a big stage right away. My mind is blown. What stage presence and storytelling! What amazing usage of entertainment to deliver a such important serious message and make it stick. A real stage talent and I bet there's lots of effort in there as well. Kudos!
      • The Friends & Allies - Human Space by Gitte Klitgaard. Thank you so much for creating and holding this space and making it safe for vulnerable conversations to happen. It's not taken for granted and very much appreciated. I'm learning a lot about myself each year joining these sessions, just as this time as well. The exchange with others on these topics really make me think and provide inspiration on how I can do better. In any case it helps to know that I'm not alone and we can make this better together.
      One more thing that totally made this day for me: the pact that resulted from the learning partnership between Mor Korem and Thomas Rinke created in Toyer's and my workshop from 2018, got fulfilled with Mor's talk this year! Congrats to both of you!


      Thursday

      The last conference day! Here's what I experienced.
      And then... it was over. Well, not quite yet! Still so many great conversations took place this evening. It even took time just to get out of the conference room! I've decided to take a break and have dinner with my friends Michael Kutz and JoΓ£o ProenΓ§a, digest things in a smaller setting. Just what I needed after everything. Then returning to the hotel, where again we found lots of people still enjoying the Agile Games Night or just being together in the hotel lobby and bar. Lots of great conversations again, with a special thanks to Anne ColderVincent Wijnen, Emna Ayadi, Markus MΓΌller and Christian Baumann.


      Friday

      Well... not exactly a conference day anymore. Rather the time to say final goodbyes and travel home. The day that the post-conference blues starts to kick in and I could start digest what I've experienced. To feel that this last week actually happened. It's still incredible in hindsight and I'm ever so grateful.

      What Comes Next

      After Agile Testing Days, I usually take at least a week of free days to rest and relax. It's usually closing the conference year for me and I still don't regret I've kept it this way also this year, despite having further opportunities. I'll keep the memories from this one close to my heart, try to do nothing much the next week, and then gather energy for my new challenge, joining a new company. This also means I will focus fully on this opportunity during the next months, before speaking at the next events again. Some things are already in the making, though! I've already arranged a few new and old sessions, pairing with others - well, more to share when the time is ripe. And who knows what else I'm going to learn on my further journey and what inspiration I can take from that.

      For now, I've done all the things I've wanted to do to follow-up on this conference. Providing session ratings, feedback for the conference, consolidating my notes and more - including this post. So now it's properly Agile Resting Days as Vernon indicated. Until next year!