Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Agile Testing Days USA 2023 - A Lot to Think About

Last year's Agile Testing Days USA was full of inspiration. This year, this conference and its community once again gave me a lot to think about.

Before the Conference

Arriving early, I had time to do a bit of sightseeing next to finalizing the preparation for my two sessions. I decided to take it slow and preserve my energy while still checking out some places I haven't seen yet.

Another benefit of being there ahead of time is to connect with people already before a conference starts and slowly getting into networking and exchanging experiences. So good to see familiar faces again and re-connect - like with Kelsey Schoen whom I met last year. On the evening before the conference started, we had a lovely dinner group which resulted in great conversations. Many thanks to João ProençaJenna CharltonJenny BramblePaul Holland and Erik Davis!

Tutorial Day

A dream came true for me: I finally could meet Elisabeth Hendrickson in person! She's one of my personal heroes in tech. I followed her and her work for a long time via social media and was eager to learn from her in person. So when I realized she'll be at this conference and also give a tutorial, I didn't hesitate once to sign up for it. Especially as it perfectly fit my situation: "Doing the Hard Stuff".

This tutorial was indeed worth it already. It was awesome. I had hoped to get insights and advice for current difficult leadership situations as well as guiding principles for those still to come and I was not disappointed. Elisabeth shared a toolkit of the wisdom she collected over years working with teams and organizations - a toolkit full of wealth of applicable wisdom. Super interesting on a meta level as well, as I am sharing some of my own tactics in my latest talk.

We had a small group with high safety where we could bring our current challenges, think openly together about them using the toolkit, and discuss options to move forward. The self-organized structure of the tutorial made me think of an all-day themed lean coffee session with lots of dedicated time for each topic - wonderful to get detailed thoughts and feedback from everyone, and also be able to contribute! One of my topics got discussed into detail as well and I received lots of input and ideas what to try next - along with validation of my own stance and connecting the dots on what I already knew. Invaluable.

At some point, I really wondered about my own confirmation bias - as I kept nodding throughout. I really related to the toolkit topics shared. Was it because I learned and adapted a lot from Elisabeth and her peers already over the years, or were they really reflected in my own experience? Well, probably a bit of both. Anyways, it was amazing to see lots of the ideas and approaches I had used in my past being validated and built on by a group of peers.

There's a lot to ponder about and make use of. I'm really grateful for having had the chance to participate, I took a lot with me. I bet more people would benefit from this content, it actually would make a great book.
Right after the tutorial, it was time to get together with everyone and mingle for a "Meet the Speakers" event. This meant new people to get to know and connect with! A curious side note was when one person mentioned that they thought speakers would get formally introduced, and then being pleasantly surprised they're already among the crowd - being just normal humans as everyone else.

Finally, it was time for speakers dinner. My opportunity to connect with Allison Lazarz and catch up with Larissa Rosochansky and Rafael Cintra!

Conference Day 1

The first full day of talks and workshops for everyone was full of interesting sessions. Here are the ones that I joined.
  • Early Morning Lean Coffee with Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin. I make it a point to go to at least one lean coffee session per conference whenever offered. Whoever shows up are the right people and whatever topic is discussed, I gain insight from it! If I'm lucky, my own topics are selected and people's thinking help me move forward with a challenge. Like this time - I'm grateful for the input received. Many thanks to Janet and Lisa for facilitating these sessions and for doing it so welcomingly!
  • Keynote "Imperfect Agile" by Jenna Charlton. What a great opening keynote reminding all of us to remember self-care and keep our own boundaries, while also encouraging to resolve conflict in a timely manner and find closure instead of piling onto existing grudges - and emphasizing that impact is more important than intent. All that while following the story of figuring out what agile actually means. Just loved the conclusion of "Take what works, leave what doesn't, don't do harm - it works for us is enough"!
  • Keynote "Bigger than the Box" by Erika Chestnut. Great keynote emphasizing that testing is not all the work even though people try to keep us in the box. Loved that Erika showed ways how we can claim the power in what we do, seize the opportunities around us and let quality shine in a new light together with everyone. Very important messages.
  • "Stop Making QA The Last Train Stop Before Production" by Rick Clymer. Really related to this talk and think more people need to hear it. I witnessed so many folks being stuck in what they do. This talk showed very concrete and actionable things they could do to get out of their situation and not only provide more value yet also get more value out of their work themselves.
  • "Business Agility Lab" by Ray Arell, Rhea Stadick, Tobey Aumann and Shawna Cullinan. This was a positive surprise! I didn't expect much and came to the session as a mere filler. And received a nice hands-on introduction to Wardley mapping, a topic I would have chosen if it had been offered in the program! Loved the examples Tobey provided and the opportunity to try it ourselves. Wasn't too easy to get started with, yet understanding grew the more we tried it.
  • Keynote "Focus. Deliver. Learn. Repeat." by Elisabeth Hendrickson. What an amazing keynote. Just kept nodding throughout, so many excellent points made! Sadly, this could have been given twenty years ago already, and maybe was. Why haven't we learned this in the meantime? Overall, this was a dearly needed reminder to focus back on XP principles, including the reasoning why. Delivered in a wonderful energetic and authentic way.
My own session on this day was my workshop "Grow Your Technical Confidence". I had a small but great group, learning together. It's always fascinating to see people dare to try something new and potentially scary, and then have them figure out what they already know about it and that they can already contribute - hence increasing their confidence for the next step once again.

To conclude the day, organizers invited everyone to an Oktoberfest party! Loved the conversations with Melissa Eaden, it's such a pleasure to reconnect with folks I haven't met for a while. More exchange followed with Ray ArellTobey Aumann, Pete WalenTara Walton and others before the evening came to an end.

Conference Day 2

The last day of the conference provided further insights and even more to ponder about. Here are the sessions I listened to.
  • Keynote "Where is testing heading?" by Paul Holland. This keynote provided a reminder on bad trends in testing, historically and current, along with their reasoning. So what can testers do nowadays? Paul recommended to focus on what automation cannot do well, and make use of the tools at hand.
  • "The dark side of agile implementation" by Lisette Zounon. Just loved the focus on how culture is essential whether people can thrive or literally end up in the emergency room. The audience interaction to openly think about warning signs and anti-patterns was a nice addition. It was quite sad to see how many folks seemed to have endured rather toxic cultures. Yet what makes us succeed is team happiness! Loved the emphasis on taking care of ourselves and practicing self-care - dearly needed that reminder.
  • "Mobile app testing sucks. Here's how to do it better." by Eden Full Goh. This talk provided lots of insights on what we're usually missing when testing mobile apps. Loved all the examples of new features, device configuration settings, and more things that are too often not considered - especially when it comes to automation. Very tangible and practical advice and new ideas how to test better on mobile, both on exploring more and finding new ways to automate user interactions.
  • "The WHY you are!" by Dr. Rochelle Carr. What an amazing keynote in content and delivery. Loved Dr. Rochelle Carr's abundant energy on stage and refined skills to truly engage the audience with the content shared! The messages themselves - they hit home. More than I expected to, this keynote gave me lots to think about my own why and purpose, what drives me - and how it changed over time. Very impactful.
  • "How we're setting up QE's to fail" by Vernon Richards. This talk opened my eyes that should have already been open. I knew about glue work, and I knew about quiet quitting. Yet Vernon made the connection to where testers often find themselves, and that all of our work is indeed technical leadership - whew, that blew my mind. I think I heard this message before, yet this talk delivered it to me just at the right time to truly understand it. Gave me a lot to think about!
  • "Building a Culture of Accessible Software" by Jon Hussey. This talk provided a lot of actionable advice on how to increase awareness about accessibility, a topic that is very relevant to me right now. I loved how Jon connected this to his own story, what he tried, what didn't work and what did. His one request was for each and everyone of us to ask for more accessibility - something we all can do. A very important topic we all need to hear more of!
  • "Feedback Techniques for Transparent Teams" by Dee Ann Bernau. We all need to learn how to receive and give better feedback as it's essential for learning. This talk gave models to help our thinking about feedback as well as tangible steps to take and improve on feedback ourselves. One point caught my eye that I would have loved to hear more about: Creating a system to call out bad behavior in your team. More to think about.
  • Keynote "The Secret To My Success" by Melissa Eaden. This keynote was amazingly brave. Mel shared her personal story on stage which allowed me to realize how many more people are affected by trauma and systemic issues than we might realize from just seeing the "successful" facade. Really appreciate the reframing of what success means for us and finding our own definition of what to work toward. Loved the emphasis on how giving someone a chance can have a life-changing and even life-saving impact on them, and how especially tech can lift people out of a situation they would not have gotten out otherwise. As well as asking for an outside observer view! One more argument to indeed get coaching, or therapy, or both. I admire Mel for her vulnerability and I hope this talk helps more people on their journey towards more good than bad days. It definitely had impact on me, I have lots to think about.
On this day, I gave my brand-new talk "Team Transformation Tactics for Holistic Testing and Quality" for the first time live on stage - in its most condensed short form. According to feedback it seems people got something out of it to take with them, what more can I want?

A great bonus this day: Ash Coleman was in town and stopped by to say hi! Such a pleasant surprise, was so good to see her again, even if only for a few minutes.
Right after the conference ended, the social closure began with food, games and even more conversations. I joined a great dinner group with João ProençaMelissa EadenJenna CharltonJenny BrambleTara Walton, Vernon Richards and Tristan Lombard.
Afterwards I ended up in storytelling conversations with Elisabeth HendricksonJoão ProençaRay Arell and Kirtika Dhathathri. Really loved the chance to talk with Elisabeth once more - I really appreciate her for being so approachable, with people all the time and so authentic - very appreciated and amazing to see.


After a conference is over means the start of digesting everything. There's overcoming the post-conference blues of having had to say goodbye again to many dear people, there's follow-up to process all the gained insights and notes and everything, and there's rest to catch up with. And some more sightseeing to do to make best use of the efforts of traveling!

Once more I realized how much time and effort the conference follow-up tasks that I do take. This made me think about what I could cut down to make it less burdensome and tedious, and grant more capacity to work on other opportunities. One particular task stood out for me: processing my sketchnotes. Not only do they eat up a lot of energy to take during the talks, I also spend lots of time to take good enough photos of them, then transcribe them to get good enough alt texts for increased accessibility (kudos to Cakelin (Kaitlin) Marquardt for demonstrating how to write alt texts for sketchnotes!), then to create threads with the sessions and alt texts on both Twitter and Mastodon. Phew. Lots of time and energy goes into all that and it's often exhausting to do after a conference when I am tired anyway. I realized that nowadays sketchnotes don't save me time anymore, which was the very reason I started sketchnoting in the first place. So I felt maybe it's time again to for the next experiment to find a more effective way to take and share notes. And guess what? Shortly after considering that, I received abundant positive and grateful feedback on my sketchnotes, including personal messages on how impactful they are and suggestions that I could even make a book out of them. I'm feeling honored! At the same time, I guess I have to really think about how to best move forward from here.

In any case, I was leaving yet another Agile Testing Days USA with a full heart and mind, lots of insights to ponder upon and ideas to try next. Many thanks to organizers and volunteers for creating this space and making this edition run so smooth, and to my fellow speakers and participants for learning so openly together. Now I have a lot to think about.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Booster Conference 2023 - Changing Perspectives

A new conference to experience, a new community to engage with, and a new country to explore - Booster Conference offered me a great time in Bergen, Norway. I've overheard lots of people share great things about this conference, so I was very happy I got accepted. Did not regret it one bit! This was another conference to help change perspectives in lots of different ways.

The Day Before

Whenever possible, I try to arrive in time to meet other people already ahead of the conference. More often than not, we can go for dinner or drinks together and these initial conversations provide the first insights already. It also eases me into the conference and allows me to brace myself upfront of meeting so many people. This time, Elizabeth Zagroba and Joep Schuurkes were already there, and we had a lovely dinner together. As a nice surprise, João Proença made it to Bergen as well in time and joined us. Lots of catching up to do with these familiar folks! Speaking about new roles, new companies, and new challenges. Such a good start into this conference and the conference season for 2023.

The First Conference Day

Entering the venue for the first time, I saw so many people I haven't met yet - perfect condition for making new connections! That most conversations I overheard were in Norwegian, however, was of little help. I had to put in active effort to break into existing circles and start getting to know people. Required more energy, yet it worked and people responded very friendly. I've also met Micha Kutz and Markus Tacker again! Lovely to catch up and exchange news.

The conference kicked off and a few things already made a good impression in the first hours. Great venue for people to have proper space and nice equipment. The schedule contained sufficiently long and frequent breaks. Such a relief not to have to rush from session to session and hope to cater to biological needs in between, yet also have proper time to have an actual conversation with people. Organizers also had a chillout area reserved for everyone who needed a private break. And last but not least: Booster offered both a barista and a tea afficionado who provided wonderful high-quality drinks. Adding great food and snacks to it, and you have a great foundation to make this work. 

The speakers didn't disappoint either. Here are the sessions I joined on this day. By the way, all talks had been recorded and you can find the videos next to the session description in the program, linked in the following.

  • Keynote "Why breed faster horses when you can make cars?" by Anne Landro. Great talk demonstrating us how much we are missing when only talking to our users, especially if these are not our actual users. Even then, it's hard for people to share very openly, without omitting information that's obvious to them yet might not be known to us. And what they ask for is not always (or rather usually) what they actually need. So we need further methods to dig deeper and find out the real problem so we can figure out a real solution. Very insightful keynote!      
  • Lightning talk "Have no fear, the security guild is here!" by Karina Øverland Haugen. A security guild is often formed by representatives of all teams. It's there to help everyone focus on security. Yet how to do that? Karina shared what they tried at their company, like granting dedicated time for security champions, and where they are now with the guild. One thing is clear for them, the endeavor already paid off and knowledge got spread across teams.
  • Lightning talk "Recovering from technical bankruptcy - ensemble style" by Kjersti Berg. I loved Kjersti's story of her team finding their way to working together as a whole team. Yet they needed to feel the pain first: they experienced not only technical debt, yet technical bankruptcy. Huge maintenance load and context loss basically hindered them from getting any further product change out of the door. To get out of this situation, they started working as an ensemble, everyone together on the same thing, same place, same time, same computer. This fostered system understanding, knowledge sharing and decision making, and enabled them to get out of their situation - with a way happier team. Loved that Kjersti also pointed out all the other ensemble related sessions at the conference, like mine!
  • Lightning talk "A brief history of Simula" by Morten Nygaard Åsnes. This was a nicely condensed history lesson on the background of Simula, a simulation language created by Kristen Nygaard. With the first version gaining popularity in academia, he wondered if they could make this a generic purpose language - and it worked. Although Simula didn't evolve further in the end, it still influenced lots of languages and was fundamental for object-oriented languages.
  • Lightning talk "Internal tech talks: How to motivate everyone to share their knowledge" by Stig Nielsen. Do you relate with this topic as much as I do? Stig figured that in order to make internal knowledge sharing a success, you need a dedicated person taking care and setting the environment. It also didn't go without constant nudging! One big factor that keeps people from sharing is the belief that you needed to be an expert to share knowledge, and hence people lacked confidence. In the end, offering different formats, building in preparation time and feedback, as well as appreciation and praise all went a long way.      
  • Lightning talk "Looking ahead to WCAG 2.2 … and 3.0?" by Vegard Haugstvedt. The lightning talk format doesn't grant much time for this run-through to cover the latest changes in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) international standard. Still, we got a first impression of what's new and what to look into further. A curious one to me was the requirement "focus not obscured": when a component is visible it should not be hidden - I assumed this goes without saying, yet this is only required by the AAA standard, for AA it could still be partially hidden. And it was good to see the requirement "accessible authentication" suggesting to use magic links, allow password managers, and allow copy and paste for authentication related fields. Big win for security for everyone! Because if security practices are not accessible or too inconvenient, they can be as recommended as they want, people just won't adopt them.
  • In the afternoon it was time for my own workshop, "Ensemble Exploratory Testing". I've given this workshop many times already, and yet the experience and outcome differs with every group. The session concept is kept quite simple in order to give people the opportunity to experience both working in an ensemble as well as exploration, and practice together hands-on. I always aim to showcase how much you can learn in short time, while it differs what everybody learns in specific. This time I had another great bunch of folks, split in four ensembles, and each of them quickly evolving their own style. This session quickly uncovers all the different perspectives and experiences people bring and fosters finding common ground. I had a great time observing and encouraging, nudging and supporting. Seems participants enjoyed it as well, based on the positive feedback received. As a bonus, I received some lovely Norwegian chocolate as speaker gift! What a great gesture.
  • Time for a fishbowl session. This format is basically a panel with changing participants. It starts with having a few people on stage, getting a topic kicked off. If at any time any person in the audience wants to contribute, they are welcome to come on stage and take a seat, while another one leaves so there is always a free spot to take. This creates an interesting dynamic and great conversations can pan out. For this specific fishbowl, organizers had collected a bunch of controversial opinions and statements from the audience upfront - in an actual fishbowl to draw from! In the beginning, the conversation started light-heartedly yet then turned towards deeper topics like psychological safety that unveiled great insights into what people understand and misunderstand when it comes to this concept.

In the early evening, it was time for the next part of the program: an official conference dinner and party for everyone. Such a lovely idea! More chances to network, make new connections and strengthen old ones. This was just the first day, though, so after heading back to the hotel and enjoying one more long conversation with João on all the things, it was time to end the day.

Day Two in Full Swing

Booster offered lots of hands-on sessions, really loved it. As non-Norwegian speaker I had less to choose from, and still plenty of interesting topics were available.

  • Workshop "Refaktorama - Refactoring under constraints" by Siv Midtun Hollup and Karoline Skylstad. This was just perfect. Siv and Karoline gave a short and just enough introduction to refactoring, including why this is a good thing to do and should not be neglected, as well as common challenges and coping strategies. Then the majority of the time available we could use to work in groups on refactoring a small program. I especially liked that the situation was framed quite realistically. We received a small program that obviously showed flaws, yet served its purpose well so far. Now the needs changed, so each group received a new feature to implement and hence to prepare for. We also received a constraint under which to operate - very much like in everyday work. The refactoring results clearly differed depending on the focus the group had. And in general, lots of great conversions took place, sharing approaches and ideas, and ending up in a different place than any of us would have when working on our own.
  • After lunch, we had two open space slots. I really like this structure where people bring their own topics, build their own agenda and contribute in ways they prefer. Usually a great place to gain new insights, get advice, practice hands-on, and more. I opted for a session on how to say no - we exchanged lots of experience and thoughts on what to try. For the second slot I decided to join the discussion on what hinders people from using TDD. Yet again a very fruitful conversation, triggering new perspectives and thoughts!
  • Experience report "Free time feature frenzy" by Elisabeth Whiteley. This was a great talk, loved the story, its presentation and its lessons. Elisabeth started out on an ambitious hobby project - yet how to do this without making it feel like more work and risk burning out? How could this be fun? After trying various approaches, she found a way for herself, based on her own needs. I really related to her advice to plan for low brain power days and leave tasks for those, as well as to (not aim for perfection and instead be okay to) write bad code - it might work for your purpose. She encouraged everyone who's picking up a free time project to at least try to have fun. As someone doing a lot of work-like learning initiatives myself in my free time, this talk hit close to home and offered great food for thought.

Time for speakers dinner! One of the great benefits of being a speaker is that this way it's a lot easier to get to know fellow speakers - and hence people who have a lot of valuable experience to share. The speakers dinner is one of these opportunities to get to know each other over some nice food and drinks. And what a fabulous location the organizers chose! They invited us all up on the Ulriken, the highest of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. The restaurant there indulged us with lots of courses of fabulous dishes covering a variety of tastes. All that while enjoying a stunning view. The true Norwegian weather, cloudy and gray, didn't make it any less stunning. Huge thanks to the organizers! This dinner also allowed me to meet Andrew Harmel Law and talk - we've both been to DDD Europe in 2020 without having met there yet, so this was a great chance to share stories. Really enjoyed our conversations.

One Last Conference Day

I've never been a morning person, and the further a conference progresses, the harder my mornings become. Still, I'm glad I made it just in time for starting another day with a workshop. 

  • Workshop "From bricks to circles: learn the onion architecture" by Lars Lønne. Lars presented an alternative to the well-known layered architecture: the onion architecture. That intrigued me, as I've already seen the hexagonal architecture, another well-known approach, yet not this one. Through a series of exercises we got a better feeling of how an existing small application built in the layered way could be transformed to the onion architecture - and hence massively increase its testability without needing to mock out too many things. Basically anything not interacting with the outside world is pushed inside of the onion, hence reducing dependencies and encapsulating domain logic. I liked that we also had time to try this transformation ourselves and get a first feeling how this could be like.
  • Experience report "A Commune in the Ivory Tower: A New Approach to Architecture" by Andrew Harmel Law. Brilliant talk, I related heavily! Seen this a lot and discussed this a lot in my last company with my fellow principal engineers there. Andrew shared his experience when he felt like an anchor, slowing things down; and this didn't stop when moving into architecture. For any decision needed, each team came to him, which was not only making things slow yet also stressing him out. Sitting in the (architecture) ivory tower simply set things up for failure. Instead, they found a decentralized way of making decisions, enabling everyone to make decisions while offering non-blocking advice on demand. To always know what's happening, they used lightweight architecture decision records (ADRs). To optimize, they included conversations at an architectural advice forum. There were a few failure modes to look out for, with the worst being no trust (as is the case with so many other topics as well). This "anybody" approach to architecture really spoke to me. Probably as I'm talking a lot about resilience and autonomy in my teams. If you want to dive deeper, Andrew wrote an amazing, detailed blog post about the topic: "Scaling the Practice of Architecture, Conversationally".
  • Keynote "The nature of code storytelling." by Daan van Berkel. Daan shared his journey from discovering programming to creating programs throughout his life. He realized they had one thing in common: he programmed to express and process his emotions, and make connections with people. This for him is the nature of code and storytelling. An entertaining and encouraging closing keynote!
People were happy. Organizers tired, yet also happy. All the volunteers and other helpers were celebrated. The conference ended. Well, officially at least. Those people who were still there had a small informal after-party at one of the local offices. I spent a really relaxed evening with Elizabeth, Joep, Micha and others before ending up again in the hotel bar for final conversations before having to say our goodbyes.

Follow-up, Sightseeing, Conclusion

As usual when speaking at conferences, there's not only the preparation phase and the actual session, yet there are also things to be done after the conference to close the loop. For me that includes publishing my sketchnotes, writing this blog post, sending documents to the organizers for reimbursement, and more. Yet that didn't stop me from enjoying an additional day in Bergen - another benefit of speaking at conferences, you have a good chance to check out a new location while you're there. If you'd like to get an impression on what I saw during my tour through Bergen, follow me on Instagram. Really enjoyed a calm day in the city before going home.

Overall, I can definitely recommend Booster Conference. I liked the variety of topics offered, including lots of technical hands-on sessions. Great organization, great people. The most difficult part was probably the language, though. Sometimes the session tracks showed a mixture of Norwegian and English sessions, so that I had to be careful not to pick a combination that would leave me in a spot where I would not understand the next session. This was especially true for lightning talks and shorter workshops. That being said, it's a great thing for the local community that sessions are offered not only in English. Language is important and can raise or tear down lots of barriers and hinder or provide safety. Needs can be accommodated, like with a well-structured program or tools like using language tags to make it easier to include people into groups.

I had a great time. The conference offered changing lots of perspectives, from understanding the problems of our users to different architectures, from varying role conceptions to psychological safety - and even the view from the top of a mountain. So if you have the chance, check out Booster Conference!

Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 - Acknowledgement and Gratitude

Thanks to having a blog, I made it a habit to look back at the end of the year. It serves me well to acknowledge the things that happened and also be grateful for having such wonderful people in my life. Especially as 2022 was again a year of manifold global crises affecting people in so many ways.

So, here's my personal review of the past year, by no means comprehensive or overly structured - just taking note of what came to my mind. I'm quite late with doing so this year, a fact that does fit my general feeling for this year very well. A bit rushed, running behind, somehow making it work in the end - and still feeling grateful for all the good parts.

Let's start with work.

  • My dear peers at Ada, especially my teammates and my fellow quality engineers. I appreciate having you every day, and especially when times are hard. Thank you so much for validating me and my expertise, for offering new opportunities to grow, and for your ongoing emotional support, encouragement and kindness. This company and position might not be an easy one, yet you make it worthwhile. I'm grateful. Let's continue using this opportunity to build quality into our products and make them even more meaningful and valuable for people.
  • Having switched companies was quite an endeavor and rollercoaster experience in itself, with all the good and bad and rewards and struggles and ups and downs. I don't regret it one bit! So much learning in here. I posted about some experiences in Onboarding Struggles and Strategies and A Time of Transition - Eight Months on a New Team. There's more to reflect on and share when the time comes. Yet just the mere fact of a new industry and business domain, new company and team, new tech stack and tooling was full of insights and growth.
  • My team is quite big and changed constellation so many times during one year I can hardly believe how much we achieved together. I mean, we had 19 team changes in 12 months - imagine what we could have done based on more stable relationships! Despite all odds, we managed to form a real team, foster our bond, support each other as we go, and learn a lot together. There's a lot to do and a lot of room for improvement - always doing a bit better helped us massively. The team came incredibly far in only one year, and I'm very hopeful for our continued journey together.
  • I personally felt that in certain aspects of whole team ownership I came farer with this team than with all others before. For example, having people take care of testing not only when I'm off yet also for longer periods when I'm around and have a different topic to focus on. This also gave me space to contribute in different ways to the team. Not only figure out further improvements close to testing and quality, yet also supporting development more with investigating and debugging issues, fixing them, or making identified improvements myself. Having this space did not only help increase the team's resilience, it also got me closer to becoming a more full-shaped generalist so I can shape-shift easier, jump to help with whatever needs doing with less friction, as well as fill even more different gaps. Granted, it's also the first time I had gathered as many pieces of the puzzle and every piece is helping me contribute in better ways.
  • I learned to love debugging even more! It's literally a skill I really like to hone, especially ever since a former colleague praised me (the "tester") for even knowing about debugging tools and not being scared to used them, and since Amitai Schleier amazed me back on my #CodeConfident challenge with his approaches that allowed him to figure out the issues way quicker than I was able to. Also last year, debugging brought my developer teammates and me (again, the "tester") together and allowed us to see how we can both contribute our skills there. It's a lovely intersection of investigation and exploration and choosing different approaches and perspectives and, and, and. Happy I could practice it this year in my new team as well. By the way, Julia Evans recently published an amazing zine on the topic, check out "The Pocket Guide to Debugging".
  • As we changed team constellations so many times, there was lots of onboarding (and offboarding) going on in my team. I've been jumping a lot on these opportunities. On the one hand, as I've not been able to spread it as much in the team as I hoped for in the beginning of the year. On the other hand, as it's yet another chance to practice explaining things in simple terms and improving my own understanding. Repetition is great here! And as everyone also asks different questions, there's always something new to learn and take as input for further improvements.
  • With my current team I held back much with formal knowledge sharing. I was quite conscious trying not to overwhelm them with everything else going on. So, I chose to focus on learning and sharing hands-on instead. Always iterating, always doing a bit better. Sometimes it was hard to live with "not good, barely enough"; practiced that as well in favor of more long-lasting change. Also across the company I know I could share my knowledge in more ways. Not that I didn't share any, yet there wasn't as much capacity going into that yet.
  • Lots of pairing and ensembling with my fellow colleagues, as well as working on different technical hands-on topics is what gave me lots of energy this year. I'd really love to see more of that. At the same time, I'd love to see less of the energy drainers this year - less non-transparency, unclarity, miscommunication, constant turmoil and uncertainties where more stability would have helped.
  • Lots of times this year I found myself overwhelmed, self-doubting, low on energy, always running behind, rushed and driven by external forces. I got personally challenged quite a few times throughout this year by different people. Sometimes I dealt with this better, sometimes not as well. Same with keeping my own boundaries. Especially when it comes to keeping my energy levels in check I struggled. I tried a few different things, some more successful than others. I took up personal coaching again to help me see different options and perspectives. I really would like to stay ahead of things again, realizing closer to the moment when things are going sideways and I should step back and recharge. I also practiced saying no to what drains me and more intentionally say yes to what gives me energy. Such a hard yet rewarding thing to do. All this again will help me cope better with unexpected things - those will always be there, it's life after all. Taking care of myself will also help me take care of those in my care better.
  • I practiced giving feedback, on different levels. Personal conversations (like the classic "the term guys is not gender-neutral and here's how it impacts me when you make this word choice"), as well as public praise of people showing behavior I'd like to see more of. Team feedback, in retros, with my managers, and more. And organizational feedback to senior leadership, especially on unhelpful cultural patterns I've observed over the year. I started asking for feedback as well more - another topic to practice more frequently. Finally, I also practiced receiving feedback, acknowledging it, and then making intentional choices what to act on and how.
  • I have learned a lot about leadership over the past years. Nearly every day this serves me really well. In specifics all the things that my dear former colleague Shiva Krishnan and I put together for our leadership workshop series last year. It helps me thinking and choosing strategies and approaches for specific situations. Whether I had picked the "right" one is hard to tell within the situation, sometimes we realize its impact only in hindsight. Yet just having a few thinking tools to help reflect and widen my own perspectives helps massively.
  • I observed several former teammates from my previous company continue growing and going their own way. Be it getting promoted and taking on new responsibilities, or changing companies to pursue their goals, or daring to create content for the wider community, like my dear former colleague Mateus Ferreira Durães. This is just awesome, one of the best things to see!

There's more than work, of course.
  • I honestly have the best cheerleaders of the world, and I'm super grateful. Way more people than I can name here. Whenever I share something good or bad, achievements or failures, lots of these people regularly make my day. Just showing that they are there does! Honestly, I believe we need to be there and cheer for each other more, it can't only be me who desperately needs this kind of encouragement. So, something for me to do more next year!
  • After many years I saw my learning partner Toyer Mamoojee in real life again! I cherish all our calls, yet seeing someone you worked with for over six years in person again is just amazing. Thanks Toyer for being on this whole journey together with me! I doubt I would have managed as much over the last years on my own. Thanks a lot for being in my life.
  • A new pact was born! After a break of a few years, Toyer and I finally agreed to a new deal as learning partners. I'm super excited (and scared again!) for this new personal challenge for 2023. My focus will be on all things application security - and luckily, it's going to be fitting really well with my work context. Really hope for more synergies and even more learning in this vast area of expertise.
  • I finally managed to unlock an achievement this year I waited for quite some time: I gave my first full day conference session this year! Thanks a bunch to Toyer Mamoojee and Agile Testing Days for making this happen. After many plans in the last years for full-day sessions, none of them became reality in the end due to lots of reasons. Yet Toyer's and my tutorial "Let’s lead quality together!" was finally it.
  • For nearly the whole of 2021 I had paired with Shiva Krishnan at my former company on a series of leadership workshops. We had built on a concept that Shiva ran a few times successfully already, decided to revise it completely - and something meaningful emerged. This year, being now at different companies, we brainstormed how we can bring these leadership concepts to the wider community beyond company boundaries. And we made the first step happen by giving a talk about our pairing journey and what helped us make it a fruitful one - the "Human Connection: The Key to a Beneficial Pairing Experience". Thank you Shiva for staying with me through all ups and downs!
  • I've again had the honor and privilege to speak at a bunch of conferences this year, as well as appear on other formats. It's been 15 sessions overall for me! Really glad to be able to give back to community, learn a lot from my peers there and connect with people. I also got to know a new conference with SoCraTes (finally made it there)! Especially grateful for Nicola Lindgren to recommend me to Scott Hanselman on the Hanselminutes podcast, for Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin for recommending me to Henry Suryawirawan for the Tech Lead Journal podcast, and for them also to have me on their own Donkeys & Dragons series. I'm also really grateful I already have few events lined up for 2023 as well. More to be revealed, stay tuned.
  • I wrote a few more blog posts this year again. Still usually bigger ones and hence not too many, yet with this being the 13th post I've published more of my writing again compared to recent years, and I'm glad about it.
  • I reviewed and copy edited two books. One was the super cool collection of "How Can I Test This?" by Nicola LindgrenMike Harris, Suman Bala, Philip Wong, and Shawn Shaligram - thanks for having me! The other one was fiction - the fifth novel written by my best friend Marlene Guggenberger I'm so very proud of and who continues to put her trust in me. And I also want to thank my dear friend Thierry de Pauw for asking me for my thoughts and listening to them on several of his recent articles (they are amazing, check them out!).
  • Samuel Nitsche was so kind to reach out to Vernon Richards and me to check our interest to start a code reading club together. Absolutely yes, we were interested indeed! We've been so lucky that a bunch of awesome people joined in as well. It's a wonderful small group to practice in, and the sessions we had were a safe place to share and learn with each other. Special shout-out to Felienne Hermans and Katja for their inspiration on code reading clubs!
  • Remember the Testing Tour I've been on in 2018? Peter Kofler and I are pairing ever since on security testing, roughly once a month. Really grateful he's on this journey for so long with me! And there's always so much more to learn in this area.
  • I'm part of a power learning group that Toyer and I had started years ago. Unfortunately, in the past years we all lacked energy to continue our regular calls and stay in close contact. This is one of the things I'd like to see if more people have the appetite to revive it again. Really missing these people.
  • A few people reached out to me and thanked me for something in the past where I had helped them. Wow, what a feeling! It was a tiny thing in the past like providing a few thoughts on a question, for some it literally meant the world and had way more impact than I imagined. This is so encouraging to keep on doing this.
  • The whole Twitter situation has been incredibly sad for me. I owe a lot to this platform and the communities I've found there. I am really glad that other platforms do exist and communities can move, and still, it's personally really sad. I know it's way worse for many others who depend a lot more on this platform and specific communities there that won't be found any place else. I am very grateful for my privilege to be able to quite easily move to Mastodon where I found lots of people old and new.
  • For lots of things I want to improve on and allow myself to go in small steps, I try to find habits that work for me, mostly small daily habits. You know, really small steps, yet consistently. This year I did not take up a personal challenge at first as I was changing jobs. Checking in again with myself after the probation period passed, I realized things had been too hectic during this period and I needed a bit more time before I can really focus on a new challenge. Hence, I decided to add to my list of daily habits instead. I wanted to brush the dust of a few things I enjoy yet mostly didn't make time for anymore; recovering lost language and drawing skills, moving more, and the like. Oh my, did my habit list grow! On some days it's been honestly a lot, wouldn't recommend adding so many at once, and also not in several batches. Well, it still forces me to integrate them more smartly into my everyday routine. Yet overall, I'm happy with myself that even the youngest of these habits crossed the 180 days mark.
  • I've restarted a few things this year that I did a lot in the past. As mentioned already, practicing another language again (besides English). Drawing again (it's been ages). Getting myself a new bicycle and actually taking it for a ride (even longer ago). And also: finally restarting one of my most beloved activities in my free time: indoor volleyball (yep, not that easy in pandemic times). I deliberately tried to set aside time for these things and I don't regret it one bit.
So, looking back and summing things up for myself, I'm content and I'm grateful. Things are as good as they can be right now. I'm personally in a luxury position, being as privileged as I am. No, not everything is going well, I have my own share of struggles. And still. There's opportunity to keep things as good as they can be, and in some points they can also get better. For me, for others around me, for everyone. Let's always remember kindness and move forward together.

Life is good. Not always, but it can be. I'll try to make every day good enough, and enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

New Year, New Pact - Time for Another Personal Challenge

 Finally, it happened again: a new pact for 2023 had been born! If you're following my journey, you know I've done four big personal challenges so far, learning in public outside my comfort zone. In 2017 it was all about conference speaking, in 2018 I went on a Testing Tour, 2019 was focused on becoming #CodeConfident and in 2020 I set out to share #SecurityStories.

2020 was also the year I decided to pause my personal challenges due to so many other things happening, both in the world as well as in my career. In the past two years I've been working very intensely with two teams at both my former as well as my current company. Now that I'm settled in, I do need more stability in my relationships to ground me and navigate uncertainty and change from. This is what I expect and hope from 2023 and will do my best to make happen. 

With all that in mind, last Friday it was finally time to sit with my learning partner Toyer Mamoojee again and strike a brand-new pact, just like we did for the first time back in 2016. This time, while our endeavors have a different focus, we indeed even have a common theme again!


Like every year, I took note of potential topics for a new pact and personal challenge over the course of the year. Anything that came to my mind, anything that intrigued me to invest more time on, and especially topics that scare me. Why that? To get out of my comfort zone and grow. It's been a common theme since I started with my personal challenges and while these are indeed challenging and scary, they got me far. So: scary it is again!

Here's my quite raw and only minimally edited list of ideas for 2023, with points noted down as they came to mind without re-ordering.

- open source contribution
- security
- accessibility
- app development
- call for weekly 90min ensemble creating an open source app together
- a project a month
- build intentionally insecure mobile app for practicing
- "everyday security" series
- "accessible security"
- asking for help; see Ady Stokesidea: "Maybe your next tour could be asking for help?"
- initiate pairing / ensembling with others
- deep dive focus weeks: learn foundations for a topic and share - deepen my generalist me
- series of how I test things, especially backend etc.
- anything that contributes to my vision of systemic inclusion and growth?
- feeling I'm doing the same over the past years, over and over again, also re-using a lot of what I've built before; yet there's so much more to learn and grow into, like Maaret continually does, expanding (see alos when she shared "When I do #ExploratoryTesting, I have hundreds of options I can generate on the fly. I’m again appreciating that some people see barely one option and we need to teach how to generate options.")
- do something I haven't done before, truly grow again; I've used lots of approaches the last years that had worked before, just built on them and refined them; yet didn't really reinvent myself anymore
- really do need my own topics again, not being driven from conference to conference alone, neglecting my goals and blog
- bug stories / debugging stories; maybe similar to 
Valerie Aurora's systems programming stories
- similar to observation notes taken at work: take live notes while working hands-on to convey approaches and thoughts
- how about: tackling any security practice challenge I come across, take notes as I go and publish them, join the community (actively!) and ask for help and pairs to work with (doing what scares me, joining this community always did, also asking for help)
- security could be complemented with at work practice and pairing with security folks
- accessibility could be covered by work initiatives; honing development skills could be combined with security or run on the side
- security makes a good talk / workshop topic as well, and grows career options
- join security conference
- with security I would pick up the theme started in 2020, revised
- theme for the year and overarching experiment worked better than having to come up with something new all the time
- a lot of brainstormed topics could just be smaller blog posts without such a big commitment (even recurring as series like my conference reports): how I test, debugging, bug stories, learning topics, etc.
- asking for help and security doesn't exclude each other either; security was scary enough I didn't join a community last time; could be practicing asking good security questions
- really about the question what scares me most that also grows me in the direction I want to grow (e.g. solo open source contribution might or might not help)
- I'm fueling my generalist skills every work day, I'm on it already, not scary
- what scares me most is security and building things
- could use Tanya Janca's Cyber Mentoring Monday
- join OWASP chapter
- use training budget to go on security conference
- mobile security would be new angle and relevant in AppSec
- nothing is as scary as showing my face in front of security people and communities
- joining and actively participating in at least one security community will let me understand application security better and allow me to solve five mobile security challenges
- practice debugging strategies and approaches (like Julia Evans shared), exercises; fixing bugs in unknown systems (hence requiring investigating and learning the system)

Now, what do you think made it as my chosen challenge for next year?

My Pact for 2023

My last personal challenge was on the topic of security, and I stopped it in favor of more important topics emerging in 2020. The topic is by far not over and I continued keeping it in my head for the next years, always growing myself a bit further. Still, it's a huge area and requires more focus to dive in properly. So here's what I'm setting out to do in 2023.

The challenge: Application security is my focus - especially everyday hands-on practical situations when designing, developing and building a mobile app. For security in general, the main reasoning from back in 2020 why security is scary remains. Yet I learned that security just like development is a team sport. So on top of the general scariness of the vast security field, my challenge now also includes people - especially joining new communities, as well as asking for help and feedback. Yes, I've done that in other areas in the past, and yet for security this feels different. This is a jump I didn't manage yet, as much as I'd like to. So yes, scary. 

The hypothesis: I believe that joining and actively participating in at least one security community for a period of six months will increase my understanding of practical application security in everyday work situations. I've proven the hypothesis when I have...
  • solved five mobile application security challenges,
  • explained how I solved them, and 
  • asked community members for their review and feedback to learn from.

The experiment: To prove or disprove the hypothesis, let's get more concrete.
  • I can join one or more communities, yet it's about staying six months and actively participating in any of them.
  • Challenges could be a variety of practice exercises on topics like threat modeling, SAST activities, security testing and more - as long as they would help me in everyday work, hence the focus on mobile.
  • Mobile application challenges cover the whole mobile system and architecture, including backend services.
  • To explain how I solved the challenges, I will write blog posts. I will edit my explanations based on the received feedback.
  • People to ask for review or feedback could come from the communities I freshly joined or the wider global community - yet it should be people I don't know in person yet at this moment in time.

Time line criteria: It always proved valuable for me to think about when to start, when to pause, when to stop.
  • Start: I will start only in 2023 as there are more todos on my desk before and I want to dive in with more focus.
  • Pause: Whenever I realize I neglect the self care I committed to (for three years I'm now using those defined in my last challenge), I pause for the week and take care of myself before continuing with the challenge again.
  • Stop: It's time to stop my challenge and evaluate my experiment overall when I've either proven the hypothesis or ten months have passed.

The Tag: I've made good use of a short identifier to be able to easily refer to my challenges. This time I thought about going for #LearnWithAppSecPeople. While it's not short like all my past challenges, it's expressive enough and not in use yet. And then I discarded the idea for not being snappy and sticky enough and went instead for #AskAppSec. Short and again an alliteration, what would be the chance!

That's it! Yet I'm already working on my security skills, so what exactly is scary here for me again? People, new communities, asking for help. Feeling inadequate and fearing I won't belong as much as I hope I would. And security being such a vast and complex field it's easy to feel very dumb, so building more confidence to be able to figure this out is required.

So, what's in it for me? I hope to increase my confidence, hone my skills, grow my understanding, increase my career options, grow in general thanks to scary things and new people, and also to apply my gained knowledge at work.

I shared that Toyer has a similar theme - and yes, he's now also focusing on security, eager to learn more. I'll leave it up to him to share more detail if he wants to, and if we're all lucky his journey might end up with a talk out of his lessons learned. What helps both of us is that security gained importance in both our work contexts and we're both hoping for certain synergy effects.

There's More for 2023

Although speaking itself won't be my priority next year, I will continue speaking at conferences, to keep learning together with various communities, and also create at least a new talk. I will start new initiatives at work, trying my best to use the foundations built this year to help us thrive more next year. I'll also try and continue not to forget myself and the rest I need next year - keeping my boundaries and energy levels in check as well as exercising self care.

It's not going to get a boring year, it might get busy. And still. I'm truly excited (and scared enough) for this new pact and challenge!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Agile Testing Days 2022 - The Unicorn Land We Build Together

Being back at Agile Testing Days was a blast. I had some energy-draining weeks and months before, and this event did require me to prepare quite a bit as well - two brand-new sessions, both paired. In hindsight, it's been worth it and I wouldn't have missed it. Here's how I experienced the conference with only a few people highlighted of so many more I really appreciated seeing again or getting to know for the first time. Brace yourselves, this post will be long as all my conference reports and this one spans a whole week.


Last year it was really nice to arrive on Saturday already before the conference week. It reduced anxiety when it comes to traveling, it allowed seeing people earlier in a quieter setting, and especially sleeping in on Sunday before the event starts. Didn't regret it one bit, so I chose to repeat it this year.

Arriving in the evening, a handful of other speakers had already made their journey to Potsdam as well. Like Jenna Charlton! We decided to go to dinner together and had a lovely evening with really good food. Time well spent, great conversations to start this with. Coming back to the hotel, people had already left the bar to favor an early night, so we decided to call it a day - just to meet Christian Baumann and Tamara Josten in front of the elevators! So, the bar it was and more great conversations before finally going to bed.


I really enjoyed sleeping in and starting the day slowly. Meeting more and more people in the hotel lobby, catching up on more connections I've made over the years was just lovely. Like seeing Bailey Hanna again whom I first met at CAST 2018. And especially: seeing my learning partner Toyer Mamoojee again in person, after many years we could only meet online. Very special moment!

This night, I had a wonderful dinner group with Bailey, Toyer and Stephan Kämper. Great food to eat and great food for thought, lots of stories shared. Coming back to the hotel, it was time for Toyer and me to go through our tutorial one last time - it's always good to align once more the day before. I finished off the day by catching up with a few more close friends, like Dragan Spiridonov and Thomas Rinke.


The big day came - big for me, as it was the first time I gave a full-day session at a conference. I had a bunch of opportunities the last years, yet all of them had been canceled as knock-on effect of the pandemic. Yet this was happening indeed, finally! And Toyer and I even had 23 participants to join us for our tutorial "Let’s lead quality together!".

It was such a great experience, time flew as we had expected, yet we managed to make our concept work out in the end. We already received preliminary promising feedback. We're curious to learn more and improve this tutorial further and offer it at more events - as we do feel more people would benefit from what we benefited from ourselves.

Right after the tutorial ended, it was time to meet two dear friends and colleagues: João Proença and Rita Avota. I especially loved the fact that it was Rita's first conference and she had opted in for volunteering. Volunteering is such a great way to get access to a conference (besides buying a ticket or speaking) and also gain more insights on how things work in the background.

Now it was time that the conference was officially opened. And how to better open it than with a keynote? This time it was Gwen Diagram with "Happiness is Quality". I just loved her energy and authenticity on stage, being unapologetically herself, no matter which position she holds. Really enjoyed hearing her experience of fostering a great engineering culture using lots of concrete tangible examples and stories. There was so much in this keynote to relate to, and a lot of food for thought and ideas to try out in our own contexts. Way more than was possible to put down in a sketchnote! This was a wonderful start into the conference.

Monday wasn't over yet, especially it's traditionally the evening of the speaker's dinner. Once again, this conference goes out of their ways to offer their speakers a lovely evening with amazing food and even better company. Loved speaking again with Anne Colder, Vincent Wijnen, Micha Kutz and more. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The evening ended with further conversations back at the hotel - special thanks to Nicola Sedgwick for your time! - and then it was time to sleep.


If you know me, you know I'm not a morning person at all, quite the opposite. Yet there's one thing I make myself do every year at Agile Testing Days, and that's joining the first Lean Coffee offered by Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin on Tuesday morning. Never regretted it so far! Really like this informal agenda-less structure where we can bring our own topics, get advice and share insights with each other. This time, I took a few nuggets of wisdom with me to think about further.

  • Consider observability early on when thinking about changes: how would we see if something goes wrong? Which insights would we like to gain? Are there any dashboards we need to adapt?
  • The person who diagnoses an issue is not always the best person to act on it.
  • If you live a culture of "If you see an issue, you own it", then you need to be prepared that if people don't have capacity they start looking away. So, avoid practices that reward people to look away.

This year, the conference offered a virtual pass to see the talks streamed live online. I really appreciate this offer as it makes the conference content more accessible - not everyone has the money, time and also possibility to come in person. Also, it allows all of us to catch up on talks we missed within the next months as well. And as this conference offers lots of sessions in parallel this is a really great thing. With this in mind, I opted for workshops and hands-on experience wherever I could.

  • Keynote "Any dramatic elephants in the room?" by Martijn Nas. Martin shared the concept of the drama triangle with us - a concept that I believe more people need to hear about. If you'd like to learn more, I have a few resources to recommend on the topic.
  • Workshop "Harness the power of Cypress beyond the UI: Hybrid Testing" by Marc Mühlenweg and Nils Hahn. Time for hands-on practice! Marc and Nils guided the group to use Cypress in ways beyond interacting through the graphical user interface. Using the API instead as well as directly using the database to set up test data and check assertions is something more people still need to learn about.
  • Keynote "Living Fearlessly - While living with fear" by Lena Wiberg. This was absolutely amazing. Such a personal and brave talk about our fears, what roots they have and how our brains work when feeling threatened. It was a keynote that many of us needed to hear. Lena received standing ovations and they were very well deserved! The whole talk was so relatable and triggered lots of thoughts. I'm in awe of Lena's courage not only to give this talk yet also to overcome and deal with her fears every day.
  • Workshop: "Agile Engineering Practices Experienced" by Andreas Schliep and Malte Sussdorff. The speakers presented us a whole bunch of engineering practices, many well known yet some often forgotten. They showed how these practices support and inform each other. I really enjoyed the hands-on part of this session that allowed us to experience some of the presented practices. We started in teams of three pairs from different perspectives (backend, frontend, testing) on a challenge - that in the end nudged us to solve things together anyway. Well, that hits close to my heart! Also, loved pairing with Anne-Marie Charrett and fixing a backend issue together, definitely one of my highlights this year. This session also showed me new tools like Okteto and how to use GitHub CodeSpaces also for branches. Always good to learn and experience benefits hands-on.
  • Keynote "Be an AND. Not an OR" by Melissa Sassi. I really liked Melissa's authentic way to talk about authenticity and why it matters. Loved hearing this honest story and lessons learned - truly inspiring.
Time for the evening's MIATPP award and costume party! Lots of people wondered who this year's MIATPP would be. In the end, the award went to Janet Gregory - for the second time! She's making history, so far no one else received this community award two times. Absolutely well deserved, congratulations to her! She continues doing so much for our community. Her latest book with Selena Delesie "Assessing Agile Quality Practices with QPAM" is already in my library, can't wait to start reading it.

Dinner was great, conversations even better, and people got really creative with their costumes within the fairytale theme. And people like me who don't like to dress up or get into costumes had a wonderful time as well in any clothes we chose to wear. All that in front of a wonderful stage design that properly welcomed all of us into unicorn land.


No lean coffee for me today, rather as much sleep as I could get. And then enjoy another full day of great sessions.
  • Keynote "Human Impact" by Fiona Charles. This was an amazing keynote in many regards. Fiona faced technical struggles and her presentation couldn't be projected. Seeing how she coped with these struggles and then ending up just giving a related yet different talk was truly inspiring. When it comes to the messages shared, we all need to hear them (and act on them!) way more, and Fiona made them loud and clear. This was a truly thought-provoking talk we can instantly act on.
  • "Refining your Test Automation approach in modern contexts" by Toyer Mamoojee. I came to support my learning partner and also because the topic is relevant to me - soon it's time for my own team to relook at our automation and revise our strategy. So much experience and learning went into this great talk! Could really relate to a lot what Toyer shared. He made it really clear what we can do right away to get to a better state when it comes to test automation, on a smaller team scale just as much as strategically across teams. Lots of food for thought for my own context as well.
  • "One Size Does Not Fit All" by Bailey Hanna. Have you been in conversations (or rather tense discussions) around how much standardization is healthy for our teams and organization when it comes to processes, tooling and the like? I've been in countless ones and it's still a topic in each team and company I join. Bailey's talk gave me new terms and language to talk about processes and what we need in our context. Great input for bringing this back and having better conversations.
  • Keynote "Creating a Culture of Learning" by Huib Schoots and Vincent Wijnen. I've seen this keynote also at AgileTD Open Air and really liked how it evolved and improved based on feedback received - the tangible examples helped convey the message further. I still appreciate that this talk helps us learn better how our brain works, what impediments we might face trying to learn at work and what we can do to affect change. The interactive part really engaged lots of people to share, so we had even more insight into how things are currently not working at organizations when it comes to learning. Overall, awesome keynote, well presented and giving us lots of actionable food for thought.
  • Workshop "Software for Future" by Jutta Eckstein. This was a great combo session, giving us space to learn more about sustainability topics (like the 3 pillars model of people, planet and profit) and especially where we currently are on this journey ourselves - as individuals, our teams, our organizations. Lots of great conversations about how software can come to the rescue yet is not always as helpful as we might want to believe. Electronic waste, underutilized hardware, apps that exclude people by design, and more. We all could have a look at our own usage of technology, as well as take a survey to gauge where our team and organization is when it comes to sustainability. Awesome input to take back to work and start conversations there as well!
  • Keynote "Trouble in The Old Republic" by Samuel Nitsche. Wow - this was simply amazing. Standing ovations were well deserved! So many things I loved about this keynote. First of all, Sam turned this into a real stage acting performance, including costumes, props and side characters. He preceded the talk with a disclaimer how he's about to tell this story and where he might exaggerate to make a point. He also made use of the big stage to address current world problems and make a clear stance on prioritizing the most vulnerable - kudos! On top of that, I loved this keynote's emphasis on collaboration as well as the food for thought to find and build our own unicorn land, plus reaching something that's similar enough to our dreams. Just wow.
The evening was not over yet, after having some food there was also a first live event for Pepe's Bar, and my dear friends Toyer MamoojeeJoão Proença and I had the honor to be José Díaz's guests for the evening. A conversation on various topics, more casual than previous episodes - check them out if you haven't seen them yet.
Afterwards it was time to finally meet my other pairing partner for this conference, Shiva Krishnan. So good to meet again in person after a long period! And also it was time for us to do a last dry run before our talk the next day.


The last conference day came - as you can imagine, more great sessions and conversations.
  • Keynote "Building Quality - Influence, Observability and You" by Parveen Khan. I had the honor to have listened to a dry run of this talk a few weeks ago and was eager to see the final version live on stage, especially as it was Parveen's first keynote. Unfortunately, I overslept exactly on this last conference day and hence missed the first part. I reconstructed the sketchnote from memory yet fear I couldn't do Parveen's talk justice. About her keynote: I loved Parveen's vulnerability and openness of sharing her failure story along with the reflection that went into it and what she did afterwards to get to a better place. It's so authentic, relatable and truly inspiring! It also gave tangible things every one of us can do to find our own style of influencing. This was awesome.
  • "Human Connection: The Key to a Beneficial Pairing Experience" by Shiva Krishnan and me. Both Shiva and I were quite uncertain how this brand-new talk will land with people. Will it resonate? Will people get something out of it they can act on right away? Judging from the feedback it did, so you can imagine our relief afterwards. Also, special thanks to Clare Norman and Tobias Geyer for live tweeting and tooting! Our slides are publicly available now as well.
  • "The Silver Bullet - a tools tale" by Søren Wassard. Great talk about a topic that's coming up so many times: which tool to use? Well, as Søren said - it depends. There's so many tools out there. It's not sufficient to jump at any, there are more aspects to consider. I really liked his viewpoint of growing our professional skills first before considering choosing a tool. Also, I really loved the storytelling and presentation style, very enjoyable.
  • Keynote "Better organisation design enables great testing" by Ash Winter. I loved this keynote - content-wise and presentation-wise. I feel the need to spread these topics more at testing conferences where people might not yet have had opportunity to come across architecture and organizational design topics. Team topologies, Conway's Law, diving into platform teams, and more. I really liked seeing the strong emphasis on how testers can be a crucial part and have power to influence a better organization! I related to it very much based on my own experience.
  • Workshop "React, Testing and Chess" by David Corrales and Pamela Plúas. This was a great space to experience and practice testing a React app ourselves. Despite us facing struggles when setting things up, this workshop still provided a lot. I really liked the presented four different approaches focusing our testing on different parts of the frontend: from unit tests to component tests to subcutaneous tests to finally contract tests (more people need to learn about this!). David and Pamela provided us with a full running demo project we can also use to practice further, love it. Really appreciated their consideration for participants' needs and also their disclaimer that context is crucial and their recommendations might change for a different project with different needs. I really think we need more of these technical hands-on workshops where we can practice deliberately in a context that's close enough to our everyday work.
  • Keynote "Servant Leadership – about empathy and psychological safety" by Patrick van Enkhuijzen. I've seen this keynote at AgileTD Open Air already as well. Also for this talk it was great seeing how it evolved and improved based on feedback received - for example including the host leadership model. I really appreciated the disclaimer of "this is how I see servant leadership and why it resonates with me" as well as the key message to include serving yourself first as otherwise we cannot be of help to anyone else.
It was a wrap! The official part of the conference was over. After more conversations in the hallway over food I seized the opportunity to head out to Potsdam with a small group. Many thanks to Alex SchladebeckElizabeth ZagrobaJoão Proença and Micha Kutz for this special finale.

Returning to the hotel, I chose to stay in the lobby and continue conversations with all people still around. More and more had to say goodbye, it's always a bitter-sweet ending to an event we all appreciate a lot.


It was time for me to head home. As every year, this means for me also starting to look back, process and digest all the things I've heard, all the connections I've made or strengthened, and follow up on my own sessions. It also means starting to look ahead on what to do next with the gained insights, what to bring back to my company and team, and what to take on in my personal development. Maybe catch up on a few more talks I've missed, thanks to the recordings. Maybe delve into photo memories.

One more thing why joining conferences, and also speaking at conferences is great: you never know which impact any session or just conversation might have on humans and what their journey might look like because of it. Like the feedback Elizabeth Zagroba received on a ensemble session we gave two years ago together with Joep Schuurkes and Simon Berner.

For now, I'll enjoy some time off to properly recharge batteries and close this year with fresh energy before starting the next. Many thanks to everyone involved in this event that made it a memorable time - organizers, volunteers, speakers, participants, everyone. It's been a blast.