Monday, November 27, 2017

Agile Testing Days #9 - Once Upon a Time in Unicorn Land

Last week I joined the Agile Testing Days for the third time in a row. This conference is dear and special to me due to various reasons; but this time it was even more special as I had the opportunity to join as a speaker for the first time. There's a lot to share about this event, so be prepared for a longer blog post! It would be worth several posts but I'd like to keep these thoughts together, so please bear with me.

Finally Back in Unicorn Land

When I arrived in Potsdam, it really felt like coming home. I had this kind of feeling already last year; and it only had increased since then. And the best part: A dear colleague came with me and I could introduce her to the whole conference family.

But why unicorn land? In case you are not familiar with the Agile Testing Days, or you've been there but still wonder why you will find lots and lots of unicorns at this conference, here's your answer.

My Personal Highlights This Year

There's so much to share from this conference, but I'll try to limit the following to the best of content and interactions.
  • Monday was tutorial day. The last years the tutorials were invaluable learning opportunities. Therefore I was really looking forward to the tutorial I've chosen this year: "Mob Testing" with Maaret Pyhäjärvi. And it even surpassed my highest expectations! First of all: We were a small learning group - only six participants including myself. Second: We had not only Maaret as facilitator (which was awesome by itself), but Llewellyn Falco as well. This way we even learned from two experts sharing their different perspectives. And last but not least: I already knew what a great learning experience mobbing can be, but this group made it even better. Thank you Gert-Jan BarteldsGabe NewcombLars Kjølholm, Hasina, and Katrin. Overall: This tutorial was perfect to get to know mobbing, practice it in a group of people who did not know each other in the beginning but did quite well in the end, and improve our skills in different facets of testing. Thank you all for this opportunity! I will definitely bring this to my company and do a mob testing workshop with our testing community.
  • Tuesday started (traditionally) with a lean coffee session, and ended (traditionally) with a big costume party. Both were awesome, but my highlight of this first conference day was Angie Jones' keynote "Owning Our Narrative". Brilliant talk comparing the automation of musical entertainment with the automation of "testing". She encouraged us to not resist change as it's inevitable, but to write our own story instead. If you have the chance to listen to her - please do so. Highly recommended!
  • Wednesday's Agile Games night was great! I had the chance to test George Dinwiddie's new story telling game together with a nice group - really fun. But the best was that I happened to have a prolonged talk with Thorsten Dobelmann whom I met on last year's Agile Testing Days. We both wanted to go to bed early, but then found ourselves standing in front of the stairs for about... two hours? This is what makes this conference so special: the people. We enjoyed our conversation last year, and meeting him again felt like we could just pick it up where we left it and continue. Thank you!
  • Thursday morning was all reserved to support two of the dearest persons I got to know at Agile Testing Days: Toyer Mamoojee and Viki Manevska, both having their talks this morning. And they were awesome! For Toyer, it was even his very own birthday and the conference organizers surprised him with a birthday cake just before his talk.
  • Friday came - the last day of this full week testing festival. I was really looking forward to the keynote that should open this day: the Afghan Girls' Robotic Team telling their story on stage. And then it happened: The sleep deprivation throughout the week exacted its toll - and I overslept. What a pity!! Many people expressed how this keynote moved them to tears, but also inspired them deeply. I can only hope that the recording will be made available soon; but watching a video is simply not the same as experiencing it live.
  • Fortunately, there were two more keynotes this day which turned out to be personal highlights as well. Maaret shared how she discovered mobbing for herself as a very safe way of "Learning through Osmosis", encouraging everyone to give it a try. And Janet Gregory shared the "Pivotal Moments" of her life, asking everyone to watch out for them to be ready to take them when they come. Both told very personal stories and left me so inspired! Thank you!
  • Overall, if you'd like to see a short version of all keynotes, check out the awesome sketchnotes of Stuart Young.

I'm speechless... I'm a speaker!

Not only that I could attend this year's Agile Testing Days again, not only that I met wonderful old and new people, not only that I gained new insights and got inspired; but this year I also had the opportunity to join as a speaker and host two sessions myself.

First, I gave my talk "'I am Groot' - Learning Agile Testing". It was awesome to see so many people being in the room who supported and encouraged me on my way! Among them Lisa, Toyer, Viki, and John my former manager - just to name a few. Thank you; I owe you a lot. Furthermore, thank you Llewellyn for providing detailed and constructive feedback on my talk, helping me improve and grow - heavily appreciated! And last but not least: I was blown away as I saw that someone did the very first sketchnote of one of my talks - thank you so much Marianne Duijst!
Second, I absolutely enjoyed to host the workshop "Testing in a Continuous World" together with the most awesome Lisa Crispin, one of the kindest and most supportive persons I know. It was great to see so many participants heavily focused and contributing! Also, I'd like to give a big shout-out to Dragan, who volunteered to help with our workshop and supported us perfectly - on his very birthday!
Attending the conference as a speaker changed my personal experience as well.
  • First of all, I had the opportunity to join the speaker's dinner for the very first time. Absolutely great and inspiring to talk and listen to all those awesome people!
  • Furthermore, I already knew from the last conferences I've spoken at that I won't be able to focus just before and after my session; so I definitely missed out on awesome talks taking place around mine. However, knowing about that fact in advance helped me this time, telling myself to be kind to myself and that's it's okay as it is.
  • When moving around the conference, I suddenly got recognized and addressed without me doing anything. I already saw this at TestBash Germany this year where I hardly found the time to eat, but due to the very positive reason of many great conversations with many new people. At Agile Testing Days it was sometimes hard to just cross the room to go to the toilet. I don't want to have it sound as cocky as it obviously does, but I was honestly surprised by the amount of people addressing me. As I rather identify as an introvert this helped me a lot as I did not have to start the conversation myself, so thanks to everybody coming up!
  • It is always hard to find a good balance between meeting people you know from last years, and getting to know new people. I think getting recognized as speaker added to finding the right balance, but still it's a tough question how to celebrate the reunion with the ones you know and still be open and inclusive for newcomers. Pete Walen wrote about this before the conference, and Lisa Crispin shared her thoughts just afterwards, as well as further ideas how to make conferences more inclusive.
  • It seems I could trigger some people to start sharing with the community as well; or at least I hope I did. In any case, I will continue to try doing so.
All in all, I am quite relieved that my journey to get on stage and all the effort I've made to make it real paid out in the end.

A New Pact to Come

With both of us getting on stage, Toyer and I fulfilled the deal we made on last year's Agile Testing Days to return as speakers; the very thing that scared us the most.
Not only that we found ourselves as lifelong learning partners supporting each other to reach our goal; we could also inspire others to start a pact themselves, or join us for our next one! This feels just great.
But what next? How will our next pact look like? Currently I'm pondering on what scares me the most nowadays. I'd like to make use of this special learning relationship this year as well, so it has to be something scary but helping my career. I have some ideas in mind but need to give them more thoughts before making a new pact public.

Whatever it will be, I know I have to find a better balance with my private life as it suffered quite a bit. I invested a lot of free time to make this challenge work out for me. Don't get me wrong, it was definitely worth the learning experience - but for instance I just discovered today that I have postponed to continue playing my latest computer game for exactly six months! :-o So, this year was special and it sort of kick-started everything, but now I have to find a better balance between learning and enjoying other things I love. Time is flying and will not come back, so I will try to make the best out of it.

Why I Go to Conferences, Or: Why I Go to This Conference

A few weeks ago, Maaret reflected on why going to conferences at all. Here's Guna Petrova's response:
And here you'll find the reasons of Heather Reid:

But why do I go to conferences?
  • Quite obvious: To learn about certain topics. To gain new insights, hear different perspectives, try things out.
  • Even more important: To meet awesome people! People I already met but also new people. People I can exchange experience with, ask for support, learn from.
  • And in the end, to return full of ideas and inspiration. If you could see me now, over one week after coming home, I'm still beaming. I've seen it last year: this kind of experience will guide and help me until the next conference.
I found all this at Agile Testing Days at its best. A full week of people and learning, nearly all around the clock. To be fair, it was my first ever conference in 2015; I am aware that this fact definitely does bias me. But if it hadn't been a great experience, I would not want to come back every year. Check out this Twitter moment to get more reasons why this conference is special in my eyes.

If you made it to the end of this (indeed quite long) post, you might have seen a pattern. I have a lot of people to thank - and I did not nearly mention them all. But I know I'll see a lot of them again at next year's Agile Testing Days and that makes me very happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment