Tuesday, April 24, 2018

DevExperience 2018 - A Whole New World

Not too long ago, I got invited to speak at DevExperience 2018. As the conference was scheduled quite soon after my return from Mob Programming Conference, I told them I could only speak if they would accept one of my existing talks. Time would just not have been sufficient to craft a new one. To my surprise, the answer was "We will go with the first talk, which by the way we knew and we already love :)" Awesome! Later I found out, that the conference invited most of the speakers and only few were selected from a call for papers. The conference offered five different tracks, and for each of them the track chair did their research whom to invite. In my case it seems he saw the mobile recording of my talk "'I am Groot - Learning Agile Testing" at Agile Testing Days 2017 and definitely wanted to bring it to their conference. The only thing the organizers asked me is to answer some interview questions for their blog to better advertise their conference. Well, sure! Want to learn more about me?

The next pleasant surprise for me was how easy the organizers made it for me as a speaker. They booked all my travel and accommodation, so neither did I have to spend my own money nor make sure to get it back. They organized a taxi to pick me up at the airport and also bring me back. They asked what I needed for my talk and made sure to provide it. They offered sightseeing tips. They even informed all speakers taking the same flight as I did so we could already start socializing at the airport!

Hanging Out on Saturday

My flight to Iași went via Vienna. There I had the pleasure to meet Bianca Buisman and Nicolas Frankel at the gate, having a nice conversation already. After taking our seats on the plane, Bianca and I were surprised we even had the seats behind each other, although we had selected them ourselves. And believe it or not, the next passenger taking his place next to Bianca suddenly asked us whether we were also going to DevExperience! It was Mark West, the fourth one to go to Iași with us! Had to be fate. Originally I had planned to sleep a bit during the flight as my day had started quite early, but our conversation turned out to be way too interesting to sleep.

Another benefit of arriving together on Saturday afternoon was that we could use the time to go sightseeing together. Mark and I explored the inner city area of Iași together and found some interesting places, enjoying the sunny and warm weather. And some ice cream!
In the evening, the conference organizers took all speakers who already arrived to a nice dinner location and afterwards to a very interesting place to get some tailor-made shots. The place had actually been a former tailor shop, but was transformed to a very small bar where you entered an unremarkable door, followed a narrow corridor, told the barkeeper which style you liked, got your shot, drank it, paid, and left again through the back exit. Brilliant. And tasty! Definitely an insider tip.

Enjoying Culture on Sunday

The next day I decided to sleep in and get some rest before the conference. In the afternoon, some of the speakers met again and went to the Palace of Culture together. We made it to three of the four museums inside - pretty interesting. And then: heading over to the ice cream shop! ;-)

In the evening we had the pleasure to meet most of the other speakers at the speakers dinner. Nice location, nice food, awesome conversations. Time to get to know even more wonderful people! Really enjoyed the evening.

Conference Day

The morning of the conference day, we got a lift from the hotel to the conference venue. Unfortunately we did not have much time before the conference started, so I did not find the time to talk to anyone or even have a short rest. I just grabbed a drink, found a seat and off it went.

The organizers welcomed us with a nice introductory video for the conference - interesting approach, it was well received. Afterwards we heard two keynotes in a row. And then it was time to split into the five different tracks. It was a pity that two tracks, the QA track being one of them, took place on another floor with 13 levels between us. It was already a challenge to find the elevators taking us there. I assume this was one of the reasons that the audience seemed to not mix up a lot between the tracks.

The first session of the QA track was hold by Viktor Slavchev, talking about the mindset of a modern tester. Great session! He started off by asking the audience who was a tester. Many hands were raised. He asked who was a developer. No hands were shown. He asked for any other roles, like coaches or managers, and still no one raised their hands. He, and I as well, were really surprised that we indeed had only testers in the room! It seems this new QA track did indeed attract the people. Still, it was a pity to not have a more diverse audience to spread our messages to.

After lunch, we heard Corina Pip sharing her tips how to properly wait when implementing automated tests with Selenium. Sound advice! I only knew her from Twitter, and it was a pleasure to meet her in real life for the first time.

Then it was time for my talk "'I am Groot - Learning Agile Testing". I gave it several times already so I was not too nervous about it. The session got recorded, and I hope it went well enough that the video would be helpful for others, too. I'm also pretty curious about the attendee's feedback, especially as I didn't receive a lot of feedback in person yet. At least the one I got was positive. 
Seretta Gamba had the last talk slot of the day. She shared her lessons how to best ruin test automation in her experience - a really funny talk, conveying important messages! However, I could not follow her complete talk - as I already learned about myself, I'm loosing focus and energy right after my own slot.

The conference was closed not with a keynote, but with separate panel discussions with the speakers of each track. It was the first time to me to join such a panel, and it was an interesting experience! Sadly, most attendees had already left, but we still had a hard core audience interested in hearing more of our experience and asking several questions.
Now finally our job was done! As I didn't find the time to socialize with anyone else besides the speakers during the conference, I really hoped I could now finally meet some of the attendees at the following party. However, also here I only had one nice conversation and then couldn't find access to the others. Many people left soon. And I ended up with the speakers again. Well, they were awesome!

So, off we went again, going out for drinks and dinner and nice conversations. I had a great evening and would love to meet the people again.
A special shout-out goes to the following people who made the conference extra special for me. Even though this conference was a whole new world for me, conferences are always about the people.
  • Mark West for all our great conversations, the extended sightseeing tours, and the ice cream we had together! :D
  • Eva Lettner for sharing my wavelength, our wonderful talks, for joining my talk as developer and for your instant willingness to do a future talk together with me!
  • Enciu Stoica for selecting my talk in the first place and for his great job as a track chair and panel moderator!
  • Anastasiia Voitova for our great conversations after the conference - thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!
  • Andreea Ignat and all other conference organizers and volunteers for taking very good care of us speakers and making it a great experience for everyone!
While reflecting about this conference, I found myself thinking that I've just started on my speaker journey, and how much I learned already. How much I will still learn. It's indeed quite some effort, but it's definitely worth it!

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