Monday, August 20, 2018

CAST 2018 - A Community Adventure

Two weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to be part of CAST 2018, taking place in Cocoa Beach, Florida. I had heard great things about last years' events, and indeed, it turned out to be yet another wonderful conference!

The theme was "Bridging Between Communities", a theme I really loved. It is great to exchange experience with other testers working in a similar context. It is also great to share knowledge with testers working in different ones. And it is great to learn from people who do not identify as tester as well! Maria Kedemo was program chair and created a wonderful offer. It was really hard to pick a session and I would have loved to go to each and every one of them. Thanks a lot for the diversity provided.

Organizers in general were great and really supportive. Together with their volunteers they did a great job! I felt very welcome, communication was easy, and facilitation and support during the conference was awesome. Especially as a speaker this part is nowadays really important for me. Though we had some short-term changes in the schedule or regarding rooms, everything went smooth and without major problems.

Getting to a conference as speaker is a great thing for me in any case. It's not only that I get the chance to share my experience and give back to the community from which I received so much myself, or that I receive the opportunity to level up my presentation and training skills, but also that I learn so much from these conferences myself. I learn as an attendee, I can reach out to fellow speakers way more easily, and I get approached myself by other participants myself. As I identify as introvert at heart, this helps me so much to connect with people and learn from them. Thank you for making it so much easier for me.

At CAST 2018, there were so many wonderful people with whom I enjoyed many insightful conversations.
  • Lisa Crispin. I consider myself really lucky that we had so many opportunities over the last year to meet and exchange thoughts. I enjoy all our conversations and am already really happy that we are going to meet again at three more conferences within the next half year!
  • Marianne Duijst. Thank you for listening, for providing constructive feedback, for facilitating the questions for my talk, for your most wonderful sketch notes, and last but not least for spending a full day with me after the conference doing awesome touristic stuff! I am so glad I got to know you.
  • Ashley Hunsberger. It was such a great coincidence that we had a first call just a few weeks before CAST! It was even more lovely meeting you in real life, and just picking up things from where we left them. Thanks for the evening spent talking about anything and everything.
  • Lena WibergTomas Rosenqvist. It was fabulous to meet you in person, and that even already on the plane to Orlando. Thank you for sharing your experience. You gave me so much food for thought!
  • Angie Jones. Finally I had the opportunity to join one of your tutorials! It was great. Even better was the opportunity to talk with you. Thanks for making it easy, as well as for your feedback! :-)
  • Amit Wertheimer. It was great meeting you again, I really enjoyed our deep conversations on so many topics! Already looking forward to the next chance.
  • Jan Eumann. There are still not too many people who already experienced mob programming, mob testing, or mob anything. I really enjoy sharing thoughts with those who did! Even greater considering the fact that we now submitted a proposal for a mob session at another conference together.
And there were so many more lovely people! Maria KedemoLouise PeroldAnne-Marie CharrettJenny Bramble. Richard Bradshaw. Alex de los Reyes. Bailey Hanna. Many more great persons with whom I loved exchanging knowledge during tutorial, workshops, talks, lunch, or a bus ride.
If you came that far in my post you might think this conference was all about people. Well, I think conferences are indeed about the people, just like software development is. Still, those people also shared great content. I learned a bunch again and took several ideas with me back to work. Here are my highlights of each conference day I attended.
  • Tutorial day. The tutorial "Advanced Automation for Agile: UI, Web Services, and BDD" by Angie Jones. She taught everyone how to create a well designed automation framework, shared her experience, demoed what she told, and made sure everyone shared the same page. At times I perceived the pace as slow, yet "slow allows for thoughtful thinking" to quote Maaret Pyhรคjรคrvi. It felt good to learn that I know more than I thought I would. That I could easily follow and still had time to help others, and was able to do so.
  • Conference day 1. This day is tricky, as I had two favorite sessions. The workshop "An Exploration of Observing - Creating system awareness in our quest for quality" by Louise Perold was great to practice our observations skills hands-on and especially debrief what happened and what we perceived. And the talk "Risk Based Testing: Communicating Why You Can't Test EVERYTHING" by Jenny Bramble was so entertaining that I even forgot that I was next! It also made obvious how important communication, talking about risk to guide our testing, and team morale really is.
  • Conference day 2. Finally I could hear Marianne Duijst's talk "Wearing Hermione’s Hat: Narratology for Testers". Learned a lot about biases, perspectives, trust when it comes to information, as well as enabling others. It was simply awesome. If you get a chance to hear it, take it. It should have been a keynote for everybody to hear.
Well, and I also had two sessions myself. I gave my brand-new talk "Cross-team Pair Testing: Lessons of a Testing Traveler" for the first time at a conference, speaking about my testing tour. Although my timing was not working out well enough, it seems people did not notice and still felt it to be consistent. After the talk, there was a facilitated discussion which I really feared in the beginning - but it went well and people asked many great questions so we could dive a bit deeper on the topic. And the best thing: Alex de los Reyes came up to me after my talk and told me that he really related to it, shared my fears and wanted to pair with other testers for some time himself already. Now my talk was finally the trigger for him to actually do so! Amit Wertheimer instantly joined in, and both agreed to have a pair testing session. How awesome is that?! It seems more people came out of my talk inspired. That was my goal and I am really happy about this kind of feedback. What more could one want?
In addition to my talk, I gave my workshop "Mobservations - The Power of Observation in a Mob". I had less time to prepare myself for it as expected as schedule slots were swapped, so I felt less energized and the session less organized as it could have been. Still it went out okay, people got value out of it, and I also received constructive feedback how to improve it further. As Louise Perold shared with me, workshops are never perfect, they can always be improved. And they depend also on the people you have and your skills to adapt to them and the context.
In conclusion, the people were great. The conference was great. And then also the social activities around were great! For example, the sponsors enabled most of the people to visit Kennedy Space Center where we all had dinner together. What a location for that!
As a bonus: there were two rocket launches around the conference dates - who can say they offer that?!
Last but not least: I have the most awesome team ever.


  1. Great slide deck, even without hearing the content of your talk the slides made me smile or be curious.

    1. Thank you John! Really appreciate your feedback, as you know :)

  2. Thanks for presenting! I loved your testing traveler talk. Got me thinking about how I can use pairing for learning.

    1. Thank you for the feedback! Great to hear it got you thinking :) Pairing up for learning helped me a lot. If you give it a try yourself, I would love to hear how it goes!