Wednesday, September 12, 2018

SwanseaCon 2018 - Celebrating One Year of Public Speaking

It's this time of the year again, the SwanseaCon time. What can I say?
This conference is dear to my heart. I am most probably biased here, so I'd like to invite you to come and judge for yourself! I'm biased as this was the first conference that accepted me as speaker. Last year, on 26th September 2017 I gave my very first session on a conference stage. Coming back this year, again as a speaker, feels like closing a circle. Even though it's already more than a year of public speaking, and only nearly a full year of conference speaking, I consider my return to SwanseaCon as a personal anniversary. Biases aside, I overheard several others that they enjoyed the event just as much.

This year the conference took place on one day offering four tracks instead of two days with two tracks. Shorter with more options to chose from can be both better and worse, depending on your personal preferences.
The good thing of a one-day experience is that it's nice and condensed, and afterwards you can celebrate all the learning with all the great people. As a speaker it's nice to relax, too, you simply can't be scheduled for the next day! Still, more tracks mean more options and increased fear of missing out. It was indeed hard to chose the most favorite talk of this year's awesome SwanseaCon program. I love the fact that it was really diverse regarding content and speakers again, just like last year. The audience was quite diverse, too! A nice mixture of local and international community, of many different roles. Lots of women around as well. My personal impression, was a good one and I perceived the atmosphere as very friendly and open.

Now what about the content? The sessions I've joined were very insightful, I learned from each of them.
  • It started with the opening keynote of Hadi Hariri: "Where's My Free Lunch?". He vividly made clear how people in today's society pay for free apps with their privacy and time, becoming more and more indifferent; just because it's so convenient. "Personalized experience" a.k.a. manipulation. It's also convenient to not contrast any presented "fact", validate it, and only then share it; we have our part in producing and spreading fake data. Hadi's conclusion: We're screwed. So what we can do? Raise awareness and think before we act.
  • Next up: Gem Hill with "Anxiety Under Test". Gem talked very openly about her mental health issues and how she learned to live with them. Companies like BBC discovered the benefits of mental health first aid programs, offering trained contact persons for people in need. There are many more places we can reach out to, Gem shared a list of resources in her slide notes. Key is to learn our individual signs of upcoming issues, and find out what helps us mitigate them. Self-care is essential in these cases. What a very hard topic to talk about - and so incredibly important.
  • An interactive workshop! That's a first-timer for SwanseaCon as far as I know, and it was great. Lisa Crispin and Kristine Corbus took us on an experiment of "Questioning requirements: improving quality for everyone". The small room was crammed with interested people! Time flew while all groups tried different approaches to come up with a first release plan for a new product, given only a few ambiguous requirements. It was great fun and we learned a lot!
  • After lunch, it was time for my own talk, "Cross-team pair testing: lessons of a testing traveler", sharing lessons learned on my testing tour.
    The goal of this talk is to inspire people to go on their own learning journeys by giving an example. An idea to take, adapt to their context and make it their own. And it worked, just like the last times I've given the talk. Right after the Agile Testing @Munich meetup Guna Petrova signed up for my tour. After CAST Alex de los Reyes scheduled a pair testing session with me, and now it was Gem Hill! Also, further people came and discussed how they could start their own experiment. This makes me unbelievably happy. Moments like these made my journey out of my comfort zone by public speaking and the testing tour so much worth it.
  • This time I was eager to give my best to not fall into my usual post-speaking state of total distraction and lack of focus but instead closely listen to Nick Tune's talk "Strategic Autonomous Design: Patterns and Heuristics". I knew Nick as great story teller, he could really engage and entertain me last year. Now, following the talk worked out well at first. But then: technical problems. The projector refused to show the slide deck. One slide was displayed, the next one not. They had to reactivate sharing, it worked for one slide, and so on. In the end they had to use another computer. Nick got constantly interrupted and it cost a lot of time overall so that he could not present the whole talk - what a pity.
  • Erkki Salminen and Mari Wuoti's talk "Culture for the win" was my last choice of the day. They shared how the culture at their company Gofore evolved. They values they have are used as guideline for everyone to decide to the best of their and the company's needs. The nearly 500 people only have one "middle manager" - a Slack bot! Culture is strategy for them, it's a lot about the mindset. Great example that you can indeed grow your own culture and related structures; maybe inspired by others but not copied and pasted into your context.
  • The closing keynote was given by Seb Rose: "Whatever your job title, you’re actually being paid to think!". Wonderful talk around his rant for the FFS Tech Conference, sharing why metaphors, acronyms, templates and models can be confusing, ambiguous and generally unhelpful - if you don't think. That's our job, we're creative thinking professionals! Seb asked everyone to not just belief him, but really think about it first and make up our own minds. Wonderful closing keynote that was fitting so well to the opening keynote.
There were several more talks I would have loved to see. The good thing: There was again a post-conference meetup hosted by Equal Experts - with great lightning talks!
A great conference ended with even more great and fun talks and long conversations with awesome people. Just perfect.

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