Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Agile Testing Days 2018 - Wonderful Unicorn Season

Agile Testing Days 2018 ended over two weeks ago, and yet I instantly get this very special conference feeling just when thinking of it. I know I'm biased when it comes to this conference as it was my very first one. To add to that I made many new friends there, the inspiration I drew from it changed my life, and it feels more and more like magic each year. The best thing, however, is that others share this impression!
Here are my experiences of the 2018 edition, the conference's 10th anniversary. Although this post became lengthy it cannot do this week full of inspiration justice in any way; and yet I hope it gives an impression.

Meeting Friends Old and New

This year I met Maria Kedemo and Tom Roden at the airport so I did not have to go to the venue alone. What luxury to share a taxi along with stories, getting into the conference mood already. Arriving at the hotel we met the next familiar faces and the next stories were shared. It was great spending the first evening with lots of the amazing people from the Women in Testing slack that I am part of.

Seeing my learning partner Toyer Mamoojee again in real life was simply awesome, as always! It's great we have so frequent video calls but they cannot replace meeting in real life. Also, so many people of the power learning group Toyer and I started were around as well! Lovely to meet João Proença, Viktorija Manevska, Lilit Sharkhatunyan, and Pooja Shah in person again. That not being enough, I also had the chance to meet several people I paired with on my testing tour like Thomas RinkeGuna Petrova, Claire Reckless, and Marianne DuijstLisa Crispin, who introduced me to the community in the first place. And Alex Schladebeck, who won this year's MIATPP = Most Influential Agile Testing Professional Person award! Congrats Alex, you very well deserved it. Several of my former and current colleagues attended the conference for their first time. I'm really glad they enjoyed our trip to unicorn land just as much as I did. One of them even won the first price of the costume contest and therefore a free ticket for next year's conference! How awesome is that?
I cannot name them all, but I've also met again many people from past editions of Agile Testing Days, as well as made new connections. I'm thankful for them all.

With all those great people I had lots of great conversations and I wished I would have had more time for every single one of them. So many stories shared, lessons learned, a lot of feedback received, and much more inspiration to take home. I said it already so many times, and I'm going to say it again: it's all about the people.

A Theme, and It's Precious

The program of this conference can only be described as huge. Every year the fear of missing out is gets bigger, and yet we have to decide between 10+ tracks or giving ourselves a bit of rest. This conference goes the whole week from early hours until early hours again, nearly around the clock. Getting rest and sleep is essential and yet there are so many wonderful people to have inspiring and thoughtful conversations with which makes it hard to find a good personal balance. Complaining on a very high level here!

Although the program is huge, there is still a sort of theme each year. João Proença shared in his great blog post that last year it was "What does the future look like for testers?" whereas this year the focus was on "What should we be paying attention to now in ourselves?". I absolutely agree with him. Many sessions addressed diversity, inclusion, mental health, psychological safety, biases, learning, mentoring, teaching as well as our creative, critical, and lateral thinking skills. Yes, it's a testing conference! And all this is what we need to grow as testers and hone our testing skills. So many so much needed messages and exercises.

By the way, when it comes to diversity and representation, these conference organizers really do their homework, and their efforts are reflected in a very diverse speaker lineup and audience.

What a Week

In the following are the sessions I've attended, including the sketchnotes I did wherever I had the time and energy to do them. Knowing how overwhelming the 5 days of 10+ tracks of Agile Testing Days can be, I mostly chose workshops this time, adding in only a few talks here and there. Though it's really sad I couldn't hear all those other great talks, this strategy worked out well for me this time to not overload myself, get a lot out of the official program, and get even more out of the informal socializing opportunities and conversations throughout this testing festival. By the way, many speakers shared their slides, several people wrote own blog posts, shared photos and more, it's worth to check them out as well.






The conclusion is clear: see you next year!

Yes, this conference is expensive, and yes, it's absolutely worth it. So it really does make sense to apply as speaker or volunteer or use the conference budget in case you have one. I know one thing for sure: I am going to find a way to get to the 2019 edition as well. So see you next year back in unicorn land!