Monday, June 17, 2019

Romanian Testing Conference 2019 - A Community Experience

During the last few years I saw tweets about Romanian Testing Conference and felt the wish to experience it myself one time. This year I got my wish fulfilled!

Traveling with Friends

Traveling can get really tiresome. I really enjoy my stays at different locations, yet I'm not a big fan of getting there and back again. Therefore I was really happy to share my flight to Cluj-Napoca with three awesome people: Guna Petrova, Andrei Ghinescu and Alex Cusmaru. Lots of nice conversations to get into conference mood!

The night of our arrival we had a lovely dinner at a great Japanese restaurant together with even more wonderful people. I got to talk with Sven Kroell and Gina Enache for the first time and really enjoyed our conversations.

A Tough Mob, a Learning Challenge and an Amazing Dinner

The first two days were scheduled with workshops. This year the conference offered two options for participants to register for: either they went for full day tutorials, or they signed up for three 2 hour workshops in a row. My session had been selected for the latter. This was an interesting format as I could not tell whether participants really wanted to join my session or just the other two. I'd like to think they got intrigued by the whole package. The good thing for me was that I was up first, I could join the other two workshops as well, and then I could relax and focus on my own learning during the next days.

My workshop was a mob testing session: "Mobservations – The Power of Observation in a Mob". It went okayish, yet I felt I could not connect with the audience too well and that the workshop concept presented them with too many new challenges at once in a short time. I had given this session three times before and was never really happy about the result. I always revise my sessions after each run based on my observations and the feedback received. I did the same with this one as well, trying to make things easier for participants, and yet it did not feel good in the end. In case I consider offering this session again I know now that I have to come up with a completely new workshop concept as this one is clearly not working out. Well, this is not a lesson I like and it will still take some time to get over it; and yet I hope it's a lesson learned. On the positive side, 5 of the 26 participants came up to me directly afterwards and provided great feedback, with 4 of them eager to try out mobbing at their own company - which is awesome! So I will try to focus on the positive impact I managed to achieve. During the other two workshops of the day I tried my best to focus on my own learning together with my previous audience.
  • "Proxy Wars" by Bart Szulc. This workshop was about how we can benefit from adding proxies between the browser and our web applications to enhance exploratory testing as well as our automated tests. By using proxies we can slow things down and introduce latency for specific requests. We can inject faults to test for recovery and resilience. We can manipulate data to test for performance and obsolete data. It was a good workshop and a great reminder to use proxies more often in everyday work. 
  • "BDD – a quick guide on how & why to not hate it" by Dawid Pacia and Anna Pacia. This workshop showed me that I knew a lot about BDD already. Some people might consider participating in a workshop about a known topic a waste of time. I, however, enjoy the fact that it makes me aware of what I have already learned, it lets me apply my knowledge, share it and practice (in this case by formulating and revising Gherkin scenarios), and I learn about ways how others teach this content so I have more options how to teach it myself. It was great!
The evening closed with a wonderful dinner in great company with Alex Schladebeck, Rhian Lewis, Sanne Visser, Raluca Morariu and Joep Schuurkes. Raluca recommended a lovely vegetarian restaurant where we enjoyed amazing food together.

Python, Games & Conversations

On the second workshop day, I had registered for Dawid Pacia's full day tutorial "Python (not only) for testers". I heard a lot about this programming language before and was eager to get a first impression of it as well as some hands-on practice.

The tutorial turned out to meet my expectations to the fullest and even let me learn more than expected. The pace was quite fast so my previous programming knowledge helped me a lot. We got to know the basics of the language, how to write unit tests and how to test REST APIs. All this paired with lots of hands-on exercises. It was awesome, I really enjoyed it - and my brain needed a break afterwards.

For this evening the speakers dinner was scheduled. The theme was: retro gaming night! The organizers brought in several retro computer games along with their respective devices. People really enjoyed it! Personally, I love games dearly, and yet lacked the energy to join the fun on that evening. Instead, I focused on having quality conversations with other speakers, like Vera Gehlen-Baum and Mike Lyles.

Conference Day and Another Lovely Dinner

The conference day was full of great talks. I sketchnoted again, so I will let my notes speak for themselves. Before doing so, let me share a few points about sketchnoting that became obvious, once again.

The great thing about sketchnoting is that we benefit from the resulting notes in multiple ways. In the first place I do them for my own purpose: to fully focus on the talk, to digest the content in the moment by deciding what is important for me to take note of, to help me remember the talk as I write the notes by hand in a visual way, to save myself time after the talk as I don't need to transfer them into digital form in a tedious way but can simply take a photo and refer to my notes in my blog posts.

By sharing these notes with the community on Twitter, other people benefit from them as well. The speakers tend to be extremely happy if someone does a sketchnote of their talk. It was the same this time, several speakers thanked me dearly for doing and sharing my notes. For Santhosh Tuppad and Hugh McCamphill it was their first time ever that someone sketchnoted their talk! I can speak from my own experience that it feels like an honor every time, it spreads the word further as the notes get shared with other people, and it also helps me see what the audience understood out of my talk. A wonderful way to learn!

Last but not least, other people in the community benefit as well as they can quickly get an overview of the content of a session without being at the conference. It's a great way for them to check whether the talk would be interesting for them and also to learn from the content as well - especially as people are mostly already lucky in case they can go to one conference a year on company budget.

Now, while sketchnoting, people around me tend to get interested in what I'm doing there and watching me while doing them. (I'm really proud of myself I learned to ignore that I am getting observed and am able to just focus on doing them!) One remark I frequently get from my neighbors, which I also got again this time, is: "I could never do that!" Funnily, I thought the same not even a year ago. I learned from Marianne Duijst that it's mostly about the sheer audacity to give it a try, and then to practice. Which is exactly what I did and that's the reason my notes look a lot better today than they did when I started out. And due to the very same reason anyone else can start on this journey as well.
Finally, here are my sketchnotes of the conference day.
The main part of the conference was officially over. There was only one more day of an unconference tutorial which I had decided to skip this time deliberately. So here's a shout-out to the conference organizers and volunteers. Everything was well organized and went very smooth. I was taken care of well, both as a speaker as well as a participant. Thank you so much!

In the evening many of the speakers were still around, so we decided to go once more to the fabulous vegetarian restaurant, this time with a bigger group of twelve. Afterwards we let the night slowly come to an end back at the hotel bar. It was lovely, and yet it was time to prepare for going home.

Sightseeing and Going Back Home

After three conferences in a row and some long days full of learning and socializing, I still wanted to make the most out of my stay in Cluj and see at least something of the city. Rhian Lewis wanted to visit the botanical garden and then walk the old town a bit. She invited me to join her and I thought this was a lovely plan! Andrew Brown joined in as well and we had a wonderful short trip together along with a great lunch.

Back at the hotel I still had some time to wait until I had to go to the airport. Lucky me, Gina Enache was still around as well so we had a wonderful and relaxed conversation - the best way I could spend my waiting time!

Hugh McCamphillDan Billing and Alex Schladebeck were all scheduled for the same flight time so we could wait together at the airport. Dan, Alex and I were even on the same plane to Munich, so we could at least make the best out of an unfortunate one and a half hour delay and have further great conversations. Alex and I even managed to sit next to each other on the flight. Guess what, we talked even more! Thanks so much Alex for our deep conversation.

Coming home I was sincerely tired - and yet happy, considering myself extremely lucky to have these wonderful opportunities and to be part of this most awesome community that's so open, supportive and inspiring. Thank you all!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

German Testing Day 2019 - About First Times

German Testing Day 2019 is over and it was great. Now's time to reflect and relax.

First Times

When thinking back I realized that this conference brought lots of first times with it.
  • It was my first time at this conference. Was really happy I finally had the opportunity to experience it after hearing about for a few years.
  • It was the first time I offered diversity tickets with the wonderful help of the organizers, especially Thomas Rinke and Melanie Wohnert. Several people applied and in the end we could grant four of them free tickets, two of them even travel and accommodation support. At the conference day I finally met three of them in person which made me really, really happy.
  • It was the first time I met lots of people I only knew from Twitter. Agreed, that's a common theme at conferences, yet I am always happy to meet people in real life. Among them: Michael Kutz and Varuna Srivastav, and I also really enjoyed their talks.
  • It was the first time I listened to Pecha Kucha talks - what a great format! Really challenging, too.
  • It was the first time I tried to sketchnote short talks by putting them all on one page. This was a new challenge for me!
  • It was the first time I sketchnoted in a different language (English) than the talk was in (German). Good thing I am practicing sketchnoting for quite some time already!
  • It was the first time for Jessica Davis to speak at a conference. She did extremely well and enjoyed it - our community just gained an amazing new voice! :D
  • It was the first time I gave the opening keynote for a conference (not counting TestBash as one-track conference here).
  • It was the first time I gave a keynote in a second country (counts as first time, doesn't it?) Thomas said this made me now an international keynote speaker! :D

German Testing Night

The evening before the main conference started was labeled German Testing night. Workshops took place along with a series of Pecha Kucha talks. Afterwards we started into an evening of networking and socializing.

What I really enjoyed: the theme was inspired by a fun fair! Hotdogs, ice cream, popcorn, dart, can knockdown, and more. This was a great way to get to know some people already before the conference started.

The Sessions

After several conferences I now got used to doing sketchnotes of all talks I attend. It's a great method to stay focused during a talk, to condense the messages heard, to visualize them, to memorize them better, and to provide a quick reminder for my future self. Bonus point: You can share them with the community so people who could not attend the conference might benefit from them as well.
My personal highlights were the talks by Michael Kutz and Thomas Rinke. Michael had a great story to tell and used beautiful hand-drawn slides to underline it. I realized we have a lot to talk about regarding organizational development, architecture, quality and testing! Thomas was originally not on the program, but had jumped in spontaneously for a speaker who fell sick. Lucky me! Now I had the chance to listen to his personal experience as tester who went through an agile transition and shared his struggles and delights with it.

My Second Keynote

I was nervous. I always am before my session, especially if it's talk. Especially if it's opening the conference. Especially if it's a keynote. During the session the situation stays challenging but something I learned I can cope with; and afterwards I have no idea how the session was from a more objective viewpoint than my own, so I am really depending on feedback.

This time I received overly positive feedback, directly as well as on all kind of social channels, even via Facebook and Instagram (oh, that's yet a another first time for me!). People told me my talk was super inspiring and some even considered starting their own tour or introducing pair testing at their companies. What else could I want? :D

Furthermore, Tobias Geyer made a wonderful job live tweeting from the session, I'm super grateful for that. Now there's only one more conference waiting for me next week before a bigger break until October - and I am already super looking forward to Romanian Testing Conference which will be another first time for me!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Nordic Testing Days 2019 - Seamless and Surprising

This year I had the opportunity to be at Nordic Testing Days for the first time. I had heard lots of good things about the conference and seen intriguing tweets about it. Therefore I was especially happy when my paper proposal got accepted for the 2019 edition!

Arriving in Great Company

At Tallinn airport I was lucky to run into Gwen Diagram, Ash Winter and Nicola Sedgwick. Super nice to meet them again! As it was quite late already we went for dinner (or rather tea, as I learned) together with Shey Crompton. Wonderful evening with lots of good food and great conversations!

Tutorial Day & Speakers Dinner

Showing up at the venue for the first time was a big revelation: what an amazing place for a conference! The venue was formerly a power station and got now transformed to host events like this. I heard people had mixed feelings about the venue - they seemed to either love it or hate it. I for one was absolutely on the loving side! I had registered for the Android Application Security Testing tutorial by Marko Belzetski. I wanted to extend my security testing knowledge, to learn about mobile apps and security specifics to broaden my horizon, and in general to practice - and I wasn't disappointed! All expectations were fulfilled. The tutorial was a great mixture of conveying knowledge and hands-on practice (I especially love the latter). It was well structured and instructed, the setup was working perfectly, and we received concise tips and concrete advice. The only downside: for the fourth and final part in the afternoon we had too much content left so we had to rush through and only receive a short demo instead of being able to practice ourselves. For a long day this felt a bit overwhelming, and yet it was very useful knowledge which I wouldn't have missed.

In the evening it was time for the speakers dinner. I knew that last year they had visited the TV tower together so I was curious where we were led this year. We started off to the lovely seaside (I really regret I did not take any pictures there). We went on - and ended up on a boat. Yay? Well, boats and I are not quite friends so I was skeptic how dinner on a boat might turn out for me. In the end it was okay and I could grab more than a bite. The best part of speakers dinner isn't the dinner anyway - it's getting to know speakers you haven't met yet and enjoy the reunion with speakers you know already. Like Alex SchladebeckLena WibergElizabeth ZagrobaGuna Petrova and many more. We had an amazing time!

The Conference Days

The program was packed full of awesomeness. When I realized that the workshops I wanted to go to were completely overlapping with three talks each, I had a hard time making choices. In the end I went to workshops only besides the keynotes due to their topics and my wish to practice my skills hands-on. Also, I learned that some of the talks got recorded so I hope I still get a chance to watch them later.
  • Keynote: Machine Learning from System Quality Perspective by Mikhail Iljin. Really interesting topic in general, yet the core message and takeaways of the talk stayed unclear to me. Unfortunately I could not relate to the talk and would have loved to have an inspiring, thought-provoking, or enlightening opening keynote to set the tone and atmosphere of the conference instead.
  • Workshop: Unit Testing for Non-Coders by Amit Wertheimer. Great session! Amit made a great effort with preparing not only the flawless tech setup (and even backup), but also preparing the people on what they can expect, to explain everything in a language all understand without assuming knowing or not knowing, and kindly supporting them throughout. The provided cheat sheets and exercises were really helpful also for people more comfortable with code to really reflect about things and gain a deeper understanding. The only pity was that we ran out of time in the end; practicing seeing the gap that's not tested, writing a test and discussing their quality would have really rounded up the great workshop.
  • Workshop: Explicit Exploring Using Testopsies and Microheuristics by Alex Schladebeck. Awesome session. Included the right amount of valuable information sharing and hands-on exercises. Ended shortly before time. Lots of energy and fun in the room. Awesome topic as well and really relevant, also for very experienced explorers! The only thing I missed a bit was a short individual debrief after the testopsy pairing session to learn about my own testing better and to practice providing my observations and feedback to another tester. All in all Alex did a great job, being smart, entertaining and engaging.
  • Keynote: How Come Testers Are so Incredibly Successful by Raimond Sinivee. Great speaker on a great topic! Was a really relevant call to action for everyone, perfect for a keynote. We all need to get out of our comfort zones and grow. Loved the personal stories to illustrate this message! Very well presented, with lots of energy and stage presence, while still being authentic - great after a long day to keep the audience focused. Very well done!
  • Keynote: Why Should Exploratory Testing Even Be the Subject of a Keynote? by Alex Schladebeck. Brilliant! The topic definitely deserved to be a keynote, especially presented this way. Lots of relatable stories, lots of energy on stage, lots of thought put in to the content, lots of very relevant and applicable messages. What else could I want? Together with her related workshop Alex was the best speaker of the conference for me.
  • Workshop: Testing with Jest by Blanché Carstens & Calvin Moore. Great workshop, providing basic concepts, usages, examples and approaches when using Jest. I only had two points that could have improved which I also told Calvin. First, the workshop started a bit slow. It's always difficult to plan for an unknown audience yet a mechanism to scale and cater for different experience levels would have been nice. Second, the workshop ended quite early; instead it would have been great to have the group implement their own tests to apply the gained knowledge. Still, all in all, I got a first introduction into Jest which was what I was coming for.
  • Keynote: Life After QA by Erik Kaju. Interesting keynote with good content, based on experience, well presented. Really relevant topic as well.
In the evening of the first conference day an evening program was announced, including party, game night, lightening talks, and Powerpoint Karaoke. All great! However, what had not been announced and came as a surprise, was that this evening got kicked off by an acrobatic duo of "two old ladies" - what a hilarious and astonishing performance! Love it.

My Workshop

On the last afternoon, just before the closing keynote of the conference, I facilitated a workshop I had done a few times already: Learning to Learn in a Mob. We had a great group of people who did really well and obviously enjoyed the session. It was fun facilitating and I learned a bunch! Joep Schuurkes had asked me upfront if he could join the session and just observe my facilitation of a mob, as he is doing a weekly mob with the testers of his company to share knowledge. Of course, he was very welcome! This turned out to be super valuable to me, as right after the conference we had a super interesting conversation about the observations he had and the ideas it triggered for both of us to improve our mob facilitation skills.

Post-conference Socializing

Part of each conference is conferring - especially during breaks or after the conference already ended. Several speakers had to leave early this time, and still we found a nice small group to relax and have a nice dinner with: Amit WertheimerElizabeth Zagroba and Joep Schuurkes. No wonder our conversations continued in the hotel lobby until early in the morning! We ended up talking about all things programming languages, tools, design patterns, what is "technical", beliefs we got raised with, what changed in tech since the 70s, learning on the job, essential fundamentals and in general educational approaches to teaching programming (by the way, Angie Jones' new free Java programming course just got released!), and many more.
The next day I had time to sleep in and do some sightseeing. In the evening I enjoyed a lovely dinner (or shall I say feast?) with Amit Wertheimer at the wonderful medieval-style old restaurant Olde Hansa where we could dive even deeper into further topics.

A Great Time

All in all: it was a wonderful conference. Huge thanks to the organizers, everything was seamless and smooth, and everyone was extremely kind and supportive. My special shout-out goes to Guna Petrova who supported me just as if she would have been my track chair - which she wasn't. In addition, my actual track chair did an amazing job as well! I loved to see so many awesome speakers. The best thing is that several of them will also be at Romanian Testing Conference in only two weeks!