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 Blanchรฉ 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!

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