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!

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