Sunday, February 16, 2020

DDD Europe 2020 - About Close Collaboration, Shared Language and Visual Models

Last week it was my first time at DDD Europe, and it was great. Although it was a pity to miss the fifth and final edition of European Testing Conference which took place at the exact same dates and even the same city, I was still very happy about this opportunity to explore a new community and gain a foundation in domain-driven design. I heard lots of great things about DDD Europe from different people, one of them being my colleague Thomas Ploch, who also got accepted as speaker this year.

In the beginning I didn't know what to expect of this conference and the DDD community that was new to me. I've seen the program with lots of big names, I've seen the sessions offered on topics I've merely heard about, and I wasn't sure whether my sessions on the mob approach would be a fit for this new audience. Quite intimidating, and yet also very exciting - a great learning opportunity.

Brace yourself - it was a long conference week, this is going to be a long post. It was worth it for me, though!

Arriving in Amsterdam

Sunday evening before the conference I've arrived at the hotel where most of speakers and attendees alike had been accommodated. I had some time to prepare myself for the week and practice my upcoming talk.

No one else from the conference was to be seen yet - or at least I couldn't make them out, as once more I entered a new community here. My colleague Thomas arrived the same evening as well so we had a good time over dinner and then made it to bed early. We knew it was going to be a long week; and it was indeed. A week where I learned once more about the importance of close collaboration with all parties, of evolving a shared language with everyone, of visualizing mental models to help us think, of experimentation and continuous learning. Lots of familiar topics, looked at from a different angle that was new to me.

Training Days

Both Thomas and I decided to participate in Nick Tune's and Kacper Gunia's two day training "Strategic DDD using bounded context canvas". I knew Nick from SwanseaCon and I hoped this workshop would provide me a quick hands-on introduction to all things DDD. I was not disappointed. We discovered our example domain using the business model canvas, did event storming and rule storming. We learned about bounded contexts, message flows, strategic classifications, and more. We used Nick's bounded context canvas, discussed ubiquitous language and policies, model traits, context interfaces, and sociotechnical architecture. We discovered lots of valuable heuristics along our way, too!

By joining this workshop I gained lots of new insights and pieces of knowledge which triggered lots of new thoughts. What a great entry into all things DDD, learning about concepts while applying them. I loved that we did lots of hands-on interactive exercises and mixed formats that we can take home to improve collaboration and architecture. I felt this training helped me right away to have better conversations about architectural topics. The long term impact? It made me curious to learn more, especially to see how we can bring people from different areas of expertise together and discuss a holistic view on everything.
The first day ended with very nice dinner conversations with Thomas PlochMaxime Sanglan-Charlier, Jennifer Carlston, and Thomas Bøgh Fangel. What a great group! The second day? Well, it also ended with a nice dinner - one of my favorite parts of every conference. This time I had the pleasure to get to know Zsofia Herendi, Roman Sachse and Marcello Duarte. What a nice crowd already, thank you all for the warm welcome into the DDD community!

DDD Foundations and Speakers Dinner

The main conference was preceded by a day of two smaller conferences taking place at the same time: DDD Foundations (curated by Nick Tune) and EventSourcing. People signed up for one conference could join sessions of the other one as well. In the end, however, I decided to stay with the foundations conference as one of my goals was to gain a fundamental understanding of DDD - so this sounded like the perfect opportunity. Check out my sketchnotes for the talks to learn more yourself.
A word of warning regarding my sketchnote for Alberto Brandolini's keynote: it really does not do it justice. This keynote was amazing and I could only put down a fraction of all the ideas shared. I so much related to this keynote, Alberto shared lots of wisdom on all things collaboration, experimentation and learning together. I'm very much looking forward to watching the recording when it's published, and I can only recommend it to you as well.

In the evening the speakers dinner took place. Once more I got to know more people, once again had fantastic food and even better conversations. Thank you all so much!

DDD Main Conference and Further Networking

The main conference days arrived, and with them also my own sessions. First of all, here are the sessions I joined including my sketchnotes of them.
It was a real pleasure finally listening to Kent Beck and seeing him perform on stage. What mastery. He derived the keynote content from conversations he had with conference participants. He drew his slides live in front of us. He lectured us in a unique entertaining way while still conveying important messages. What really resonated with me was to "insist on feedback before we make another decision based on risky assumptions", and that "waterfall is back, it stopped apologizing and it needs to be killed with fire."

During these main conference days, it was also up to me to perform. When first seeing the venue I couldn't resist and peek into the hall where I was supposed to speak - and I was in awe. My respect raised immediately. This theater hall accommodates up to 800 people! In the end it wasn't filled with 800, but still it was the largest stage I've ever put my foot on so far; and also the largest audience besides TestBash Brighton.

So here I gave my talk "A Story of Mob Programming, Testing and Everything". It happened to be in the last slot of the first day, with only lightening talks taking place at the same time. Therefore people thought it would be a keynote! It wasn't scheduled as such though, and yet people told me it didn't matter to them as they still think it was a keynote. I decided to stop correcting them and taking this as a compliment! :) I'm really happy it got recorded, too.

When hearing great feedback about my talk I was very relieved. It seems the topic resonated very well with the DDD community. One of my highlights here was that also Kent Beck listened to my talk, and afterwards I finally could speak with him for the first time. Now, there's a story to it. In the beginning of 2017, when my public speaking challenge started, Kent suddenly followed me back on Twitter (I assumed Lisa Crispin retweeting my stuff made this happen, so thanks to Lisa!). I couldn't believe it, so I wrote Kent a direct message telling him how honored I felt - and he said he liked my blog posts. This resulted in a written conversation over the next weeks that left quite an impact on me, encouraging me to go further on my journey. That was it back then, we never met. Now was the first time I had the chance to speak with him in person, so I grabbed it and contacted him again. And then, right after my talk, it happened. He found me and said he had been listening to me. He asked whether I would like to get feedback (absolutely!) and he shared very valuable thoughts with me how I could further level up as a speaker. Seeing him keynote the next day and having a longer conversation with him afterwards was truly inspiring! Lots of food for thought for me.
Following up on my talk closing the first day, I had a hands-on lab session on the second day on the topic of "Mob Exploratory Testing". I had given this workshop a few times already, and always revised the concept to improve it further. Just like this time, and it worked out very well. The audience was great! All of them wanted to be part of a mob, so we split into several mobs, mostly small ones around laptop screens, and two larger mobs working on bigger screens. Huge shout-out to Tobias Göschel who volunteered facilitating one of the big mobs! Great help and he said he learned a lot in this role, too. Overall, the two hours went very fast, people had fun and learned lots of things in short time. That's exactly what I like to set up the environment for! Mission accomplished.

The main conference was great, and there were even a few people I already knew. I had the pleasure to meet Kostas Stroggylos again who I knew from Agile Greece SummitGojko Adzic whom I met at several conferences already, and Romeu Moura whom I first met at European Testing Conference.

The conference evenings were great as well. On day one we had a huge dinner group where I finally met Tobias Göschel for the first time, on day two some of us joined lots of European Testing Conference speakers for dinner, bringing two great communities together and enjoying lots of insightful conversations. So good to meet many wonderful people from the testing community there! Among them my power learning group mate João Proença - although time was short I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him in person again.

Sightseeing and a Long Way Home

Saturday arrived, the day I planned for sightseeing; so that's what I did. In case you'd like to see these parts of my conference speaking journey as well, feel free to follow me on Instagram. In the evening I joined Romeu Moura and met Felienne Hermans for the first time - what a pleasure! We had a great time together.

That should be it. I was supposed to leave Amsterdam the day after, yet life had different plans. Due to the heavy storm going across Europe, I got stranded. Instead of returning home and resting the next day, I had to wait at the hotel, the Amsterdam airport, Frankfurt, again a hotel, the Frankfurt airport, until I finally arrived home on Tuesday noon. Nothing but tired.

Still, I was happy about my time at DDD Europe and getting to know many great people. Thanks to everyone for welcoming me and sharing experiences with each other. The conference was very inclusive, and made an active effort to be so by offering gender-inclusive toilets, food for everyone, making the Pacman rule really work, and more. I loved the variety of super interesting topics. So many great speakers, no matter whether they were renowned already or not. All that combined with a very smooth organization - everything worked perfectly. Thanks so much to the fantastic organizers, you did an amazing job here and treated people very well. Looking forward to another DDD Europe!