Tuesday, May 24, 2022

AgileTD Open Air 2022 - A Unicorn Conference Outdoors

If you know me, you probably know that I'm not an outdoor person at all. I do enjoy nature, yet if it's up to me, you'll find me indoors. Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in an outdoor conference, the first AgileTD Open Air. Amazing idea, be it for pandemic times or any time! Not exactly the perfect match for me, though - yet I really wanted to see these people again and learn together. So I decided to join the event and it surprised me in many beautiful ways and I can only recommend you to seize the opportunity next year if you can.


The conference itself was only scheduled for 2.5 days, yet I decided to take it slow and arrive early. The first nice surprise: meeting Vera Baum at the train station and making our way to the hotel together. As usual, a few people were already there, so more reunions to celebrate.

After a short break, we all went for the speakers dinner. The organizers had invited us to a fancy golf club restaurant where we enjoyed equally fancy (and tasty) food and lots of amazing conversations. What to talk about at speakers dinner? Everything! It ranged from current work experiences to computer game recommendations, from confidence struggles to personal challenges, from societal pressures to coping mechanism tips and tricks - and so on. Back at the hotel, we continue these conversations at the hotel bar, diving into team dynamics, testability, leadership and our personal journeys that brought us here.

Special kudos to Tom Young, Vincent Wijnen, Anne Colder, Clare Norman, Michael Kutz, Patrick van Enkhuijzen for making this first evening very special! My heart was already full even before the conference began.


This was a day to sleep in and properly rest before the conference started. Also, a chance to practice my talk once more, of course (no matter how many I have given already, this is part of my coping strategy). And then it was time to take the shuttle to the event location - outdoors. It was a beach next to a lovely lake relatively close to Cologne. On the bus, I really enjoyed my conversations with Guna Petrova, Constance Armitage, Bastian Knerr, Quyen Phan and Raluca - this being the first conference for the latter ones which I just love to see.

When arriving, the trail to the lake was already marked with unicorn hoof prints, leading us the way. In case you've never had the opportunity to visit an Agile Testing Days edition, unicorns became the mascot and signature feature, so you can expect to find lots of them throughout.

It was time to see even more community friends again! My dear colleagues João Proença and Vernon Richards, my workshop pair Simon Berner, as well as Alex Schladebeck, Anastasia Chicu, Lena Wiberg, Samuel Nitsche and many more. Also: time to enjoy the opening keynote!
Afterwards: amazing barbecue, such good food. The evening continued in a very relaxed way with even more wonderful deep conversations. From enjoying late night snacks, to sitting at the bonfire, speaking with Jens about how important recognition is for everyone of us, to going back to the hotel and letting the evening come to an end at the bar in great company. You'll see also in the following - the organizers really understand how essential it is to give lots of space for these conversations to emerge, to really confer with people, make connections, getting inspired from each and everyone - not only the speakers.


The first full day started with a (very early) shuttle bringing everyone to the location. Getting myself a cup of coffee, finally meeting Marie Drake in person, and then it was already time to start with the program!
With the official program being over, the bonus activities started. People could choose from going for a swim or run, playing beach volleyball, just relaxing, or - going on a scavenger hunt hosted by Søren Wassard! Well, I couldn't resist the latter. Lucky me, Veerle Verhagen and Sophie Küster took me in - and this team was fabulous! Twenty tasks within two hours, and we completed each and every one (we might have gotten a tiny little bit ambitious - hope it wasn't too bad for everyone else to endure us). Our ambitions also paid off, on the very last minute and thanks to a very nice neighbor team who shared their answer with us, we actually won the "childish" price Søren had for us!
Another lovely barbecue, another long evening full of conversations and stories. Just loved it.


The last day came far too soon (and the morning too early - I'm just really not a morning person). This time, no lean coffee for me, as Simon Berner and I made final arrangements for our upcoming workshop. Many thanks to Simon for realizing in time that the location's wifi connection was very poor, it would not even allow us to open our prepared Miro board. Even more thanks to Jan Eumann for kindly creating a powerful hotspot for us that made the whole thing work!
The official program being over, I was super happy to see how many of the first time conference joiners stayed until late to socialize, network, connect, build relationships, learn through informal conversations, enjoy themselves, have a great time with this lovely community. The evening became night and no one wanted to let go - until we had to say our goodbyes. Lucky us, there are more Agile Testing Days events coming up and I'm personally very grateful I can see a bunch of these people again in roughly two weeks at Agile Testing Days USA, or latest in November for the regular Agile Testing Days in Potsdam.


On my way home, my heart and soul was full to the rim. I love these kinds of communities who do that. It seems this was yet another event that was dearly needed by lots of people due to all kinds of reasons, and I noticed I was one of these people as well. This is one of the places where I can just be me (even outdoors).
All my thanks go out to the organizers of this wonderful event, all the heart and care they poured into it including making people feel safe, all the struggles they went through to make it happen, all the magic that came out of it.

If you'd also like to experience this magic, we already learned that there will be an AgileTD Open Air 2023! Look out for the call for papers coming up. Why not do it like some of the people who joined this time who consider becoming a speaker and submit a proposal?

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