Wednesday, May 4, 2022

German Testing Day 2022 - Let the Conference Season Begin

Compared to other years, this year is a bit special for me. I've started a new job and hence had to make a decision on how to balance this with conference speaking. In addition, I am still working hard on saying yes only to those things that I really want to do and that I also have the capacity and energy for. Therefore, I chose to keep the first half year mostly free of commitments outside work and then start slowly with "lighter" speaking engagements, meaning sessions I've already given before. I have to say thank you to my past self for this decision - it was very well worth it. This gave me the space needed to fully dive into the new company, new team and new product, and granted me the rest I needed to get this new job on the run.

Fast forward to today - where I just finished my first conference of 2022, German Testing Day! Many thanks to Thomas Rinke for bringing me to yet another edition, I really appreciate it. This year the conference was online which means I don't have any sketchnotes to share - I keep those for on-site events. That being said, let's still share what I experienced and learned.

Day 1

How else could it be for a testing conference? The first day was kicked off and we immediately faced audio issues. Kudos to the organizers for the quick decision to drop the integrated browser solution to join talks and refer everyone smoothly to the Zoom meetings instead. No more friction this way and a nice experience throughout the event from then on.
  • "Wie eine neue Kubernetes Version getestet und released wird" by Max Körbächer. Roughly translated: "How to test and release a new Kubernetes version". This was an insightful talk showing how such a huge (think: gigantic) open source project comes together. Coordinating all the people involved is no easy endeavor and a lot needs to be formalized quite strictly to make it work, like very explicit requirement / code / testing freezes. Automation is a foundational corner stone all the way and still humans are needed to review the changes and their impact. Also, change communication to consumers is key and worth a whole separate team!
  • "Remote Ensemble Testing - From Experiment to Common Practice" by Andrea Jensen. I loved how Andrea managed to 1) tell her story from problem to experiment to continuously evolving, while at the same time 2) explaining the approach of working in an ensemble, and always 3) keeping in mind how contexts can differ, hence 4) encouraging people to run their own experiments and last but not least 5) also providing helpful preparation steps and a cheat sheet to support them on their journey! A wholesome well-rounded skillfully executed talk that's simply inspiring. Great job!
  • Lean coffee hosted by Thomas Rinke. Whenever lean coffee sessions are offered, I'll do my best to catch at least one of them. On this day, I got lucky it was hosted during lunch time (if you know me, I'm anything but a morning person). I got the honor to facilitate one of the tables and we had a nice conversation on topics like test reporting tooling, helpful practices to give feedback and what to do when there's only budget for one conference yet limited space for the desired session. A nice side-effect: two new connections formed through these conversations where I had separate calls with each of them later that day and could exchange more experience.
  • "Tester trifft CI System - lessons learned" by Tobias Geyer. Roughly translated: "Tester meets CI system". What amazing storytelling of how a tester ended up improving the build pipeline in a very impactful way! Just loved the full focus on the story, supported by wonderful big images. Really related to the messages as well. Testing and CI system, how does it go together? Well, through critical questioning, measuring and observing, and rejecting to accept the status quo, Tobias could reduce the build time by a lot, hence feedback became a lot faster on all sides, and therefore also product quality improved. Now, you need to be "technical" to do this, right? No, you don't, we can use the skills we honed as testers already and then build on them and learn as we go - plus get support from others.
  • "'Mobi, bringe mich zu Ausgang Beatrixgasse' Indoornavigation in U-Bahnstationen für blinde Personen." by Helmut Pichler. Roughly translated: "Mobi, get me to exit Beatrixgasse - Indoor navigation at metro stations for blind people". An interesting experience report how a research and development project looks like for an innovative new product - and how we sometimes have to recognize that technology is not yet capable of safely covering all scenarios in real life. I especially liked the insights in the everyday life of a tester on such a project and the workarounds they found to solve their issues.
  • "KEYNOTE: Testing in modern times: a story about quality and value" by Huib Schoots. What can I say, it might be my own confirmation bias speaking, yet I couldn't stop nodding in this great keynote. So much related to the focus on learning with short feedback loops, building learning organizations and changing behavior through doing and new experiences - experimentation for the win! Also, countering the (very unhelpful) learned helplessness I also faced so many times in my career (with others, and also myself). And if you wonder what all this has to do with testing and quality? Well, everything!
That concluded day one for me. There was a nice social activity planned on the evening, yet unfortunately I had to miss out this time. Still, a great first day that made me eager to see what the next day was about to bring.

Day 2

This day was the "workshop day" in my head, a day I wanted to focus on workshops - which included my own session.
  • "Being an Opera Singer Prepared me for a Career in Tech" by Anna McDougall. The day started out with lightening and pecha kucha talks, and among them this one really stood our for me. What an amazing short talk! Great storytelling, loved the similarities and differences between opera and tech. Anna managed to convey important messages in very short time (like: we need to leave our ego behind), and that in a super well structured way with amazing slides. Just awesome.
  • "Ensemble Exploratory Testing" by myself. I gave the same (okay, very similar) session at last year's German Testing Day as well. Last year, people needed to register for the workshop, and although fully booked, it was a real pity that only very few people actually showed up. I still got really nice feedback and made it into the top three sessions which also brought me back this year. Now this time, the conference decided to limit the participants by the first come first serve principle - and the session filled up! We could run five ensembles and practice together from wherever people were. I know that this workshop confronts most people with having to learn A LOT in very short time, it's like being thrown into lots of uncertainty for most - hence safety and consideration is so crucial for this session. Also this time, all five groups had very different starting and ending points - yet all stayed and also seemed to have taken away useful insights. You can imagine how happy I was when I heard that the session once again made it among the top voted sessions! One more important thing to say: huge kudos to Thomas Rinke for hosting this session with me this year, taking care of organizational things upfront, participating in the workshop, and also providing feedback. You made everything easy and smooth for me and things just worked - much appreciated!
  • "D.A.R.E. more, F.E.A.R. less - Journaling for Tech People" by Cosima Laube. This workshop really made me think! We learned not only about journaling techniques or how these can help us reflect and direct our next steps, yet also which direction we want to go into. What are our values, what is it that really matters to us? Why do we postpone or procrastinate certain tedious or scary tasks? How can we learn to respond intentionally to these kinds of stimuli? I am grateful that such important and foundational topics are getting addressed and the respective knowledge is being shared at conferences. Cosima managed to break down the complex theory in a very accessible and also actionable way - we can instantly use the approaches and tools she provided us with. 
  • "KEYNOTE: Deep Democracy – Widerstände im Team verstehen – Alle mitnehmen" by Christiane Leiste. Roughly translated: "Deep democracy - Understand resistance in the team - Take everyone along". What if decisions are being made without us getting heard and included? How does resistance build up over time and express itself, from begin hidden to very openly demonstrated? What's behind this resistance? How can we uncover different and alternative perspectives from the start and actively include them in our decision making so everyone agrees that they can come along? This keynote was both very relatable and also provided a tangible way how to include more people and perspectives so we all can craft and go our journey together.

A conclusion?

Or rather the beginning! I'm really happy this conference provided a great starting point into my conference season this year. I learned new things, I met new people, I practiced my skills, I got inspired. Thank you to everyone making this a great event. Now I'm looking forward to more! The good news: the next conference with AgileTD Open Air is coming soon, only two more weeks to go.

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