Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Agile Testing Days 2022 - The Unicorn Land We Build Together

Being back at Agile Testing Days was a blast. I had some energy-draining weeks and months before, and this event did require me to prepare quite a bit as well - two brand-new sessions, both paired. In hindsight, it's been worth it and I wouldn't have missed it. Here's how I experienced the conference with only a few people highlighted of so many more I really appreciated seeing again or getting to know for the first time. Brace yourselves, this post will be long as all my conference reports and this one spans a whole week.


Last year it was really nice to arrive on Saturday already before the conference week. It reduced anxiety when it comes to traveling, it allowed seeing people earlier in a quieter setting, and especially sleeping in on Sunday before the event starts. Didn't regret it one bit, so I chose to repeat it this year.

Arriving in the evening, a handful of other speakers had already made their journey to Potsdam as well. Like Jenna Charlton! We decided to go to dinner together and had a lovely evening with really good food. Time well spent, great conversations to start this with. Coming back to the hotel, people had already left the bar to favor an early night, so we decided to call it a day - just to meet Christian Baumann and Tamara Josten in front of the elevators! So, the bar it was and more great conversations before finally going to bed.


I really enjoyed sleeping in and starting the day slowly. Meeting more and more people in the hotel lobby, catching up on more connections I've made over the years was just lovely. Like seeing Bailey Hanna again whom I first met at CAST 2018. And especially: seeing my learning partner Toyer Mamoojee again in person, after many years we could only meet online. Very special moment!

This night, I had a wonderful dinner group with Bailey, Toyer and Stephan Kämper. Great food to eat and great food for thought, lots of stories shared. Coming back to the hotel, it was time for Toyer and me to go through our tutorial one last time - it's always good to align once more the day before. I finished off the day by catching up with a few more close friends, like Dragan Spiridonov and Thomas Rinke.


The big day came - big for me, as it was the first time I gave a full-day session at a conference. I had a bunch of opportunities the last years, yet all of them had been canceled as knock-on effect of the pandemic. Yet this was happening indeed, finally! And Toyer and I even had 23 participants to join us for our tutorial "Let’s lead quality together!".

It was such a great experience, time flew as we had expected, yet we managed to make our concept work out in the end. We already received preliminary promising feedback. We're curious to learn more and improve this tutorial further and offer it at more events - as we do feel more people would benefit from what we benefited from ourselves.

Right after the tutorial ended, it was time to meet two dear friends and colleagues: João Proença and Rita Avota. I especially loved the fact that it was Rita's first conference and she had opted in for volunteering. Volunteering is such a great way to get access to a conference (besides buying a ticket or speaking) and also gain more insights on how things work in the background.

Now it was time that the conference was officially opened. And how to better open it than with a keynote? This time it was Gwen Diagram with "Happiness is Quality". I just loved her energy and authenticity on stage, being unapologetically herself, no matter which position she holds. Really enjoyed hearing her experience of fostering a great engineering culture using lots of concrete tangible examples and stories. There was so much in this keynote to relate to, and a lot of food for thought and ideas to try out in our own contexts. Way more than was possible to put down in a sketchnote! This was a wonderful start into the conference.

Monday wasn't over yet, especially it's traditionally the evening of the speaker's dinner. Once again, this conference goes out of their ways to offer their speakers a lovely evening with amazing food and even better company. Loved speaking again with Anne Colder, Vincent Wijnen, Micha Kutz and more. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The evening ended with further conversations back at the hotel - special thanks to Nicola Sedgwick for your time! - and then it was time to sleep.


If you know me, you know I'm not a morning person at all, quite the opposite. Yet there's one thing I make myself do every year at Agile Testing Days, and that's joining the first Lean Coffee offered by Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin on Tuesday morning. Never regretted it so far! Really like this informal agenda-less structure where we can bring our own topics, get advice and share insights with each other. This time, I took a few nuggets of wisdom with me to think about further.

  • Consider observability early on when thinking about changes: how would we see if something goes wrong? Which insights would we like to gain? Are there any dashboards we need to adapt?
  • The person who diagnoses an issue is not always the best person to act on it.
  • If you live a culture of "If you see an issue, you own it", then you need to be prepared that if people don't have capacity they start looking away. So, avoid practices that reward people to look away.

This year, the conference offered a virtual pass to see the talks streamed live online. I really appreciate this offer as it makes the conference content more accessible - not everyone has the money, time and also possibility to come in person. Also, it allows all of us to catch up on talks we missed within the next months as well. And as this conference offers lots of sessions in parallel this is a really great thing. With this in mind, I opted for workshops and hands-on experience wherever I could.

  • Keynote "Any dramatic elephants in the room?" by Martijn Nas. Martin shared the concept of the drama triangle with us - a concept that I believe more people need to hear about. If you'd like to learn more, I have a few resources to recommend on the topic.
  • Workshop "Harness the power of Cypress beyond the UI: Hybrid Testing" by Marc Mühlenweg and Nils Hahn. Time for hands-on practice! Marc and Nils guided the group to use Cypress in ways beyond interacting through the graphical user interface. Using the API instead as well as directly using the database to set up test data and check assertions is something more people still need to learn about.
  • Keynote "Living Fearlessly - While living with fear" by Lena Wiberg. This was absolutely amazing. Such a personal and brave talk about our fears, what roots they have and how our brains work when feeling threatened. It was a keynote that many of us needed to hear. Lena received standing ovations and they were very well deserved! The whole talk was so relatable and triggered lots of thoughts. I'm in awe of Lena's courage not only to give this talk yet also to overcome and deal with her fears every day.
  • Workshop: "Agile Engineering Practices Experienced" by Andreas Schliep and Malte Sussdorff. The speakers presented us a whole bunch of engineering practices, many well known yet some often forgotten. They showed how these practices support and inform each other. I really enjoyed the hands-on part of this session that allowed us to experience some of the presented practices. We started in teams of three pairs from different perspectives (backend, frontend, testing) on a challenge - that in the end nudged us to solve things together anyway. Well, that hits close to my heart! Also, loved pairing with Anne-Marie Charrett and fixing a backend issue together, definitely one of my highlights this year. This session also showed me new tools like Okteto and how to use GitHub CodeSpaces also for branches. Always good to learn and experience benefits hands-on.
  • Keynote "Be an AND. Not an OR" by Melissa Sassi. I really liked Melissa's authentic way to talk about authenticity and why it matters. Loved hearing this honest story and lessons learned - truly inspiring.
Time for the evening's MIATPP award and costume party! Lots of people wondered who this year's MIATPP would be. In the end, the award went to Janet Gregory - for the second time! She's making history, so far no one else received this community award two times. Absolutely well deserved, congratulations to her! She continues doing so much for our community. Her latest book with Selena Delesie "Assessing Agile Quality Practices with QPAM" is already in my library, can't wait to start reading it.

Dinner was great, conversations even better, and people got really creative with their costumes within the fairytale theme. And people like me who don't like to dress up or get into costumes had a wonderful time as well in any clothes we chose to wear. All that in front of a wonderful stage design that properly welcomed all of us into unicorn land.


No lean coffee for me today, rather as much sleep as I could get. And then enjoy another full day of great sessions.
  • Keynote "Human Impact" by Fiona Charles. This was an amazing keynote in many regards. Fiona faced technical struggles and her presentation couldn't be projected. Seeing how she coped with these struggles and then ending up just giving a related yet different talk was truly inspiring. When it comes to the messages shared, we all need to hear them (and act on them!) way more, and Fiona made them loud and clear. This was a truly thought-provoking talk we can instantly act on.
  • "Refining your Test Automation approach in modern contexts" by Toyer Mamoojee. I came to support my learning partner and also because the topic is relevant to me - soon it's time for my own team to relook at our automation and revise our strategy. So much experience and learning went into this great talk! Could really relate to a lot what Toyer shared. He made it really clear what we can do right away to get to a better state when it comes to test automation, on a smaller team scale just as much as strategically across teams. Lots of food for thought for my own context as well.
  • "One Size Does Not Fit All" by Bailey Hanna. Have you been in conversations (or rather tense discussions) around how much standardization is healthy for our teams and organization when it comes to processes, tooling and the like? I've been in countless ones and it's still a topic in each team and company I join. Bailey's talk gave me new terms and language to talk about processes and what we need in our context. Great input for bringing this back and having better conversations.
  • Keynote "Creating a Culture of Learning" by Huib Schoots and Vincent Wijnen. I've seen this keynote also at AgileTD Open Air and really liked how it evolved and improved based on feedback received - the tangible examples helped convey the message further. I still appreciate that this talk helps us learn better how our brain works, what impediments we might face trying to learn at work and what we can do to affect change. The interactive part really engaged lots of people to share, so we had even more insight into how things are currently not working at organizations when it comes to learning. Overall, awesome keynote, well presented and giving us lots of actionable food for thought.
  • Workshop "Software for Future" by Jutta Eckstein. This was a great combo session, giving us space to learn more about sustainability topics (like the 3 pillars model of people, planet and profit) and especially where we currently are on this journey ourselves - as individuals, our teams, our organizations. Lots of great conversations about how software can come to the rescue yet is not always as helpful as we might want to believe. Electronic waste, underutilized hardware, apps that exclude people by design, and more. We all could have a look at our own usage of technology, as well as take a survey to gauge where our team and organization is when it comes to sustainability. Awesome input to take back to work and start conversations there as well!
  • Keynote "Trouble in The Old Republic" by Samuel Nitsche. Wow - this was simply amazing. Standing ovations were well deserved! So many things I loved about this keynote. First of all, Sam turned this into a real stage acting performance, including costumes, props and side characters. He preceded the talk with a disclaimer how he's about to tell this story and where he might exaggerate to make a point. He also made use of the big stage to address current world problems and make a clear stance on prioritizing the most vulnerable - kudos! On top of that, I loved this keynote's emphasis on collaboration as well as the food for thought to find and build our own unicorn land, plus reaching something that's similar enough to our dreams. Just wow.
The evening was not over yet, after having some food there was also a first live event for Pepe's Bar, and my dear friends Toyer MamoojeeJoão Proença and I had the honor to be José Díaz's guests for the evening. A conversation on various topics, more casual than previous episodes - check them out if you haven't seen them yet.
Afterwards it was time to finally meet my other pairing partner for this conference, Shiva Krishnan. So good to meet again in person after a long period! And also it was time for us to do a last dry run before our talk the next day.


The last conference day came - as you can imagine, more great sessions and conversations.
  • Keynote "Building Quality - Influence, Observability and You" by Parveen Khan. I had the honor to have listened to a dry run of this talk a few weeks ago and was eager to see the final version live on stage, especially as it was Parveen's first keynote. Unfortunately, I overslept exactly on this last conference day and hence missed the first part. I reconstructed the sketchnote from memory yet fear I couldn't do Parveen's talk justice. About her keynote: I loved Parveen's vulnerability and openness of sharing her failure story along with the reflection that went into it and what she did afterwards to get to a better place. It's so authentic, relatable and truly inspiring! It also gave tangible things every one of us can do to find our own style of influencing. This was awesome.
  • "Human Connection: The Key to a Beneficial Pairing Experience" by Shiva Krishnan and me. Both Shiva and I were quite uncertain how this brand-new talk will land with people. Will it resonate? Will people get something out of it they can act on right away? Judging from the feedback it did, so you can imagine our relief afterwards. Also, special thanks to Clare Norman and Tobias Geyer for live tweeting and tooting! Our slides are publicly available now as well.
  • "The Silver Bullet - a tools tale" by Søren Wassard. Great talk about a topic that's coming up so many times: which tool to use? Well, as Søren said - it depends. There's so many tools out there. It's not sufficient to jump at any, there are more aspects to consider. I really liked his viewpoint of growing our professional skills first before considering choosing a tool. Also, I really loved the storytelling and presentation style, very enjoyable.
  • Keynote "Better organisation design enables great testing" by Ash Winter. I loved this keynote - content-wise and presentation-wise. I feel the need to spread these topics more at testing conferences where people might not yet have had opportunity to come across architecture and organizational design topics. Team topologies, Conway's Law, diving into platform teams, and more. I really liked seeing the strong emphasis on how testers can be a crucial part and have power to influence a better organization! I related to it very much based on my own experience.
  • Workshop "React, Testing and Chess" by David Corrales and Pamela Plúas. This was a great space to experience and practice testing a React app ourselves. Despite us facing struggles when setting things up, this workshop still provided a lot. I really liked the presented four different approaches focusing our testing on different parts of the frontend: from unit tests to component tests to subcutaneous tests to finally contract tests (more people need to learn about this!). David and Pamela provided us with a full running demo project we can also use to practice further, love it. Really appreciated their consideration for participants' needs and also their disclaimer that context is crucial and their recommendations might change for a different project with different needs. I really think we need more of these technical hands-on workshops where we can practice deliberately in a context that's close enough to our everyday work.
  • Keynote "Servant Leadership – about empathy and psychological safety" by Patrick van Enkhuijzen. I've seen this keynote at AgileTD Open Air already as well. Also for this talk it was great seeing how it evolved and improved based on feedback received - for example including the host leadership model. I really appreciated the disclaimer of "this is how I see servant leadership and why it resonates with me" as well as the key message to include serving yourself first as otherwise we cannot be of help to anyone else.
It was a wrap! The official part of the conference was over. After more conversations in the hallway over food I seized the opportunity to head out to Potsdam with a small group. Many thanks to Alex SchladebeckElizabeth ZagrobaJoão Proença and Micha Kutz for this special finale.

Returning to the hotel, I chose to stay in the lobby and continue conversations with all people still around. More and more had to say goodbye, it's always a bitter-sweet ending to an event we all appreciate a lot.


It was time for me to head home. As every year, this means for me also starting to look back, process and digest all the things I've heard, all the connections I've made or strengthened, and follow up on my own sessions. It also means starting to look ahead on what to do next with the gained insights, what to bring back to my company and team, and what to take on in my personal development. Maybe catch up on a few more talks I've missed, thanks to the recordings. Maybe delve into photo memories.

One more thing why joining conferences, and also speaking at conferences is great: you never know which impact any session or just conversation might have on humans and what their journey might look like because of it. Like the feedback Elizabeth Zagroba received on a ensemble session we gave two years ago together with Joep Schuurkes and Simon Berner.

For now, I'll enjoy some time off to properly recharge batteries and close this year with fresh energy before starting the next. Many thanks to everyone involved in this event that made it a memorable time - organizers, volunteers, speakers, participants, everyone. It's been a blast.


  1. Thanks Lisa for sharing this journey.It refreshed my experience at ATD 2022. It was my first time at ATD.

    1. You're very welcome, glad to hear. Hope you had a great time at ATD as well!