They say too much of a good thing is never good, but not in the case of Agile Testing Days. A conference with a difference, a conference which helps you grow and “makes” you find lasting relationships.
When the initial dates for Agile Testing days 2017 popped up during my first attendance of Agile Testing days back in December 2016, Agile Testing Days 2016- a Testing Experience of note I knew I got to be there, somehow. This pushed me to strike a pact with Elisabeth Hocke (an amazing tester from Flixbus based in Munich, Germany) who I met during that year’s conference. A pact which seemed quite far fetched back then, but it would entail us both submitting a paper to present at Agile Testing Days 2017 check out Get out there! Share your story.
During the build up to the conference, I spent many days rehearsing my speaker content but at the same time I couldn’t help but be super excited about being reunited with some amazing and brilliant friends, anxious to meet well known Twitter acquaintances + start and build on brand new relationships.
I arrived at Potsdam, Germany the afternoon before the conference would kick off. This time I decided to tag along my family for the entire trip to enjoy a bit of the Agile Testing days atmosphere along with some sights and sounds of the serene town of Potsdam. I was also joined by fellow colleagues Shekhar Ramphal and Matthew Broadley
I was welcomed by the amazing and wonderful Agile Testing days crew, from the boss along with the rest of their amazing crew. I picked up the magical ‘speaker’ name tag along with a host of other ATD goodies, I was ready to get the show on the road.
First up I was really excited to attend the first event of the conference. A dinner arranged just for the speakers of the conference, about 100+ speakers (experienced and first timers)
We headed to a rather fancy restaurant in the heart of Potsdam via bus shuttle, where I sat next to last years MC, the awesome Mike Sutton who was hosting many Sofa Session Happy Hours during this years ATD. We had a great conversation on testing in general and had a brief discussion on testing in Europe and Africa.
I also interacted with fellow South African’s and ATD regulars Karen Greaves & Samantha Laing who are always a bunch of energy, then meeting the wise and well known Lisa Crispin for the first time. I also met the amazing Dragan Spiridonov who had nothing but encouraging words to get me amped up for the conference and my presentation.
At the supper I got to interact with many of the speakers, I was seated at a table with the following interesting and bright people Pete Walen, Elisabeth Hocke, Viktorija Manevska and Gerald Mücke
All of the people above gave me some awesome last minute speaking tips and helped ease some of the initial nerves I had. Pete shared some of his cool speaker experiences over the years, while Gerald and myself dug into some psychology aspects- it got pretty intense. Really found the food and atmosphere pretty amazing at the speaker dinner, it was a nice mood setter for the entire conference.
And now for my magic act- I will try to sum up the amazing 4 days that was in store for me and other attendees. It was a legendary 4 days to say the least.
Day 1 events kicked off with an Early morning run (*this warm blooded South African could not get up that early for the European winter run 😉 ) ,followed by a Yoga session and Lean Coffee (by Janet Gregory & Lisa Crispin) held roughly around the same time. These 3 activities were scheduled to run daily over the duration of the conference days.
Once I was done with breakfast, I proceeded to hit the main lobby area to check out some of the cool Exhibitions and sponsor stalls. Some of the exhibitors included QA Symphony, CloudBees, Saucelabs and Flixbus to name a few. For a full comprehensive list of exhibitors check out https://agiletestingdays.com/exhibitors/
Before dashing off to hit the first Keynote, I found myself being featured on the Test Bingo game which was quite a cool way for attendees to get to know and meet others at the conference.
The First keynote of Agile TD 2017 kicked off with Continuous Delivery Sounds Great But It Won’t Work Here presented by Jez Humble
Jez gave a very nice run down on CI/CD world and why some people make excuses as to why Continuous Delivery would not work in their environment. Some of the excuses that he zoomed in on were the following: “We’re heavily regulated” and “our people are too stupid”. He concluded with some nice take aways on how teams should collaborate more and also to create an environment where people can excel and not be afraid to innovate.
Next up was Pete Walen on There and Back Again, A Hobbit/Developer/Tester’s Journey his ability to tell a story was mesmerizing. His approach was slow and measured then went for the killer blow during the last few minutes of his presentation. Definitely had everyone glued to their seats. He shared quite a nice story on his experiences as a Developer and Tester.
Thereafter it was time for Elisabeth Hocke to speak about ‘I am Groot’ – Learning Agile Testing this was definitely one of the key moments that we had waited for over the past year. 1 half of our pact was about to become a reality and Lisi did not disappoint. She approached the talk like a seasoned speaker. Super composed and confident, she began to tell her story. Lisi shared some amazing tips on re-inventing yourself as a tester and striving for ways to become a true all round team player. A proud moment and a successful presentation for sure.
Some of the other notable and interesting talks of the day that I had the joy of attending included:
Cassandra Leung who I interacted with quite a few times in the past via twitter but we met for the first time officially in person only a few hours ago. I was impressed by how much she knew about testing already considering the fact that she has not been in testing for longer than 3 years. Her title definitely got the interest going 5 Ways Automation is Like Sex where she spoke about doing Automation for the sake of doing it and whether people who don’t do it are doomed.
Angie Jones was someone I have been really keen to meet over the past year, she is a well renowned Automation Engineer at Twitter and I was super amped to check out her keynote: Owning Our Narrative she had quite a fancy analogy of the musical entertainment with Automation testing. Well executed and confident talk with a very relevant topic focusing on creating our own story in a world obsessed with Shift Left concepts.
Final keynote for the day was the influential Poornima Vijayashanker who spoke about How To Onboard New Hires Into Happy and Productive Employees I found this talk super relevant as people on-boarding and growth is vital to the success of a company. Get people involved and deal with inter-departmental challenges to aid them to become as productive early on as possible.
To close events for Day 1 was the MIATPP Award Night + Comic & Super Hero Party the awesome thing about this event was that I was kindly offered by the ATD organisers to bring my my wife Reumaysa Mamoojee (who just happens to be a Scrum Master too) and kids along for the Super Hero Party. Since my kids were massive Super hero fans I decided to take them to the event just for a few minutes, they absolutely loved being surrounded by Captain America’s and Hulks 🙂
Here is a pic of my boys with the boss (Captain America)
The MIATPP for the year was rightly so awarded to Huib Schoots : awesome guy!
I was still buzzing from Day 1 trying to take in the immense info overload, when it was time to kick off Day 2 already, well that’s what this conference is all about. Learning, learning, fun and more learning!
Day 2 was kicked off by Claudio Perrone speaking about PopcornFlow a mindset, new principles and actionable techniques to help you introduce fast change and make better decisions. Claudio shared some tried interested mindset approaches along with a great story about his son Matteo and his snail selling adventures. The presentation had a feel good feeling about it, with a great message.
Next up was my friend, the well spoken Anastasia Chicu presenting on My experience of testing a product that became three ,she shared some practical tips and tools for mobile testing in an expanded team.
Followed by (which as my image shows below) another one of the moments I have been waiting for. The inspirational and knowledgeable Katrina Clokie was sharing A Practical Guide to Testing in DevOps
Katrina touched on things like how they tested in production, monitoring and how testing should be incorporated at all levels, because testing is not only for finding bugs – it aims to help organization have visibility into the behavior of the software – pre and post production ‘Go Live’
1 of the tough things about Agile Testing Days is choosing a talk or workshop to go to as there are many amazing streams running in parallel. This Day 2 afternoon slot was particular difficult as I really wanted to check out these amazing talks :–
Göran Kero-What an agile tester can learn from studying psychology
Rodrigo Cursino &Viviane Vieira-CESAR.thon: a Testing Marathon Framework
Mostafa Awadh–Agile or Waterfall? Business & Environment decide
Unfortunately I had to miss these sessions above but I really wanted to do a workshop (3 hours) on Exploratory Testing with Anne-Marie Charrett
This was really, really interesting. I was seated at a table with about 7 other individuals from a host of different nationalities. My group included Lisi, plus notable new acquaintances Jennifer from USA and Robert Meaney from Ireland. We were tasked with deciding how to test a few ‘Big Trak Robot’ programmable cars together as a group with a set number of rules and instructions. The entire workshop created lots of awareness and approaches on Exploratory testing. There was lots of takeaways from that workshop along with many disagreements within my newly formed team 🙂 It was quite an interesting learning experience from exploratory testing to team dynamics point of view.
I think my brain was tired by the end of Day 2, but the day was not over as the night began with Agile Games Night. There were some fun games that took place that night but more importantly it was the opportunity to build new relationships during those sessions. During the 2 days I also did a bit of campaigning for my presentation, where I highlighted to the different people I met what my presentation was about and its intended target market. It was during this time that I met the bright eyed and eager Luethi Philipp from Switzerland, he immediately showed interest in my topic and we clicked at once. There is more to follow with Luethi I thought to myself and as you will read later on that certainly was the case. I decided to call it a night around 11:45pm as I had my big debut presentation the next morning. It was also 15 minutes to go before my birthday set in. A big day in store ahead of me indeed.
I got up quite early the morning of the 16th November, not sure if it was due to the buzzing of my phone due to the influx of birthday messages or the anticipation of my debut talk starting to creep in.
After taking some phone calls from family and friends back home, I dashed off to breakfast where I was serenaded by the Agile TD team 🙂 I then got set for the first keynote of day 3.
It was the turn of Paul Holland who was about to give his talk on The Pothole of Automating Too Much. Paul was smooth, and had a great analogy of the US Map and the many paths/roads to a particular destination just like there are many paths and areas within a system. Some of the takeaways included :- Automating only the critical paths of a system, automating functional areas which are used the most and considering the cost of automation vs its benefit.
My big moment was up next, got in early to room F1 and setup my machine for the presentation. I handed out some South African candy along with a page with some weird and wonderful South African slang words.
As I got the go ahead to start my presentation, I was surprised by the ‘funtastic’ ATD team who burst in with a birthday cake and song! Red faced indeed but so awe struck by the great gesture.
It was time to kick off my presentation Coexistence of Legacy and Cutting Edge Technology Systems
I proceeded to give my talk with support in the room from Lisi, Luethi, Pete, my fellow colleagues Shakes and Matthew but I was super excited that some famous and influential testers had joined my presentation the likes of Katrina Clokie , Guna Petrova, Mary and Göran Kero to name a few. So no pressure, I was about to do this. My talk focused on some of the issues we faced in my work environment with Legacy systems and how we approached in tackling some of these issues with the introduction of more recent cutting edge technology. Check out Pete’s live blog post on my presentation along with other day 3 events http://rhythmoftesting.blogspot.co.za/2017/11/live-from-potsdam-day-3-agile-testing.html?m=0
I had quite a few relevant questions posed to me after the session which I confidently addressed, along with some deep discussions once my session was done.
The 2nd half of the pact was complete. Lisi and myself could finally celebrate an achievement and it felt good.
Next up in the same room was fellow colleague Shekhar Ramphal who spoke about his personal experience at our company on AutoFails – 6 year journey of automation failures
It was quite cool that the organisers scheduled his talk immediately after mine as we both had references to each others talk and it flowed quite nicely for the people who were in attendance for both talks. His analogy was quite nice as he depicted Cars to specific Automation tools. Both our talks definitely showed how fortunate we were/are to work for a company that allows us to cross skill plus being exposed to older and newer tech which is definitely the popular choice/s in the industry nowadays.
Some of the more notable talks and workshops of the day included the following :-
The fun and bright Viktorija Manevska –An alien visiting the office
The bubbly and enthusiastic Guna Petrova covering Me and my deadly sins
The knowledgable, cool and collected Santhosh Tuppad with his 150-minute Workshop on Security tests for web and mobile applications
The afternoon keynote session of the day by Liz Keogh on a very insightful presentation on How to tell people they failed and make them feel great!
And finally a great end to a looong day by the late keynote presentation by the awesome duo ofAsh Coleman & Keith Klain where they covered multiple diversity issues in Culture Is More Than A Mindset
The final day & Oh what a start we had to Day 4, a roller coaster of emotions which no one saw coming. Roya Mahboob captivated attendees with an amazing introduction which had taken us to her world. A world which was cast into darkness by challenges in her country until New Realities through Technology emerged. She was instrumental in moulding the Afghan Girls Robotics team and bringing them to Agile Testing Days 2017, where each girl shared their individual stories. Goose bumps, lump in throats and teary eyes- you name it the audience was taken on a whirlwind of emotions. Each story had one underlying message- with persistence and perseverance nothing is impossible. The inspirational presentation closed with the longest and loudest standing ovation clapping I have ever witnessed. Diversity at its peak!
Next up I attended Gerald Mücke –Must.Kill.Mutants an awesome, friendly individual whom I met at the speakers dinner, I wanted to give him my support plus attend the session that I was super keen to learn more about. Gerald didn’t disappoint and I learnt so much about mutation testing, its uses and the tools that support it. Definitely something I would like to learn more about in future.
There were more amazing talks that day, more notably the charismatic Rahul Verma with his amazing presentation on The Dogmatic Agile
Another notable mention was the famous Llewellyn Falco doing his thing on Knowing what bad code looks like
The afternoon keynote saw last years MIATPP, the calm, well spoken and influential Maaret Pyhäjärvi took over the stage with her motivational Learning through Osmosis talk. She wonderfully portrayed to the attendees how she discovered Mobbing and how successful it can be. She highlighted how important it was to try our different things and get others to work with you, so that it becomes a shared effort rather than a ‘my’ effort. Team effort is greatest benefit.
The final keynote of Agile Testing days 2017 closed with Janet Gregory on Pivotal Moments where she shared some key moments in her life and inspired everyone to watch out for those big moments in life and grab opportunities.
And just like that the conference was over 😦 well not really, it was still time for Lisi and myself to quickly rope in Luethi for one more pact. We promised him that we would keep it a top secret for now, but its something we would all push towards achieving. It felt so amazing that Lisi and I could not just inspire each other but inspire others too. I am not sure how far our story would go but it has definitely already made an impact to most people seeking to get more involved in conferences/blogging by challenging themselves constantly.
Summary and conclusion
The greatest take away for me from a conference of this magnitude is to take advantage of having the best testers from around the world in one venue and then taking the initiative by creating lasting relationships with them to create a platform to not just learn over 4 days but to learn almost on a daily basis. Keeping in touch with this new found friends and learning partners sets the stage for regular learning and feedback which makes a conference like Agile Testing days thee place to be if you do take your career seriously.