Review: Automation Guild 2017

About half a year ago, in July of 2016 to be exact, I was invited by Joe from the well-known TestTalks podcast to contribute to a new initiative he had come up with: the Automation Guild conference. Joe was looking to organize an online conference fully dedicated to test automation, and he asked me if I wanted to host a session on testing RESTful APIs with REST Assured. Even though I’d never done anything like this before -or maybe because I’d never done anything like this before- I immediately said yes. Only later realizing what it was, exactly, that I had agreed to do..

Since the conference was online and Joe was looking for the best possible experience for the Automation Guild delegates, he asked each of the speakers to record a video session in advance, including sharing of screens and writing and executing code (where relevant, of course). This being an international conference of course also meant speaking in English, which made it all the more challenging for me personally. I’m fine with speaking in English, but the experience of recording that, listening to it and editing all the ‘ermm..’s and ‘uuuhh’s out was something entirely new, and not exclusively pleasant either! It also took me a lot longer than expected, but in the end, I was fairly happy with the result. And I learned a lot in the process, from English pronunciation to video editing, so it was definitely not all bad!

Enough about that, back to the conference. It was held last week, January 9th to 13th, with around 5 sessions every day plus a couple of keynotes. The actual videos were released beforehand so all attendees could watch them when it best suited their schedule, while on the conference days there were live Q&A sessions with all of the speakers to create a live and interactive atmosphere. Having never participated in anything similar, and even though I caught only a couple of sessions due to other obligations (the time zone difference didn’t help either) I think this worked remarkably well.

My own Q&A session flew by too, with a lot of questions ranging from the fairly straightforward to the pretty complex. These questions did not just cover the contents of my session, but also API testing in general and there were some questions about service virtualization as well, which made it an even more interesting half hour.

I liked this interactive Q&A part of my talk and of the conference as a whole a lot, since getting good questions meant that the stuff I talked about hit home with the listeners. I’ve had conference talks before where the audience was suspiciously quiet afterwards, and that’s neither a good thing nor an agreeable experience, I can tell you. But in this case, there were a lot of questions, and we didn’t even get to all of them during the Q&A. If all goes well, I should receive them later on and get to interact with a couple more listeners in that way. But even so far, I had an amazing time talking to Joe and (indirectly) to the attendees and answering their questions in the best way I could.

As for the other speakers, Joe managed to create a world-class lineup of speakers, and I’m quite proud to have been a part of the speaker list. I never thought I’d be in a conference lineup together with John Sonmez, Alan Richardson, Seb Rose, Matt Wynne and so many other recognized names in the testing and test automation field. So far, I only managed to watch a couple of the other speakers’ sessions, but luckily, all of them are available for a year after the end of the conference, so I’ll definitely watch more of them when time permits in a couple of weeks.

I can only speak for myself, but I think that the inaugural edition of Automation Guild was a big success, given such an incredible lineup and over 750 registered attendees. This is mostly due to the massive amount of effort Joe has put into setting this up. I can’t even begin to imagine how much time it must have cost him. Having said that, I am already looking forward to the second edition next year. If not as a second-time contributor, then surely as an attendee! If you missed or couldn’t make the conference, then mark your agenda for next year, because surely you don’t want to miss it again!

Looking forward to the 2017 conference season

Only a relatively short blog post this week, but it’s something that’s kept me busy for a while..

As we’re slowly moving towards 2017, and as I’m starting to reflect on the shift I’ve been making in how I fill my days and make a living for the last year, I think this is a good time to take a look at the conferences I would like to attend and contribute to in 2017. Delivering talks, or even better, workshops (I’ll get to that at the end of this post), has earned its place as one of the activities that nowadays are part of my work(day/week) on a fairly regular basis. So, what conferences to attend next year?

The ‘definitely’ category
There are a couple of conferences I’ll definitely attend or contribute to, either because they’ve proven their value or simply because I’m already listed to deliver a talk or workshop there:

  • AutomationGuild (January) – I’ll deliver a talk on testing RESTful APIs using REST Assured at the first edition of this online conference completely dedicated to test automation.
  • Romania Testing Conference (May) – I was supposed to deliver a full-day workshop on REST Assured at the first edition of a spin-off conference of RTC, but unfortunately the organization had to postpone the event. They were extremely kind, however, to extend their invitation to the 2017 edition of the original event, which is held in Cluj in May, so I’m Romania bound by then! Very much looking forward to that, as you can imagine, especially after the wonderful experience of my first talk abroad.
  • TestWorksConf (October) – The first two editions have been awesome and I’m already eager to see what the Xebia guys can come up with for the third edition. Maybe I’ll be a contributor again, but if not, I’ll definitely be there as a delegate.
  • Test Automation Day (June) – The other big conference in the Netherlands dedicated to test automation, this has been a ‘must’ for me for the last four or five years, and I’ll highly likely be there again next year. Hopefully as a speaker this time, something that’s still on my to-do list.

The ‘hopefully’ category
There is one European conference outside of The Netherlands that I’d like to attend or contribute to one day. And why shouldn’t that day be in 2017?

  • Software Testing Forum (June) – I must admit that the location of this conference is what first put it on my radar. I love Italy, its culture, its language and not to forget its food and wine, but the event itself has started to get my attention as well over the last couple of years. I’ve recently been in touch with the organizing committee to see if I can apply to deliver a workshop there, so here’s to hoping that turns out positively!

The ‘I wish’ category
Some day, some day, I’d like to attend (or even better, speak at) one of these conferences:

  • StarCanada (October) – I love Canada, plus I’ve always wanted to attend one of the big Star* conferences, even if only once. Travel and lodging aren’t exactly cheap, though, plus it would cost me at least a whole week of not being home, which isn’t exactly ideal with small children, so this will probably not happen for the next couple of years.
  • WeTest (twice a year) – Pretty much the same reason as the previous one: I love New Zealand. Plus from what I’ve read on the web and social media, the organization and quality of this conference is of a pretty high level. Unfortunately, so is the amount of hours I’d have to spend on the plane, so this will probably not happen in 2017 either..

What else?
So, my dear readers, is there a conference I might have forgotten? Some hidden gem you definitely think I should attend or even apply to contribute to? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Oh, and coming back to my preference on hosting workshops over delivering talks: I love to give talks on topics I care about, but from my experience, I love hosting workshops even more. The smaller crowd and longer time frame allows me to make better contact with and pay more attention to the attendees, and to get some interesting discussions going. This to me provides more value than the larger (yet somewhat more fleeting) exposure I get when delivering a talk.. Plus I think participants get more out of a workshop too because of the hands-on learning experience, as opposed to attending a talk and picking up a couple of interesting and thought-provoking nuggets of wisdom. So if you know of an interesting conference that does workshops too, please let me know!

Review: TestCon 2016 – speaking abroad for the first time

Last week I experienced another ‘first’ in my career as a consultant: my first speaking gig abroad. The event: TestCon 2016. Location: Vilnius, Lithuania. Another first there: I’d never been to Lithuania before! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but hey, the best things in life happen when you least expect them, so I was happy to jump to the opportunity when my friends at Parasoft called me to ask me if I could act as a stand-in for one of their guys who couldn’t make it to the conference.

The conference
TestCon 2016 was the first edition of this conference, but you wouldn’t be able to tell this if you hadn’t known that before. The event was very well organized, with a good venue (the University of Applied Sciences) and excellent speaker treatment. A separate room for speakers to prepare for their presentation and to wind down afterwards was a first for me, although granted, I am nowhere near an experienced public speaker yet… And don’t forget full travel and lodging expenses were covered upfront, something that a lot of conferences could learn from. Another remarkable feat is that the organization managed to attract around 600 (yes, six hundred) attendees to this first edition. For a relatively small country with no established testing community, that is absolutely amazing. I think a lot of other conference organizers would consider themselves extremely lucky to get such a turnout. The only thing that could use some improvement next year is the number of local speakers. Of the 25 speakers, only 3 or 4 were from Lithuania. In comparison, there were 6 from the Netherlands.. I talked to one of the organizers afterwards and we agreed that hopefully this first event, which was a major success, leads to more local speakers next year.

My talk
The talk that was originally proposed by Parasoft was called ‘Deploy and Destroy Complete Test Environments: Service Virtualization, Containers and Cloud’. As this is an area that interests me as well, and in which I have experience as well as have done some writing and speaking work before, I decided to keep it and construct a story based on my own experience around it. For those of you that are interested in what I talked about, you can see the slides here:

I think my talk went pretty well, although there wasn’t too much feedback or reaction from the audience. Later I heard that more speakers experienced this (but some didn’t), so it might not just have been me, at least I hope not. It confirmed my preference for delivering workshops rather than talks though, since you let a lot more interaction and feedback from workshops due to the smaller groups and the hands-on work rather than just me broadcasting information (or sound, at least). Still, I got some questions and had a couple of good discussions afterwards, so the overall feeling I have looking back on my talk is a positive one.

Looking back
As I said, this has been my first experience as a speaker abroad, but as far as I’m concerned it will not have been my last one. Travelling, speaking and meeting interesting and fun people has been a very rewarding experience, although an exhausting one as well. The conference itself couldn’t have been organized any better (except for a couple of minor details, maybe). Also, the organization and all volunteers I have had the pleasure of meeting couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming, and Vilnius has been an interesting city to spend a couple of days in. I’m already looking forward to the next trip, even though it hasn’t been planned yet. I’ll try and make it a workshop gig as that’s where my interests and strengths are, I believe, but I won’t say no to delivering another talk, either.