Romanian Testing Conference 2017 was a blast!

Last week I had the pleasure of taking part in the 2017 edition of the Romanian Testing Conference. I was contacted by Andrei from the organizing committee in August of last year, initially to host a workshop at what would be the first edition of a spin-off conference of the main RTC event. That conference unfortunately had to be cancelled, but Andrei from the organizing committee was kind enough to extend the invitation to this year’s edition of the original event. And what an excellent couple of days they’ve been!

Wednesday: Cluj
Wednesday saw a very early start to the day, with my alarm set at 3.45. My plane to Munich set off at 7.00, and after a quick and easy transfer I suddenly found myself in Romania! After getting into the country through customs I was faced with the first sign of how excellently organized this whole event would be: there was a car with a driver waiting for me at the arrivals hall to drive me from the airport to the hotel. I felt spoiled already!

The official RTC 2017 car

After checking in to the luxurious Grand Hotel Italia I decided to go and see the city for a bit, as this day would be the only day where I’d have a little time to do so. I’m not really a city person (I spent an afternoon in NYC and thought that was enough..) but I’m making a habit of seeing more of the area I’m visiting than just an airport, a hotel and a conference venue. Luckily, the weather was gorgeous and there’s some really good coffee stalls to be found on the streets of Cluj, so it was time well spent.

Upon returning to the hotel, I met some of the other speakers, as well as Rob, the conference chairman. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, with dinner in my room, watching Office Space for the umpteenth time and an early night. The day had been long enough, plus I thought it might be a good idea to be fresh and well rested in the morning for my workshop.

Thursday: workshop day
Thursday was show time for me, the day of my workshop on REST Assured (mostly) and WireMock (a bit). I heard in advance that my workshop was fully booked, which meant that there were 30 people that registered for it. Normally, when I do training, I’ll try and get no more than 12-15 people, but since this was the fourth or fifth time I’d be giving this workshop and I received exactly 0 emails from attendees that had trouble completing the preparation instructions I’d sent them a couple of weeks in advance, I wasn’t too uncomfortable with that.

Attendees hard at work during my workshop

I was pleasantly surprised that all participants were fully prepared, which doesn’t happen regularly. A great start to the day, because that means no time lost setting up people’s laptops. Instead, we were able to dive into REST Assured directly. I felt the workshop went rather well, the only thing I had a bit of trouble with is getting the interaction going. People asked me enough questions one-on-one when I was walking around when they were working on the exercises I provided, but I wasn’t able to get a lot of plenary discussion going. As a result, it was a bit hard to gauge whether or not people were engaged and interested, or bored and distracted. They seemed to be happy enough with the way I delivered the workshop, though. This was reflected in the ratings I received afterwards:

Ratings for my workshop

For those of you who are interested in what I covered in the workshop, you can find all of the slides, the exercises and the answers on my GitHub page here. Feel free to review, steal and otherwise use them for your own fun and profit. Or book me to deliver it to a place near you 😉

After the workshops were over, it was time for the official speakers dinner. We took taxis to a nice restaurant (the name of it escapes me for now) and I spent a great couple meeting new people (Keith, Beren, Nicola, Elizabeth, Kamila, Viktor and so many others) and catching up with others I met before (Ard, Huib, Rick and others as well). One of the highlights of the whole event for me, even though I felt somewhat knackered after a full day of teaching. After dinner, it was time for a last couple of drinks in the hotel lobby (not a bad place to spend some time either, as you can see below) and off to bed.

The Grand Hotel Italia lobby

Friday: the conference
Because the hard part was over for me after delivering my workshop, I got to enjoy the conference day without the stress that comes with having to do a talk or anything else. This meant I could pick and attend the talks I liked, spend some time wandering around and talking to people, or just zoning out whenever I felt like it. The programme that was put together by the organizing committee was of very high quality, so most of the time there was at least one talk that was worth attending.

During the day, I enjoyed talks about finding and holding on to your passion (Santhosh), AI and Machine Learning (Cristina), introversion (Elizabeth), not talking about testing (Keith), bitter truths in test automation (Viktor, who seems to be able to read my mind), wrapping up projects and moving on (Nicola) and a closing keynote about youngsters and game testing by the awesome Harry (and yes, he’s really only 12).

All in all, another great day, but an exhausting one too. I wasn’t planning on attending the conference after party, but in the end I spent a couple of hours there anyway, talking some more to other speakers and attendees and reflecting on what was simply a wonderful event and an experience I’ll be remembering for a long time.

Saturday: back home
Unfortunately, the plane was scheduled to take off quite early on Saturday morning (my own fault!), but the flights home were uneventful and in the end I was happy to see my wife and kids again. When I’m writing this, I’m still feeling somewhat tired, but it was all more than worth it in the end.

If you’re ever considering attending (or better: speaking at) the Romanian Testing Conference yourself, I can only really recommend it. The organizing committee have put together a wonderful, high quality event and both speakers and attendees are taken care of in the best possible manner. And even though I’m trying to visit events in as many different countries as possible, I’m already considering going again next year!

Improving your craftsmanship through conferences

In an upcoming TechBeacon article I recently wrapped up, I’m talking about how to create a team of test automation crafts(wo-)men. One of the tips I give is, as a manager looking to build such a team, to let your craftsmen attend conferences regularly. For me, attending conferences is one of the most important and influential ways to extend my craftsmanship.

As a delegate
As a conference delegate (visitor), there are several ways to benefit from the experience:

  • Get inspired by the talks and workshops. A good conference provides a mix of keynote talks from established craftsmen, as well as talks and experience reports from less experienced speakers. These are a good way to get some fresh views on your field of work or, in some cases, on life in general. What I also like in a conference is the offering of hands-on workshops. These are a good way of getting to know or of diving deeper into a tool that might just make your life a lot easier.
  • Interact with fellow craftsmen. Conferences are an excellent opportunity to get to know people in similar roles from other organizations, or even from another country. As with life in general: you never know who you’re going to meet, or what comes out of a seemingly random encounter at a conference. I’ve met people at conferences years ago that I’m still in touch with today. And since the conference attendee list often includes representatives from other organizations, you might even land your next job after an informal first encounter at a conference!
  • See what is available on the tools market. Larger conferences often include a sponsor exhibit, where tool vendors show the latest versions of their offerings. If you’re looking for a solution for a problem you have, most of these vendors are happy to talk to you and give you a demo of what they can do for you.

As a speaker
One step up from being a conference attendee is to start presenting at a conference (or two, or ten) yourself. Even if it might be a bit daunting at first, there’s much to gain from even a single public speaking performance.

  • Building your personal brand. Everybody has a personal brand. I didn’t realize this until fairly recently, but it is a fact. Delivering talks is a great way to show people what you know, what you stand for and what your ideas on your craft are, and in that way build your brand. And when people are looking for someone to work with or for them, a well-crafted personal branding will get you to the top of their wish list.
  • Make sure you understand what you’re doing. An often underrated aspect of presenting is that you have to make sure that you know what you’re talking about. As wise men have said before ‘you don’t truly understand a subject until you’re able to explain it to your mother’ (or something to that extent). Being able to give a clear, comprehensive and nicely flowing talk on a subject is probably the best proof that you truly know what it is you’re doing.

What I’ve been up to recently
After a fairly slow winter (at least in terms of conferences and presentations), the pace is slowly starting to pick up again. Last week, I delivered my new talk on trust in test automation for the first time, to a crowd of just over a hundred people at TestNet, the Dutch organization for professional testers. For a first time, I think it went pretty well, and I’m looking forward to delivering this talk more often in the months to come. I’ve submitted the same talk to a number of other conferences, and I’m very much looking forward to the response from the respective organizing committees.

It’s also less than two months until my workshop on REST Assured and WireMock at the Romanian Testing Conference. Another event that I’m very much looking forward to! It’ll be my second time speaking abroad (and the first time hosting a workshop abroad), and I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic experience after all the good things I heard from last year’s event. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear that the workshop is already sold out, so it’ll be a full house for me.

Finally, next to my blogging efforts on this site, I’ve been steadily publishing articles for TechBeacon (see my contributor profile here) and I’ve also recently published my second article on StickyMinds (see my user profile here). If you happen to have a few spare minutes and feel like reading my articles, I’d love to hear what you think of them!

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!