On TestBash Manchester

I’m writing this blog post sitting in the Manchester airport departure area, waiting for my flight home to Amsterdam. I’m tired, but in the best possible way. Yesterday, I’ve delivered a talk of one of the best conferences I’ve been part of so far: TestBash Manchester.

The story begins about three quarters of a year ago with me deciding (on a whim, to be honest) to submit a talk on trusting your automation and how automation can deceive you to the Continuous Call for Papers that the Ministry of Testing has for their TestBash events. I chose Manchester and Philadelphia as the target events for my talk, because those were the places I’d most wanted to go to. Some time later an email arrived bearing the message that my talk was accepted for Manchester. Needless to say, I was very happy with that! I’m by no means an expert speaker (yet?) but I do think I’ve got something to say, plus I like to travel (within reason), so this was an excellent opportunity to combine practicing my public speaking skills and revisit a country that I somehow had managed to avoid for the last 12 years, even though it’s only an hour’s flight away.

Fast forward to October 26th (skipping a lot of tinkering with my slides in between) and I find myself in Manchester. Spent most of the Thursday morning travelling from home to the airport, flying and on the tram to my hotel. There I introduced myself to the brilliant concept of Ziferblat where I spent a couple of hours working on some other stuff (living the glamorous life right there!) before heading into town for some R&R catching a film.

Since the conference was already well on its way with a Rapid Software Testing course and a day of workshops (in which I did not take part this time), MoT organized a pre-conference meetup on Thursday evening. That was a great opportunity to finally put faces to a lot of the names I’ve been seeing flying around on Slack and social media in the weeks leading up to the event. It was also great meeting a couple of people again that I’ve met at other conferences before (Rick, Beren, Ash, Marianne, Richard and I might have forgotten one or two). Funny, by the way, how you only meet some fellow Dutchies at conferences abroad, yet never get to meet and talk to them in your own country..

After dinner, some good chats and a couple of drinks it was time to head back to my hotel and get some sleep before the big day. This turned out to be a harder challenge than I thought, the travel efforts, nerves and just enough drinks ensured I had quite a restless night and found myself wide awake at 5 AM. Made the most (yeah right) of it by tinkering with my slides some more before having breakfast and finding my way to The Lowry, which served as the conference venue. There I met some more great people, including the Master Of Disaster Ceremony, Leigh Rathbone. He’s a character, alright! In all seriousness, though, he did an awesome job introducing all of the speakers and keeping energy high throughout the day, something that is not an easy task. Well done, Leigh!

After what can only be described as a series of amazing talks by Anne-Marie Charrett, Göran Kero (thank you for introducing me to ‘automation bias’ and providing a label for a good part of the content of my talk) and Gem Hill it was time for my own talk. Despite being quite nervous -which I tend to see as a good thing, if I’m not nervous it’s a sign I don’t care- it went over really well, and to my relief there were plenty of questions during the Q&A section. I’ve delivered talks before where there were no questions at all afterwards, and believe me, that’s not a nice position to be in as a speaker.

Me during my talk

Me during my talk. Photo courtesy of Cassandra Leung

The rest of the day was filled with excellent talks as well. Coming down from the rush of a talk, I generally tend to hide in a corner for a while and process all of the impressions and the feedback, but that just wasn’t an option here, since I really wanted to see all of the talks. Zoning out had to wait until afterwards! After all of the talks were done and the 99 second talks (a part of every TestBash event) were over too, it was suddenly over. But then it was not, because drinks!

Got some great feedback on my talk during the after-conference drinks and spent some more time talking to other speakers and attendees. Then we headed out for dinner with a smaller group, during which fatigue really kicked in and I decided to call it a day.

If I had to choose, my personal favourite talk was the one from Martin Hynie. It perfectly reflected the point I find myself on in my career: an apprentice of the craft on his way to hopefully one day become a master. I loved Martin’s personal story and the way he reflected on his own journey towards being the best possible version of himself, something that I am aspiring to do as well. I’ll have what he talked about running through my head for a while, I’m sure. More on that probably next week.

Reflecting on it all, this has been a fantastic event for me, some more experience as a conference speaker under my belt, and more importantly I learned so much from the other talks I’m still busy processing it all. Thank you so much, Ministry of Testing, Richard, Rosie, Claire, Gem, Beren, Neil, Hugh, James, Heather, Rick, Marianne, Marcel, Vera, Andrew, Matthew, Patrick, Michael, Robyn, Stephen, Anne-Marie, Vernon, Göran, Cassandra and all the other wonderful people I met and talked to during the event. I’m looking forward to my next TestBash already, which will be in the Netherlands!

I’ll be hosting a workshop on creating an automation strategy that works there, together with Ard Kramer. I am looking forward to seeing you all there!

Here are the slides from my talk, in case you’re interested:

The talk itself has been recorded and will be made available through the Ministry of Testing Dojo. Also, here’s an awesome sketchnote of my talk made by Constance:

Sketchnote of my talk by Constance

On the test automation pyramid (again), opposing views and TestBash Manchester

Short blog post this time, since I’m smack in the middle of three projects while also preparing for my talk at TestBash Manchester, some training stuff and reviewing a book. It can’t always be long form!

With this blog post, I’d like to draw your attention to episode #31 of the Test and Code podcast, where Brian Okken (the host) replayed parts of the recordings of him being on another podcast, hosted by Paul Merrill. Paul’s a great guy and someone whose opinions and view I hold in high esteem, so I knew this was about to be good. In the interviel Paul and Brian did, they shared and discussed their opposing views on the test automation pyramid. By the way, more news about a collaboration (of sorts) between Paul and myself to follow soon!

It seems like Paul roughly shares my own views on the pyramid (read this recent blog post to see what I think of it and how I still use it, whereas Brian thinks the pyramid is falsely promoting the fact that unit tests are the most important tests you can write. Instead, in the recording, he advocates that there’s no value in software until it’s useful to an end user (be it a human being or another system) and that therefore UI tests are the most important and should be treated that way. I deliberately didn’t use the word ‘graphical’ here, by the way, since Brian talks mostly about writing tests for software where the GUI isn’t the interface that’s most extensively used.

You can listen to the podcast episode here. I thought it refreshing to listen to someone that has such an alternative view on a well-worn concept such as the test automation pyramid. Even though my own opinions on the model and its use remain unchanged (for now), I’ll try and make it a habit to listen to other voices and opposing views more often, rather than staying in my comfort zone and listening to podcasts and reading blogs on topics I’m already familiar with. Who knows I might learn a thing or two!

On another note, as I said before, I’m quite busy putting the finishing touches to my upcoming TestBash Manchester talk, and it’s both a talk and an event I’m very, very excited about. To those of you with Ministry of Testing Dojo Pro accounts, my talk will be available shortly after the event. For those of you that haven’t got such an account, you’ll have to wait for next week’s blog post, which will highly likely be a review of the event.

See you next week!

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!