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!

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!