Review: TestWorksConf 2016

Last week I attended the second edition of TestWorksConf, a conference on test automation and lots of other things technical and related to testing. After the first edition last year my expectations were pretty high, since Xebia (the organisers) had set a standard with their first edition that would not be easy to match or exceed.

The first and most important change was that after the one day conference last year, they decided to add an extra academy day the day before the actual conference. I’ve seen this a lot at international conferences (the STAR* conferences from TechWell, for example, have at least one day full of workshops), but to my knowledge this hadn’t really been done before here in the Netherlands, at least not at conferences revolving around testing. Since I made a promise to myself last year to try and be a contributor instead of ‘just’ an attendee, I submitted several proposals in response to the Call for Papers. Initially, only my lightning talk proposal made the cut, but a couple of weeks later I got a call to see if I also wanted to host a workshop. Sure!

An aerial overview of the TestWorksConf 2016 main area

Day 1: Academy Day
As I said before, the first day of TestWorksConf 2016 was dedicated to half-day workshops on a wide range of topics related to testing and test automation. On the agenda were workshops on exploratory testing, mobile test automation, test-driven development and lots of other stuff, including my own workshop on RESTful API testing using REST Assured. Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for some time might have read that I’ve delivered this workshop before, but I took some time to freshen things up, add some new content and exercises and most importantly add WireMock mocks that return the answers for the tests the participants need to write in the workshop. I didn’t want to be caught by surprise by a malfunctioning API under test a second time..

The Xebia guys took the effort (a LOT of effort!) to prepare a virtual image containing all the material for my workshop and the other workshops, so participants didn’t need to configure their own PC or download and install stuff before the workshop kicked off. They did a fantastic job of that, at least in my workshop everybody was able to get it to work and to truly participate. Those of you that have delivered similar workshops before know that this is no small feat!

I also had the luxury of two amazing sidekicks in the form of Erik from Xebia and Adam from Lyft. Where else do you get the opening keynote speaker for the conference day as an assistant in your workshop? Together, we delivered what I thought was a very smooth and very pleasant workshop. As far as I could tell everybody completed at least part of the exercises I prepared. The feedback I’ve received afterwards was pretty positive as well, and I think most people learned at least a little. All in all a great afternoon.

Note that I’ll update the open source REST Assured workshop to reflect the version I delivered at TestWorksConf somewhere in the next couple of weeks, so all of you that want to take a look can do so.

Day 2: Conference Day
The second day of TestWorksConf 2016 was conference day. Similar to last year’s edition, the agenda featured a mix of workshops and presentations. New to the mix were 10-minute lightning talks, one of which was to be delivered by me. After watching Adam deliver the opening keynote of the day, I spent most of the morning talking with the guys from SpectoLabs. This meant I missed some of the workshops and talks, but it was great meeting them in person (we’ve been in touch via email before) and talk service virtualization, Hoverfly and lots of other things.

Talking service virtualization with the guys from SpectoLabs

After lunch, I spent the early afternoon talking to some other old and new acquaintances, something I think conferences are an ideal setting for. This meant I again missed some talks, but I managed to catch (parts of) other talks and heard some interesting stuff. Around mid-afternoon it was time for my own lightning talk. Delivering that I learned something really important: they’re over before you know it. I managed to tell what I wanted to tell without rushing things, but I noticed that it takes me some time to get comfortable talking, especially when I’m speaking in English (both days were all in English because of the high number of visitors from abroad, by the way). I have no problem talking to other people in English, but when delivering a talk it takes me a little bit of time to ‘warm up’, so to speak. And the thing about lightning talks is that they’re short, so there really isn’t too much time to actually warm up. Lesson well learned, time to start working on that!

Having finished my TestWorksConf duties, it was time to relax a little and listen to some of the other lightning talks, chat some more and relax some more. By that time the conference day had come to an end as well, and after a quick drink it was time for me to return home.

Even though last year’s conference set a pretty high standard, the people at Xebia have managed to raise the expectations for next year even higher with what were two days of high quality content, lots of interesting people and conversations and not to forget a great venue and even better catering. I’m really curious to see what they’ll come up with for TestWorksConf 2017..

An update on crafting my career

Now that it’s almost time for me to go on what I think is a well deserved holiday, I thought it would be a good idea to take some time and see where I stand with regards to reshaping my career the way I want it to look like. In the last couple of months, some interesting developments have taken place that I think are small steps in the right direction. I also discussed my ideas on how my ideal working life would look like (freedom and variety basically sums it up) with some other people, resulting in either encouragement or blank stares. I don’t know what to make of the latter, but the encouragement is nice.

So, what have I been up to? First of all, I started a new project, since the one I was previously working on was not a good fit for me. I didn’t feel I could make a valuable enough contribution there to warrant both my hourly rate and the commute (an hour one way), so I decided to end it and go look for a new one. My current project is in an enterprise environment with a very heterogeneous application landscape and lots of room for improvement in the testing and test automation area. I’ve come to realize that this kind of organization and project fits me much more than the web development organization I was at before. Also, my commute has been cut in half, which gives me much more time to spend at home with the wife and kids, and to work on other projects, which to me is huge as well. That’s one thing I love about being self employed: the ability to choose what you’ll be working on and when to stop a project that is not a good fit.

Freelance freedom

Also, I’ve been asked by O’Reilly (the media and publishing company) to write a 20-30 page report on the state of and current trends in service virtualization. At the time of publishing of this blog post, it’s up for a final review, with a planned publishing date of September of this year. I’ll probably write a separate blog post with a link to the report once it’s published, so keep an eye out for that one to see if it is interesting to you too. The report will be accompanied by a blog post on another web site as well (of which I currently do not know the URL), which is part of the package deal agreed upon. The report will be freely downloadable and sponsored by HP Enterprise. I am very excited to have been asked to do this in the first place, much more because these writing assignments are exactly the type of projects I would like to fill my ideal workday with. Also, it’s another valuable exercise in honing my technical writing and English skills.

Furthermore, a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to receive an invitation to deliver a test automation-related workshop at the first edition of the Iasi spin-off of Romania Testing, to be held on November 4th (thanks again, Richard, for referring the organization to me!). Needless to say I happily accepted the invitation, so I’m currently in the early stages of workshop preparation. Also, I’ve never been to Romania before, so that’s a nice bonus too for someone that wants to see as much of the world as his schedule and finances allow.

Romania Testing - Iasi edition

Next to that, I’ll be giving a presentation at Centric (an IT services provider) in November as well on a yet to be determined topic related to test automation. I was invited to do this thanks to a referral from Sara, who attended my REST Assured workshop in May. So, again, thanks for that! It’ll be a nice opportunity to meet new people, do some networking and to further practice my public speaking skills.

Another thing that has kept me busy for some time now is the idea of transitioning from billed-by-the-hour work to offering project- and value-based services. Or even a product.. I’m still not sure as to what such a service or product should look like, but I AM sure that I don’t want to be depending purely on hourly work for long anymore. It doesn’t scale and it is a restriction to the freedom of working when and where I want to that I would like to have. As you can read above, I’ve been given the opportunity to take some small steps in the right direction, but I’m not nearly there yet.

The last I’ve been thinking about, and this is the first time I’m talking about this to anyone but myself, is writing a book on test automation. I know, there are lots of those already, but a lot of them focus on specific tools and how-to’s. What I think is missing is a thoughtful and balanced overview of the current state of test automation, and a debunking of a lot of still common test automation myths. If I decide to go through with this plan (currently I’m veering towards a ‘yes’) that’s another thing I would like to start on this year. Any comments or ideas are highly welcomed!

To round things up, I’m still not sure as to how to move forward, but writing this up makes me see for myself that I am moving in the right direction. The end goal is pretty clear now, but the road towards that goal is still pretty misty. Maybe some time off work will generate new ideas that can be pursued once I get back.

Finally, I’d like to share two blog posts from Louise Stigell that pretty much describe how I’m thinking about my career at the moment: ‘Being rich versus being free‘ and ‘Unemployable and proud‘.

Oh, and if you’ve already returned from your holiday: I hope you had a good one. If you’re still going: enjoy it! If you’re currently on holiday: what the &*%^ are you doing here?

A couple of presentations on service virtualization

Hey all!

First of all, apologies for the lack of recent postings on this blog. I have been quite busy with my day job and haven’t had time to write new posts in a while. I definitely intend to get working on some new stuff soon enough, so please do keep posted.

It’s been great to see that even though I haven’t added any new posts in a while, questions on existing posts are still coming in quite regularly. This is a great motivator for me to keep working on this site, and yet another reason to get my lazy behind into gear and start working on new material.

One of the reasons I’ve been quite busy is the fact that I’ve been doing a couple of presentations at conferences here in the Netherlands, and I thought it would be nice to share these with you as well.

The first presentation I held in November at the Dutch Testing Conference. The presentation shows the case study for a project I’ve been working on for the last 8 months or so. In this project, we have successfully introduced service virtualization as a means to get rid of some major blockers in our test environment. Using virtualized services that emulate the behaviour of the dependencies that were causing trouble, we have been able to speed up the development and testing process significantly. Introducing SV has also been an enabler for test automation as well – as in: we couldn’t do test automation without these virtualized services.

I gave the second presentation at the first Continuous Delivery Conference, also here in the Netherlands. As you can guess from the name, this conference was more about Continuous Delivery, rather than just about testing. However, as our case study showed some pretty significant improvements in the CD area as well, we decided to present it there as well. I did this talk at the request of Parasoft.

Both conferences were great to attend, and especially the CD conference gave me a lot of inspiration for future work and areas to explore. It really showed that testing isn’t just an activity in itself anymore (if it ever has been), but it has become an integral part of a much larger story, that of continuously delivering high quality software at ever increasing pace. Very interesting to hear and see the perspectives of some of the inspirators in the CD field on this topic..