I attend conferences for a variety of reasons: I learn from the talks, the workshops & the tutorials on offer. I get to experiment with different tools, techniques and approaches. Most of all, I learn through listening and sharing our stories, our experiences and our lessons learnt with people. Talks can often be viewed online, experiments are also possible in the privacy of my own house, but the conferring with people in real life and real time is very hard to beat.
IT is a people profession. As much as we are often focused on the technical aspects of our work, the analytical challenges and solutions we build: ultimately, we work for and with people. Communication, cooperation and innovation are all tied to people, who we are, what we share and how we trust each other.
European Testing Conference 2018
Early February, I had the pleasure of attending the European Testing Conference 2018 in Amsterdam. This conference highlights and focuses on people. The speakers are all selected through a careful selection process including a 15 minute Skype conversation with the organizing team on what they wish to share and how. The programme explicitly focuses on allowing people to connect with one another. The speed networking session on the first day brings everyone in contact with one another. Former strangers turn into acquaintances, sparring partners and friends. The open space and lean coffee sessions are not an optional side part of the conference, but are given centre stage.
Now, a few weeks after returning home, what I cherish most are the new connections I made and the old connections strengthened. It’s the conversation on the last night in the hotel bar on how we all have the ability to inspire each other and be a role model for ourselves and others. It’s the conversations I have had in the weeks since with people I met at ETC2018. The best conferences spark connections that remain and continue to foster learning long after the event is past.
Maaret and Franzi invited me to upscale my sketchnotes for the conference and dubbed me a ‘Visual Historian’. (Such a cool title! I’m claiming it.) Moving from A5 to massively large paper and from working in the privacy of my own notebook to having my work visually presented on the wall was intimidating and awesome at the same time. ETC2018 was a generous crowd. The reaction of the room standing up after the keynotes, getting their cameras out and photographing my work feels amazing. I’m glad should my work help others remember and share the lessons from the talks. I’m grateful that Maaret and Franzi gave me the opportunity and trusted me to rise to their challenge.
For the content of the keynotes, talks and workshops I attended, please take a look at my sketchnotes.
Talks & Workshops
As part of the Open Space, Maaret ran a mob programming session. My Java is so rusty; it’s essentially non-existent at this point. Fortunately, mobbing is about working together in a group: all focused on the same work, the same computer and collaboration. There’s a Driver behind the computer typing up what the Mob desires and the Driver is not allowed to think. That’s the Mob’s role: brainstorming, articulating and reaching consensus on what should be done next. The Navigator directs the Driver with input from the Mob, and makes the decisions if need be. The roles rotate rapidly: every few minutes there’s another Driver and another Navigator.
It’s a highly effective method to collaborate, articulate ideas and learn. Sharing knowledge and understanding of the task at hand and the best way to go about it. A lot of communication hurdles evaporate in a mob as you need to articulate your ideas, assumptions and understanding for the rest of your mob to understand. I have wanted to experiment with mobbing for a while, and tried some minor experiments at work. The experience of being in a mob during the Open Space and writing a minor program together in Java was exhilarating. Lots of things I half-remembered came back into focus and it sparked my eagerness to relearn my coding skills and seek more of this type of collaboration at work. When you are contributing and/or learning, you are welcome in a mob.
Such value comes from talking and sharing. Which contexts do you work in? What tools do you use? What solutions have you found that worked in your situation? Why did they work once and not work in another context? How are testers like donkeys? How can we visualise our work more? How can we share what we learn at these events with our colleagues back home? What inspires you in work and life? What struggles did you have recently? Leadership and management: how are they tied together and what works effectively in your experience? How can we build effective continuous delivery pipelines? What is quality? What holds us back from achieving what we desire? How can we tackle those hurdles? How can we help one another? It is in sharing and listening to each other that we learn.
What I choose to remember:
- The wonderful conversations at the Speakers’ Dinner on Sunday evening. I chose to sit at a table where I knew no one at the beginning of the evening, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Lynoure, Amber, Seb and the others;
- The value people got out of all the sketchnotes I made as well as Ekaterina Budnikov’s and Zeger van Hese’s sketchnotes. It feels powerful and appreciated to be creative, attentive and focused. I hope I honoured the content and message of each session;
- Meeting people face-to-face in real life is powerful. We can learn a lot from each other online, but those connections are immeasurably strengthened when we’ve had that real-life contact too;
- We all have it in us to be role models and inspirational. Thank you to Ekaterina, Lisa, Alex, Abby, Pamela, Lisi, Toyer and all the others for our late-night conversations. Let’s keep challenging ourselves, learning together, and raise each other up;
- Our different disciplines and roles are more alike than different. Let’s work together rather than pit ourselves against each other. (No test vs development; team vs management; IT vs business. We’re all people. Let’s keep finding our common goal.)
- Try, experiment and learn.