Creativity, Sketchnotes and Maps: TestBash Manchester 2017

The air outside has a crispness to it and I catch my breath when I step outside my door. My dragon scale gloves are on my hands and the trees have lost most of their leaves. It’s November. The month of creativity, acting on wild ideas and sharing stories. The weather turns cold and the days grow dark, but there is a sense of magic in the air with thousands of people working on NaNoWriMo all over the world. I love this time of year: creativity goes hand in hand with community and it dares me to let go of the fear of perfectionism and just create and enjoy.

It is only one week ago that I returned from TestBash Manchester where I enjoyed an early sense of the magic that comes with November. A welcoming community of testers, who were happy to embrace their sense of creativity together with me and Rick in their journey to designing their testing maps and determine where they want to go next in their careers. Re-meeting friendly faces who I had met earlier this year or through social media, ever since I discovered the wider testing community outside my own company last year.

In Manchester, where I enjoyed my study year abroad all those years ago, and where I met such an international and welcoming crowd during my stay then, I enjoyed my second TestBash ever. To me, TestBash, organized by the Ministry of Testing, represents a community of people committed to learning, sharing and connecting, while focused on their shared passion for (software) testing. Due to the amazing people there, for me, TestBash also represents a place that is safe to experiment in.

Rick and I offered a workshop on the Thursday: Building the Road Map to Your Testing Future, and I cannot thank our participants enough for their openness, willingness to share their experiences and stories, and the sense of connection that comes from talking to one another about our goals and dreams. I am happy to have been an encouragement for you to vocalize and pursue your dreams. This was the second time we offered the workshop, and the responses have been fabulous so far. It feels really rewarding.

On the Wednesday before, during the Meetup, I enjoyed Matt Thomas’s presentation and especially the difference between teaching (well, lecturing) and coaching that he stressed. I have been both a teacher and a coach, and did training for both. In the professional context, I found his emphasis on listening, and setting the goals together with the team or the person being coached, rather than for them, to be a welcome message in a world where too often the ‘expert’ comes in to ‘coach’ the team to a predetermined outcome.

Another fascinating aspect of the Wednesday Meetup was doing the Risk workshop with TestSphere. TestSphere is an absolutely fabulous desk of cards that helps you tell stories about your testing, helps you in your testing design and reminds you of heuristics, techniques and quality aspects you could be taking into account. Since discovering the game nearly a year ago now, I frequently use it to brainstorm. (@Beren: I even used it helping me design the questions for our workshop at TestBash).

As I posted on Twitter at the time, on Friday, I did my very first live sketchnotes ever. A longer post on why I decided to take up sketchnoting, the sketchnotes of TestBash and my journey so far is still in the works, but it was an incredibly liberating experience to be so focused during the talks, able to express my creativity in all the colours and quotes, and have a sense of accomplishment that comes from doing something that scares me and succeeding at it. I made the agreement with myself that I’d try it, and if I was at all happy with the result, I’d post them on Twitter straight away. The response has been great, and as usual: it’s a lot less scary now that I’ve done it than it was before I actually dared put pen to paper.

During the Open Space on Saturday, the atmosphere was brilliant. It was open, friendly and felt incredibly safe. I could share my experiences and my recent struggles, and got some great help from everyone there. It felt encouraging and inspiring to hear your stories and to have such an exchange of our sense of who we are.

There are so many thoughts I want to add to this blog post, so many reflections of meeting amazing people and listening to their ideas. But in a battle against my perfectionism, I am posting this now so that I can get it out while it’s still fresh in my mind.

I’m currently on my way to Copenhagen for EuroSTAR. I’m heading to another rollercoaster ride of experiences, people and ideas, especially as it is followed next week by Agile Testing Days. It’s fabulous and scary. I fully intend to keep working on this feeling of being creative while professional. For the journey and to relax, I designed a crochet pattern for a new scarf, I got my sketchnote materials, and I’m finally blogging again. November is shaping up to be pretty good so far. Thank you for the encouragement, TestBash community!

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