Agile Testing Days 2021

TL;DR

Finally it is here. It took me quite a while to form my experience report on how I percieved my first in-person version of the all famous Agile Testing Days Conference in Potsdam, Germany. What often hinders me to write a post like this one is, that it takes me such a long time to actually finish it. But occasionally I do write to reflect what I have learned at conferences. Also this time I draw a few lines in my editor to digest what I have experienced. So I sat down this weeks after AgileTD and started typing.

If you think it is a waste of time for you to read on, feel free to fast forward and have at least a look at my amazingly created sketchnote art work. 😉

First in-person conference after 2 years

If have applied for AgileTD for many times in the past, till I have had the chance to present at the last year's online edition. This month I finally had the opportunity to join my first in-person, real life, withouth any virtual barriers version of Agile Testing Days in Potsdam. I was so much looking forward to give there my first Git combo session (talk and workshop). The conference was massive, intens, overwhelming, heart warming, astonishing, surprising and frustrating at the same time - I will tell you why at the end of this post.

First I want to make a pause and scribble down the most intriguing key learnings which I am taking away from this conference edition:

  • Meeting new and old people in-person was super fun and valuable.
  • Actively listen and ask follow-up questions before you judge a human being in any way.
  • Try to limit your options when you are overhelmed.
  • Push yourself forward, change and learn new things when you feel stuck.
  • Sustainability is imerging rapidly everywhere in our industry. Its time to open our eyes and use our resources wisely.
  • Approach people and try to engage with them. Don't expect them to do the same back.

The Arrival

Saturday 13/11/21

I safetly landed in Berlin airport and then around 40minutes later arrived with the AgileTD taxi at the Dorint Hotel in Potsdam. It was very quite at that moment and it felt somehow weird as I stood all alone in the entrace hall of the hotel. 😅

I knew that I was probably the first one arriving on this Saturday, but I did that by purpose to have time to cool down a bit before the storm of people coming in began. What I like doing when arriving early at a conference is, to explore the place, the city, the area by going for a walk. It is such an exciting thing to have a look a new unknown cities, go for shopping and doing whatever I feel like. Oh boy, how I am enjoy doing this.

After a little tour and back in the hotel, I already felt the nervousness arriving of soon meeting tons of people. I did some preps for my upcoming combo session, practice some sketchonting and already started structuring this post.

Then I went out for dinner, again all alone. There are some really nice looking restaurants in Postsdam. I finally managed to take a desicion and chose going for some delicious japanese food at the Buya Ramen located right in the center.

Sunday 14/11/21

After a deep sleep, a rich breakfast and preparations for my combo session on Tuesday, I went off for a walk to Potsdam. The city center of Potsdam impressed me with beautiful cobbled streets, traditional houses, shops, cafés and restaurants. Later in the afternoon, I finally met Lisi Hocke in real life for the very first time! Long story short: Lisi and I know each other for a couple of years now, but we only met on the "Internet" so far. 😃 We talked, talked and talked and the time just flew by. Thank you Lisi for that moment 🤗 After that we met Thomas, Mario and Gerald at the hotel and went for dinner to the Masala-Haus. This was the best indian food I have had in a very long time and I can absolutely recommend that place!

Conference Journal

Monday 15/11/21

So here we are, first day of the conference - it is tutorial day. Still a bit sad that my full day tutorial got cancelled due too few registrations. But yeah, not that much people at the conference this year and also the interest in the topic itself may have led to that result. Not sure if I shall give it a try again at a future testing conference or eventually take it to a developer conference? Upfront, I have decided that I want to join Lisa's and Jeanett's tutorial about 'A Path to Holistic Testing'. It was an intensive interactive workhsop where we have had in groups of about 4 people, a look at how and when testing fits into the whole agile development lifecycle. The day was loaded with a lot of group tasks and discussions. There weren't any topics in it, which I have had not faced already at some point in my testing career. But that was ok, as it reminded me again how things can be done differently in one or the other way. 😉 The group constellation I was in, was not that easy. It was quite exhaustive over the whole day staying in this group formation and when we reached the end at about 5pm that evening, I was just happy that it was over. A path to holistic testing Here some other highlights of that first day:

  • I met João Proença in-person for the frist time! We also knew each other only from the "Internet" for the last couple of years. So finally saying hello to each other eye to eye was a joy!
  • At lunch time, I sat at the same table as the grand maestro José Diaz. Thanks for the nice chat!
  • After the tuturorial I would have loved to just lay down and have a rest, but who is going to miss a keynote from Paul and Huib? Noone, because these two guys are just hilarious!
  • Last call for a great combo: Lisis workshop and my combo!
  • Spakers dinner at a see side hotel in Postdam with: Maryam Umar and her boyfriend and Bart Knaack and his son. We have had a very funny and engaging evening. 🥳 Thank you all!

To finish the day off, I met Christian Baumann, Micha Kutz, and João Proença at the hotel bar.

Tuesday 16/11/21

  • Keynote by Dagmar Monett about what intelligence means and that artificial intelligence in that sense does not exist (yet). Coming to terms with intelligence in machines

  • Maaikes talked about her struggle getting into coding. I recognized some similarities with my own learning to code journey. Great, enganging talk! Thanks Maaike 👏🏽 The Struggle with Learning How to Code

  • Then I did hardware prepaprations in the room where my combo session in the afternoon was held. And see there a bugt! 🐛 The HDMI adapter for my Notebook did not work! So in panic and by the help of the wonderful ATD staff, I had to organise another one from a hotel technician.

  • Keynote by Maryam Umar how she experienced her own learning path to leadership. An interesting journey between the roles of coaching an mentoring.

  • Great folks in my combo session, not that much but people but people who where really interested in using Git and have asked some challangeing questions - how I love that. I guess now would be the a good moment to go with that workshop into the developer community and see how what they can learn from it.

  • Keynote by Raj about Toxic Leadership. I did no sketchnote on that one because I was running a bit late into it. To some small degree I could related to the topic itslef, but the way he presented his experineces and how he concludend things at the end, did not touch me.

  • I have heard a lot about the famous Costume MIATPP Award Party Night at AgilteTD. Despite the fact that I am not the biggest party maker, I was looking forward to that one. With the nice dinner beforhand, it was actually a lot of fun, but somehow it did not catch me enough to go wild 😉

Wednesday 17/11/21

  • In the morning I went for a walk in the park to wake up and refresh my thoughts on the things which I have heard and learned from the first day. As my combo session was over I layed out my plan what to go for on that day.
  • I decided to go for workshops - as I often get more out of workshops than talks.
  • Keynote by Jutta Eckstein She gave lots of insights on sustainability and that we all are in the lead for it. Agile Comes with a Responsibility for Sustainability
  • Workshop by Huib, Baart and Paul: 'And now for something completely different'. This was indeed a unique experience. Never before I have witness something similar as a workshop format than this. In the sense of Training from Back of the Room! we as participants had to drive the workshop (almost) all alone. An indeed unique experience, great job Paul, Baart and Huib!
  • Keynote by João Proença. I was not aware of the paradox of choice and all the things which come along with it. A very impressive, first keynote by a fantastic man 👏🏽 He is born for the big stage! Limitless within our boundaries
  • Workshop by Emna and Ard "21st century skills for a tester". This workshop was all about the 4-C-skillset of a tester:
    • Communication
    • Collaboration
    • Creativity
    • Critical Thinking The topic about the 21st century skills and the 4 C's itself isn't somehting new to me, as it pops up everywhere.
  • Keynote by Bruce the Legend. Mind blowing, impressive stage performance and best keynote I have ever experienced in a conference so far 👏🏽 Bruce you are indeed a legend! How to be an Ally to Non-binary Folk in Tech
  • After dinner, I had a nice chat wit Jeanet, her husband and Lisa which then gave my a signed copy of their book Agile Testing Condensed.
  • Chat with Samuel and Micha where Samuel explained to us that you can get a JSON directly via SQL from an Oracle DB without writing anything in between.

Thursday 18/11/21

All the things come to and end. I was ready, tired and happy to enter the last conference day.

  • Lean coffee with Lisa where we talked about remote communication and collaboration, observability with LogRocket, fullstory and many more things. This felt like a very productive 8am-ish early morning.
  • Keynote by Ard Kramer about the/his concept of nudging in testing. How to nudge your way through agile testing
  • Super cool talk from Samuel Nitsche and its A3-LPC Darth Lama! Best track talk at the conference! Bravo Samuel, I am a fan of yours 😃 Testing in the Imperial Database
  • Keynote from Vera Baum about various level of professional maturity (for a tester). The Tester’s Learning Toolkit
  • Talk from Bart Szulc about chaos engineering. I actually expected an introduction (bottom up) to the topic itself, but instead it was an experience report. Nevertheless, it was good but hard to follow and getting something out of it for me. Chaos engineering bottom up.
  • Talk from Tom Young. An experience report embedded in a interesting talk and story. Growing Quality from Culture in Testing Times
  • Keynote from Vernon Richards. An excellent mix of fun and learning about quality coaching. Awesomely delivered by the one and only Ministry of Testing host Vernon! 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 What does the 'Coach' in 'Quality Coach' mean?

And then it was over - game over for me. My brain was overloaded from meeting and seeing people, sketchnoting, learning - I headed for my room and closed the door.

Friday 19/11/21

All the good things (and also the less amusing ones) come to and end. So there it was, my last breakfast at the Dorint. This time I met João, Christian and Emna for an entertaining morning chat. Then saying goodbye to good friends and heading for the airport in the ATD taxi with the very enthusiastic Emna Ayadi. 🙂

Conclusion

This conference was massive for me. After two years of not meeting people at all, this was honestly a bit much for me. I have had some great conversations and met some fantastic people, but I also faced closed groups where it was hard or even not possible for me to get in and draw some attention. Luckely my sketchnoting style improved over the conference days, which made me happy. I have learned many things in the last almost two COVID years of home office. Especially what I really want more of and want less of in the future.

Besides all the great astonishing things I have discovered at the conference, I also got frustrated. Frustrated because I was too little prepared for such a big party. I was aware of that in "normal" years there were/are more than the double count of people on-site, but still, for me it was a huge crowd. I mentally did not prepare for what could happend at AgileTD. And finally, I expected more, more engagement from my side, to have more different discussions with different people. I expected to approach people much more actively, but somehow I could not. I also have had the expectation that people would proactively include me in their conversations, challenge me, get asked to have a chat, drink or dinner with them, but no, unfortunatley it did not happend. So the best would propably be not to have any expectations at all - I guess.

Thanks to all the people which I have met (again) and have had a chat with:

A last note - on challenging

Challenging each other in a polite, non dogmatic way, is what we need to push forward, innovate, get out of the comfort zone and bring change for the good. This needs practice, time and the capabilty of active listening to each other. I learned this the hard way by having had many toxic leaders as my employers and supervisors in the past. Your are allowed to ask questions and even challenge and disagree with someones ideas, opinions and experiences, but never ever do this in a vialoting way.

Learn, share, challenge and smile 🙂

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