Let's Test 2019 - Africa Speaks
A journey to Let's Test South Africa
In Africa the Big Five game animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. (from Wikipedia)
All these are large animals. Large was my desire of speaking and teaching at conferences this year.
The past 11 month of this year were very bumpy and rocky. 12 submissions - 11 rejections. This was very frustrating. I've put so much energy in all the papers I wrote, even had reviewed them from close friends. But it looked like my topics didn't fit in anywhere. There where moments where I got very emotional about the feedback I received from the reviewers. Seeing workshops getting accepted from others at the very same conference on the same topic is hard and made me thinking. But I understand, reviewing abstracts and deciding which ones make it onto a program and which not, is not an easy task. But at the end let's be honest:
Putting together a conference program is like setting up the stage for a rock open-air concert, you have to have the big names on your flyer in order to sell tickets.
So there are usually just very few places left for "newcomers" or "exotic topics". But not everything broke down. Far away in the land of the cradle of humankind lay my last hope for this year.
A piece of history
The Let's Test conference was established in 2011 in Sweden by Henke Andersson, Johan Jonasson and Ola Hyltén (which sadly passed away a few years ago). It has always been a very special sort of conference, long before other testing conferences have emerged. The final Let's Test conference in Sweden was in 2017, then it was shutdown. In parallel the Let's Test conference South Africa was build up since 2014 by Louise Perold, Cindy Carless and Matthew Broadley. It happened now for the 6th time already and this time for the very first time in Cape Town! The music from AC/DC has always been a main component of the Let's Test conferences and provided a grounding soundtrack theme ever since.
Thursday 21st - Dress Rehearsals
As usual when I am going to a conference where I am speaking at, I took a day off to make some final preparations and dress-rehearsals for the two upcoming power workshops. Mostly slightly tweaking the things and tame my nervousness a bit. Time flew by and it was boarding time. Eleven hours straight down to Cape Town.
Friday 22nd - Arrival
The overnight flight and the arrival at Cape Town International Airport went really smooth. I have decided to take a cab from the airport to the conference venue the Kristal Beach Hotel. The 50 minutes drive was an adventurous trip in every sense. The driver had to stop four times in total. The first stop at a gas station to refill some cooling liquid for the engine. Then the second stop by driving backwards on the highway to a gas station to again refill some cooling liquid. A third time to my surprise at a ATM machine so that I could withdraw some cash for the payment. And the fourth time then finally at the conference venue itself. I was such a greenhorn, I didn't notice that instead of obviously gotten an official airport taxi, some guy deliberately mislead me and gave me into the (what we would call the wrong) hands of another guy who was doing, let's say his "private" rip-off taxi business. The result of that was, that I massively overpaid the drive. But yeah, there always need to be two: one who knows his business and the other one which has no clue.
Hello Africa, here I am.
At least the ride was quite adventurous. I have never been to South Africa before, so it did actually surprise me as European to see this huge difference between poor and rich people alongside the street way. On one side the quonset huts and the street kids hanging around, and on the other side people who were playing golf on a nice and shiny green golf course. After a 50min drive, I finally arrived at the conference venue. Wow! What a stunning location! I have never been to such an amazing conference location before.After a first good lunch at the hotel restaurant, the two conference organisers Leona & Tri from [PQube](http://thepqubeway.co.za/) gave me a very warm welcome on the sunny hotel restaurant terrace.
In the evening, I had the great pleasure to go for a drink with Leona and Tri. They told me a lot of great stories from their professional life as conference organisers. Later on Paul Holland and his wife Karen joined us for dinner at Antonio's. What a hilarious evening that was wit some delicious Pizzas (especially the Mexican one is highly recommended by Paul and me!). Great jokes good stories, a smelly weed room and a Monkey Shoulder surmounted the evening.
What a lovely evening to get started into the conference mood!
Ah yeah and one more thing, having a conference slack channel where you can interact with each other already prior to the conference to organise things, helps a lot in getting connected with people!
Saturday 23rd - Southernmost Tip
After a nice intercontinental breakfast with the gang of 5 from yesterday, Paul, Karen and I went on a whole day trip to the southernmost tip of Africa. On the way down, we spotted some Baboons and an Emu along the road.
What a remarkable view on the Indian and Atlantic oceans! After that we climbed some wooden ladders to get onto the top of the Cape Angulhas Lighthouse. I am so happy that we did this. Afterwards we had lunch at Suidpunt Potpourri.
After the drive back to the hotel we had dinner all together with Leo, his friend Ben, Beren, Maja and Elizabeth in the Hotel restaurant. Great conversations to end a very sunny adventurous road trip day in South Africa. Before going to bed, Leona, Tri, Paul, Karen and I, met on the top most terrace of the hotel to cheers good night with a shot of Monkey Shoulder.
What a lovely day this was, now I was ready for the conference! Thank you so much for taking me along with you Paul and Karen!
Sunday 24th - Spreadsheets and TestSphere
This first conference day started for me at the art gallery of the hotel. By ambling through the gallery, I spotted a donkey painting and was immediately thinking of Lisa Crispin.
After breakfast with Gerald, we went on a relaxing walk at the sunny beach side with a short stop at the Zest beach restaurant. Then I turned back to my hotel room to do some further preps and reps for my very first workshop which was scheduled for Monday afternoon.
Then finally the moment arrived, and Louise kicked-off the 6th Let's Test conference by playing back the AC/DC song: It's a Long Way to The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll). Let the show begin!
The song was a so called signature song for Bon Scott who died in 1980. His successor Brian Johnson actually never performed it due to his respect for Bon. That is why the recordings of this song can only be found on older album and video releases of AC/DC.
After a few words, Louise handed over to Paul to introduce us to the K-Card system, which his wife Karen (that is what the K stands for) came up with in 2005. He made a call for facilitators for each session of the conference. I already knew the system and signed up for facilitating Craig Risi's workshop A Tester's Guide to Unit Testing as also for Beren's and Maja's workshop Riskstorming - A Test Strategy Workshop Game.
The first workshop I joined and also facilitated (but where I didn't have to do much as facilitator because a workshop is anyway highly interactive) was Craig's Unit Testing workshop. His workshop was very interesting as we looked a different perspectives of Unit Testing and how a good Unit Test shall look like. All that was followed by some hands-on exercises.
I knew David already from Twitter. It was pretty cool to finally meet him in person at this conference. In his very first talk at a conference ever, he told us his story about using spreadsheets in testing. When they were useful for him in the past and when they really sucked. I liked the freshness of his style of storytelling and the way he took us listeners on his ride. It was entertaining and funny, thanks David! You did very well for you very first conference talk!
Maya's and Beren's Workshop
After dinner I finally had to chance to attend Beren's and Maya's famous workshop on Riskstorming (A Test Strategy Workshop Game) and play with the TestSphere Cards. I own a TestSphere Card Deck myself for quite a while now, but never had the chance to attend a session with the master Beren himself! The two hour workshop was great and time just flew by. I loved it and the lovely couple Maya and Beren did a fantastic job!
In the evening I had the pleasure to meet and talk to the one and only Performance Testing goodness Dawn Haynes, which I am alreday following for years on twitter. We have had a wonderful long and very interesting and intensive talk about Performance Testing, what is crucial to it, resources on the Web and tooling. Thank you so much Dawn, your knowledge is incredible, you are amazing!
Monday 25th - Power Workshop #1
The second day started with the full power of Leo Hepis Keynote "It's Context-Driven, not Cult-Driven, Testing". Luckily I had the pleasure to chat with Leo already the day before. What a friendly and smart guy he is, with a brilliant mind. Thanks Leo, I think we made Henke quite jealous with the selfie we've sent him 😉
Then after a short break, I joined the first part of Paul's Test Strategy and Test Reporting workshop. Paul is a great entertainer and every minute of his workshop was packed with tons of information and great advice. What we actually did in his workshop? Well, we created in groups of two, a so called PCO (Product Coverage Outline) of XMind8. A product coverage outline is an artefact (a mind map, list or a table) that identifies factors, dimensions and elements of a product that might be relevant for testing (see this blog post from Michael Bolton). Also Huib Schoots played around with it and made a video where he explains in detail what a product coverage outline is.
After lunch it was Elizabeth's turn to enlighten us with her workshop Wander With A Purpose: Writing Charters For Your Exploratory Test Session. She did a wonderful job and I am really sorry Elizabeth that I couldn't focus more and really get in to it, I was so damn nervous because of my upcoming workshop!
My Git power workshop
My workshop was right after Elizabeth's workshop. I was so much looking forward to these two hours of the year. For half a year I did my preps and reps for it. Each time I worked on it, I pimped it a little bit here and there, drying to be prepared delivering the very best experience to the first participants. It was also a very unique moment, because it was the very first time I lead a workshop all alone. And I tell you, time just flew by, well I mean two hours are in fact very little time for a workshop. My workshop should have been last for at least four hours. The participants put my on fire and I was overwhelmed with happiness that I am actually able to teach people. And you know what, teaching people about something you are passionate about is tremendously satisfying.
I want more of this. I know that one of my goals in 2020 will be to deliver a full day tutorial. Where ever this will be, I am ready!
Among other people, I have had the honour to have Elizabeth, Louise, Joanne, Paul, David, Gil and Barry as guinea pigs in my workshop. Nevertheless that there where some technical hiccups with some peoples machines, I have had a blast and I guess the participants likewise. The feedback I received was great. Someone even said: "That is the best Git 101 two hour session I have ever seen!", which made me really happy. Then also of course some feedback on how I could improve things in the future, which is in general what I am looking for the most. Running a technical workshop isn't easy, because it doesn't matter how much you prepare and write a nifty setup guide, there are always some unknowns that you haven't prepared for. The most challenging things I faced were:
- Having every attendees machine ready for take off. There are always people who show up at a workshop fully unprepared, although the preconditions were listed.
- Synchronising the speed of progression during the workshop and trying to adapt to the speed of every participant so that everyone is capable of staying on the same page.
Thank you all for giving me a unique workshop experience!
A private Git 101
Bev Christensen had her workshop in parallel to mine. She would have loved to join my workshop and so did I hers. We met beforehand at lunch time that day and had a in depth conversation about learning and of being passionate about something. Then suddenly I came up with the idea to offer her a private Git 101 lesson in the evening that day. And so was it, just the two of us, sitting all alone in one of the big conference rooms at 9pm, learning, discussing and exchanging thoughts. Thank you Brev for this extraordinary intense moment of learning!
After that I meet Blanché Carstens and Sandra Kambo in the bar area of the hotel. I knew Blanché only from Twitter and from the #PowerLearningGroup (where she once participated as guest in one of our sessions). It was great to finally meet her in person, thanks for the chat! Where as I didn't know Sandra before, not even from Twitter. I just knew that she will also be giving a talk, because Pradeep Soundararajan had to cancel his. What we both didn't know at that moment was, that we will face some similar new challenges next year, as we are both going to start new jobs in the very same area! Thanks Sandra for chatting and contacting me afterwards! Looking forward to a new #LearningPartnership in the future! To finish the day off, I had some late night drinks with Elizabeth, Tri, Beren and Geert on the hotel terrace.
Tri is one of the most funny person I have ever met. Her humour is endless and she never seems to be too tired to be funny. A wonderful day came to an end.
Tuesday 26th - Power Workshop #2
The final conference day started with Shakes talk on 5 levels of API Testing. With the 5 levels he was actually referring to the 5 different ways of API testing in his specific context at work. I loved the way how he presented his experiences, very smooth and light to digest, with a nice slide deck, not overloaded, just the right portion for a first talk in the morning. He delivered a great talk in a smart and cool way. Thanks Shakes!
Power workshop on Performance Testing
The moment finally arrived for Gerald's and my workshop on performance testing. I was so loaded with the new gained knowledge from the last night chat with Dawn Haynes, that I almost couldn't stand still in front of the workshop participants, I guess I kind of jumped around like crazy or at least that's what I felt like - standing on a rock stage and performing one of my favourite music songs. First we did some theory around topics like: What, Why and How to do performance testing followed by some advice on Test Design and heuristics. Then the hands-on part where the participants could unleash the real power of their machines. The workshop was intensive and I was glad to be together with a partner so that we could split and give the audience a best possible experience. After two hours of performance Rock n' Roll, we left the staged soaked in sweat, satisfied with the things we could teach. Thanks Gerald, it is such a pleasure to pair up with you on this workshop!
A bit tired and exhausted from all the new impressions of the last few days, I attended in the afternoon one of the final talks of the conference. Eleftheria Batsou enlightened us with her passion and experiences she faced when doing the #100DaysOfCode. In her talks When You Think There Is No Time For Learning Or Coding, she explained in detail how she tackled and motivated herself for the 100 days of coding challenge. I am impressed what this young woman already has achieved in her professional live! How she challenged herself day by day. Her motivation and passion for coding, really cool!
The lightning talks (also known from other conferences) were the final part of Let's Test 2019. I like the format where everyone can come up with a favourite topic and talk about it for a couple of minutes. I first also wanted to contribute with a talk, but as it turned out for me, I was too tired to get myself up and ready for it. At the end even as listener I couldn't focus anymore and get into the various topics.
All comes to an end, so did this conference. Cindy held an emotional closing speech. She thanked all the people who made Let's Test such a unique place, in the past as also at this years edition. The organizer, the attendees, the speakers and also the hotel staff. Thank you Cindy for your warm words!
Most of the people left the conference venue afterwards. Just a few stayed for the evening. We gathered some people together and formed a nice group for having dinner a last time. Loaded with chats and conversations we said goodbye to each other. Thank you Paul, Karen, Dawn, Beren, Maja, Louise, Cindy, Leo, Joanne, Barry, Elizabeth, Michael, Geert and Ben.
Wednesday 27 - Heading Back Home
All the good things come to an end, how sad that is. All these fantastic people I have met, it was incredible! There weren't a lot of people around anymore this early Wednesday morning when I left. The sunrise, the ocean breeze, the guy at the reception and me. Goodbye Gordons Bay, Goodbye Cape Town, Goodbye South Africa.
Thanks to all the people who have made this conference such a fantastic and unique place to share, learn, grow and make new friends. A special thanks to all the people I have had a chance to talk to:
- Louise Perold
- Cindy Carless
- Matthew Broadley
- Leona van Heerden
- Triphena Dhlamini
- Elizabeth Zagroba
- Blanché Carstens
- Sandra Kambo
- Dawn Haynes
- Paul Holland and his wife Karen
- Beren Van Daele and his lovely girlfriend Maja Holynska
- Joanne Perold
- Bee Sharwood (thank you so much for the sketchnotes!)
- Leo Hepis
- Barry Tandy
- Dawie Greyling
- David Comber
- Shakes (Shekhar Ramphal)
- Gil Zilberfeld
- Geert van de Lisdonk
- Eleftheria Batsou
- And of course my performance testing friend Gerald Mücke
We Salute You
Being at a conference one or even two days before the conference officially starts, is incredibly worth it. It gives me the opportunity to forget the daily customer business and slowly ramping up my conference senses, getting in this special mood for meeting lots of new people, prepare myself and already meet and greet some first new and old faces. The venue of Let's Test 2019 was an amazing experience itself. This is by far and I really have to emphasise it here, the best and most wonderful conference location I have ever seen and been to! Thank you, you lovely people. Thanks for having me, I Salute You!