Agile Testing Days 2018: My Highlights

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Agile Testing Days 2018 in Potsdam, Germany. I’d been there once before, but this time I was honored to be a speaker, delivering my talk “Continuous Performance Testing: Through the User’s Eyes”.

It was an incredible experience and I consider this conference one of the must-go-to events in the testing community.

Here are my highlights for 2018!

Quality Engineering — a New Road!

The first highlight I’d like to share is Anne-Marie Charret’s keynote “Is your quality on the road to nowhere?” — here’s a nice summary sketchnote by Lisi Hocke.

Anne-Marie focused heavily on the topic of contemporary Quality Engineering — an approach that privileges the visualization of the state of quality at any time of the delivery lifecycle of a system or service. It requires that we understand quality as business outcomes and not only the ability to deliver a features.

Anne-Marie also laid out the “new quality attributes”: speed, feedback, recoverability (over perfection) and qualtability. I find the latter a very interesting concept that will give me pause for thought, moving forward: one’s ability to observe the state of quality at any given point in time. In order to achieve this, product teams need to embrace quality as everyone’s responsibility.

Of course, I may be biased about this: all these concepts fit really nicely with our own ideas regarding quality and the creation of the Quality Owner role at OutSystems Engineering.

The Testing Community is Like no Other

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with different communities inside the tech world: a long time ago I was involved in 3D rendering research, at some point, I attended a couple of conferences focused on development and DevOps. Every time I speak about the international testing community to someone, I always state how “special” it is. At conferences such as Agile Testing Days or the European Testing Conference, you will find a group of people that are eager to engage and will receive you with open arms.

This year’s instance of ATD only reinforced that feeling. I lost count of the number of situations where I established new connections with fellow professionals from the testing world. Furthermore, I got the chance to strengthen the relationships with my fellow partners-in-crime on this journey to become a speaker (thanks Sonja and Christian). Also, the Power Learning Group, who regularly meets online to share experiences and knowledge, had a lot of its members present at the conference (pictured below) — it was a great having those discussions face-to-face for a change!

To be honest, at some point I was compelled to tweet a list of people I engaged with during the conference and that inspired me so much, but I ended up giving up — I would need a whole thread of tweets to include everyone, and I would most probably forget a lot of them anyway!

Of course, the way Agile Testing Days is set up really establishes a solid ground for these connections to be formed. There’s a lot more going on than just the talks: the early morning lean-coffee sessions, themed dinners and parties, workshops and… of course, I have to highlight this year’s Late Night BeerNote Cabaret edition, where I got the chance to participate as (maybe not exactly) a surprise guitarist (thanks Daniel Maslyn for the opportunity)!

Safety, Kindness and Mental Health

I noticed that last year there was a common theme in a lot of the talks and keynotes: “What does the future look like for testers?”. This year, however, there was a different theme making its way into a lot of the content that was delivered: “What should we be paying attention to now in ourselves?”.

So a lot of societal issues that go beyond testing and the tech world were surfacing. I saw Fin Kingma’s talk “Me and my Burnout” and Alex Schladebeck & Huib Schoots keynote “Get off the hamster wheel and start adding value” going over the topic of “burnout” in general. Ashley Hunsberger covered, in her keynote, the #metoo movement and the recent struggles of minorities and these subjects were present in a lot of the talks. There were also Tom Mantsch and Elizabeth Zagroba with their talks that touched on the important subject of (safe) communication…

… but if I had to choose one presentation that was the most impressive in this domain, it would definitely have to be Gitte Klitgaard’s amazing keynote “Feeling safe to be uncomfortable” (sketchnote), where she described her own personal story, speaking about topics such as identity, safe places, vulnerability, stress, impostor syndrome, diversity and the very nuanced topic of “getting out of your comfort zone”. Her keynote was highly inspirational and paved the way for the Women & Allies gathering event that followed, where I had the chance to be involved in some really insightful discussions with people I really admire.

Some Damn Good Talks…

Every good conference has its fair share of good talks. Here are some of the ones that I enjoyed the most:

  • Four nationalities, two countries, one team (Sonja Nesic) — during the last year Sonja shared this road-to-becoming-a-speaker with me so I was really looking forward to this one. She delivered a really insightful presentation on her experience in dealing with a team of people with very different backgrounds interacting at a distance. There were two key takeaways from the talk: the importance of having team members still empathizing with each other in a remote setup; and that you should not “cheap out” on buying the best technology to support this way of working!
  • Deep Oracles (Emanuil Slavov) — last year Emanuil’s talk on test flakiness had been one of my favorites and I made sure that everyone around me knew it so that they would attend this one. He did not disappoint! In one of the more technical talks I attended, he presented a series of examples of ways to make automated tests able to detect unseen and unexpected defects, something that from my experience is really hard to achieve.
  • Let’s talk testability (Rob Meaney) — this was a “lightning talk” but I really wished it had been a longer talk. Rob is one of the people pushing Quality Engineering forward and has a deep interest in testability. I had some great discussions with him throughout the conference and he presented a lot of topics I wished we could have gone more deeply into — the CODS testability model, observability in the team and a holistic testability model (the 10 P’s).
  • The Power of ‘Not Yet’ (Marianne Duijst) — what I most admire about Marianne is her stage presence and pace of speech. She is an amazing presenter and the key takeaway I got from her topic was how we somehow see certain abilities as unattainable, which may hold us back from even trying to learn something that is within our grasp. In her own words: “Saying ‘I cannot do’ leaves little room for learning…”
  • A guide to finding quality testers (Toyer Mamoojee & Blanche Carstens) — Toyer and Blanché delivered a very interesting experience report on their process when hiring people for quality positions. It was great to see the similarities with what we do at OutSystems and this is a topic that normally leads to a lot of discussions. There were several questions I wrote in my notebook, and that I will surely be asking my good friend Toyer the next time the Power Learning Group has an online session!

So there you have it. Agile Testing Days 2018 was an amazing experience; I can’t recommend this conference enough and I really hope I’m able to be there again next year!