I went to the Test Leadership Conference in NY — here’s what I learned

Chaithra Rao
Aug 5, 2019 · 3 min read

I’ve always wanted to attend a software testing conference, and I finally got the chance when I attended the recent annual Test Leadership Congress (TLC) in New York City.

As my very first conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I went with an open mind and an intention to absorb as much as I could. TLC is a conference that welcomes software professionals from all over the world. The conference in June focused on emerging trends in software development and covered a lot of diverse and useful topics, including on-boarding, continuous delivery, continuous testing, leadership improvement and much more.

TLC featured seasoned test engineers and managers from companies known for their strong engineering cultures, such as The New York Times and Amazon. I thoroughly enjoyed networking with test leaders from around the world; it was refreshing to connect with industry colleagues, share experiences, and trade leadership advice. The sessions at the conference were a good mix of soft skills development, improv, fun team exercises, and technical knowledge sharing. TLC was especially helpful to me as it was geared towards developing the kind of leadership “soft skills” necessary to become a better manager.

Lessons Learned

The conference was a big learning experience in multiple ways. A talk on Continuous Delivery highlighted the ‘testing pyramid’ and how important it is for a majority of test coverage to come from unit tests. (It certainly got me to reflect on the testing pyramid at Insider.) A similar talk on ‘shift-left testing’ re-emphasized the importance of testing early in the development cycle — and how to overcome some of the challenges this can often present such as an overabundance of tests that can take too long to run which could slow down the development process.

There were several memorable sessions including a lateral thinking riddle called Black Stories where, given a situation and an initial hint, players had to guess at the facts of an underlying situation after being provided only hints about it, as well as ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to player questions. This novel exercise definitely succeeded in steering participants to think outside-the-box when it comes to software testing and delivering high quality software.

Another workshop that stood out to me was a leader’s peer workshop where participants shared their experiences managing test engineering teams and broke into groups to discuss and hash out solutions to common industry problems.

The inspirational talks especially resonated with me as they got participants to rethink how we could become better leaders, including the importance of acknowledging and facing our fears to help us get to the positions we aspire to achieve. It was invaluable to hear proven industry leaders share their journeys, which always included hard work and uncompromising loyalty to their authenticity as individuals and in staying true to their principles.

In short, I’m now more cognizant of these trends and principles prevalent in the larger test engineering community, which will go a long way in making me a better manager.


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