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European Testing Conference: my first and last experience and my takeaways

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Sergio Freire
Sergio Freire

Some time ago, I had heard that EuroTestConf / ETC (i.e. European Testing Conference) was something different, where you could attend and learn so much, not just with the talks and workshops, but also with the attendees, no matter if they're speakers or not. Everyone has a perspective, everyone can bring something positive to the table. You may learn and you also may provide feedback, insights and your own perspectives to others. EuroTestConf had (yes, unfortunately, there won't be new editions) one main purpose: to show it was possible to have a great testing conference where speakers won't have to pay to speak (e.g. traveling, stay, ticket). Besides it, the idea was to promote diversity and inclusion (more about it here). Another interesting aspect was the idea of bringing programmers and testers together, under the same "umbrella", so they could discuss together ideas to make their products more testable and better.

Warming up

At the start, I felt a bit like a "stranger" in mid of the crowd: it was my first time there and I'm a bit always like that for a couple of minutes. Gladly, after few minutes I was starting conversations or joining ongoing ones. Every single person is different and not everyone may be in the mood to discuss something, but that's normal. Each one of us can be in a different mental state, at a given moment. We just have to acknowledge it and proceed. In general, people are open to a conversation; like me and you, they're attending also to exchange ideas, talk about their problems and their goals. Of course, if you see someone around that you've seen elsewhere, perhaps in a different conference, then you feel a bit more like comfy. I was really glad to see some recent, yet recurring testing friends :), such as ]João Proença](https://twitter.com/jrosaproenca) and Lisa Crispin, that besides being kind also are natural helpers. It was also great to meet Janet Gregory once again and exchanging some ideas with her. Rob Meaney became a new addition to my testing friends, especially after he met personally the one who "bugged him with questions" some days ago, in a webinar on operability :) We also had a lovely dinner together with Jeremias Roessler where we discussed a bit of all.

testing friends

Mob learning in Lean Coffee, Speed Meet and during breaks

I would say that the best time to learn is whenever you interact and learn as a group. Breaks and lunch are great opportunities to discuss topics, so we should take advantage of them to improve our knowledge. I took some time to talk to Maaret Pyhäjärvi and discuss some challenges my own team faces along with tactics and strategies to overcome them. I can only say that Maaret provides very insightful tips based on her long time experience in the testing space, working with so many different people. Sometimes we have good ideas but the problem is on how to deliver them; experience is key. I also had a brief chat with Alex Schladebeck on observability, as we're both somehow newcomers in this space. It's interesting to discuss the doubts, challenges as we start to pave this road.

Speed Meet was quite interesting and cool, as a way to learn a bit about other attendees and what they're interested in but also to learn about ourselves as we have to sum up who we are, what drives us and where we want to go. I found people with great skills, some in speaking, some in automation, some in BDD, well... so many! Unfortunately, I did not have the time to further explore these quick connections, due to lack of time and also because I quickly forgot the names, interests/skills of them. I need to find a way to better handle this in the future. I had a Lean Coffee session nicely handled by Marianne Duijst (who made some great sketch notes during ETC by the way), was something kinda new to me. We discussed several topics together and we're able to help each other. It's an interesting way of having discussions around topics that the group wants to, adapt and move to a different topic when the group is ready to.

Talks and workshops

I already left my feedback on the talks and workshops to the speakers, so I'll take this opportunity just to talk about a very small subset of them.

Gáspár Nagy's workshop on BDD and Example Mapping was very straight to the point. We did some exercises together and we learned that everyone is able to depict new "rules" (i.e. acceptance criteria) and new examples for them, that would be hard to obtain otherwise. Thus, as a team and with a minimum "structure", it's possible to have a better understanding of the stories/features we aim to deliver. And BDD is all about that. It's curious (or not really, if you understand BDD) that we didn't even touch the "automation part" of it, that sometimes is only where people focus on without understanding the true nature of BDD.

BDD

BDD examples

João Proença's talk on deleting "automated tests"/scripts, was also interesting even though we don't pay so much attention to it as we should. Those old, "unknown", crapy automated scripts add pain and costs to your delivery pipeline. So, as your test automation grows, it is crucial to optimize it so you understand what is happening and get short feedback loops, which ultimately are crucial to enable CD. João will present this same talk at TestBash Brighton 2020, if you're lucky enough to attend it.

Joao Proenca on deleting tests

Rob Meaney's workshop on testability was very useful. His experience, based on concrete examples, allowed everyone to better understand what is testability about and how we can address it. I learned about "testing debt" and about ways to make it visible and addressable. Immediate takeaway: I will apply the testing debt quadrants this week with the team.

Testability

In the end...

Well, it was my first and my last EuroTestConf and I feel already a bit sad about it as I loved its format. At these conferences, you come with a bag of a few friends and you leave with a bag full of them. Even if you make just one connection with whom you can exchange ideas, it will be simply great. I learned about several topics: testability, BDD, exploratory testing among others. This is great as they were in fact my initial goals.

I took one day off, to "land" my ideas while performing some sightseeing and appreciating Amsterdam and it's beautiful surroundings, including the Muiderslot castle and Zaanse Schans.

castle

Zaanse Schans windmills

Even though European Testing Conference has reached its end, the future is bright and everyone will have many opportunities to deepen their testing skills and connect with this amazing community elsewhere. Thanks again Maaret Pyhäjärvi and all the ETC staff for organizing it throughout the years.