2014: the year in conferences

This year I went to three software testing conferences:

It had been a couple of years since I’d been able to get to a conference, let alone speak at one, so I particularly enjoyed them this year.

Belgium Testing Days, March 2014, Bruges

It was good to meet up with old friends in Bruges. Mieke and Nadine are great hosts/organisers, and they made sure that both the social events and the conference itself were fun, interesting and participative.

As well as attending the keynotes, a number of other presentations and some workshops, I presented a workshop on planning continuous professional development (CPD) for testers. We were a small group but that worked to the advantage of the session, with everyone contributing problems to solve and solutions to those problems. We built a skeleton CPD plan, based on SFIA scoring. We identified that an 18 month timescale seemed to allow for a plan that allowed scope for significant personal development, and looked at the difference in approach for people with different levels of experience. This choice was based on some of the findings from a survey of tester motivation, presented in a keynote to the conference by Dr Stuart Reid. The survey report indicated a difference in what motivated people depending on their length of service as a tester. The service length bands we chose were:

  • test induction (<1 year in test, new entrant);
  • test induction (<1 year in test, transferring from another role);
  • developing skills (1 to 3 years in test);
  • becoming professional/expert/craftsman (4-6 years);
  • continuing professional development (7 – 10 years);
  • nurturing expertise and mastery (over 10 years).

Then in the skeleton CPD plan, we were able to see that a specific CPD plan for a test team the team leader or manager responsible for CPD could identify for each of these groups:

  • their main motivating factor;
  • who are the team members in that group;
  • commentary to focus CPD appropriately, for example if an individual is motivated by the same approaches as others in the peer group;
  • types of CPD activity / experiences / that are appropriate;
  • evidence of completion (behavioural and artefacts);
  • types approaches to CPD that might be inappropriate for the group – things NOT to do;
  • a brief comparison with SFIA/BCS provisions for development for this level of experience;
  • a cost benefit analysis.

All the workshop attendees had access to the skeleton plan in spreadsheet we drew up and shared at the end of the session.

In the rest of the conference, I particularly enjoyed the time I spent with Fiona Charles. We spent time together in the conference and also we explored Bruges, on foot and in a horse & carriage, still discussing testing as we went. Those conversations are one of the really valuable outcomes of attending a conference, the chance to discuss ideas with other practitioners.

Also I enjoyed Goranka Bjedov’s keynote where she talked about what worked and what didn’t work when interacting with developers. A very funny and true description of how our enthusiasm for testing and finding defects can be unhelpful to our colleagues. I noticed I was not the only person squirming as we recognised ourselves!

I also spent time with Graham Thomas & Phil Isles who presented a workshop on Python Programming. You can find a really good description of this useful workshop on http://badgerscroft.com/home/programming-for-testers/. If it comes up at another conference I recommend it.

Thanks Mieke and Nadine for letting me present the workshop, and for a great conference.


BCS SIGiST, July 2014, London

The one day conference in London was an interesting day. The highlight for me was the opening speaker, Gojko Adzic, who talked about reinventing testing. His hand-drawn slides were really effective and it was an important message; that as the world changes around us, we have to change how we test and what we test.


EuroSTAR, November 2014, Dublin

This was – for me – the closing conference of the year, and it was a real pleasure to be there. I was inspired by hearing Andy Stanford-Clark among other speakers to start reengaging my technical skills and to update how I communicate with the rest of the world. This blog site is one result of the conference and his influence in particular. Another is that I have ventured onto Twitter.

I’d never heard Shmeul Gershon speak before. His keynote was a real pleasure – refreshingly different, well-illustrated, and whilst about testing also raised wider questions that really got me thinking. The evolution of how information has been stored, and the impact of the medium of storage on its persistency, update frequency, intentionality, ability to self-modify and ability to modify the outside world change as the primary method of storage changes from DNA to brain, to tools, to writing, to the digital world.  His talk has left me with many ideas to research and ponder.

Fiona Charles presented a workshop on leadership. I didn’t manage to attend all of it unfortunately, but while I was there it engaged in me in two ways. Firstly, listening to other people really made me question my preconceptions about leadership and management. Second, I really liked the way she led the workshop, with no slides and almost instant group discussion, so I am very tempted to try a similar approach.

Of the other sessions I attended, both Julian Harty’s keynote and Peter Morgan & Fabian Scarano’s presentation both happened to address specific areas and issues that I have been facing at work, and so that information has already been taken and applied straight away at the office.

My own presentation was about the change programme and improvement where I work – what has worked and what has not worked. I had some really useful discussions as a result, and a lot of valuable feedback.

I met many old friends and made some new ones, the test hub in the exhibition space really worked well as a place to bump into people. I had very valuable and helpful discussions and learnt a lot from conference delegates as well as speakers.

The social aspects of a Dublin conference were also excellent. The dinner at Trinity College was a real privilege to be part of, what an amazing building. Also brilliant drummers who led us to the expo party.

Thank you to Paul Gerrard for setting up a great programme, and to the EuroSTAR team for such brilliant organisation. You can follow up on the conference on the Test Huddle if you want.