My Eurostar 2014 closing keynote

I had the privilige of delivering the closing keynote at the Eurostar 2014 conference in Dublin. I crafted a talk that was unique to this event, bringing the theme together, summarizing what the theme meant to me and exploring how it is all connected.

I know the slides can only tell you so much when the narrative isn’t there, but here is the online version of my Prezi:

Everything is connected – exploring diversity, innovation, leadership

Everything is connected

Although it was the first (and last) rendition of this talk, I think it went well. Several people found it to be “thought-provoking”, which is exactly what I was aiming (and hoping) for.

Now that this is over, I feel I am done with conference presentations for a while. I’m planning to take a long-awaited deep dive – with lots of reading, learning and working on new content. I’m taking it slowly. There are some important topics that need exploring, and now I am finally giving them (and me) the time to make that happen. I’m also looking forward to some exciting collaborations with others in the near future.

I’m following my energy. Let’s see where that leads us.

Let’s Test 2014 – sketchnotes

The busy month of May offered me another opportunity to practice sketchnoting: the wonderful Let’s Test conference in Runö – Stockholm. The conference was, as always, fantastic. A good number of the sessions were experiential workshops that invite participation rather than sketchnoting (although I might make summary notes on them later on), but there was still enough goodness to get drawing.

I am growing fond of the live noting of conference talks – with the unspoken rule of posting it on twitter before the last attendee leaves the room. I very much like the live time-pressure aspect of it since it doesn’t allow my evil perfectionist side to take over. My DEWT-friend and colleague Ruud Cox has gently tried to nudge me into two-stage sketchnoting or even non-live sketchnoting (books, recorded talks). As my conference calendar is fairly empty for the rest of the year, maybe I’ll have a go at that.

tltweet

40 years of trying to play well with others - Tim Lister

 

amtweet

 

 

The DIY guide to raising the testing bar -  Alessandra Moreira

 

mh-cwtweet

 

 

Can playing games actually make you a better tester? - Martin Hynie - Christin Wiedemann

dhtweet

Realism in Testing - Dawn Haynes

 

jbtweet

A critical look at best practices - Jon Bach

 

 

 

StarEast sketchnotes

One of my personal goals for this year is to become better at sketchnoting. And becoming better – for me – means: working at expanding my visual library and – more importantly – practice, practice, practice!

Last week I attended StarEast in Orlando, and testing conferences happen to provide a wonderful opportunity to get some of that much needed practice in.

Armed with a Confidant notebook (a new brand of notebooks by Baron Fig) and a set of sharpie pens, I went to work. Apart from the Selenium and Webdriver tutorial by Alan Richardson (hands-on coding does not match well with equally hands-on drawing), my keynote and the one preceding it (duh!) and a presentation about game testing of which I missed the first ten minutes, I took notes for every single talk I attended.

I like taking notes this way – the timed challenge provides me with much needed focus (no zoning out here), and the notes seem to stick way longer. As a bonus: even if the content does not particularly appeal to me, the added note taking practice still makes it worthwile.

So, without further ado, here goes:

SketchNote Rob Sabourin  SketchNote Erik Van Veenendaal

SketchNote Lightning Talks  SketchNote Theresa Lanowitz

SketchNote Michael Bolton  SketchNote Lloyd Roden

SketchNote Jennifer Bonine

 

 

 

My StarEast Keynote

This morning I delivered “Testing in the Age of Distraction: Flow, Focus, and Defocus in Testing” as a keynote at the StarEast conference in Orlando. The talk was well attended – I believe 900 people in the room and another 700 in the virtual conference.

I felt honored to be invited for what was my first official keynote – it was also the first time that so many people were simultaneously paying attention to me (or at least they pretended to).

I believe it went well: I managed to get my message across, enjoying every minute of it. Judging by the feedback so far, others did too. The subject seemed to resonate with a lot of the attendees.

I received a lot of “slide” requests (if you can call them that in Prezi), so here is the link to the online version (unfortunately, embedding prezi presentations in wordpress is not working very well):

http://prezi.com/jpqhbabuheqc/

 

 

 

DEWT4 – a peer conference on teaching testing

dewt4-participants-v4

From left to right: Jeanne Hofmans, Rob van Steenbergen, Jurian van de Laar, Peter Simon Schrijver, Jean-Paul Varwijk, Bernd Beersma, Huib Schoots, Arjen Verweij, Zeger van Hese, Joris Meerts, Markus Gärtner, Bart Broekman, Angela van Son, Pascal Dufour, Ard Kramer, Jeroen Mengerink, Kristoffer Nordström‏, Philip Hoeben, Daniël Wiersma, Joep Schuurkes, Duncan Nisbet, Eddy Bruin, Wim Heemskerk, Ruud Cox, Richard Scholtes, Ray Oei

Teaching Software Testing

DEWT IntroIn the weekend of 7-9 February, the fourth edition of DEWT took place at Hotel Bergse Bossen in Driebergen, the Netherlands. DEWT stands for the Dutch Exploratory Workshop on Testing and is a LAWST-style peer workshop on testing like its older siblings LAWSTLEWT and SWET. This means a presentation is followed by a facilitated discussion that goes on as long as it brings value.

This edition was extra special to me since I volunteered to be the Content Owner during our preparatory meeting in september. Jean-Paul Varwijk agreed to fill the Conference Chair role and Peter Simon Schrijver would be the main facilitator. Why yes, you do need a good facilitator to make this kind of thing work.

The main theme of this edition was “Teaching Software Testing”

In this edition we also added the obligation – for all attendees – to send in a proposal for an experience report. I wanted attendees to look at teaching software testing in a broad sense, and asked for experience reports on:

  • How software testing is taught
  • Unconventional or alternative ways of teaching software testing
  • Lessons learned by teaching software testing
  • Learning how to teach software testing
  • The receiving end of teaching – learning (being taught)
  • The transfer of theoretical versus practical knowledge
  • Teaching novice testers versus teaching experienced ones
  • Acquiring teaching skills

Apart from the DEWT core members (10), an additional 16 people were invited, of whom three came from abroad – Markus Gaertner (D), Duncan Nisbet (UK) and Kristoffer Nordström (SE). Actually, that makes four since I am from abroad (B) as well – I keep forgetting that I am DEWT’s legal alien.

Friday, February 7

The first night of a DEWT conference is usually an informal meetup, with a welcoming dinner for the people that can make it in time. A great evening it was, with strangers getting to know each other and old friends catching up. Lots of games and testing talk – and in some way or another, My Little Pony () became a topic as well. There were not as many drinks as we would have liked, though, since our first evening happened to coincide with a wedding in our regular hangout, the Grand Cafe. This meant we were banned to a room with a part-time waiter, dividing his inevitably part-time attention (I’m guessing 85/15) between drunk party people and relatively sober software testers. His selection of Belgian beers and copious amounts of deep-fried snacks (it is common knowledge that Markus Gaertner will attend any meetup that involves bitterballen) made up for it.

We ended the night giving the bride and groom some heartfelt marital advice, and by sipping from that curious bottle Duncan brought from Gibraltar – Patxaran (Zoco). When Duncan started cleaning tables to compensate for our invisible waiter, we knew it was time to go to bed.

Saturday, February 8

In front of a notably bigger group than we ended the day with on friday (some people were only joining in on saturday morning), Jean-Paul, Peter and myself kicked off the conference. In the previous weeks, the three of us had come to an agreement on which talks should go highest on the list, being well aware that in the end, a schedule like this is always tentative since you never know when discussions are going to end or where the energy of the group will be going.

The roomKristoffer Nordström went first with “Learning and change in a dysfunctional organisation“, illustrating the difficulties of a consultant that represents both management and the outside. Are learnings and change even possible is this situation? He compared a team with a spring that is attached to context and culture. When a string is attached to something, it is very hard to change. You can bend the spring and make it work at first, but inevitably, the spring – the team – will veer back to its original position. He explained how he tried to cope with his plight: establish trust, show passion and enthusiasm, lead by example, show respect, take time to teach instead (not tell). Even simple things like smiling and saying hello to people helped him to achieve his goals. Kristoffer’s experience report was rich and well-prepared, and touched many things which I could relate with. The discussion afterwards went on longer than planned, but hey, we’re all flexible, right?

Next up was Arjen Verweij with “Preaching software testing: evangelizing testers among non-testers“. In his experience report, he described how he advocates for testing with different stakeholders:

  • Talk to project managers about value
  • Inform and explain customers about changes in the software
  • Convince engineers that you need their expertise.
  • Help support people by providing them with good tools that facilitate bug reporting
  • Work with sales to set reasonable expectations
  • Get buy-in from the developers by supporting their work

One of Arjen’s take-aways was to not mention “testing” if you want non-testers to test, which spawned a hefty discussion on-site in which several people on twitter got involved.

After lunch we decided to go for a walk in the woods to avoid that dreaded carb coma. The hotel staff provided us with instructions for a walk, and it turned out to be a strictly scripted procedure: no map, but a list of written instructions. Great, a bunch of (mostly) context-driven testers asked to follow a walking script. As could be expected, we got lost in a heartbeat. Our explorer’s instinct – supported by many a gps module – got us back with only 20 minutes delay.

Aside from harassing us with more space unicorn songs then we could handle, Markus Gaertner got us up and about with a workshop that used the principles from the book “Training From the Back of the Room!: 65 Ways to Step Aside and Let Them Learn” by Sharon Bowman, after which he elaborated on the 4 C’s, a framework to help design classes that leverage accelerated learning. The acronym stands for “Connection, Concept, Concrete Practice, Conclusion”. During the connections step, learners make connections with what they already know about the topic at hand. In the concepts step, learners take in new information in multi-sensory ways: hearing, seeing, discussing, writing, reflecting, imagining, participating and teaching it to others. The concrete practice step serves to actively practice a new skill using the new information, participate in an active review of what they have learned and again teach others what they know or can now do. During the conclusions step, learners summarize what they have learned, evaluate it and make a commitment to use it at work or in their lives.

Joep Schuurkes and Richard Scholtes were up next with “Teaching testing with a chain testing simulation“, in which they described their experiences in designing an apparently simple chain testing simulation exercise. In it, participants were provided with five laptops running the applications that make up the chain, and each was assigned to one of the laptops (or was assigned the role of testing coordinator), after which the group was given the assignment to “perform a chain test”. Joep and Richard contrasted the things they thought should happen with the things that actually happened, which lead to a couple of nice surprises. Chaos ensued, apparently, and people stayed on their own island for way too long. But it proved an engaging format for all involved – people continued during breaks, were discussing it the days after and it led to quite some aha-moments as well. Another take-away: putting an empty chair in between two people is an effective means to stop all communication.

Bart Broekman‘s experience report brought us “Back to the Middle Ages“. Or at least, a part of the theory did. He talked about the master-apprentice model, which is fundamentally different from the teacher/student model which is now so common. Later on he linked it to the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. Bart saw the biggest gap to be bridged in going from “competent” to “proficient”. How can we make our students make that big leap? Bart went on to explain how he tried to do that through organising masterclasses, working with the student’s own content and real-life problems to solve.

By the time the discussion after Bart’s report died down, dinner was calling, and we gladly obliged. The evening was filled with drinks, puzzles, games, poetry recitations and Dutch people winning gold, silver and bronze medals in the Winter Olympics. Leave some for us, would you?

Sunday, February 9

Sunday morning saw the first (granted, UK-imported) Gibraltarian DEWT-invitee ever take the stage: Duncan Nisbet with a report on his experiences teaching testing to new/non testers, “You can’t learn to drive by reading a book“. A misleading title, since he proceeded to compellingly relate it to how he used to train his pupils in wildwater kayaking. In that line of sport, it is important that you first give your students a safe place to fail, like clear, calm and warm water. Whitewater is an unforgiving place for newbies. Slowly progress, and if you fail, do it more often. Books don’t prepare you for the whitewater experience. Duncan then explained how he tries to teach testing to newbies in the same way. Start simple and build confidence gradually. First, give them a Web/GUI to play wit, later make them aware that of the existence of logs that can help them in testing, and then on to other more specialised disciplines like performance and automation. The facilitated discussion afterwards spawned so many question threads that Simon Schrijver dedicated a whole blogpost on how he facilitated it.

Angela Van Son is a DEWT regular, although she is not a tester. Angela is a professional (procrastination) coach, and she made the program because I was convinced that she could contribute to the topic by offering a view on teaching in general. In “The skill of teaching: How do you make them WANT it?“, she told us about the 30 Day Video Challenge put out by Holly Sugrue that she participated in. She witnessed how Holly managed to energize and inspire the group to deliver in this challenge, a remarkable feat considering that the different people all had different goals to participate. Angela then analyzed what was so peculiar about this challenge. How did the challenge make the people want to master it? As it turned out, it was a combination of many things. It was well chosen, with clear limits. There was a lot of playful repetition that never got boring, and great group dynamics that pushed people forward. There were no obligations – it was a safe place to learn.

After lunch, to finish on a lighter and more active note, we scheduled a workshop on the design of exercises to teach testing, led by Huib Schoots and Ruud Cox. The crowd got divided in several small groups and given the task to design an exercise to teach some testing concepts. That exercise would then be run by one of the other groups followed by a debrief. The tricky part was of course that the time to accomplish this was very limited. I already knew from attending Jerry Weinberg’s Problem Solving Leadership that designing a good and fun experiential exercise can be very, VERY hard. But given the circumstances, the teams did a good job – resorting to ruthless peppermint crushing and exploratory walking. I felt that the debrief helped a lot in seeing where our own exercise could be improved.

This concluded DEWT4. Two + days filled with learning and fun. I hoped to achieve a good variety in the topics and I am glad how it turned out. The atmosphere was focused yet relaxed, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. A big thank you to all the participants for their time, their stories and their passion.

Sketch-notes

To finish of this lengthy report, here are some sketch-notes I made during the weekend. Click the thumbnail to see a bigger version.

For other reports and impressions of DEWT4, check out the DEWT after party blog page.

Back to the middle ages - Bart Broekman You cant learn to drive by reading a book - Duncan Nisbet Learning and change in a dysfunctional organisation - Kristoffer Nordstrom Preaching software testing - Testing with non-testers - Arjen Verweij Teaching testing with a chain testing simulation - Joep Schuurkes Richard Scholtes The skill of teaching - how to make them want it - Angela Van Son

The Eurostar 2012 diaries – part 3 (tuesday Nov 6)

Super Tuesday

Photo by Rik Marselis

Early tuesday, and my dreams were filled with empty auditoria and keynote speakers stuck in airports. A first reality check eases my mind a bit. The people I dreamt about are already checked in, and ready to rumble. As am I. I skip breakfast to be on site as early as possible, but halfway there I realize I left my phone in the hotel room. I hurry back and when I finally get to the premises, James and Julian beat me to it. While we help the tutorial speakers get all settled for the morning, the registration area is again being flashmobbed by testers. Delegates are now flowing in at a steady pace, but I notice remarkably few hiccups. Sure, there is the occasional delegate who is worried about his tutorial enrollment, but Siobhan seems to have a firm grip on payments and registrations. Siobhan handles all the adminstrative stuff throughout the year, a job that can never be underestimated. Rumor has it that she can even make Chuck Norris comply with Eurostar’s presentation materials deadline (which we couldn’t verify this year since his submission “I sit down in stand-up meetings” didn’t make the cut). The Eurostar team deals with the rush-hour queues swiftly, and before I can say “Morning coffee, anyone?”, the AM sessions are kicked off.

Photo by Randy Rice

Like yesterday, I wander around the now quiet and peaceful venue and do a temperature reading in the different tutorial rooms. Fiona Charles has everyone in her room up on their feet, milling around and fully engaged in her “Right-sizing Test Documentation”.  Paul Gerrard is testing the room capacity boundaries in his totally sold out “How to Create a Test Strategy”. Randy Rice – all the way from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – is mighty popular with his “Free and Cheap Test Tools”. Michael D. Kelly – all the way from Indianapolis, Indiana – is spreading his wisdom about managing exploratory testing for a full house as well in his “Session Based Test Management”. When I check in with Alan Richardson’s and Simon Stewart’s Selenium Clinic, I see a screens full of code and two presenters on fire. All is good.

Again I feel sorry that I cannot sit in – imagine all the learning I’m mssing! – but as it turns out there is plenty of learning to be done elsewhere: rendez-vous at 11 AM in the main auditorium for a run-through of the conference opening. Finally, the auditorium is made Shrek-free and we can admire the beautiful – blueish – theatre. While the main idea of the run-through was a rehearsal of the opening remarks, we spend an hour test-driving four yellow tourist bikes through various aisles of the auditorium, checking where to brake and how to park – testing the risky bits first, so to speak. Daragh and Paul of the Eurostar team were able to secure these bikes last-minute as we are going to use them in the most vital part of the conference opening: the committee entrance. While James, Julian and Shmuel get in touch with their inner 13 year-old and do little uphill races on the blue carpet, ringing frantically, I try to make my slideset work on Alan Page’s nifty little Surface RT. Hungry? Not really. No stress, no sirree.

      Half past one. The official conference opening is upon us. The auditorium is packed, music is blasting out of the speakers and the four of us are in the – by now deserted – registration area, using our dubious trial bike skills to balance our yellow monsters in place. Lorraine gives us a go and we make our way to the front of the auditorium, all the time aware of the bizarreness of the situation: low visibility, a steep decline, funny brakes, loud music and a suit don’t make for a fluent biking experience. This concludes our very own “Men in Black”/”Boys are back in town” moment – and I’m glad we make it in one piece. We park the bikes and I climb onto the stage for the opening remarks. It is there that I have my first aha-moment. When asking how many people are attending the conference for the first time, I expect someting like 10-20% but see a *lot* of hands going up. I am a little thrown by that and I would like to see some official numbers to be sure what happened this year.

Ferran Adrià
Photo by Wired Magazine, 2012

I go ahead and explain the conference theme (Innovate/Renovate), telling the story of Ferran Adrià, the former chef from El Bulli, the best restaurant in the world for some time. Adrià started his career as a dishwater but managed to change the world of gastronomy by bringing elements of other disciplines into cooking: chemistry, psychology, physics. He expanded his cooking toolbox (his new toys were lyophilizers, liquid nitrogen, candy floss machines,…) and started investigating how the presentation of a dish influenced the perception of taste (did you know that strawberry mousse is perceived to be ten percent sweeter when served on a white plate compared to a black one?). My main message? In testing, it’s probably the easiest easy to say that innovation is not your job, rather something for those crazy boys and girls in R&D. But it’s not – it’s everyone’s job. Innovation is not just about products: it is also about business practices, processes, tools – it lies in everything we do. Everyone can be an innovator – testers too.

When the committee takes the stage for a personal address, expressing their wishes and hopes for the conference, I can actually stand back for a while and be amazed by the size of the whole endeavour. So many people here, in difficult economic times, all undergoing geographical and financial inconvenience to be here to learn and share experiences – this is great, and humbling at the same time. It is super tuesday alright.

Photo by Rik Marselis

Time now for Alan Page to step into the light, with his opening keynote “Test Innovation for Everyone” (a link to the presentation can be found here). It turns out to be a great talk, in which he points out that innovation is all about ideas, which makes test innovation mainly about test ideas. We innovate to solve problems – but are we solving the right problems? Try a lot, but keep checking whether you are doing the right thing. Alan’s talk is also book recommendation hour: “Where Good Ideas Come From” (Steven Johnson), “The Wisdom of Crowds” (James Surowiecki), “The Lean Startup” (Eric Ries), “Jimbo – Adventures in Paradise” (Gary Panter), “Brain Rules” (John Medina), “The Myths of Innovation” (Scott Berkun), “They All Laughed” (Ira Flatow), “Steal Like an Artist” (Austin Kleon), “The 5 Elements of effective thinking” (Edward Burger, Michael Starbird) and “The Innovator’s Dilemma” (Clayton Christensen). Some of these are already acquired as we speak.

AlanRichardsonKeynoteNext up are the first track sessions of the conference. Finally, time to watch the sessions we have been debating way back in march. I switch to track-hopping mode again and sample bits of as many tracks as possible. The afternoon flies by way too fast, and before I know, we are all inside the auditorium again for Alan Richardson‘s eclectic closing keynote, “Unconventional Influences”. I am very much looking forward to his talk – I chose this talk from his long list of possible subjects because I am all for bringing elements from other fields into our testing practice. And I am happy to see that Alan completely nails it with references to Dr. Seuss, H.P. Lovercraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”, the “Fortean Times” magazine and ghostbusting. He tells a story about how he never allowed his testing to be limited by other people’s attitudes to testing or company mandates. He thinks that is an excuse that people embrace to stop them having to identify their beliefs about testing and challenge themselves to become better testers. Slides of his talk can be found here. He also wrote an unconventional paper to go with it, link here.

Tuesday evening is the traditional Expo drinks moment, and I take the opportunity to mingle and talk with as many people as possible. I drop by the Improve boot, where my very pregnant DEWT colleague Jeanne Hofmans hands me the first issue of “Quality Level Management – Managing quality in outsourcing”, a book she wrote together with Erwin Pasmans. Once I make it to the Test Lab, I see that Shmuel brought his infamous box with testing games and waste the rest of the expo drink time trying to solve puzzles together with great testers – and beer. How awesome is that? Totally sucked into puzzle solving, I fail to notice that the expo is closing, and together with Shmuel (still limping like a hunchback) I spend a good 30 minutes deciding whether we should ride our yellow bikes through the torrential rain or take a taxi. Taxi lines lines outside the RAI are rather discouraging, so we end up getting soaked on the bikes. Back at the Novotel, the Test Lab people set up a portable Test Lab in the bar, but even the most die-hard TestLabber gets hungry after a while. And so it happens that a group of twentysomething people find themselves in a great tapas restaurant for an evening of comido, bebidas y alegría. The athmosphere was so relaxed that I am tempted to stay up until the wee hours, but I am being a good chair and take the taxi back – mañana es otro día.

Here are Esther Gons‘ graphical recordings of this day:

Opening remarks

Test Innovation for Everyone – Alan Page

Curing our Binary Disease – Rikard Edgren

Value Inspired Testing – Neil Thompson

Unconventional Influences – Alan Richardson

… to be continued

The Eurostar 2012 diaries – part 2 (monday Nov 5)

So it begins… tutorial day

En route from the novotel to the RAI on this dark and rainy monday morning, I am pleasantly surprised to see “Eurostar Conference” signposted everywhere (next to Shrek the Musical, where it belongs) – who knows I might have ended up at a conference far, far away. It is only 7 AM, but the RAI is buzzing with activity. The registration desk is fully (wo)man(n)ed, and last minute checks are being done. Not too long before the hounds will be released, and the eurostar crew is very much “in the zone”.  I decide not to disturb them too much and go for a little orientation walk around the venue. The main auditorium remains closed this day (secret Shrek stuff, I assume) and the expo is still being built, but I am able to get a good idea of the venue layout. Loungy sitting areas, roomy but cosy session rooms – this place has the right vibe.

By the time I get back to the desk, the first tutorial speakers are already registering. Part of my job today is to show them to their rooms, make sure they get all settled and have everything they need. Dorothy Graham (“Managing Successful Test Automation”) and Janet Gregory (“Transitioning to Agile Testing”) are our first teachers on site, soon followed by Bob van de Burgt & Iris Pinkster O’Riordan (“Lessons Learned in Test Management”) and Rikard Edgren (“Exploratory Test Design”). I walk them up to their campsite for the day and when I get back down, the registration area looks like it is being flash-mobbed by multiple nationalities – minus the dancing. The desk is invaded with people waiting to get a name tag, conference bag and that very slick looking 20th-anniversary running shirt. They get a complimentary friendly word and welcome from the Eurostar crew, some advice and orientation, and off they are to learning heaven. By now I realize that I somehow missed Michael Bolton (“Critical thinking for testers”) entering the venue, but Siobhan reassures me that he /is/ in the house. I go upstairs again to say hi, and notice that Michael’s room is nearly full. Wait, is it 8:30 already? The last queues are cleared, and we have a lift off.

Standing by the registration desk, I notice keynote speakers Alan Page and Simon Stewart check in. As they are not teaching/speaking today, and they probably won’t be hanging around the venue the whole time, I make sure to remind them of the speaker’s drink taking place this evening in a bar behind the RAI. Apparently, I wasn’t the first:

The rest of the morning I spend wandering from room to room, sitting in for short periods of time, to catch the vibe and to see whether the delegates are enjoying themselves. This is a strange change of perspective. During the previous years, I was always in these tutorials myself, focused on learning. Now, I am checking the reactions of people and not really paying attention to what is being told. I am a lousy multi-tasker. Not that I don’t pick up stuff – I vividly recall Rikard walking around without shoes, talking about software potatoes. I catch Bob and Iris talking about a thin (cheese) slicing test management method (mmm… cheese), and Michael debriefing one of his many exercises and quoting Jerry Weinberg (*). I hear Dorothy highlighting and explaining stories from her award-winning book (“Experiences of Test Automation“), and Janet is scaling her normally much more intimate workshop to a way bigger audience – and she seems to handle that with style and grace.

The rest of the RAI is empty at this time of day, which makes for a strange contrast with the invasion of only an hour earlier. During the coffee breaks, the friendly chatter reappears, and I observe and talk. Finally, I bump into Shmuel, who is limping like someone with bad shoes who had a very long walk in Amsterdam on a rainy sunday. It adds to his overall funniness, although I think he already is funny enough as is. We discuss the subject of yellow tourist bikes to go back and forth between the Novotel and the RAI – bikes that will play a role in our conference opening as well.

Right before lunch, as I am welcoming delegates into the lunch restaurant, fellow committee member James Lyndsay enters the venue. He is sporting a big bag that mostly contains a stylish – and heavy – kilt. Guaranteed gala dinner goodness. During lunch, James is mentioning his upcoming gig with the London Bulgarian Choir – the friday after the conference. And I thought /I/ had a hectic schedule! When the tutorials start up again and the restaurant is emptying, Shmuel and I act as a (poor man’s excuse for a ) choir while James rehearses one of his deep-voiced solos, leaving the waiters and RAI staff wondering what they just witnessed. The RAI restaurant has good acoustics, actually. Rumor has it that James’ voice is still haunting the premises.

The afternoon flows smoothly, I feel, and around 4 pm I follow Lorraine’s recommendation to use the last couple of hours of the afternoon to relax a bit before things get really hectic tomorrow. The weather is crisp and clear, so I go for a walk around the area. Not too long though, since the speaker drinks kick off at 6.

At the drink, which turns out to take place in a cosy Austrian log cabin, I meet Julian Harty who just flew in from Nairobi with a short detour to the UK – to switch from summer to winter clothes. On thursday evening, he has to move on to go speak at the (equally fantastic) Oredev conference, which unfortunately takes place in the same week this year. Speaking of hectic schedules, I am convinced that Julian’s travel arrangements would make Kofi Annan look lazy. It is good to have our committee finally complete, and on site. Actually, this is the first time that the four of us together meet face to face, as Shmuel was skyping in while the rest of us were meeting in Galway in march.

As the committee is hosting the drinks, we do our best to make everyone feel welcome. Shmuel goes full reversed paparazzo and has his picture taken with everyone present – behavior that he will continue to exhibit throughout the whole conference, which makes me wonder: doesn’t that make his photo albums mighty Shmuel-centric? The athmosphere is really relaxed, and I am glad to see things turning out so nicely. I am now able to put faces to submissions, and voices to pictures. Michael D. Kelly – very thrilled to finally meet him, by the way – looked so young that I didn’t even recognize him at first. I don’t know why I had imagined him older, must be his reputation preceeding him.

My evening ended in a tasty Indonesian restaurant, where a large group of testers was diving into a rice table as we entered. I was invited to eat (heaps of) spicy leftovers from other people (thank you Rob Lambert and John Stevenson for feeding the hungry and the impatient – your good Samaritanism is highly appreciated). Again,  occasions like this work wonders in putting faces to twitter handles: be warned, @GeirGulbrandsen and @Kristoffer_Nord, you’re no longer safe from me.

After dinner : plenty of rest for the wicked. Tomorrow, there’s an official conference-opening to be done. 

… to be continued

——————————– 

(*) Which comes as no surprise, as Jerry Weinberg – Patron Saint of thinking testers – is very much worth quoting. And reading, even more so. If you haven’t read any of his books, I encourage you to do so.

The Eurostar 2012 diaries (the prequel)

What a year…

It has been a while since my last blog post, and being the programme chair for Europe’s biggest software testing conference probably had something to do with that. Now that the twentieth edition of Eurostar is over and the whole event is still very much in my system, I figured it is about time to revive Ye Olde TestSideStory blog.

The Eurostar office, Galway

The whole year leading up to this moment was one big trip into testing conference wonderland. I learned loads about conference-making (I’m pretending that this is a dictionary entry somewhere) in the small and the large. Selecting a committee, a theme, keynotes, tutorials, assembling a balanced programme out of 400+ submissions – these things in itself already were quite a challenge. This, combined with a steady flow of related side-activities proved to occupy the better part of my free time. Luckily, the Eurostar team in Galway (Ireland) made this into a very enjoyable and fluent experience. I had the privilige of visiting the Galway office a couple of times in the past year, and the team has a great energy that gets things going (and a love for Belgian chocolates and all things Guinness). Props to my employer CTG as well, for giving me the opportunity to spend time preparing the conference.

Working with my committee (Julian Harty James LyndsayShmuel Gershon) throughout the year was certainly a highlight. I have fond memories of our lengthy skype sessions, discussing about anything in the testing conference realm – we even managed to find some emerging behavior in skype chat in the process. In hindsight, I was particularly impressed with Julian’s pragmatism and fresh ideas, James’ note-taking fu in the face of a truckload of submissions, and Shmuel’s contagious enthusiasm.

The last weeks, pressure had been building gradually: seeing the early bird subscriptions take off, hearing about testlab preparations, tutorials filling up… Later on, a couple of speakers opted out and needed replacement – things were getting more real every week.

Rainy Amsterdam – Sunday November 4

After some uneventful aquaplaning all the way from Belgium, I met up with Israeli-Brazilian superstar (and programme committee member extraordinaire) Shmuel Gershon. Originally there was a visit planned to the RAI to get acquainted with the venue layout, but since Eurostar happened to coincide with Shrek The musical (Ogres in the main auditorium! Fionas mindmapping a test strategy!), this was no longer possible. We decided to dive headfirst into the city of Amsterdam, to explore. Some observations:

  • A couple of hours in Amsterdam can spawn more rain than six days in Ireland
  • Torrential rain will soak up even the sturdiest shoes
  • The Anne Frank house has bigger lines than the newly opened Amsterdam Apple Store
  • From now on, if the map and the territory disagree, I’m believing the territory
  • Serendipitous wandering can make you end up in one of the finer Indian Restaurants in Amsterdam
  • The finer Indian bread is very kosher – but expensive
  • Two men with identical bright blue Novotel umbrellas look funny (I guess people expected a Gene Kelly dance routine)

When arriving back at the Novotel, soaked to the bone, a bunch of testers had already gathered for an informal meetup in the bar. I was planning to change into dry clothes first, but got engaged in conversation and totally forgot about it. Sometimes you have to plan as you go along.

Conference pre-opening (photo by Huib Schoots)

While my shoes were drying slowly, I spent the rest of the evening chatting with new friends (Cyril Boucher, Jeanne Peng, Erkki Pöyhönen) and catching up with old ones (John Stevenson, Michael Bolton, Huib Schoots, Jean-Paul Varwijk, Rikard Edgren, Shmuel). John in particular was on fire that evening, quoting book titles like some kind of human reading tip generator. The two that I managed to note down are “The click moment” and “Everything is obvious“. The rest got lost in a pre-conference haze.

Later on I ran into the Eurostar crew as well. They had been on site since friday, unpacking stuff and basically building everything from scratch. They expanded their team for the conference, and it was nice meeting new faces there too. They all looked happy and confident, which was kind of reassuring to see: the logistic side is under control. Chatting with them also made me realize that things were about to be kicked off for real.

Are those nerves I feel? Anyway, time for bed – appointment at the RAI at 7 am.

… to be continued

Keith Klain – Bridging the Gap: Leading change in a community of testers

I am at StarEast this week, and originally intended to give live-blogging a go, an art perfected by the ubiquitous Markus Gaertner. Alas, the wireless connection decided otherwise, so I am a bit on the late side with this. Here is a summary of the opening keynote of the StarEast conference, by Keith Klane: Bridging the Gap: Leading change in a community of testers.

In this presentation, Keith Klain described how Barclay’s Capital Global Test Center (GTC) managed to totally change the way they worked. The GTC is an independent testing service providing full lifecycle software testing support and specialist testing services across multiple businesses from 6 global locations.

Keith got triggered by something his boss had told him: to go reflect on a a couple of things, stating “In this business you’re either a bug or a windshield”. This made Keith wonder: what is motivating people? You cannot make people do anything unless they want to do it because it is in their best interest. That is real leadership.

On a leadership summit in Europe last year, Keith heard all sorts of depressing things: that testers don’t understand the business, that they are too slow and too expensive, that all testing should be automated. So clearly all these years of maturity models, metrics programmes, certifications, process improvements are not getting through, they’re not working.

Values

It is important to outline what your values are:

– Honesty, with ourselves and others. Be transparent about strengths and weaknesses.

– Integrity: earn the right to have an opinion. Provide clear and constant feedback.

– Accountability: Own it. Understand what “value” means in your business. Manage your own expectations.

The situation

When Keith arrived at the GTC, an improvement programme was already in place and ongoing, called “change programme phase 1”.

  • There were test maturity models and maturity improvement plans, based on industry standards. He decided to kill that.
  • There was a metrics programme, a test case efficiency model centered on test execution. It consisted of automation metrics based on test case coverage and program tracking sheets. They noticed that as soon as you want to put a number on something people are doing, people start focusing on the number, and not on the thing they’re supposed to do. He decided to kill the programme.
  • There was a career framework. The focus of test managempent was on operational control and team size. He killed that too.

Talent management

From that momentb on, the GTC started focusing on Talent Management. The keywords here: attract/develop/retain.

Attract

They raised the hiring (and existing employee) bar and transferred quality ownership to the team. They made sure that GTC was viewed as a “Top Project”, very hard to get in (in analogy with Google).

Develop

Keith invited James Bach to come and teach his Rapid Software Testing course and regularly provide consulting as well. On top of that, they improved business and testing skills. After a while, people started developing their own training courses, around ten in total. These were staff-led without any steering from management. They also started a new test management mentoring programme.

Retain

They flattened out the career framework, until it contained only four levels. They developed Induction Programmes, in which they told people what was expected from them. In addition, Keith told them what was to be expected from him.

Management principles

  • People start ignoring testing when it’s no longer relevant. It’s your own fault if people start ignoring you. Speak the language of your programs, learn what the values are and people will listen to you.
  • Being responsible sometimes means rocking the boat. Sometimes people will have to tell someone that something is not done well. That is no problem, as long as it’s done respectfully. “If you want a friend, buy a dog”.
  • No one has the market cornered on good ideas. Bill Gates once said that even the smartest people in the world only had one good idea in their whole life. New ideas are all around you, look around. Solve problems collectively.
  • Never stop asking why. It is a powerful and clarifying question that will get you where you want to. Question everything. Don’t mindlessly go about your job.
  • Invest 80% of your energy in your top 20%.
  • Leadership = simplification. The problem is that people cannot communicate simply about their solution. Tell something in a way that people do something about it. That is something that goes beyond an elevator pitch.
  • Don’t take it personally. You are not your ideas. These depend on a whole series of factors. If you take things too personally, you won’t be able to change your behavior
  • Think first, then do.

The Results

  • General investments in the GTC have gone up. This shows the importance that management started giving to the GTC.
  • Nonsense management overhead was removed, and all of a sudden loads of new talent started bubbling up. People got rewarded for their efforts on their test strategies, their approaches, their ideas. (“Runner up” CIO award).
  • The biggest improvement or cultural change was the GTC university. It was all there: class room training, brown bag sessions, mentoring, competitions, all done off the back, not steered by management.
  • Leading cultural change = a paradigm shift

Stop

Pretending that the value of your testing org is anyone other’s responsibility, and pretending that you’re going to” mature out” of that position

Start

Telling people what you expect from them. Support them by a training regime that helps them do that. Create an environment where people are not afraid to fail. Create a learning organization.

Continue

Driving out fear of failure by creating an environment that enables innovation and rewards collaboration through strategic objectives and constant feedback.

I really liked this keynote. It was an inspiring story that showed how you *can* make a difference when you start focusing on skill and building a learning organization.

Innovate & Renovate: Evolving Testing

Test Side Sorry

I know it’s been quiet here lately. A big Test Side Sorry for that. A lot has happened the last months, and many things occupy my mind and time.

Eurostar 2011

One of these is Eurostar, Europe’s largest testing conference which took place in Manchester in november. I had a great time meeting new people and catching up with others. Finally meeting people from twitter in person is one of the best side-effects from conferences I know. It feels like meeting old acquaintances, in a way. 

The test lab vibe was great, as always. I saw some great track sessions, and there were loads of things happening behind the scenes as well: video tapings, special and fun sessions that will be published the coming months. I even spotted a smoke machine or two on a Thin Lizzy soundtrack. The conferring didn’t stop at 6 pm – Manchester pubs were test-infected for a while.

At the gala awards dinner, in the magnificent setting of the Manchester Monastery, Julian Harty received the Testing Excellence award. Geoff Thompson also revealed next year’s programme chair.

Eurostar 2012

Rewind three weeks. Lorraine – Eurostar’s conference manager – calls me during my daily commute to inquire if I would be interested in becoming the programme chair for 2012. I barely manage to steer clear of a ditch. And I apologize to that old lady I almost ran into. Back to the call. I hesitate at first, ask some time to think it through. Seconds later I realize: “wait a minute, what was I thinking? Of course I’ll do it! Yes, there will be work involved. But it’s all good.

Eurostar will turn twenty in november 2012. I will be the host of this special edition, taking place from november 5-8 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Twenty years, that is quite something. No longer a teenager, and old enough to party.

My partners in crime for this conference are James Lyndsay, Julian Harty and Shmuel Gershon, and I can’t stress enough how honored I feel that they accepted to be on the team. Our first task was to come up with a theme. Since our aim is to craft a learning conference, focusing on innovation, renovation and creativity in testing, we decided on:

Innovate & Renovate: Evolving Testing

The call for submissions is now open, by the way. I look forward to receiving your ideas.