TDT Peer Conference Cluj-Napoca – Post Mortem

It was one of those Saturday mornings when there’s this deep white fog outside and all you want is a couple of more minutes under the warm cozy blanket. But after a hot cup of coffee all I could think about was the meeting with Tabara de Testare. Yes, I was a little bit nervous – Alexandru had finally convinced me to hold a presentation and I was looking over the final details: adjust the font/ jot down some notes/ rearrange the pictures.

I was among the last ones to arrive – everyone there was already chatting over tea or coffee and biscuits, Gabi was setting up the presentation gear and the day started at a little past 10AM. I was curious about how everyone would blend in – 20 people with no prior knowledge of each other, drawn to this place by their passion for QA – that should be a good starting point. Catalin and Alexandru walked us through the event’s schedule and presented themselves, their ideas behind Tabara de Testare and the whole concept of doing a peer conference about software testing. The new thing here would be the use of K-cards that encourage discussions in an orderly fashion – Alexandru seemed particularly fond of them, but then again, he was the moderator of the event, so that might have given him a valid excuse.

What are our expectations for today, we were asked, after everyone had introduced themselves. Well, personally, I wanted to meet these 20 people that hopefully shared my enthusiasm for QA and learn new things from them. And of course I would like this not to be a one-time event and have the courage to continue with this type of gatherings in the future.

First thing on the agenda: Gabi’s presentation. He walked us through the values that one can bring in the projects we work on, to the team we work with and last, but not least, to ourselves. I could not agree more. I believe we are in a constant process of improving ourselves and this is the foremost benefit of being a tester: working in a continuous developing environment, with new and exciting technologies and talented people. A thought that I personally liked from Gabi’s presentation was that “talking about change doesn’t make it happen”. There were lots of questions and themes to be debated after the talk, so much as the discussion went on for more than one hour. Alex was busy jotting down the participants’ numbers and the color of the K-card they had raised. It was quite refreshing to see people eager to share their experiences and ask questions – I forgot to mention that almost everyone there had at least 6 years of experience in testing, so that was a little bit intimidating for me, but it was a great plus conversational wise. Oana, Catalin, Adi, Vasile, Ioana and Jari were probably the most active participants here.

We went on to having lunch afterwards, in the restaurant downstairs – I still don’t know what that green sauce was, by the way, but it tasted good, nonetheless. It was a perfect opportunity for the participants to mingle and get to act more informal. I got to talking with Adina, who mentioned, among other things, how helpful it can get, while working on a project, for a tester to talk to the developer first and get things coordinated in the same direction. I thought it to be a great idea and it’s a practice that I also try to apply in my daily job. I also had a brief talk with Ionut, who’s doing some amazing performance testing with a tool he discovered, AutoIT. I liked what he said about bringing something new to the table in your domain of work – a question that one should ask themselves: “what is it that makes me different from everyone else? why would someone pick me?”

The conference continued with Lucian’s presentation, which was more an experience-based example of how to apply Agile practices in your projects. I particularly liked how he gave real examples and also the way he explained most of them, very patiently, by drawing on the flip-chart. He spoke of the challenges that might occur while working in a remote, multicultural environment, how sometimes one can feel they are not really contributing to the project and how does one find room to successfully apply Agile practices in such cases. I know Vasile, Sorina, Rares, Raluca, Istvan and Mihaela were glad that this topic was debated. Among others, a raising question was “how does one deal with last minute bugs that appear in the middle of the sprint?”. It was nice that everyone shared answers based on personal experience and they had bold solutions to propose.

Although we were a little behind schedule and it was already past 4 o’clock, Jari’s presentation shook our spirits and brought out the fun side of testing. I feel everyone will agree that his energetic presence, funny spirit and cheerful presentation did not only bring a smile to our faces, but also made us question the ground principles that we apply when testing: “what is it that we are doing wrong now and how can we avoid that in the future”. I especially liked his metaphor on exploratory testing versus scripted testing in the form of a short story: “Two kids are out on the streets on the hunt for candy, on a Halloween evening. The exploratory kid would follow an undefined trail and no matter how many times he would repeat the process, he gets more candy, because he would always have new doors to knock on in his trail. The scripted kid would have a predefined road and when repeating it, he would only get the candy once, because he would be knocking on the same doors all over again.” I hope I served the story justice – this is how I remember it 🙂

My presentation came last – I silently hoped that there would be no time left, but I didn’t have that luck. Honestly, I am not very fond of speaking in public – that’s why I tailored my presentation to focus more on the audience, thus hoping to shift the spotlight. I wanted to both share thoughts from my personal experience and also learn from other’s experiences – I brought forward questions that I often ask myself and I wanted fresh new answers from those present: “why did you become a software tester? why do you keep doing it? if you could name it, what would your QA super-power be? how did you overcome your failures? how deep do you go when testing? where do you stand in a team?” and I could go on. I got some of the answers I was looking for – I liked Claudia’s answer on why she became a tester: “because I thought I wasn’t good enough as a developer and I knew I could be great in testing, thus proving others wrong” and Vasile’s humorous take on his QA super power: “the Chuck Norris of bugs”.

And some ending thoughts… well, I believe Catalin will be able to get everyone’s names right from now on. Also, I think Alexandru will be proud to know that having those K-cards actually helped a lot in mediating the discussions, proving my resistance futile 🙂 Another thing on the plus side was that everyone felt comfortable enough to speak in English – of course, under the false pretense of humoring Jari 🙂 Overall, it was a great meeting. I met some nice people in a friendly, informal and cozy atmosphere (with lots of IKEA items), shared some ideas, asked myself some questions, learned something new. The ice has definitely been broken, so I believe there’s room for more. I’m looking forward to the next meeting with Tabara de Testare and hopefully continue to shine some light on software testing.



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