Rambling notes from Agile Testing Days 2017 (part 1)

Super Agile Person

I promised myself I would blog about some of the sessions I attended at Agile Testing Days, mainly to help myself reflect and incubate new ideas. I have sketch notes from a lot of sessions so that should help me remember!

We tamed technical beasts together!
We tamed technical beasts together!

Janet Gregory and I facilitated an all-day workshop on Monday where a couple dozen participants joined us as we explored ways to “tame our technical beasts”. So many of us feel we aren’t “technical” enough to succeed as a tester these days. When we started inventorying the technical skills our participants had, it was clear that our fear is unjustified. And even when do lack skills, we found there are many ways to learn them. One fun way that we tried in the workshop was mob testing to practice things like shell commands.

We supplied participants with paper dragons to put together as well as pipe cleaner materials to visualize their own “beasts”, just for fun. Quite a zoo resulted!

Daily Jump Start

Each day at 7:00 am, Søren Wassard got us going with a morning run. Well, I chose to walk, but so did a few others and we had a lovely stroll down to the Sans Souci park. I just had time to get back and grab my stickies and Sharpies for Lean Coffee, which I co-hosted with Janet Gregory, along with various volunteer facilitators. Great way to start the day, even if it meant missing the late-night conference fun.

The opening keynote was from one of my heroes, Jez Humble. I refer you to Pete Walen’s blog for notes on that. I had seen the same keynote at Agile 2017, along with Jez’s awesome takedown of Damore’s Manifestbro, and I didn’t take new notes.

Trust, Accountability and Perspective

I love the “new speaker” track at ATD, so I headed there first on Tuesday. First up was Susan Bligh, talking about “Trust, Accountability, and Perspective”. She gave examples of relationships between people in different roles on teams, and how they

Susan Bligh explains how we can put the puzzle pieces together
Susan Bligh explains how we can put the puzzle pieces together

can go wrong. We have puzzle pieces that we struggle to put together. Jane the analyst feels that Bob the tester is trying to do what should be her job. Susan took us through a “reset focus” exercise where we thought about what we want, then what other people want. We can view our team through a different lens. What does the team need to succeed? Susan explained that trust is required, which means rewarding team success, not individual success. This was a theme I heard in other ATD sessions too.

Susan advised us to care about our team and engage on a personal level. Find out what people are interested in. What’s their favorite part of being on a project? What do they like about <fill in the blank>? Move away from the blame game. If Bob likes to coach people, ask him if he’d like to do the sprint demo. Share accountability for quality – if one person fails, we all fail. That allows a team of people with diverse perspectives to really rock.

Learning Agile Testing

The next new speaker was Lisi Hocke, who has recently become a pretty experienced speakers, I think she gave four talks over the course of two months. Full disclosure, we did a workshop together on the following day, so I’m a biased audience member. I am pretty much ignorant of the Guardians of the Galaxy, so the whole Groot thing goes over my head. But Lisi’s learning journey resonates with me, as does her message – don’t let fear hold you back. Failing is learning. Lisi adopted a growth mindset and looked for inspiration in Twitter, books, everywhere. She made her job her own, she chose her own identity, she shared what she learned. She engaged her team in experiments like mob programming. She connected via meetups and online communities, and decided to do something that scared her – speak at conferences! I hope Lisi’s story inspires more people to share their experiences with speaking and writing. She’s inspired at least one person, Steph Desby, who agreed to pair with me on an Agile Testing Days session next year!

Gitte Klitgaard & Andreas Schliep discuss responsibility vs. good and evil
Gitte Klitgaard & Andreas Schliep discuss responsibility vs. good and evil

Do Good and Evil Exist?

Gitte Klitgaard & Andreas Schliep donned their Jedi robes, picked up their light sabers, and debated whether there is right or wrong, good and evil in the world. They drew on analogies from Star Wars as well as real life to discuss whether people can be inherently good or bad, or if judging people puts them in a box. Perhaps we invite bad behavior with our own actions? Or perhaps we need to invite them to lunch and listen to them. This was such a unique and creative session, I’ve not seen anything like it, and it really made me think.

I made the most of my lunchtime by having made plans in advance with a few people and then having others join us along the way. This first conference day, I managed to eat lunch with Cassandra Leung, Marianne Duijst, Alex Schladebeck, and Guna Petrova – at least I think so, because lunchtimes have run together in my mind and I neglected to take pictures. Just being around their energy picks me up and recharges me so that I’m ready for the rest of the conference day.

Owning Our Own Narrative

Angie Jones inspired us with an illustration from the music business of how we can learn from the past, adapt

Angie Jones explains why and how we should own our narrative
Angie Jones explains why and how we should own our narrative

for the future, and write our own success story around test automation. As Angie explained, musicians have a role of entertaining us. Over the decades since the late 1800s, their tools changed, but their role remained the same. When they resisted change, and complained that automation – in the form of phonographs and juke boxes – was ruining their careers, they failed. When they embraced change – used jukeboxes, and later the web, to promote their music – they soared ahead. Angie advised us no to mope, complain, degrade automation, or become “vocabulary Nazis” because we don’t want to give power to test automation. Automation is here to stay. It doesn’t replace anyone. It’s a tool. We need to learn to use new tools, new techniques, new thought processes. It’s more than “shifting left” – shifting can be limiting. It’s about joining your team to learn about design, ask questions, get the team engaged, finding new ways to measure success. We provide value in preventing issues.

I now know what a chatbot is!

Personifying an early video game
Personifying an early video game

I spent the afternoon learning about chatbots with Mike Talks. I took notes somewhere, but they aren’t in my sketch notebook, and I don’t have time to hunt them down. Suffice it to say that getting to create a chatbot for realz was amazing. I paired with Stephan Kämper to create a chatbot that personified his lovely dog. I learned about the benefits a chatbot can provide, and plan to work with my own support team to create our own chatbot and see if it helps our customers have a better day.

Embracing new hires

Poornima Vijayashanker  told us some surprising stories about onboarding new hires and how easily that can go wrong. Again I plead bias, as my Pivotal Tracker team sponsors Poornima’s awesome videocast, and is currently offering a free download of her book Present: A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking. And, i did’t sketchnote so see Pete Walen’s writeup.

So many great costumes, so much fun

Super Agile Person
Super Agile Person

The Agile Testing Days costume party is always the highlight of the week. Always great food, a great band, amazing costumes. Please see Cirilo Wortel‘s amazing photos for a look at some of the many awesome costumes, as well as the many awesome people throughout Agile Testing Days. I leave you with Super Agile Person, a super hero born of Agile Testing Days and destined to be at this party.

I’m committed to posting more on Agile Testing Days, please be patient, it will extend the enjoyment!

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