I’m a software tester through and through and part of my skillset is my ability to recognise patterns when processing input and/or data. The reason I say that I process stuff is because I analyse everything around me as well what is in presented to me – if you like, it’s my context. So, when I look back and review my experience at EuroSTAR 2015, I do so through several filters.
I look to see if the conference theme (Walking the Testing Talk) was adhered to by the majority of speakers on hand. I look to see if there was a diverse and interesting program – this isn’t just from a topic perspective but also a cultural and skills-level point of view. I look to see what add-ons the organisers have provided – and I don’t mean the vendors displaying their wares as if every product or service is the next silver bullet. I look at how consistently the support staff treat the attendees – are the younger ones treated with as much respect as us older, more mature folk? Most of all though, I look at how people are responding to their surroundings – are they really enjoying themselves?
So my final review (as the EuroSTAR 2015 TESTHuddle Community Blogger) is a series of short stories reflecting upon what I observed, what I heard, how I felt and (finally) my personal thoughts around whether anything could have been better.
The Story about the Conference Theme…. First off I’d like to state, for the record, that the theme title (Walking the Testing Talk) seemed a bit like “consultancy speak”. What I mean by this is that walking the talk is a rather trite way of saying we do what we say we will do – well from my perspective, that should go without saying! So, what percentage of speakers stuck to the theme? Based on the talks I attended four of the five keynotes met the criteria and about 80% of the Track sessions worked for me. However, several missed the mark by quite a margin. I know the Program Chair and his committee have a tough job slicing through hundreds and hundreds of submissions, but a clever title doesn’t mean you get an informative presentation. My personal favourite of all the talks I attended was one from a novice presenter (Susan van de Ven) who charmed us as well as informed us with her Mobile Testing: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back? Susan presented several stories of how her App Testing challenges have been playing out and even managed to inject some appropriate humour.
The Story of Diversity in the Program…. Did anything in the program surprise me? YES! I was super impressed with James Thomas talk entitled Your Testing is a Joke. Not only did James show his depth of knowledge of software testing techniques and processes but he managed to translate these into joked-focussed scenarios. My view has always been to have fun while you’re working and James certainly provided a fresh perspective on this. Did anyone in the program disappoint me? YES! I found two of the Keynotes (Kristoffer Nordström and Jeffrey Payne) very difficult to connect with and neither of their stories resonated with me – maybe I’m being over critical but there is a big difference between being enthusiastic and blasting our eardrums with rhetoric. Was the overall program strong enough? YES, I think so. I learnt quite a lot and validated plenty of my own ideas.
The Story about the Conference “Extras”…. EuroSTAR has created an exceptional offering around it’s TESTHuddle (aka Community Huddle) and TestLab concepts as adjuncts to the main program. I was fortunate enough to get very close to the TESTHuddle (via the SoapBox and TestCoffee ventures), but there was not enough time in the day to avail myself of everything on offer. Suffice to say that I believe that there is something for everyone in the Conference Extras bag.
The Story of the EuroSTAR Support Team…. From the moment I was greeted on the first morning by a host of smiling faces to collecting my coat on my final evening from the amazingly efficient cloakroom ladies I felt very well cared for. It takes considerable skill and charm to keep almost a thousand people happy for five days and I can honestly say that the support crew never stopped giving 100%. If I had a team like this in my organisation I would parade them up and down at every opportunity in order to show how great teamwork looks. An event like EuroSTAR doesn’t just happen, it requires respect and an understanding of many cultural requirements – these guys have it all in spades.
The Attendees Story… I wish I’d conducted a straw poll as people left the MECC, on the last day of the conference, so that I could provide proof of my feeling that the majority of attendees thoroughly enjoyed EuroSTAR 2015. Based upon my eye-witness assessment people left sessions early (as did I); people came to sessions late (as did I); people slept through sessions (not me, despite my jet-lag excuse); people heckled and insulted presenters (again, not me, but it was only in one session) and people cheered and gave standing ovations.
My People Story…. If there is one software tester who has brightened my life this year it is Patrick Prill (@TestPappy). He has been an inspiration to me (on Twitter) and to finally come face to face with this gentle giant of a man was a great start to my conference. Then there was the legendary Dot Graham, who gave an hour of her busy schedule to chat about what EuroSTAR means to her. Next came James Lyndsay (the latest recipient of the European Software Testing Excellence Award) who shared his passion for the TestLab and geekdom in general. Paul Gerard and Stuart Reid made me laugh out loud with their “double act” as we discussed crowd-testing (yes it can be VERY funny). Nathalie Roosenboom de Vries (@funTESTic) schooled me in the pronunciation of “Klaas Kers” – my Dutch alter ego. While James Thomas (@qahiccupps) convinced me that my testing is a joke. These folks provided just a few of my personal highlights – I know I’m not alone in experiencing such warmth and kindness.
My TESTHuddle Community Story…. It’s no secret that I would not have been at EuroSTAR 2015 without the good people behind the TESTHuddle Community. In appreciation of their efforts I took time out from my Reporter duties to present a SoapBox session on the impact a unified and committed software testing community can have on the future of our craft. I am now committed to following through on several initiatives with respect to building a stronger software testing community and I have the TESTHuddle guys to thank for their inspiration and support.
And, just before I go, for those of you who need some definitive numbers on how I saw EuroSTAR 2015, this is how I rated it….
Diversity of Content: 8/10
Quality of Keynote Speakers: 6/10
Quality of Track Sessions: 8/10
Quality of TESTHuddle initiatives: 10/10
Quality of TestLab: 9/10
Quality of exhibitors: 8/10
Availability/accessibility of Speakers for extra curricular discussions: 9/10
Quality of EuroSTAR Support Team: 10/10