TestBash 2015 – More than Just a Conference

I have to admit, I was really excited about attending TestBash in Brighton, it was my first conference for 18 months and there was a real buzz about this one on social media. The schedule looked really interesting and there was a 5 of us attending from work so it was kind of like a team outing.

The journey down to Brighton on the Thursday didn’t go without a hitch, the train from Victoria to Brighton got caught behind a broken down train which meant we got in 30 mins later than planned. By the time we had checked into the hotel and found somewhere to eat, it was too late to attend the Pre-Conference Social, which personally I was gutted as I had been speaking to several other testers on twitter in the weeks before hand and was looking forward to meeting them, the rest of the team seemed quite glad to be going back to the hotel to get some sleep and I can’t really blame them for that.

The following morning, myself and Jesus from our team got up at 6am and joined the Pre-Conference Run, we completed the 5km run along the promenade and were back at the hotel having breakfast by 7.30.

We arrived at the Brighton Dome and from the moment we walked it, TestBash had a different feel about it to other conferences I had attended, whether it was the ninja stickers we wore with our names on rather than the formal name badges at other events, or the Ministry of Testing t-shirts, but there was a real feel of community.

Here is the Intel Security team who attended the conference

There were lots of great talks during the day with lots of interesting concepts:

  • It was interesting to discover the difference between the testing and release process of IOS and Android apps.
  • I was fascinated by Martin Hynie’s story of how changing the name of the Test team to Tech Research then to Business Analysts then back to Test caused the company to treat the same group of individuals differently and really show the power of Job titles.
  • Vernon Richards gave an amusing look into some of the phrases that are thrown around about testing such as “Anyone can test” or questioning why testing didn’t find the one bug that caused problems in production. He also gave an example of how to deal with a product manager who wants a number for how long testing will take and doesn’t get the answer he wants.
  • Maaret Pyhajarvi’s session really showed that Quality isn’t the responsibility of just the testers, in fact Maaret went as far to say that Quality is built by the developers, testers just inform of the quality. This came from her account of working as a solitary tester on a team of developers and seeing that initially the quality went down with addition of a tester as the developers became less vigilant with their testing before handing it over, as they expected Maaret to pick up all the testing. She showed us how she managed to get them on board and as a team improve the quality.
  • Iain McCowatt discussed how some people have the intuition and tacit knowledge to see bugs whereas others have to work methodically to find bugs, he then went into ways to harness the diversity amongst a test team.
  • The concept that stuck with Matthew Heusser’s talk on getting rid of release testing was the fact that changing the process shouldn’t be done all at once and the best way is to try one or two new stages first and make gradual changes to the process. (I also liked the fact that he worked on his slides on his tablet as he presented)
  • Karen Johnson gave a very thought provoking talk on how to ask questions, this really resonated with me and I can certainly see ways to get more out of people when I’m asking questions

There were 3 talks which really stood out for me.

The Rapid Software Testing Guide to What You Meant To Say – Michael Bolton

I had interacted with Michael a few years previously when he had given me some constructive criticism on one of my earlier blog posts on this site, so I was intrigued to see what he was presenting. This was a very interesting talk, Michael is a very engaging speaker and it’s clear why he is one of the most respected members of the testing community.

The concept of this session was to remind us of some of the phrases which are commonly used by testers which can cause misunderstanding or misconception. He showed some examples where he exchanged words like testing for “all of development” in phrases such as “Why is testing taking so long?” and “Can’t we just automate testing”. Suggesting that people may use testing as a scapegoat in this particular example, when infact the whole process should take the blame.

Michael went on to talk about how safety language should be used, phrases such as “…yet” and “So far” and not making statements such as “It works” and instead stating “So far, the areas which I have tested appear to meet some requirements” or something like that….

The discussion of testing vs checking came up (which was part of the issue Michael had with my earlier blog post…. I’ve since done the necessary reading to know the difference) and showing how checking fits into the testing process.

Overall, I think I learnt that it can sometimes be very easy to make statements which may raise expectations more than they should be or give the wrong message completely. I will certainly be ensuring to use safety language more often in the future.

I also feel it would be really useful to go on the Rapid Software Testing course. Something to look into this year.

Why I Lost My Job as a Test Manager and What I Learnt as A Result – Stephen Janaway

I hadn’t heard Stephen present before and he came across very well. His talk covered how when he was working as a Test Manager, with the agile process, he was managing individuals in several different teams, while there was a development manager with each team. He talked of the difficulties in decision making and how the products were slow in being developed/released.

Stephen then described what happened next, test managers and Development managers being removed from their roles, a delivery manager being put in each team and how the process improved. The question then was what happened with the Test Manager? Stephen explained the roles that he was now involved in, such as coaching management on testing, and how to manage testers, setting up testing communities internally so that the testers still have like minded people to discuss testing issues with now that they haven’t got a test manager and generally being an advocate for testing/quality within the organisation.

It showed that Test Managers needed to be adaptable and make decisions to go along a slightly different path and this is the way the testing industry seems to be going, so it was interesting and reassuring that there are other options out there.

The other point that hit me during this presentation was that of the internal testing communities, we have lots of individual test teams working on different projects, all developing their own automation frameworks and using different tools, it would be good to bring everyone together to share ideas, and maybe get some external speakers of the testing community in, to inspire them.

I really enjoyed Stephen’s talk and it gave me plenty of food for thought about the future.

Automation in Testing – Richard Bradshaw

Richard’s talk resonated with me for one reason, he explained how in his early years he had been seen at the automation guy and would try and automate everything, then he realised that too much had been automated and a benefit was no longer being seen. I have seen for myself, how teams have been so focused on having all of their testing automated, that they actually spend more time fixing failing tests when the next build is completed that they do writing any other tests. I whole-heartedly agreed with Richard when he stated that automation should be used to assist with manual testing, (writing scripts for certain actions to speed up the process) rather than relying on automated tests for everything.

This does seem to be a hot topic for discussion as there is the question of automated regression tests/checks, and automated non-functional testing, how should these be approached? This presentation definitely gave me a lot to think about with how to improve how we use automation when getting back into the office.

Richard presented this really well and I would say it was my favourite talk of the day.

I have to say that the schedule from start to finish was enjoyable, the lunch was delicious, the organisation of the day was fantastic. I honestly can’t wait to go back next year.

I really felt like the testing community is a really great place to be, so many great people, great minds with interesting ideas and a great chance to improve yourself by being able to attend conferences like this.

I am really glad that I found http://softwaretestingclub.com and was able to find details of the conference on there. The next step for me is to help set up the internal testing community and get them to look at it too. Maybe we can have a bigger Intel Security contingent next year, maybe I will find something to present. 🙂

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