At the end of October 2017, I attended my very first TestBash event in Manchester. Since quite some time I’ve been thrilled by the impressive work by Rosie Sherry, Richard Bradshaw and the rest of the crew at Ministry of Testing and their contribution to the testing community. Therefore, I was very honoured to be invited to Manchester as a speaker.
And what an experience it was…
I was both excited and a bit nervous going there, I must admit. Nervous because I figured there were only a few people there that I had met before in person. Richard Bradshaw I’ve met at Agile Testing Days a couple of times and a few others I had met maybe once or twice, like Anne-Marie Charret, Patrick Prill and Dan Billing. Also, I attended Michael Bolton‘s RST course back in 2008 (time flies…) and also met him at a couple of conferences some years ago. Being a bit shy and feeling awkward about approaching strangers, it’s probably natural to be a little nervous. But mostly I was excited.
I landed in Manchester on Wednesday night, went down for a short visit to the Craftbrew pub, was greeted by Richard and met a few other people before heading for bed to get some much needed sleep knowing there were three intense days ahead.
Thursday was workshop day where I had signed up for two half-day workshops that I was really looking forward to. In the morning, I attended “Web Application Security – A Hands on Testing Challenge” with Dan Billing. Despite being a tester for almost two decades, I still consider myself a newbie to Security Testing. The workshop was really interesting and I learned a lot from it, and as the title said, it was very hands on, guided by Dan who also shared many good insights from the world of web security. All in all, I had a great time and learned a lot.
Already by lunch, after having met some great people, most of my nervousness was gone. Among these were the Super Testing Bros – Daniel Barrow and James Espie from New Zealand – whose podcast I was a guest at earlier this year (my first podcast experience!). Really great to meet them in person and to hang out with them during the week. The same can be said about meeting the other guest on that podcast episode, Gem Hill, who was making her conference speaking debut at TestBash in her home town. More on that later. Anyway, I was amazed how the TestBash atmosphere was truly welcoming and including, in a way that I’ve only experienced at one conference before, Agile Testing Days.
After lunch, the next workshop was on “Building the Roadmap to Your Testing Future” with Marianne Duijst and Rick Tracy. This workshop I must say is one of the best I’ve ever attended. The setup was much more personal than I had expected. We ended up sharing with each other what drives us, what grounds us, what’s holding us back and what our goals are by telling stories and building connections with other participants and creating our own testing future roadmaps, all brilliantly facilitated by Marianne and Rick. Interestingly, this was also the very first time I met Marianne. Now when I write this, a month later, it feels like we’ve been friends for a much longer time.
Thursday night we spent at the Craftbrew pub, where I got to meet a lot more great people, having an amazing time. I was so happy (but also slightly red-faced, shy as I can be) by the loud welcome from Leigh Rathbone, who was the announcer on the conference day. Wow, that guy has some energy and he is indeed willing to share it. Being around Leigh gets you energized and happy, that’s just how it works.
Friday was conference day. And as Testbash is a one-track conference, that meant 240 people in the crowd for all talks. The memory of my own talk is very dim, what I know is that I was high on emotions afterwards and very happy to have given it. The other talks were great with no exceptions, and my favourites among them were Gem Hill‘s “Anxiety under test” and Claire Reckless‘ “The Fraud Squad – Learning to manage Impostor Syndrome as a tester”, both very strong, honest, personal and insightful. Both Claire and Gem were making their conference-speaking debut. From listening to them, I wouldn’t believe that if I didn’t know. My other favourites were Vera Gehlen-Baum‘s “Turning Good Testers Into Great Ones” about metacognition, using a great super hero metaphor, and Martin Hynie’s “The Lost Art of the Journeyman” where he shared lots of insights from his long career. And Michael Bolton‘s rap at the end of his talk is unforgettable. What really made the conference day even better was two additional things. Leigh Rathbone as the announcer, he pumped up the energy of both the speakers and the crowd between the talks, and also the 99 second talks at the end of the day that perfectly rounded up the day. It was so great to see the line of people waiting to give their talks, and wow, did they deliver!
What I also am very happy with from Friday is that I finally got into my possession a Testsphere deck, this amazing card game by Beren Van Daele. He is not only the creator of the game but also a really nice guy with lots of great ideas.
Friday night was again about hanging out with the amazing people at the bar. Now I could also relax a lot more, since my talk was done and all the nervousness was gone. I had the pleasure of meeting Conny Armitage and also got my first glimpse of her drawing talent. If you haven’t seen her work, just take a look at this amazing cartoon of her TestBash experience. All in all, when I walked back to the hotel on Friday night together with Geert van de Lisdonk, a really nice guy from Belgium (with whom I btw had many great conversations this week), I was feeling thankful for being allowed to be part of this community.
Saturday was Open Space at the LateRooms.com office, from where we had this great view over Manchester.
As usual at Open Space sessions, we started off proposing our topics and then sorted them into different locations and time slots. With all the interesting topics and passionate people gathered, it was really difficult to pick what sessions to attend. I ended up having a great time with lots of learning, helped by the safe environment where we could have open and honest discussions about things we really care about.
The day went by quickly and after that, those of us who were still around went downtown for dinner and post-conference hangout. Again, such great conversations with truly amazing people, among these Antonella Scaravilli, Tomislav Delalic, Sarah Deery, Marcel Gehlen, Vera Gehlen-Baum, Cassandra Leung, Martin Hynie, Patrick Prill and Dan Billing. Also I want to send a huge thank you to Vera Gehlen-Baum for the invaluable feedback she provided on my talk, which helped me improve it a lot before giving it again at Agile Testing Days a couple of weeks later (which I will write more about in an upcoming post). Among the things I learned from her that I could use to improve my talk was to create a better narrative, make it more personal, connect the theory to more practical examples, anchor the different parts while connecting them and narrow the scope by cutting out a few pieces, which also made it less rushed at the end. I will be forever thankful for this, Vera!
This was my first Testbash, but certainly not my last. I left Manchester with a great feeling, carrying my TestBash experience with me in my heart, wearing this super cool T-shirt. Thank you Richard Bradshaw & Ministry of Testing for having me.