Ultimate survival in the UKstar 2018 – recap

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I came back from one of most exciting conferences I presented at, so far, Eurostar’s little brother – UKstar 2018. It was my 3rd participation in a conference out of homeland, so I still consider myself a lucky bastard for having the opportunity to speak at such a great international event.

Credits to UKstar 2018 media archive

I met many people I learned testing from and I follow since day 1 when I started testing. Testers like: Joel Montvelisky – his blog was one of the first resources I found on testing, 5 years ago, Alan Richardson – the evil tester – read his books and watched his courses and videos on testing and automation, as well. I also met many old friends from other conferences and made new ones, which I hope I will see in other events. But let’s cut the bullshit and dive into more details.

I forgot my notepad… again

In the recap from Testbash Munich I introduced the “I forgot my notepad” heuristic for summarizing your impressions from a conference. And this time, I shit you not, I forgot my notepad, again, thankfully not on the way back to Bulgaria, but in the luggage in my hotel room. So, here’s what stuck with me during the two days of the conference.

Keynotes

I am amazed how good the keynotes were. All of them were awesome, they were all what a keynote is supposed to be – supported with a lot of experience and personal example, inspiring, thought-provoking and most of all amusing – the audience really enjoyed each of the stories.

I am going to focus not so much on the stories, but on the people and they way they approached storytelling, the lesson that I learn from them, I think this is what matters to me.

Christina Ohanian

Christina made the starting keynote of the conference day 1 called “Embrace change” about growing a testing community of practice. Lots of the experiences she shared felt so close to what I was there to talk about and it seems they turned into a refrain that I heard through both conference days, something that I really will think about. The topic was related to overcoming common misunderstandings about testing and building trust in the testing team, something that each and every one of us is doing, every day.

Gustav Kuhn

Gustav Kuhn was very interesting guest, I was also at the workshop, by him and Alan Richardson, about “Mapping cognition to modeling and software testing”. To be honest, it wasn’t what I expected from testing perspective, but it was yet very interesting. Gustav was an interesting guy, he is not a tester, he’s a cognitive psychologist, who also studies magic  and magic tricks to explore human perceptions. His keynote was extremely good, including magic tricks of course. Fun part is that magic actually works, due to the way our brains work and due to the ability of magicians to trick and misguide our attention.

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The key thing that struck me, as a tester and I think it might be related to testing – once we follow a specific decision path, related to a scenario or hypothesis we like to explore, we might fall into a trap set by our own or someone elses mind, following completely wrong path. Gustav gave example with fake news – although we know they are fake and we refuted their validity, the fact we know about them affects our decision-making, which might be very dangerous.

Isabel Evans

It was the first time a saw Isabel to present, I saw her name pop-up on many events like Eurostar, StarEast, StarWest, etc. Her keynote was really amazing – it was called “Leadership, followship, fellowship”. The main idea compared some leadership models and group organisations with the animal kingdom, and how very often our office environment is organized as a wolf pack, for example. The keynote also concerned personal space and how often we act very aggressive when we feel someone or something is invading our personal space and we start guarding it irrationally.

Frank Wames

To be honest I had no idea who Frank Wames was, before the conference. During my talk I saw him tweeting a lot about my presentation and I thought “Oh, how kind of this person”. Next day I realized he was the CTO of Capgemini – a live CTO sitting on one of my lectures, oh my God! Normally, not a lot of these people go to conferences, even smaller amount of them spend time listening to testing talks. I felt very happy about it, because when I speak about testing problems to testers – it’s like preaching to the choir – I know they understand and I know they have the same problem, but I also know change doesn’t completely depend on them, but very often on their management, who are most likely detached from the process, not willing to listen, not caring about their employees’ voices at all, and I’ve heard a lot of these stories during UKstar 2018. But here was a guy, who was a CTO and was ready to listen, internalize and reflect – simply amazing.

So, he delivered the last keynote for the conference and it was called “Connecting the beats with the bytes” which was actually a story about connecting hearts through technology and the challenges that it gives us in solving the problems of today and potential uses to improve our life standard. It was really inspirational, really well delivered and I don’t want to spoil it for you, if you see Frank at a conference, definitely go listen to the guy, go and say “Hi”, you won’t be disappointed.

Workshops

One of the things that I’d like to change about the conference, were the workshops. They didn’t seems very workshoppy to me. What I imagine, when I hear “a workshop” is a lesson that you learn by doing something. The two workshops that I visited were more like a lecture with demonstrations, rather than a workshop.

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Sessions

I attended to many good sessions, but I can’t dive too deep in each and every one of them. Here’s few that are worth mentioning:

Dr. Andrew Brown made a rally good talk on estimates and how they relate to bias we have and how estimates can actually increase risk in our project rather than manage it.

James Lindsay – one of the first big names I heard to speak at QA challenge accepted, where I will present this year, made an awesome workshop about systems and pathological behavior in systems. It really felt interesting to me due to my recent interest in General system theory, so I found someone else interested in the behaviour of systems and their organization.

Richard Paterson – one of the new voices at the conference (just like me) had his first talk ever, which was called “Talking about talking about testing” where he spoke about his reasons to start speaking about testing at conferences. Having in mind it was his first conference he seemed very confident, calm and did extremely well. So, if you have a chance follow the guy on Twitter, find him at conferences, you won’t be disappointed.

I also can’t miss the friends that I made in previous conferences – Marianne Duijst – I wasn’t able to make it for her lecture, but I was able to sit next to her during Gustav’s keynote and see the magic of sketchnotes happen in front of my eyes. 🙂 She claims everyone can do them, but I still insist you need a small bit of artistic talent and feeling about colours and shapes, so you make them compelling.

Rick Tracy – it wasn’t just the talk, we practically spent most of the time chatting, exchanging ideas, making couch sessions, dining and discussing various topics on testing. It was amazing, Rick is a really interesting person with amazing view on testing, if you ever encounter him at a testing conference, go say “Hi”, he’s extremely friendly and welcoming person, you will definitely enjoy talking to him.

Kinga Witko – made an interesting short talk on a topic that is not considered a hot one, but a very important one – accessibility testing. I think testers are not aware how important accessibility is for people with disabilities, but also how technically challenging creating an accessible software product might be. I think Kinga made a great point in her presentation.

My session with Yann Person

I was also part of the speakers, incase no one noticed. I was part of a so-called “conversation track” which practically means morphing two similar topic into one and turning them into a Q & A with the audience.

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This was a challenge for me in many ways, I never collaborated on a talk, the format was new for me, but  it was beneficial in many different ways, as well.

Turned out, Yann was a really cool guy, who has a fair amount of experience working with startups, many of the ideas that we wanted to present were very close and we agreed on many points, most of all, discussing the topic and collaborating before the conference was a great learning experience. It also gave us the opportunity to have Alan Richardson as our mentor, which was another great source of knowledge, for that particular format.

My part of the conversation track was called “Ultimate testing survival” and was related to surviving testing in real life conditions. You know how all blogs and books on testing are always explaining how easy testing is. Just follow the docs and the scenarios and the steps and you got it all figured out. Well, that’s bullshit – testing in real life project is dirty, unfair, many to one fight without rules. We often lack adequate documentation, very often nobody cares how much do we know about the project, product and at what stage are we involved, we rely heavily on tools, that sometimes suck and nobody knows how to use them, etc. In other words, we can only trust our instincts and adaptability to survive in testing.

I think the talk went well, I found many people who related to the message and shared similar failure stories, I hope I was able to help them find a solution or at least the base on which they can build a solution.

Here are my slides from UKstar 2018:

If we had a chance to talk

If we had a talk at UKstar and we didn’t have the chance to exchange contact info, please write to me, send me a line, I’d love to have you in my network and exchange ideas with you in the future. Normally, my memory sucks, so even if we had an hour talk I am able to forget it.

Same applies if you wanted to talk and failed, because there was someone more interesting, or you were too shy or whatever other reason. Please feel free to add me on Linkedin, drop me a message in Twitter or via the contact form in my blog.

Here are few photos of me from the conference:

 

Source: Ukstar archive
Source: UKstar archive
Source: UKstar archive

Good luck and thanks for reading! 🙂

 

 

Mr.Slavchev

Senior software testing engineer at https://siteground.com. Experience in mobile, automation, usability and exploratory testing. Rebel-driven tester, interested in the scientific part of testing and the thinking involved. Testing troll for life. Retired gamer and a beer lover. Martial arts practitioner.

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