Reflections on Test Bash

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Last week I attended my first Ministry of Test: Test Bash, in Manchester. I’ve followed these conferences for a while on Twitter and through reading blogs from other attendees. So I was really looking forward to attending this one.

I signed up for two workshops on day one, and these were followed by the main Test Bash conference on day two, and a new format Test.Bash() conference on day three, which included more technical talks than on day two.

Before I get into my thoughts on the week, a few things about me. I’m not overly outgoing. I’m good at faking confidence, I think. I’m often told I’m quietly spoken, though I don’t hear it myself. I think it’s important to let you know these now, as I think it gives a some context to my experience of attending.

The night before the workshops, I was feeling quite apprehensive, as I knew I’d have to be in a group of people that I didn’t know, and have to participate in group activities. Something that I’m never too comfortable with doing.

The first workshop was on Coaching with Toby Sinclair (@TobySinclair_), which is something I’ve been trying to do recently in my role as a Test Practice Lead, so I was looking forward to picking up some advice that I could take back to work.

Within ten minutes of the start of the session, I realised my worries were for nothing, as the groups were all friendly and it was also helped that my friend and colleague Jo (@jothetester) was in my group. The workshop was really good, informative, and it got me thinking a lot about how I’ll approach coaching in my work in future. Day one, off to a good start.

After lunch was the second workshop, all about Empowering People through Play by Christina Ohanian (@ctohanian) and Nicola Sedgwick (@nicolasedgwick), focusing on communicating and helping people to work together. I immediately knew I’d like this one as I spied Lego when I arrived. It was another great workshop, well organised and fun to be part of.

Day one done. I felt tired out with all the information taken on, but overall pretty good, and looking forward to the rest of the week.

I was really looking forward to Day two. There were some really interesting talks on the schedule. The morning cobwebs were blown away by the excellent Leigh Rathbone (@villabone) who was host for the day. His energy and delivery was entertaining, and set the mood for the day.

It started off with a great talk by Conall Bennett about how his project had moved to AWS, and the challenges they faced with testing it. It was interesting to me as there has been mention of AWS in my workplace for a while, and it also gave me some insights as a Tester into what we need to start learning about, especially on the performance front.

This was followed by an excellent talk by Alex Schladebeck (@alex_schl) and Huib Schoots (@huibschoots) titled Jedi Mind Tricks for Testers. It was an entertaining talk about techniques testers can use to be more influential, and get the standing and respect that is sometimes missing. It was one of the highlights of the day for me.

Another highlight was a talk by Dorothy Graham . Her engaging style talking about the The Testers 3 C’s: Criticism, Communication, and Confidence, had the audience captured. The talk got me thinking about how I approach engaging with my team. Live coding at a conference is often seen as a no-go area, but Dorothy topped all of that by singing live to finish off her talk.

The rest of the day was filled with other great talks. I deliberately didn’t take a lot of notes, preferring instead to listen to the talks. The videos were also going to be made available on the Ministry of Test Dojo, so I decided I would watch them back and take better notes in my own time.

By the end of Day two, I was feeling pretty frazzled. For anyone that’s not been to a conference before, especially a multi-day one, it can be hard work. Mentally, you get little time to switch off. You’re engaged most of the day, and surrounded by people most of whom you don’t know. So if you don’t find it easy striking up conversations, it can be hard work. During lunch on day two, I took time out on a quiet balcony at the venue just to find some silence. Mental health and looking after yourself was talked about often during the conference, and it’s important not to ignore your own needs.

Day three was a new format for Test Bash, focusing on more technical talks. I was looking forward to this, as I like getting into the technical aspects of testing. All of the talks were great, and I took away a lot from all of them.

Some highlights were Jit Gosai (@JitGo) talking about the journey his team have been going through in testing at the BBC.

Angie Jones (@techgirl1908) live coding, and showing how to tidy up Code Smells in automation frameworks. I liked this one a lot as I know there are test frameworks in my work littered with smells. The challenge in tidying them up though, is finding time to do it.

Simon Stewart’s (@shs96c) Monty Python-esque style for his talk about The Use and Abuse of Selenium was really engaging, and I found myself nodding along with a lot of the points he made.

On both days of the conference, there was a slot for anyone to do a 99 second talk, about anything they liked. I’d thought about doing this, but kept convincing myself that my subject wasn’t of interest. But by the end of Day three, when the 99 second talks came up, I decided I was going for it.

I’ve never talked in front of a large group like this before, and I didn’t prepare any notes. I kept thinking about Dorothy’s talk the day before, and how even if you don’t have confidence, you can fake it.

So I did it. My first 99 second talk, in which I spoke about using Example Mapping in 3 Amigo’s sessions. We’ve been using them in my team and they really helped to get more value out of the sessions. I thought even if most of the audience might already have heard about them, if I said something that a few might not have heard about before, then it was worth it.

I don’t remember much about the talk, just all the faces looking at me. In the end, I think it was more like a 60 second talk.

I found the conference overall inspiring, from the amazing testing community that I’m part of, I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to using some of the things I learned. It was also a lot of fun. There was a buzz about the venue over the three days, and it felt good to be part of it. On the train home, I realised how exhausted I was, and it was good to have some time to reflect on the past week.

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