My Nordic Testing Days 2017 conference experience

It all started over 6 months ago. I heard about Nordic Testing Days being an awesome conference and i really wanted to be a part of it, as a speaker. Having never been to Estonia, the location was also a nice plus. So i submitted some talk ideas and the guys from the organizing team were kind enough to accept me as a workshop deliverer…workshoppee…well a speaker who does workshops.

I spent months preparing, finding the time to work on my slides and on the actual task that i would deliver in the workshop, preparing the solution for the task and uploading it into GitHub.

Pre-conference day

And all of the sudden, it was pre-conference day. Well, for some of the people, this was the tutorial day that came right before the two conference days. But i had just arrived in Tallinn that day and was looking forward to the speaker’s dinner. I was just a little tired and had issues sleeping for days.

We were told to gather in front of the hotel, and i assumed we were going to have dinner right there. But a surprise was waiting for us: a cute tourist train (you know, the kind that runs on the road, not on rails), that took us up to one of the city’s viewing platforms. The site was amazing. You could really see the rooftops, the old city and the sea with a couple of ferries anchored in the port. A beautiful site, especially as it was dusk. We stayed there for a while, drinking some champagne and enjoying some strawberries.

Then, we started our “descent” into the old town, and we entered a restaurant that was nothing like i had seen before: the whole atmosphere was medieval, there were no lights, candle lights were placed so that at least you could see your food 🙂 The waiters wore medieval apparel and some music was played, in the same medieval style.

I spent a good part of the evening, upon returning to my hotel, checking out the view from my room, which was just spectacular, even better than the one from the viewing platform. Just one thing: i was expecting to see some night…but instead it was just a prolonged sunset…as the guys said, it was Estonian summer. So there was a lot of light outside throughout the night.

Conference Day 1

We started off with some coffee, a bit of socializing, the whole “intro speech” and off we went with the first talk of the day, a keynote on the evolution of technology and particularly gadgets, delivered by the journalist Henrik Roonemaa. The main message of the talk, as illustrated by the examples and figures he showed us, was something in the lines of – build something really simple if you want a whole bunch of users and customers.

I then attended the first part of the “Refactoring Junit Tests” workshop delivered by Franziska Sauerwein, which i found interesting, but i needed a bit of time to prepare my workshop too, so i skipped the second part.

After lunch my two hour workshop took place. The last talk of the day right after that was Alan Richardson’s “Creating yourself as a tester”. Having already found my own career path, i did not resonate as much with this talk as others did, but i encourage such talks that inspire people to grow as testers.

A break came up afterwards, and then dinner and the party. A…band played some…i don’t know how to call that music really. They were like…drumming…oh well, the light effects were very nice. Later on some of us went playing some games, and the rest of us went to enjoy a series of lightning talks, in a nice cozy atmosphere. There was a lot of laughing going on.

Conference Day 2

I missed the first talk of the day, but i was a bit unsure what talks to see next. I actually made a good decision. First up was Lars Sjodahl’s story of how he and his team started building physical automation tools out of common objects, due to lack of budget. He showed us some ingenious examples, one of which, a tool that kept moving a ticket above a scanner, was built by using chopsticks and staples. I love seeing simple solutions that help improve testing, and most of all, that remove a good portion of the repetitive work a tester should perform. Automation built simply.

The next talk i went to, or rather stayed for, was Carly Dyson’s insight of what it was like for her to work in a large company as a non-functional testing consultant. This was a story that i resonated with just a little bit, as i recently moved into a consultant position myself. As she described, one of the biggest challenges when working with customers is having to build something in a certain way, as requested by the customer, when you actually think another approach would be better.

The last talk of the day, after the second round of my workshop, was Kristjan Korjus’ talk about self-driving robots. On stage with him was a cute delivery robot, that is used by companies in certain places in the world to deliver goods on short distances. The story was quite interesting, in terms of: what does the robot do, why do they use this approach (only delivering the products on short distances, on the sidewalks), how they use combined data from maps and robot mounted cameras to model their routes, how they (not) test, and so on. It was very interesting to see how a startup is dealing with all sorts of real world factors that can influence the successful delivery of the required products. Also, the “time to market” of new features, how these are gradually tested or rolled back made for a very interesting talk.

My contribution – workshops and lightning talk

I had a 2-hour workshop on both conference days, on Selenium tests the Object Oriented way. I really liked that participants had already prepared their workshop pre-requisites, so i could jump into the story directly.

Thing is: when you do a workshop, it is much tougher to do it with people you don’t know, than with colleagues or friends. You get little feedback from the crowd, so you either learn to read their gestures or ask them to be open and feel free to ask any questions during the workshop. So i tried to explain the concepts as well as i could, and i was happy that i got a few questions after the talk as well.

As promised, the slides for my talk can be found here and the actual code is in my GitHub repository (page object here and the actual test and objects here).

During the first evening i also felt quite energized, and i enrolled to give a 5-minute lightning talk. I was not sure how it would go, as i had a different idea of what i wanted to do than what normally goes on with these talks. I actually asked the crowd to tell me, in 5 minutes, any tool, framework or programming language they use in their testing-day-to-day job, and then i filled a whole flip chart sheet with these.

I was pleased that the guys went along with this idea, and that we, as testers, use so many tools and are able to build so many things by using them! Many of these are even mostly used by developers, so cheers to us as testers. There was a time when i heard plenty of people saying that “being QA is easy, you just click on some buttons”. Not anymore. We can actually do really cool stuff.

The atmosphere

The crowd at the event was amazing. It felt really cozy and warm. The “organizing committee” was really professional and nice, always there if we had questions, and very supportive. And always smiling 🙂  The event was really well put together: the hotel was gorgeous, the food at the restaurant excellent, and there was plenty of coffee and detox water to go around.

Summary

The nicest thing about this conference in my opinion was the presence of technical workshops. We need such things. Automation is key in so many areas of technology projects, so knowledge sharing on such topics as the ones delivered by the speakers are really needed. There were all kinds of topics covered by the workshops, like Rest, Junit, Selenium, and so on. I highly appreciate that.

This was by far the best testing conference i attended up to now, considering all the aspects: program, facilities, and so on. The price is also very good, considering what you get out of the days spent in Tallinn.

Therefore, congrats to the NTD team and thank you very much for having me! Looking forward to see the schedule for next year.

 

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