ThinkTest 2015 highlights & acknowledgements

Finally – we did THINKTEST on 5th December 2015 that we were planning to do in 2013. I had so many emotions coming up through the entire month, that I purposely delayed writing the blog on ThinkTest , so I could give time for my thoughts to settle down and I only write what I truly mean . Frankly, this is not unlike me to get attached to my work but this event made me feel very different than my usual work.  I could be at risk of being called highly dramatic, but, I have to admit – the event almost felt like my third child – A feeling that probably Rosie Sherry or Peggy Libbey could share with me.

James + ThinkTest

One feeling that has not changed since the morning of 5th December 2015 though, is – ThinkTest 2015 was a resounding success!! Astounding and reverberating in every sense!!

Before I go further into my blog, I need to say this in bold & CAPITAL. THANK YOU JAMES FOR MAKING IT. I have seen your hotel bills and I have a fair idea of your travel costs too. And putting everything together, I know for sure, this was not a trip you did for commercial reasons. I am truly humbled by this respect and attention you have given me. I can’t thank you enough on behalf of the testers gathered here to meet you – they have loved your presence and your talks and would be so looking forward to seeing you here again.

full house - thinktest - james

Delhi, is typically known for being a little lazier than its other peers like Mumbai, Bangalore etc. However, the testers here broke the myth. We had the room full before James got onstage and that truly deserves a huge round of applause for the testers who made it all the way from Gurgaon / Faridabad / Ghaziabad / Noida and various far flung places in Delhi.  Besides the National Capital Region, we had testers from Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Pune and Kolkata joining us. We also had 1 tester who flew all the way from Colombo ( SriLanka) – just for the conference and the RST class – in short – just for James Bach. There was a total gathering of 157 folks, of which we had a team of 5 organizers (including me), and 11 speakers (including James) and about 6 sponsor representatives. The rest were the awesome software testers. Thanks testers for making it in such numbers.

The day before – We worked with the hotel staff and the printing team all night until 5 am of 5th morning to get the stage up and the backdrop done. The sponsor booths were put up and the standees placed. The registration desk setup. Each chair and table checked for cleanliness – Audio / Visual equipments tested.

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At Utpatang office – collecting the gift packs at 00:00 hrs on 5th December 2015.

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At the venue (Holiday Inn) at about 02:00 hrs on 5th December 2015 – setting up the “decorations” for the ceremony.

Had a quick nap from 5 to 6:30 am and the day started again. Our first attendees came in about 7:30 am. Thereafter they started to pour in at the registration desk as the 2 volunteers were hurriedly letting them in with their delegate tags. There were few walk-ins who had not registered. They were initially not allowed – frankly we had seating of 120 and were okay for 130-135 folks around but handling 15 – 20 more than the already 20 additional registrations, seemed difficult. But they stood patiently and we didn’t have the heart to turn them down. They were not charged but instead given complimentary passes and allowed because they showed their keenness to hear James and learn from him. From there on, the day went by smoothly – everything that was planned went better than planned. A few unplanned situations cropped in – which I talk about, under learnings- later in the blog.

James with other speakers and delegates

Before, I started to write this blog, I asked a few participants and organizing team members, as to what should we put as THE highlight of the event. Most of the participants couldn’t have enough of James, long after he left India and so I wasn’t surprised when they were raving about his inspiring Keynote “Testing is not Test cases” and also his latest new presentation the “Question Hospital” – a concept very well received by testers and something they would like for James to continue to build on, so we get more and more examples to go through. The keynote also happened to be the most and best rated by the testers; shortly followed by Santhosh Tuppad’s “Your data is no more ONLY your data”. All the feedbacks were collected at a survey done post event and the results shall be made public shortly.

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However, there was also a surprising/comic response to the highlights – one that was made by a member of organizing team – who said  – ‘I barely got inside the room, so I can’t say much what all went inside, but I can tell you that crowd outside was very interested in t-shirts and cups and all the goodies sponsors had’. Frankly – I myself couldn’t see much of the action at one place, as I wasnt stationery but kept moving due to multiple responsibilities on me on that day. But at one point, I did notice – when the lunch break had just started, that the queue for Saucelabs and Parasoft was longer than the queue for food. So, THANK YOU SPONSORS – truly – heartfelt thanks to all of you – Saucelabs, Parasoft, Software Test Pro (STP) and Srijan Technologies. I hope you do realize that it was because of your generous sponsorship that we could open our hearts to have complimentary and discounted tickets. Your contribution to the community is well respected. Our special thanks to the support sponsors – Test Insane and Moolya and PoolWallet, for supporting the event; Our diversity partner- Sheroes for promoting the conference amongst female technology enthusiasts ; Our community partner – Test Practitioner’s Club for promoting the event on all its avenues (FB / meetup/linkedin) to testing practitioners in the region; Our gifting partner – Utpatang, for making the meaningful giftpacks for our speakers and delegates; Our media partner Tea-Time with Testers for helping us spread the word amongst the right audience; and our supporters in Agile Testing Alliance and Discuss Agile Network and Unicom.

Long queue..

Testers

At this point, it’s imperative that I mention Anand Bagmar for mobilizing Thoughtworks team towards their significant presence at the conference and the RST class thereafter. Thanks Atulya Krishna Mishra and Anmol Bagga for working on almost war footing to ensure the word reaches every nook and corner of the region, covering every interested tester. Thanks Saket Bansal and Sarabjit Singh Bakshi for guiding me with pointers and at times, simply handing me the solutions for what I needed- Thanks for taking my calls EVERYTIME I called, and answering with patience. Seriously guys – heartfelt thanks.

There is something more I need to mention, since I am thanking everyone involved in helping me towards making the event happen – I need to thank Pradeep Soundararajan. I need to thank him for various reasons but 2 important ones I will mention. 1. Thanks Pradeep for introducing India to James Bach and other global leaders, as a respectable community of testers. As much as I like my abilities – I probably couldn’t have done it better than you. 2. Thanks Pradeep for silently supporting us with sponsorship and saying – “I may not give much of money. But I don’t want anything in return. I am doing this because I have hosted James earlier and I know how it is”. I am not sure if you would have wanted me to quote you here, but I needed to express my gratitude and tremendous respect for you. Every drop counts and you knew it better than me. Your thoughtfulness for the community deserves our sincere respect.

I am consciously stopping the thanks here – apologies for missing out anyone who thinks she / he should have been mentioned here. I truly thank everyone including the hotel staff at the venue for their bit of contribution in our success. I need to move on to other aspects 🙂

James with testers -STP

Coming to the learning part of the event – every session by James was very well received. Attendees would hog on every available minute with him. There were tons of amazing conversations held by the thinking testers and curious testers and those who had the potential to be one and were on their path to transformation. James was loving the talks as much as the testers around him. Amongst the other speakers – every speaker did fantastic job – Anand Bagmar , Kapil Saxena, Tarun Lalwani, Santhosh Tuppad, Ajay Balaurugaudas, Shrikant Vashishtha, Charu Jain, Sachin GoelSumeet Gupta, and Rajdeep Varma. After James (all sessions) and Anand’s morning session –  Tarun’s session was most attended , closely followed by Charu’s session. Topics covered  at the conference were – “Testing beyond test cases”, context driven testing, test estimations, asking relevant questions (and the right way) as a tester,  Continuously delivery, automation frameworks, test data management, ATDD / BDD, Mobile apps testing, testing in agile teams, tester’s role and relationship with developers, data security and leadership. It was thrilling to watch the level of participation from attendees at various sessions. Testers as well as speakers enjoyed questioning and being questioned.

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One name whose presence we missed, got her virtual presence – as James made sure her name resonated throughout the day in the room. We missed –  Parimala Hariprasad – or “A True Role Model” as James called her, at the conference. She holds my warmth as a friend and respect as a peer.

The day sDSC_0151tarted with lot of energy that DIDN’T decline through the day.  James’ intensity and passion to teach was consistent – though he spoke for most of the day. The time he was not on stage, he was answering testers, engaging with them and also getting interviewed by me. The day ended with James recommending Neha Asthana as the winner for the free seat at RST class, pulling lucky draws out of the fishbowl for 5 lucky winners who won online packages of selenium books and tutorials, courtesy: Saucelabs.

The very final episode was felicitating the respected speakers, graciously done by James Bach. Interestingly the gift packs were “black boxes” with some “white” on it – James almost made the speakers test these too.

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Presentations for all the sessions have been shared with the attendees. All the videos have been uploaded at youtube. You can subscribe to the channel Events Team to stay updated as more videos of future events are added. All official pictures of the event are uploaded at the QAZone’s facebook page .

How can an event of this scale happen without any learnings or disappointments at all? Well, honestly -The only 2 feedbacks that we got about something not going well were both about time keeping. Attendees felt they missed on some parts of their next sessions because of some track speakers over staying. I learnt my lesson to have better time checks in future.  May be having a track owner, who manages the time and A/V / Infra  needs of the speakers of that track, could help. Some other learnings threw me out of my comfort zone as an ethical entrepreneur – but I learnt that when someone comes with a surprise act and that thing bothers me and I want to say NO to that activity, I should say NO. Instead of giving into the pressure (of respecting guests) and then feeling resentful later.

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Atulya

 

 

 

Sometimes people surprise you with their lack of ethics and working in certain environment helps you see their strength of character more clearly. When working with immature / ignorant people, every detail should be in black and white, since they do not understand the common language of ethics, which defines what they can do but should not. Keeping it legal might help keeping the relationship strain- free. Speakers agreement and Sponsors agreement are good things to have – small but key learning.

The only disappointment I personally have is – not having enough women speakers. We tried to do everything we could, but we failed. We need to continue to work on this aspect.

Women Speakers@ThinkTest

With all the experience and learnings as a tester and organizer that this conference gave us, one thing that I could finally conclude as the highlight of the event , the best outcome of it, for all to notice – There are serious testers in the NCR region. Serious to make things happen. Serious to learn and grow. Serious to defy the law of gravity and move upwards in their career path and learning curve. Thanks to each tester who attended the ThinkTest 2015 with the intent to learn – YOU WERE THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE EVENT. KUDOS TO YOU – YOU MADE IT HAPPEN!!

Context Driven Testing spreading its wings

Recently, I happened to attend another test meetup in the region. To my pleasant surprise, it was very well organized by Gaurav Bansal of Xebia.

I spoke about the relevance and importance of understanding business and more importantly setting up the business context when performing testing. Further in the talk , I also bought up strategies for inculcating the trend and sustaining this business knowledge in the test teams and ways to ensure it keeps growing with new work , new testers coming in. Difference between business knowledge and business context. It was very well received and thoroughly participated by the testers attending it. It seemed they enjoyed questioning and understanding, as much as I was enjoying, listening to their perspectives, challenges, issues and answering them with my thoughts.

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I had started with the statement – Testing is a cost for business and in itself adds no value. This sentence was debated by the testers in audience for good 10 minutes or more until we settled on it in the context of our discussion. Which also told me the kind of thought processes the testers were bringing in. I heard all sorts of terms – ROI, Quality, Value add, etc – coming to “Testing’s” defense. Some of the testers did seem to be very aggressively defending but it was fun.

Post my session – Gaurav and Rajneesh from Xebia gave sessions on Behavior driven testing and Exploratory testing. I could hear lot of resonance of thoughts from the likes of James Bach, Elizabeth Hendrickson and Michael Bolton. Both sessions were very interesting and informative. Attendees were loving these sessions. Brilliant job – Gaurav and Rajneesh!!

Rajneesh @3rd meetup

There was a surprise item of Lightening talks were the speakers could write their names and their talks on a whiteboard and speak to them for 5 minutes with or without presentations. There was a host of exciting topics and the speakers spoke to the topics with utter sincerity and thorough research and with lot of experience sharing examples.

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I was proudly watching my fellow testers speak and learn through the enthusiastic cross debates amongst the attendees themselves, and with the speakers too. I had so much fun learning.

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As I was enjoying all the action &  looking around – I couldnt help but notice pretty faces sitting all over and it was such a pleasure to see such a huge turnout of women testers. I remembered those 4 girls at my earlier meetup. And then this one had so many more and all participated. It was a through treat to my heart and mind both.

Last meet up we did and then this meetup – number of women attendees increased manifold.

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Thanks to Gaurav from Xebia and Kapil Saxena from Magic software to get so many team members from their teams to participate in the meetup.

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One thing that was noticeable was – James Bach was thoroughly loved and followed there. Everyone at the meetup knew James and mostly just him from the testing community. Mere mention of James, made folks standing nearby join our conversations. I hope James you read this blog.

This time I had a particular point on my agenda – to know what our testers thought about certification. So I mentioned that on the whiteboard and spoke on it as a lightening talk. To my surprise – everyone was looking forward to the talk that I hadnt even prepared for.

The moment I said – what do you think about certifications in Testing – the testers who had contained this thought with them for a long time now, suddenly burst with questions like  –

– What are the best certification in testing

– What are the most popular ones

– Will I get a better job if i do a certain certification

– if not ISTQB then what?

At this point I was tempted to tear apart the myths and tell these naive souls how they were getting caught in the populist theory. But I realized they were not to blame. Almost all of the attending testers said their organization gives preferences to ISTQB certification for promotions or hiring. As I tried to understand – what did they gain out of this certification – they clearly said –  does it matter?  I know i will get the job if i am certified so I will do it anyways. Plus we get a “common language” that we can speak across as testers. Standardized meaning of testing. One such tester also said – Exploratory testing was Monkey testing – only to realize later that he was absolutely wrong and the place he learnt that definition, actually taught him incorrect definitions thus resulting in “non- standardized language”. They really didnt know why would they even do this certification.

Okay – all those who are taking time to read this blog need to observe something – the speakers and topics were more than a hundred percent “context driven” in their souls and approach. But attendees clearly showed the lack of it. They were here to learn and they did learn but there will be so much unlearning to do before we learn right testing.

When I spoke to them – I mentioned that they shouldn’t focus on certification a whole lot. They should be keen on learning testing and that they should go for BBST.  And oh boy – who knew BBST there ? 2 of the lot. Only 2 had heard about it. Thats all.

But the bigger worry was – the way I looked at them – I felt they werent prepared for larger doses right now. I asked them to not bother about certification or even BBST but first go to http://www.satisfice.com and learn some testing. Then we can talk more about BBST. One of the attendees who knew BBST said – there wasnt enough information about it. Most of the attendees said – we can do BBST and would love to (after I could explain them somewhat , what BBST is) but our managements dont support them . The managements want all testers to be ISTQB certified.

As a tester who practices Context Driven testing, I have to admit that I was pleased to see what the speakers wanted to talk about and teach the crowd. But the level of ignorance testers had, about ways to learn testing was not encouraging one bit.

I am calling all CD testers to do better story telling, making ourselves more heard. We need to not only influence testers but also the managements to understand right testing.

For the benefit of those, who asked at the meetup – Will be publishing shortly what BBST means, in James Bach’ s own words. Meanwhile – go through http://www.satisfice.com.