So, I’ve co-organized my first software testing conference – the inaugural Australian Testing Days event is over already and what a great event it was!
Conference day on May 20th saw about a hundred enthusiastic locals, interstaters and internationals gather for a big day of talks, networking and socializing. Workshop day on May 21st meant about sixty people were willing to give up their Saturday to learn some great new skills, across four well-attended workshops (one of which I co-presented).
Let’s just backtrack a little, though. About a year ago, this event was not even a twinkle in anyone’s eyes. Major testing conferences in Melbourne had dried up in recent years. There were a few small testing meetup groups and the infrequent ANZTB SIGISTs, but no obvious sense of testing community seemed to exist in this big city.
Rajesh Mathur and I had been discussing the oddity that was a lack of testing community here for a while and around this time last year decided to start a testing meetup group, to focus on building a community of testers with a strong leaning towards our context-driven testing tendencies. So it was that TEAM was formed, Test Engineering Alliance Melbourne, as the banner organization under which to run these meetups. We gathered some strong support and the core group of myself, Rajesh, Paul Seaman, Paul Crimmins and Scott Miles soon gelled to the point where we could run out first event.
The first meetup happened on 3rd July 2015 and we were very pleased to see about 30 people show up. We kept up a regular cadence, with a meetup every month for the rest of the year. As of today, we’ve run ten meetups and also a free workshop under TEAM. Our membership stands at over 450 and we regularly attract 30-40 testers per event. It’s been a great privilege to be involved in forming this community and the buzz around the meetups is invigorating and rewarding. Thanks to everyone who has participated in making the meetups a success – generous sponsors offering rooms, food & drinks, willing volunteers, and of course the many speakers who’ve graced the TEAM meetup stage over the last year.
Towards the end of 2015, the TEAM committee let the sense of meetup success go to their heads a bit and so it was that the idea “let’s do a conference” came to pass… The next six to seven months were a steep learning curve as we put together what would become known as “Australian Testing Days 2016”. As a committee, we worked well together bringing different opinions and perspectives to the table and somehow it all came together to produce what has been a very well-received event. I’m particularly pleased that we created a diverse programme (including new speakers, thanks to Speak Easy) and also that we tried our best to make it a conference where speakers didn’t have to pay to speak. Without speakers, we have no conference so my thanks to our great bunch of speakers and hopefully the ATD experience was a good one for you. It was my pleasure to arrange the speakers’ dinner for you all and it seemed that everyone enjoyed meeting each other (many for the first time) as well as giving the conference committee a chance to meet all the speakers in advance of the event.
The big day arrived on Friday 20th May and we made an early start at Karstens to get set up before the crowds started to arrive.
The calm before the storm!
It all went very smoothly and we kicked off on time with an opening address by Rajesh on behalf of the ATD2K16 committee before Michael Bolton‘s keynote, “The Rapid Software Testing Guide to What You Meant to Say”. As always, it was an engaging talk from Michael and it was particularly enjoyed by the very recent RST graduates in the room (as TEAM had organized RST with Michael in the days leading up to the conference).
Michael has the ATD2K16 crowd laughing
Michael Bolton kicks us off
The break for morning tea saw the conference attendees enjoying their first opportunity to network and meet new people. The level of noise during the breaks at a conference is a good heuristic for how engaged & passionate people are about why they’re there, so I took the first break as a very positive sign that we were on the right track.
The conference split into two tracks after the morning tea and I facilitated Oliver Erlewein‘s talk on “Reaching Beyond Performance in an Agile World”.
Oliver Erlewein talking performance
It was good to see Oliver again, having met him during the Kiwi Workshop on Software Testing in 2013 and he’s a good CDT guy from Wellington in New Zealand. His talk was interesting and raised many questions. Meanwhile, the other track saw conference newbie presenter Michele Cross giving her talk, “Transformation of a QA Department” and she did a fine job by all accounts (Michele coming to us via the Speak Easy channel, I volunteer for this organization aimed at increasing the diversity of speakers at tech conferences).
For the next track session, I was co-facilitating Catherine Karena‘s talk, “It takes a village to raise a tester”. This was an excellent presentation, following the journey of some young people trained in software testing via WorkVentures, a social enterprise focused on helping unemployed youth get a career start in technology. Catherine’s passion for what she does shone through and she’s rightly proud of the great work and outcomes being achieved. Meanwhile, the other track session saw Hamish Tedeschi (all the way from Perth) with “Testing your Driven Development”.
We broke for lunch on time and the hour passed quickly, both for the attendees enjoying lunch & conversation and for us organizers making sure all our ducks were in a row for the afternoon’s proceedings.
I kicked off my afternoon by attending Brian Osman‘s talk on “The School of Rock – CDT Uncut”. Brian is an old mate in the testing game and I was delighted he was on our programme – such a genuine guy and one of the most passionate testing presenters you’ll ever see. As I expected, his talk was a gem, full of great insight and presented with passion and a good dose of great humour too. Meanwhile, the other track session saw another Kiwi bro, in the shape of Aaron Hodder, taking the stage with a very well-received talk on “Software Cartography (or how to build multidimensional information radiators)”.
The last two track talks of the day came next and I co-facilitated Katrina Clokie‘s talk on “Testing web services and microservices”. Although Katrina had almost lost her voice, she did a great job of giving her talk (microphone in hand) and the content was – as always from her – honest, relevant and genuinely useful. Meanwhile, the other track offered the very hot topic of “How to Build a Guild” with James Kitney.
The afternoon tea break again got noisy as attendees exchanged stories about their day, but the break was cut short by an extended session of lightning talks. Originally scheduled for thirty minutes, our willing volunteer Rich Robinson put together an excellent series of six five-minute talks. This was an amazing session, facilitated brilliantly by Rich, seeing some first-timers taking the stage (much kudos to them), some old-timers giving us surprises (like Erik Petersen actually finishing a lightning talk on time!) and rounded out by the one and only Santhosh Tuppad who clearly regarded the five-minute cutoff as some sort of guideline rather than a hard and fast rule! I’m really pleased we decided to include a lightning talks session and even more pleased that it worked so well.
There was just one talk left to wrap up the day, that being Anne-Marie Charrett with “Test Management Revisited”.
Anne-Marie Charrett during her closing keynote
I was lucky enough to introduce her talk and she spoke well about her time building a testing team at Tyro (and this was a very popular talk according to the feedback forms we got back).
Before I knew it, I was giving the closing address, where had the day gone?!
Time to close out the conference day
The post-conference drinks reception was well-attended and it was a chance for me and the other organizers to wind down. The overwhelmingly positive feedback about the event that we all received during the drinks really meant a lot!
Saturday 21st was another early start to set up for four full-day workshops: Coaching Testers (with Anne-Marie Charrett), Exploratory Testing (with Paul Seaman and I), Ruby for Testers (with Scott Miles) and Web & Mobile Security Testing (with Santhosh Tuppad). We were pleased by the response to the workshop day, seeing about sixty attendees spread across the four workshops on offer.
My day was spent with Paul Seaman and a group of ten enthusiastic testers talking about Exploratory Testing. This was the first time Paul and I had presented together and we seemed to split the load well and frequent exercises and videos went down well with the group.
Paul and Lee during the ET workshop
The dice game in action during the ET workshop
Other workshops were enjoyed too, according to the feedback we’ve received so far.
Scott in his Ruby workshop
Santhosh talks security
Anne-Marie setting up for Coaching Testers
After the workshop day wrapped up, a decent-sized group decamped just around the corner to the Irish Times pub for a few celebratory drinks and this was the committee’s chance to finally call time on the ATD2K16 event. It was a great feeling to have run the event well, hear the great feedback and feel the sense of community building it has already created. I felt great pride and also very humbled.
My personal thanks go to all of our sponsors, we certainly couldn’t have got the event off the ground without your support. Catch Software as platinum sponsor couldn’t have been more helpful and supportive, hats off to Bryce and Brent for coming along and being all-round nice blokes all weekend. Our Gold sponsors also provided great support, so thanks to Attribute Group, Cigniti, Association for Software Testing, and Test Insane. Thanks also to our media partners for their support and promotion of the event.
Special thanks to our speakers, I was very proud of the line-up we put together (especially for an inaugural event) so many thanks for supporting us, taking the time to prepare presentations and spending time away from family to visit us in Melbourne.
The TEAM/ATD2K16 committee have become close friends over the last year and our friendship has survived the rigorous test of putting together a conference, so my thanks to Rajesh, Paul S, Paul C and Scott for their diverse opinions, commitment and enthusiasm for building a great community and event.
As I said in my closing speech, “see you next year”!