My first Sydney Testers Meetup – 20 February 2017

The Sydney Testers meetup is one of the largest software testing meetup groups in the world and they hold meetups and other gatherings very frequently in the Sydney CBD.

With the CASTx conference taking place on 21st February, the group organized a meetup the evening before in the offices of IAG (just across the road from the conference venue, The Grace Hotel) and so I went along to take part in my first Sydney Testers meetup event.

It was a complicated and diligent security operation that meant only those who had explicitly RSVP’d to the meetup would be allowed entry through the well-secured IAG building, so only around 50 people actually got into the meetup. The first 45-minutes or so were an opportunity to network over pizza and drinks and it was good to meet up with some familiar faces from both the local (Australia and New Zealand) and international testing community, as well as chat with some unfamiliar testers.

It was Eric Proegler’s job to kick off proceedings at 6.15pm and he talked about the Association for Software Testing (organizers of the CASTx event), for which he is a board member and had travelled from the US to be at the conference. Eric has been a key player in expanding AST’s reach outside of North America, with the CASTx conference being their first conference outside of those shores (and hence confirming his joke that AST does not stand for “American Software Testers”!).

The 2000th member of the meetup was in the house and received a gift for their trouble, this is a seriously big group and it was instrumental in helping to bring the CASTx conference to Australia, so kudos to Sydney Testers for their efforts.

The first 50-minutes of the meetup were devoted to a panel Q&A session on “Questions Facing Software Testing”, with the panel consisting of some serious testing talent:

The first question was around whether “manual testing” is dead. Goranka talked about the “death of quality”, thanks to SaaS delivery and the ability to fix very quickly when customers discover a problem. Aaron questioned the use of the term “manual testing” but managed to avoid ranting too much, noting that “testing looks like it’s easy to understand” when in fact it isn’t. Michael Bolton, sitting just behind me in the audience, pointed out that as testers “our job is to demolish unwarranted confidence”.

The next question simply asked “What are the top three challenges facing software testing today?” It came down to Eric, Ilari and Aaron to proffer one challenge each, viz. “explaining what good testing is to people who think they already know what testing is”, “not losing your humour” and “describing our value to stakeholders” respectively.

The third question was “Why hasn’t the AST had global reach and how is software testing different in different parts of the world?” Ilari suggested that previous AST boards made up entirely of Americans hadn’t helped the situation. On the topic of differences between testing around the world, Eric suggested that there were no big differences but Goranka strongly disagreed and said she’d recently travelled to New Zealand mainly to get the different perspectives from their testing community. She also mentioned that ISTQB is more favoured in some parts of the world than others, with Europe being “in love with ISTQB”. Ilari came back to the discussion and said the main differences around the world were simply “just different flavours of stupidity” when it comes to testing!

Question four was “Can we show senior managers what better testing looks like? Can we win the battle?” The panel were fairly pessimistic in answering this question, with Eric pointing out that only a very small percentage of testers attend conferences or meetups, but the AST really want to reach disengaged testers to help them become more passionate about their craft. Ilari noted that “most people in testing don’t give a sh*t” (like in most professions, he argued). Aaron spoke from his experience in consulting and noted that many testers & their managers are “cut off from the outside world and better ideas” in their organizations with a “cult-like” devotion to following company processes.

With time running out, one more question was directed to the panel, “What should we as a testing community be focused on next?” Eric suggested looking at robots and automation in general, Ilari said we should focus more on continuous learning in general rather than a particular technology, Goranka said all things Cloud (but especially around performance and security), and Aaron suggested doubling-down on the human stuff (UX, systems thinking, ethics, etc) in a world where we are now able to “churn out crap faster than ever”.

This was a good-natured panel session and it was interesting that even these highly-regarded individuals (most of whom associate themselves very strongly with the context-driven testing community) disagreed on many things but were able to maintain a civilized and engaging discussion.

A fifteen-minute break was welcome, before the group reformed for the next part of the meetup. This part was led by Paul Holland and Michael Bolton, who ran one of the exercises from the Rapid Software Testing (RST) class with the entire group. I’ve been lucky enough to attend RST twice and had already seen their chosen exercise before, so I chose to observe rather than participate.

The exercise was the so-called Wason Selection Task, by cognitive psychologist Peter Wason. This seemingly simple puzzle occupied the next 40-minutes or so and made for a great group exercise. It was interesting to watch people fall into the traps along the way and also to see Paul & Michael drawing the testing-related learnings from it along the way. If you haven’t seen this puzzle before, go try it!

Paul Holland fields questions for the panel of Eric, Ilari, Aaron and Goranka  Paul Holland and the Wason selection task

The meetup wrapped up at around 8.30pm and it was great to see a bunch of such passionate and engaged testers in the one room, a good experience at my first Sydney Testers event!

Resources

Sydney Testers Twitter handle: @SydneyTesters

Sydney Testers meetup site website: https://www.meetup.com/Sydney-Testers/

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