Although the Agile Australia conference has been running for nine years, I attended it for the first time recently when it took place in Sydney. It was again sold out (and oversold if the “standing room only” keynotes and rumours of mass late registrations from one of the larger sponsors were anything to go by) and it’s become a massive commercial conference, set to celebrate its tenth anniversary next year in Melbourne.
There was a big selection of talks, with each day being kicked off by three back-to-back forty-minute keynotes before splitting into multiple tracks (with one track comprised of so-called “sponsored content”).
The keynotes on both days were of high quality and certainly some of the best talks of the conference for me. Barry O’Reilly was entertaining and engaging in his talk on lessons learned in trying to deploy lean in enterprise environments, while Jez Humble busted a few myths on the deployability of continuous delivery in various organizations. He won me over when he mentioned Exploratory Testing as part of the CD pipeline, the only time I heard mention of ET during the entire event. Neal Ford did a good job in his keynote, talking about how best practices turn into anti-patterns and Sami Honkonen‘s effort was a highlight of the conference in talking about the building blocks required to build a responsive organization.
In terms of track sessions, there wasn’t a single session dedicated to testing and maybe everyone with a good testing story to tell has simply given up submitting to this conference now (my last two submissions haven’t got up) but there was plenty to keep me occupied. Highlights were John Contad‘s passionately delivered talk about mentoring at REA Group, Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith‘s fascinating presentation on dark matter, and Estie & Anthony Boteler‘s talk about working with an intern software tester on the autism spectrum, also at REA Group. This talk resonated strongly with me thanks to my recent work with Paul Seaman and EPIC Recruit Assist in delivering the EPIC TestAbility Academy software testing training programme for young adults on the autism spectrum.
My takeaways were:
- The focus in the agile community has moved away from “doing Scrum better” to looking at the human factors in successful projects.
- Talks on psychological safety, neurodiversity, mentorship and such were great to see here, as the importance of people in project success becomes better understood.
- Testing as a skilled craft is still not being valued by this community, with the crucial role of exploratory testing being mentioned only once in all the talks I attended.
Out of the thousand or so official photos from this conference, there’s only one to provide evidence of my attendance – waiting in line at the coffee cart, kind of says it all really.