A few weeks ago the first edition of Agile Testing Days USA took place in Boston, MA! This conference is very special for various reasons; in 2017 we had to postpone the conference due to the political situation in the U.S. at the time. For us, it is important to stand to our principles and values regarding tolerance, diversity, respect, and openness. But postponed isn’t canceled, and this conference was made up in 2018. Therefore, we were more than happy to partner with TechWell to bring Agile Testing Days USA finally to North America. At this point, many thanks to the wonderful people who stood with us in this difficult decision, kept believing in us and in our conference and who supported us along the way.
Arriving in Boston
A few days before the conference, we headed to Boston to meet with the TechWell conference staff and to get a feeling for the conference venue. I was already excited because I have never been to America before. We arrived at Boston Airport in the early evening and passed very smoothly all security checks. A taxi brought us - with a little ‘detour’ - to the DoubleTree Hilton North Shore hotel, where we checked in, put down the suitcases, and had a quick dinner. I dropped into bed exhausted but happy that we were finally in Boston, and I realized that the Agile Testing Days USA conference is really going to take place and that all the hard work paid off.
After a good night's sleep, Ina, Uwe and I got up early and refreshed to start a test run for our Agile Morning Runs on the conference days on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was so great to get out and go for a run after the long plane journey on the previous day. The best way to first see places and to get to know your neighborhood is to go for a run. You should really try it out! The DoubleTree Hilton North Shore is close to Boston’s historic North Shore coastal towns and located on the top of a steep hill. We decided to head down to the Ferncroft Pond area, which seemed not far away from the hotel and to see if it provided a good running course for our morning runs. As soon as we left the main road and hit the pond area, I was amazed - it’s so beautiful there and that feeling continued as we run for another two miles. I felt like being in the countryside. We even passed a Golf and Country Club and saw a lot of squirrels, ducks and even an otter.
We would have kept on running, but it was time to go back to the hotel and meet with the TechWell team to prepare for the conference. Both teams of trendig and TechWell would meet for the very first time in person, and I felt a little bit nervous and excited. But there was no need to be nervous, it was an awesome experience to speak to the TechWell team that helped us so much with the Agile Testing Days here in Boston. We instantly felt connected and that we are now Team AgileTDUSA. Alison Wade and Jessica gave us a short introduction and then we checked the venue and set up tasks to get ready, like set up the registration and keynote room, help the first registrants with their check-in and provide further information, and welcome the speakers, who have already arrived for their tutorials on the following day.
We started the day again with an Agile Morning test run. The Agile Morning run would officially kick off on the first conference day on Tuesday, so we decided to check out an alternative route. This time Simon Schrijver joined us. We slightly changed the running course and tried a different return route back to the hotel. This would, however, turn into a big mistake, because then we had to run up two steep hills instead of one. We immediately excluded this return route from our running list. It was a big help that Ina showed us some yoga exercises to cool down and stretch our muscles to avoid injuries or soreness the next day.
Agile Testing Days traditionally starts with tutorials on Monday. At AgileTDUSA there was no difference. Seven tutorials were held by Selena Delesie, Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin, Matt Heusser (and his facilitator Claire Moss), Ray Arell, Woody Zuill, Paul Holland, and Alex Schladebeck and Huib Schoots, which offered different learning opportunities. Tutorials are perfect to get to know the practice in greater detail and to improve your skills. They are very hands-on so that you can take a lot of learning back to the workplace and the team.
The Tutorial Day ended for the attendees with the Agile Social Night. Bart Knaack, Simon Schrijver and Matt Heusser facilitated and moderated a come together, where everyone was invited to network, socialize and meet old and new friendly faces. The Agile Social Night was great. Attendees had the chance to learn more about each other, play games, talk about their learnings and takeaways from this first day, and enjoy themselves.
The Speakers’ Dinner is an integral part of any Agile Testing Days conference. It is an awesome opportunity to get to know each other, and exchange experiences in a relaxing atmosphere before the conference starts. Although I know most of the speakers from Twitter, I love to meet them finally in person. There I also had the pleasure to meet Bonnie Auman, who I had invited spontaneously earlier in the afternoon upon request by Ray Arell and Claire Moss. We had a great conversation about her work as a speaker and talked about future collaborations in connection with the Agile Testing Days.
Conference Day I
We officially kicked off our Agile Morning activities running and yoga on Tuesday morning. When Uwe, Ina and I came down to the lobby, a large group of attendees already awaited us. Among many new faces, there were also quite a few familiar ones and I was happy to see Elizabeth Zagroba, Oana Juncu, Christin Wiedemann and Lisa Crispin in the group of early risers. We waited until the last one had joined us, and then we split the groups. We were quite a big running group, and I was glad to have Uwe as a second running lead. As we adjusted the pace to our running crew, we had enough time and breath to chat and get to know each other. Exactly at a quarter to 8 a.m., Uwe’s and my running group joined the yoga group for a cool down.
Right after the early morning activities, Lisa Crispin, who did go for a walk with Christin to be back on time, and Janet Gregory welcomed everyone to their Lean Coffee session. The Lean Coffee sessions are awesome and are perfect to start the day and get into the right conference mood. It only lasts 45 minutes but it's a great opportunity for people to break into a new field and learn from others. You always take a lot with you to think about.
The start of Agile Testing Days USA was officially announced by José Díaz and Alison Wade. They welcomed the attendees, speakers, and sponsors and took the chance to say thank you. Then it was time to start the day with a very powerful opening keynote by Selena Delesie. Selena talked about how to bring more soul to work and enable real success for your Agile transformation. Here are my biggest takeaways of this great keynote:
“If you love what you’re doing, you’re more successful.”
“People require a level of safety. Even though it didn’t work out in the way it should.”
“Stop doing Agile; stop treating it as a process. Start being Agile.”
“If you don’t show up and model the behavior that you’re asking for… they are not going to buy in.”
“We aren’t machines. When we treat humans like machines, we lose their greatness.”
“How will you bring more soul? - True listening to yourself and others, be present, let go of control, learn from failures and improve, create something great now.”
“Self-organizing is about having power with the others, not power over anyone.”
After lunch, we heard Angie Jones speaking about the history of music and its parallels to test automation. The journey through the music industry illustrated a lesson for tech and testing. The overall message was: 'Don’t worry when things change, the roles always remain; you just need to own it.' Very inspirational. “Owning Our Narrative” is such a great and important topic – not only for tech and testing but for everyone. (To get the whole idea of the keynote, you can watch it on Youtube). Here are a few key takeaways:
“Break the rules, do your own thing! Find a way to own your narrative.”
“Learn to embrace change and make it work to your advantage.”
“Testers have great value. Don’t measure them with old metrics; adjust the measurement of success.”
“Roles remain the same, tools change.”
“Learn from the past, think of the future.”
The last keynote of the first conference day was very special. Paul Holland and Noah Sussmann both dressed up as boxers and joined the ring to perform a clash keynote on test automation, the very first of its kind in Agile Testing Days history. They battled each other in six rounds, debating the pros and cons of test automation and manual testing. The fight was sensational. Paul Holland's savage will and iron double combinations and Noah Sussman's feline-like defense proved to be major factors for this pay-per-view event of the year. This debate featured most of the elements that make a legendary bout: high drama, plenty of good arguments on both sides, and a dovish final. José Diáz played the ring card boy, and Erik Davis and Ash Coleman in some way stole the show with their witty summaries of the six rounds. The keynote has been streamed live on Twitter, so you can re-watch it here. Unfortunately, the recording has an open end because the WiFi broke down. The key takeaways of this keynote are:
“Product should have to have a solid automated test unit framework.”
“Human need to decide on the few end-to-end tests that make sense to automate.”
“Human also need to be available to explore and test the product in ways that automation does not - and in ways that don’t make sense to automate at all.”