Last week, I was a “first timer” at the Agile Testing Days in Potsdam – the biggest agile software testing event in Germany. I have neither experienced an agile software testing event nor have I organized one before. My overall first experience so far is therefore ‘unspoilt’. My first impression of the Agile Testing Days conference and its participants is that you could feel that this is some kind of special conference: very open-minded, welcoming and caring. Seeing all these people from different countries and nations meeting and hugging each other, chatting & catching up on all that has happened since the last time they have met was awesome. At one point, it even felt like I was in the midst of a large family reunion.
My days at the conference were split between organizational matters and joining in the talks and the social events. Whilst doing what I do as a member of the organizing team, I had the chance to listen to inspiring talks while exchanging ideas and meeting new people from the agile and testing community. One of my personal highlights was seeing Kevin Harris smile – as he only does it occasionally, you know. I very much enjoyed hearing Ida Karine Bohlin, Melissa Pontes & Michael Wansley speak.
But above all I was surprised how much of the inspirational keynotes are particularly applicable to all communities, whether testing or non-testing, and that they sparked some kind of connection. Especially Mike Sutton’s keynote about the Community of Practice (CoP) hit a nerve. He talked about the power of internal communities of practice as engines of learning, peer support and professional growth. According to Mike, a CoP is a group of people bound together by a craft or profession and who meet regularly to share, learn and/or develop their expertise. As I sat there, listening to his talk, it dawned on me that we were right in the middle of a Community of Practice. Ok, now you might think: Oh wait, she is oversimplifying! But from my perspective, the concept of CoP is recognizable in the Agile Testing Days.
Because of their passion, commitment and in pursuing their domain of interest, people had been coming together from all over the world to attend, participate and deeply engage in joint activities of learning, discussions, and sharing information and knowledge during the Agile Testing Days. At the conference, participants form a particular group and build relationships that enable them to learn from each other. By using a shared repertoire of tools, they develop a shared practice and create knowledge. Many participants were collaborating on ways to get a shared understanding by discussing ideas and asking questions. The keynotes and workshops were mostly held by practitioners who were talking about what has worked for them - and what has not worked for them. Practicing and learning were ever-fluid activities: the practitioner at one moment became a learner the next.
Actually, this is the essence of CoP and AgileTD: nurturing knowledge and learning. I noticed how new members were warmly welcomed into the "AgileTD family”, how a lot of people stepped up to take initiative as new voices or shared their knowledge in the various talks and workshops, and how ambitious participants were to advance the practice of testing and agile. And although we, as organizers, provide the infrastructure, in which the participants can thrive to reach their full potential, and the opportunity for anyone to contribute usefully, the most important thing is that AgileTD, like all CoPs, is connecting people in the spirit of learning, knowledge sharing, and collaboration.