A couple of months ago we celebrated 10 years of Agile Testing Days with six intense days filled with collaboration, learning, networking, and many surprises. Over 750 participants experienced again how agile and testing practices deepen and enrich the work of software development.
As an organizer, I witnessed personal conversations, many touching moments and a lot of laughter and discussions everywhere. Being able to organize such an inspiring and encouraging conference like the Agile Testing Days is always hard work but also great fun and rewarding.
This year was a little bit different compared to the last years; not only was it the 10th anniversary of the Agile Testing Days but it was also the first time that I have actively contributed to the Agile Testing Days program. Søren Wassard and I facilitated an open space session called “Get your ideas moving” on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. You can read all about it here.
Agile Testing Days is well-known for its extensive program. As Elisabeth Hocke described it correctly in her blog post “Agile Testing Days 2018 - Wonderful Unicorn Season”, the program of the conference was really “huge”. Once again, I have to admit. The conference offers a lot of valuable knowledge and many sessions that fit every need and experience level. Attendees could choose from over 200 sessions including 15 keynotes, 12 tutorials, 60 bonus sessions, over 100 talks, 10 social events, 24 workshops, and many informal gatherings.
Everyone who attends the Agile Testing Days is always blown away by the sheer amount of sessions offered to start in the morning with Lean Coffee, Agile Morning Run, Agile Pump and Yoga and ending late in the night with the evening social events such as MIATPP Award Night, Agile Games Night, Late Night Cabaret or the Women and Allies Evening Gathering.
There are many blog posts about Agile Testing Days, which I will link at the end of this post. In this article, I will highlight my personal AgileTD moments that remained in my mind long after the conference because they give a fuller picture of our conference, its people and might show you why Agile Testing Days is so special.
Diversity, Inclusion and Mental Health
Agile Testing Days is designed to be a safe space to speak also about topics that fall outside of or beyond testing, and are nonetheless incredibly important. These topics have a special place at the Agile Testing Days.
If you intend to visit the Agile Testing Days, don’t be surprised that the conference is as much about self-awareness, diversity, and safety as it is about testing.
This time there were many sessions discussing openly and honestly mental illness, burnout and other hardships of life in the life of a tester. Being able to grow as an individual or in your career means that you have to take care of and be self-aware of the balance in your life. Even testers have to be reminded that the same goes for them as well; that they have to get off the hamster wheel and learn to balance their limited capacities just like anyone else.
So, I think it is great that the Agile Testing Days provide sessions where speakers share their experiences, life hacks and stories of learning, growth and psychological safety to show others how you can feel best, move forward, take care of yourself and get off the hamster wheel. These messages are much needed. People often tend to forget or are too busy to take care of themselves.
Learning Partnerships and Power Learning Groups
Great things always start at the Agile Testing Days because of the people in the agile testing community. Be it the unicorn movement in 2012, the invention of the Agile Games Night several years ago or forming partnerships, the people at our conference make the Agile Testing Days so special and memorable.
For some years now learning partnerships and pacts are a hot topic at the Agile Testing Days. One of the first pacts made at the Agile Testing Days was the one between Elisabeth Hocke and Toyer Mamoojee who met during the 2016 conference.
They decided to make a deal and face what scared them most and motivated each other in their mutual journey to become speakers at the Agile Testing Days 2017. Two years later at Agile Testing Days 2018 Lisi and Toyer shared their story and journey in their workshop “Finding a Learning Partner in the Testing Community” which triggered a lot of people to form learning partnerships and start power learning groups.
Power learning is an impactful concept created by Lisi and Toyer that “has far-reaching benefits for an individual/s in terms of growth and knowledge”. The resulting groups are called power learning groups. They are perfect for bringing together even more people, who regularly meet online, to learn from each other and share ideas and knowledge.
Surprise #1 - Straight outta Unicornland
People who attend the Agile Testing Days for the very first time or who follow us on Twitter might think we are obsessed with unicorns. Well, that is not quite the correct word; we are passionate about unicorns.
Since 2012 the unicorn is our signature character and it represents diversity, openness, and respect for others. That is also what the Agile Testing Days stand for. (If you want to hear the whole story behind the AgileTD unicorn, I recommend you listen to David Evan’s keynote “10 Years of Agile Testing Days”. His trip down memory lane touches all important key moments of the Agile Testing Days.) One day, we came up with the idea to bring the AgileTD unicorn Akira to life and to the people. As soon as this idea was born, we started to transform it into action. And in late August 2018, our AgileTD unicorn entered the Agile Testing Days universe.
Akira made its first appearance on the first conference day. It was sensational. The people couldn’t believe their eyes. It was great to see how people got excited about Akira and how happy they were about taking souvenir pictures. Akira visited many sessions and could also be found exploring the hotel venue. So, if you ever want to high five a real agile testing unicorn, then come to the Agile Testing Days.
Surprise #2 - Agile Testing GameBoxx
What would the Agile Testing Days be without the Agile Games Night? Some years ago Eddy Bruin and Bart Knaack started to play and host games at the Agile Testing Days. Every year this evening became more and more popular and people liked to learn agile practices and principles while playing games.
Last year the idea came up to create an agile game box including games created by well-known and highly inspirational agilists and testing experts to bring the games played at the conference back to work and play them with colleagues.
Together with the founders of the Agile Games Night, Eddy and Bart, and with the help of Huib Schoots and Pascal Dufour, we took up the challenge and collected the best and most interesting agile games invented by Eddy Bruin, Bart Knaack, Gojko Adzic, Elisabeth Hendrickson, Ken Howard, and Michael Bolton in our very own "Agile Testing Gameboxx".
We decided later to give the Gameboxx away as a speaker present. Little did we know that the Agile Testing GameBoxx would become the hit of the conference, well, besides our AgileTD unicorn Akira. People were so excited about the Gameboxx that they even wanted to pay for it.
Surprise #3 - The Birthday Cake
Every birthday needs to have a huge, colorful and incredibly delicious birthday cake. Especially when you celebrate an anniversary. We planned to surprise not only our guests at the MIATPP Award Party on Tuesday evening but also our boss Jose Diaz with an individually decorated, unicorn-tastic birthday cake and make this a birthday they'll never forget. The team opted for 5 two-layer cakes and various petit fours. The top of the cake was colorfully garnished with a figurine of our unicorn Akira standing on a 3-layered platform saying 10 years Agile Testing Days together with a rainbow. Until the last minute, the guests and our boss had no clue. To the music of Vangelis’ “Conquest of paradise” we pushed the cake carefully in front of the stage and lit the cake fountains. It was a perfect surprise!
But the best birthday present came from our friends from Saxonia Testservices. They had planned a surprise for us well. On the same day some hours before the big MIATPP Party, they announced that they would have a ‘magical surprise’ for us.
At exactly 4.00 p.m., we met the team of Saxonia Testservices at their booth, where Michael Kieser and his team gave us a beautifully decorated unicorn birthday cake. We were delighted! Look at this fantastic cake! Wishing someone a happy birthday with billions of calories is the best present ever. Thank you once again, Saxonia Testservices, for this wonderful surprise. Two days later we shared the cake with the team of Saxonia Testservices and attendees because it was too much to eat it alone.
Alex Schladebeck: A Short Review of a Whirlwind Week at Agile Testing Days 2018
Elisabeth Hocke: Agile Testing Days 2018 - Wonderful Unicorn Season
João Rosa Proença: Agile Testing Days 2018: My Highlights
Marianne Duijst: Agile Testing Days (Collection)
Ekaterina Budnikov: Agile Testing Days 2018 – Sketchnotes and Summary
Derk-Jan de Grood: Amazing Tutorial on Agile Test Management
Nicola Owen: My experience at Agile Testing Days 2018