The way in which testing is organized is changing heavily. And rightfully so. Testing should no longer be treated as a separate phase, but rather should be fully embedded within the software delivery life cycle. These developments significantly impact the role of automation in testing, the team collaboration, and how the testing discipline should be cherished and continuously improved.

C’mon, guys! GO GO GO!

Testing should be reinvented and, honestly, testers may need to reinvent themselves. The proper skill set of a tester is expanding towards the technical side in which hands-on knowledge is needed. This need may be covered by competence development through training programmes, but we all know that most knowledge and inspiration is obtained on the job. Yet, we are only at the beginning of making seminars and conferences address this need for practical experience. C’mon, guys! GO GO GO!

Our first steps

Within Xebia, we aim to be one of the drivers of the change in the testing arena. As knowledge sharing is our second nature, the first ideas for “a Xebia testing conference” originated late 2014. Since the testing conference landscape is rather crowded, we felt we should come up with something unique and new. So, why not combine the need for expansion in the skill-set of a tester with a (for the testing conference arena) new approach. Select often-used and promising test frameworks and create a setting in which testers can gain practical experience and learn how to use these frameworks.

The idea matured, and was further strengthened through our consultancy experiences where we continuously train and coach testers and developers in modern testing (nicely summarized here). And by the somewhat unsatisfied feeling we were stuck with when leaving other testing conferences: sharing experiences is great, but actually experiencing it yourself during the conference is even better!

Stop the talking, start DOING!

So, we had to put our money where our mouth was: on Friday, October 2nd 2015, we had a first of a kind hands-on testing conference in Amsterdam. TestWorks Conf!

OK, What do you mean with  first-of-a-kind hands-on testing conference? Well,

  • we  meticulously prepared USB-sticks containing a VM image that could be loaded onto the participants’ laptops. Provided they didn’t bring equipment from the Stonehenge era. In this way, the participants would all have access to exactly the same environment: pre-loaded with all the frameworks, tools, and other settings needed to participate effectively during the conference. This allowed us to not be dependent on the venue’s wifi capabilities to download all kinds of test frameworks.
  • presentations without code did not exist — basically, we did not allow them. Parallel sessions with talks and guided demos (about 1hr) and 2hr-workshops allowed participants to choose their way of conference engagement. The 1hr-slot did prove to be challenging for participants to both follow the talk outline and use their laptops and code at the same time. Yet, all participants took home some food for thought — and the technical environment to trace back the steps presented during the talk.

Let’s gear up, all!

Close to 200 participants attended the first edition of TestWorks Conf. This attendance and the positive vibe and feedback strengthens our feeling that there is much room for these kinds of hands on conferences. For sure, we’ll continue with this practical setup; we’ll further tune the approach for the 2016 edition of TestWorks Conf. But, perhaps even more important, we urge other conference organizers to revisit their conference setup so that the apparent hunger for a practical and technically oriented testing conference is stilled. Think about how the needed skill set can be augmented, and find the appropriate form to deliver it. And have fun!