April 4, 2017 · Events

The TestBash Brighton 2017 Story

After missing last year's event, I was delighted to return for my third TestBash Brighton (following previous trips in 2014 and 2015). I wasn't able to make it to the Workshop Day, and the need for sleep kept me from attending Lean Coffee on this occasion, but nevertheless I wanted to share my mostly-positive thoughts about what took place!

If you're pushed for time, as I was on Saturday, you might prefer this short video version, recorded in the aftermath of the TestBash Open Space:

But for those who favour words, here are a few slightly more detailed thoughts:

Reinforcement and course-corrections

Amy's talk on surviving a continuous delivery environment, and Gwen & Ash's session on interacting with APIs, were both excellent presentations which touched upon many aspects of my current role. So although not all of the material was new for me, I'm glad to see applied sessions like these on the programme.

It gave me some comfort that my approaches in these scenarios are at least in-line with what the expert presenters had to say, and in some places I was able to spot opportunities to improve my general working practices. I'm always pleased to encounter material which allows for small "course corrections" in my day-to-day life - they're often easier to put into action than more sweeping changes.

New speakers raising the bar

The workshop that I ran at TestBash 2015 was my first major public speaking engagement (boy does that seem like a long time ago now!), and while I received good feedback from it, my overriding memory of that day was being a bundle of nerves, just hoping to make it to the end of my session without bursting into flames.

So it came as a wonderful surprise to me to discover new presenters who I've known from Twitter and the test community, but whom I've never heard speak before - and they both blew it out of the water. Del and Mike (plus "past-Mike"!) gave us their frank and humorous views on where our industry has been, and where it's headed, in terms of how we seek to progress our careers and how we handle project strategies.

They inspired me to put my own writing hat back on again: the Ministry of Testing now has a continuous Call For Papers and although I missed the cut-off for TestBash Manchester, I'll be submitting something very shortly - though the bar has been set very high by this year's talks!

I (still) ♥ Open Space

Unconferences are fast becoming my favourite platform for exchanging ideas with industry colleagues; if you've not been to one before, it's basically like an all-day Lean Coffee, where the attendees pitch ideas for sessions and build their own full-day, multi-track programme. I had two great experiences in 2016 (at CAST's TestRetreat and TestBash Manchester) and the TestBash Brighton version (held the day after the conference itself) stands alongside those.

I particularly enjoyed the sheer variety of sessions (and these were just the ones that I chose; with 5-6 sessions occurring simultaneously, the fear of missing out was strong). I helped to build a series of internal workshops for a friend's company; I provided some proof-reading services for a forthcoming children's book (and in return received some great advice on self-publishing); and I took part in an extremely deep and useful session about managing our own mental health.

And that's without even mentioning my podcast: Dan and I recorded a live episode of Screen Testing, all about the Star Wars Holiday Special, which will be released this Friday (edit: it's out now!). It was a lot of fun, even if the editing was a bit of a challenge (dealing with ten different voices in a very echoey room!) and we'll definitely be attempting another live episode in the future.

Inclusivity: Doing well, could do more

There was some valid feedback on Twitter/Slack from some people who felt that the "regulars" at TestBash can be a bit cliquey at times, and are difficult to approach if they're sharing in-jokes or deep in conversation. I would imagine that (by most measurements) I'm probably being lumped into that group, so I'd like to share a few of my thoughts.

Firstly, I'm the worst person in the world when it comes to approaching new people, and if I'm at an event like TestBash without work colleagues then I'm guilty (but not sorry) of looking across a room to spot a face that I know. But whenever I do meet new faces, I almost always find it rewarding, and I'm eternally grateful for people I know who introduced me to their colleagues.

There were a couple of very good events this year to encourage mingling: Lean Coffee tends to put new people together, and I had several fun encounters during the post-event Games Night (being double-crossed by a table full of new faces with foam guns is surprisingly enjoyable). I think that more opportunities for chance encounters can only be a good thing, and they certainly needn't involve drinks - I had several highly enjoyable restaurant trips where conversation can flow without being drowned-out by loud music or without the threat of a hangover ruining the next morning!

Ultimately, I think this is a situation which we as attendees need to address, and I'll see what I can do, but anything that organisers can do to encourage meeting new faces would be a welcome addition to somebody like me who is just not that good at it!

And with that, another TestBash draws to a close. Next stop is TinyTestBash in Belfast; if I can scrape together the finances, I'll be there!

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