Top 5 takeaways from Nordic Testing Days 2019

Nordic Testing Days is the leading testing conference in the Nordic region, held in Tallinn Estonia. This year, our very own Continuous Testing & Delivery Consultant, Ali Hill was one of the speakers. Here’s his take on the experience:

The conference took place on May 30th–31st 2019 (and May 29th if you took part in the tutorial day). It was a truly great experience to both speak and attend over the two days. Here’s what happened:

Speaking Experience

Having arrived in Estonia on the afternoon of May 29th – and having spent a couple of hours exploring the beautiful city of Tallinn – it was time for The Speakers Dinner. The evening started with drinks by the sea before we were surprised with dinner on a boat as we sailed up and down Tallinn’s coastline.

This dinner really characterised how Nordic Testing Days look after their speakers. If you are accepted to speak, then travel costs and two nights accommodation are covered by the conference. The organisers and volunteers were great at replying to any questions I had in the lead up to the event and I truly felt valued as a speaker.

The stage, mic and presentation equipment all made life very easy and the attendees were engaged and asked some really thought-provoking questions.

My talk was titled ‘Let’s Share the Testing’ and focused on a journey I went on with my previous Agile team – after we identified testing was a bottleneck in our attempts to continuously deliver software. I discussed how we removed the testing bottleneck by collaborating on the testing effort, and how sharing testing knowledge improved productivity and communication within the team. I also shared my ideas on how to involve non-test specialists in testing activities in the hope these help others in their own projects!

Ali Hill Nordic Testing

Conference Sessions & Key Lessons

 The conference format provided plenty of variety. Each day started and ended with a keynote attended by all delegates. In between the keynotes were two parallel talk tracks or a longer workshop.

As the name suggests, Nordic Testing Days is primarily a conference about testing and attended by software testers, but not all of the sessions focused on this and there were presenters and attendees from a whole range of disciplines present at the event.

Key Lessons from the Conference

Below are five key sessions/takeaways from across the two days of the conference, in no particular order: 

  1. Don’t Take It Personally

One of the most valuable sessions I attended was delivered by Bailey Hanna whose workshop title was aptly named ‘Don’t Take it Personally’ taught me how to turn potentially negative comments into a positive conversation. The workshop covered a number of linguistic behaviours which may be exhibited by a person acting negatively. We practiced in groups by exhibiting these negative behaviours and turning the conversation into a positive one during this session. As well as teaching me how to handle these situations it also led me to reflect on how I should provide feedback to colleagues. 

  1. Ask Questions About Accessibility

Ady Stokes’ presentation on Accessibility was really interesting. Accessibility is, unfortunately, not an area I have spent much time focusing on in my career. Ady dispelled the myth that developing with accessibility in mind only benefits those with disabilities. He showed us a graphic which is part of this Inclusive Design Blog and highlights the difference between permanent, temporary and situational accessibility issues.

My main takeaway was that it’s important for all members of the development team to ask questions about accessibility, and get the conversation started in their workplace.

  1. STRIDE, Elevation of Privilege, Threat Modelling…

Gwen Diagram’s energetic presentation – ‘Security by Stealth’ – was a late addition to the conference schedule, but an extremely valuable one. It covered two main themes:

  • How to organise well-attended workshops in your workplace (hint: provide food!)
  • The tools Gwen used to get her teams interested in developing with security in mind.

Gwen’s workshops used models such as STRIDE, activities such as Elevation of Privilege and Threat Modelling and tools such as OWASP Juice Shop and ZAP.

Like accessibility, security is an area I haven’t explored in any great depth. All of the terms I’ve used above are areas I’m now interested in learning more about.

  1. Explain Exploratory Testing

Alex Schladebeck kicked off day two of the conference with an excellent Keynote called ‘Why Should Exploratory Testing Even be the Subject of a Keynote?’. It’s an interesting title, but Alex explained why she believed exploratory testing is important (potentially the most important activity testers perform), and why testers need to be better at explaining what it is we’re doing when we’re exploring our products.

Alex stated that testers often talk about ‘intuition’ and ‘experience’ when it comes to finding bugs, but this isn’t useful in explaining what we are doing to developers or other members of our team. My main takeaway from this talk was that I need to pair and mob more with my team and explain what it is I’m looking for when I’m exploring the system under test. 

Exploratory Testing

  1. Cynefin

Towards the end of the second day (actually immediately after my talk) was Lucian Adrian presenting ‘Choose your Test Approach with Cynefin Help’. Cynefin is something I’ve seen come up quite frequently on Twitter and in blogs but not something I’m overly familiar with. Lucian did a great job of introducing Cynefinas a sense making framework consisting of five domains: obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic and disorder – and how he uses this framework to create his test strategies.

I still find Cynefin difficult to fully understand, but it’s something I want to explore more and I’ll definitely be watching Lucian’s talk back when the recordings are made available. 

Post-Conference Activities

As well as a dinner for speakers, there was also a dinner and party after the first day for all speakers and attendees.

An area of the venue was transformed into a dancefloor, but there were also lightning talks and Powerpoint Karaoke for those who preferred a quieter night. If you’re ever at a conference that does Powerpoint Karaoke then I’d highly recommend attending. It’s extremely entertaining watching brave volunteers try to make random slides tie into a topic they have been provided at random.

After 10pm, those who wanted to continue the party could head into Tallinn’s Old Town until the small hours.

Venue

I couldn’t write about Nordic Testing Days without mentioning Kultuurikatel, the venue itself…

It was a power plant in its previous life but has been repurposed into an event centre. It was the perfect size for the 500+ attendees to the conference and was only a five-minute walk from Tallinn’s Old Town.

There were two fantastic presentation rooms and a number of smaller areas for workshops and tutorials. There was also plenty of space to network during the breaks and a nice area outside to sit in the sun.

I think any conference would struggle to get a venue as great as this one.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Nordic Testing Days and highly recommend the event for anyone in the testing and developing space. It was great to meet so many other testers from around the world and discuss challenges we are facing and solutions that we have created.

I’ve got plenty to reflect on over the coming weeks and I look forward to applying some of what I’ve learned in my day to day work.

Keep an eye on the Nordic Testing Days YouTube channel where the recordings of all talks will shortly be made available.

Nordic Testing Days

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