How to get the most out of EuroSTAR 2013

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1 Overview The idea of a conference like EuroSTAR can be a little daunting, even if this is not the first time that you have attended this or a similar gather of testers. So we (and who we are is covered in the next section) want to help guide you through the conference experience. This material is to support the EuroSTAR 2013 pre-session on the morning of Tuesday, November 5 th 2013, in Gothenburg, Sweden. (The conference runs from 13:00 on Tuesday 5 th November to 16:00 on Thursday 7 th November). It is aimed towards first time attendees at EuroSTAR but has applicability for those who have been before, and indeed for other gatherings (not necessarily restricted to software testing). The preparation of the material provoked the presenters to think through what they can personally get from the conference, and they may benefit from the ideas they are discussing! There are practical hints and tips, things we wish we had known when it was our first time at EuroSTAR. All those that seem to be part of the EusoSTAR furniture went to their first EuroSTAR, and although this could have been many years ago. Some of you here now may be speakers at a future EuroSTAR conference. You have to start somewhere One of the aims of this session is that everyone goes out at the end knowing (at least) 13 delegates at the conference that you didn t know before. That is not just for you; it also goes for the three presenters. Peter writes: Every year, I go home from the conference with several contacts that are new for me. Zeger and Erkki have been on my contacts list for several years now. Because I met them, and started talking. About testing, but also other matters concerning life, the universe and everything. Introductions This session is run by three EuroSTAR regulars Erkki Pöyhönen First EuroSTAR in 1995, Program Chair in 2004 Zeger van Hese First EuroSTAR in 2006, Program Chair in 2012 Peter Morgan First EuroSTAR in 2002, only missed one since, and on Program Committee in 2010 Page 1 of 7

2 General Conference It s your choice! Our aim is to help you achieve the maximum benefit from the conference. However, it is up to you. The more you plan, and act upon those plans, the better it will be, best summed up by a favourite quote of (but not by) Brett Gonzales "To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." - Anatole France, Frenchman who received the Nobel Prize for literature 1921 and died in 1924 aged 80. This sums up for key things dream, plan, act and believe After EuroSTAR, in the rest of your testing career, we want you to achieve great things, and this begins by planning. You can sit back and let the conference happen, or you can act to get the best for you. The more you put in, the more you will get out. Plan what sessions you will attend There are lots of different topics in sessions during the conference. First of all, there are five key-note talks, in the main hall. Outside of that, there are four simultaneous track sessions, occasionally giving real interest conflicts. There are two speakers from Sopra employees at this conference, and because of the topics, you may want to hear both unfortunately you can t, as they have the same time slot. This is merely an example where there are stark choices to be made. So, plan what sessions you will go to; pencil them into you program. Just because you have planned something doesn t mean that you can t change your mind! If you have people from the same company as you here at the conference, try to cover different track sessions between you. You can then compare what you heard, and gain additional personal and company benefit. Yes, the conference is about your own career and aspirations, but it is also about giving benefit to the company they paid to get you here in Gothenburg! The more benefit you can show that accrues to the company, the more likely they are to send you to EuroSTAR and/or similar conferences in future. (Yes, I know that nothing compares to EuroSTAR, but you know what I mean!). Even if you don t attend a session, you can gain from it. Get yourself around I mentioned about not going to the same sessions as all colleagues from your company. Much happens outside of the key-note and track sessions at the conference. Introduce yourself to people at meal-times go to a table where you know no-one Hello, I am Peter from the UK, who works on a freelance basis and take it from there. That is anyone. Many of the main speakers are only too pleased to meet new acquaintances at any time (and those that aren t at a specific are probably involved is a discussion from the session that they have just attended/ presented). If you have business cards, use them. I (Peter) personally don t have a business card, but will collect others cards or details, and as soon as possible (often from the conference itself), I will so that they have my details. There are more than 200 people on Peter s list of contacts from EuroSTAR conference I have attended. Many of these are just ordinary testers not conference speakers, but passionate about testing. Page 2 of 7

3 Wear your conference badge in the hotel, or on the way to the conference (in the street, on the bus). By doing this, you may just meet a new testing friend that will become a colleague for life, even though they live and work in a different country. Look out at the train station or airport on your way home for the tell-tale EuroSTAR bag. Your journey home could have some testing talk. Make a list of what will work for you Some of the best talks at EuroSTAR are war stories experiences of what went right and what went wrong. We can all learn from these tales. Whatever you are doing over the next three days, if you hear something that may, just may work for you, write it down. Do that in the medium that works for you. Blog, Twitter, notebook, pen-and-paper; as long as you can come back to it and process it. It can take me weeks to process what I take home from a conference by process, I mean think through and as necessary, put into practice. If you don t write it down (whatever that means in the 21 st Century, you will not do it. One of the highlights of EuroSTAR 2008 for Peter was an Agile breakfast, put on by one of the consultancies, where those of us there (and it was only 8 or 10) talked Agile! Take a break A conference like this is full-on. If you are not careful, you can be on information overload, sometimes by 11:00 on Wednesday morning. So think about taking a break. Sit down and have coffee, perhaps with one of your new-found testing friends. Go to The Test Lab not necessarily a break, but a different kind of activity, and one which you will find challenging in its own right. If you take a break (i.e., don t go to every track session slot), it will enable you to take in and process more. And take a break can mean different things to different people. A spot of retail therapy could be right for you. But don t tell your boss that you did it, and especially don t let on that you were encouraged to do it by me (Peter). Get involved In his inaugural speech in 1960, John F Kennedy said Don t ask what America can do for you. Ask what you can do for America. Get involved at a personal level with activities that are going on, and volunteer to do tasks if necessary (there may be the opportunities in track sessions to be a microphone runner, for instance). The more you are involved, the better the conference experience will be for you and the smoother the conference will run. Start doing it Get Social Usually, when I (Zeger) do a show of hands at conferences of people who are active on Twitter, there are a lot of hands going up. But when the question changes to who of you uses that Twitter account for professional purposes?, not that many hands are in the air still. Initially, we too used to think that Twitter was only for trivial stuff like posting pictures of your food or your cat - Or your cat eating your food - but I changed my mind about four years ago. Page 3 of 7

4 Twitter is doing brilliant things for testers, community-wise. It s a great way to interact with testers worldwide on a daily basis. It is one of hell of a sounding board for blog posts or new ideas, sometimes it can even be a very responsive first-line helpdesk. It has also proven to be a very useful, fun and informative way to cover conferences. People at the conference are commenting on sessions they re attending using the conference hashtag (#esconfs) and create a little conference in the conference. People that are not attending the conference follow the #esconfs hashtag and monitor the proceedings. They can even mingle in the discussions that are going on, which takes the debate to a higher level. Some people will be live-blogging the sessions they attend and post links to their summaries of the sessions on Twitter, which means you ll be able to read up on the sessions you missed. Twitter also facilitates connection in real life. If you follow testers from all over the world, EuroSTAR is a good opportunity to meet many of them in person. And the good thing is - if you have interacted with them before, it feels as if you ve known them for years, and you can immediately continue your conversations where you left off. Talking about conversations, don t just get social on social media. There are plenty of social events that Eurostar organizes: speaker drinks on Monday, welcome drinks and the community dinner on Tuesday, the party on Wednesday. You are also more than welcome in the Community Hub (#TheCommunityHub), where there will be soap box sessions, discussions et cetera. Get Testing What a crazy idea, right - testing at a testing conference? It sounds very obvious, but the idea of actual testing at a testing conference is really quite new. Eurostar was the first ever conference to organize a TestLab as we know it now. The first one was hosted by James Lyndsay and Bart Knaack four years ago, in This year it will be run by Ru Cindrea and Kristoffer Ankarberg (the Test Lab apprentices from 2012), with their apprentices Ruud Cox and Adina Moldovan. Ru Cindrea Kristoffer Ankarberg Ruud Cox Adina Moldovan The concept of the Test Lab evolved over the years, but the main focus has remained the same: Testing, Sharing and Fun. This year they have assembled a separate conference program that looks pretty impressive, as you can see below: Page 4 of 7

5 Famous testers from all over the world will share their thinking and techniques with you. Fiona Charles, James Lyndsay and James Bach, among others, will be hosting sessions, and there will be plenty of cool stuff to play with: Lego mindstorm robots, black box test machines, burp suite for security testing, Selenium. You can also practice note-taking and test reporting, all in a safe environment. How cool is that? I (Zeger) usually spend quite some time in The Test Lab. It's the best place to mingle, learn some testing and share your testing with others. So, here s our advice to you: find the Test-lab and go play with some software, find some bugs, make some silly noises with inflatable chickens if you like. Talk to other lab rats. Get involved. And: don t worry if this means missing out on the occasional track session. This is an equally rewarding part of the conference experience. Know what you want and then do the opposite? Be a woman / man on a mission Page 5 of 7

6 We all who take testing seriously have a testing problem to solve or a need to improve our testing somehow. Consider these: where in testing is the business value for your company right now or what would be the most useful for you personally? Be a man on a mission, focused on finding all about solutions for a specific issue harming my project getting past a bottleneck slowing me down how to do? (your problem here) basics of testing, in order to fill a gap on my testing knowledge a suitable tool for doing or a company for delivering a specific service finding myself a mentor for upcoming career change ways to improve our testing for an upcoming need If you feel the official programme does not provide for your mission, then ask about ideas and opinions from speakers, the people you meet on coffee breaks, the people in test lab or by the expo stands. When you have a need in your mind you will also find solutions and information that you need. Focusing to an issue is not preventing you to get useful ideas on any other subject domain on the side. But when there is no specific need in your mind, you risk being overwhelmed by all the ideas and pointers provided here and getting only shallow slices of all the goodies present. Search the opposite of what you ve done before Having focus is all fine and dandy. But many times we seek to find more about what we already know as an example, a local test automation expert naturally hangs around the international automation experts, sit through all relevant presentations, and learn about automation tools in expo, no problem in that. But the greatest potential of EuroSTAR (after the presence wonderful colleagues to network with) is the variety it is all about testing and all of it, not just your speciality or your role (whatever they are). Go challenge your ideas, or the ideas presented by the speakers. Critical thinking is a top skill for a successful tester. If we return from the conference as the same persons as we came in (with only some expo freebies attached) we have lost some of the potential for personal and professional renewal. Don t only attend sessions from speakers you know go even to hear and discuss about topics that you don t agree with. If you re all about people, go meet some techies and vice versa. If there is something I ve learned on my (Erkki) 20 years in testing, it is that testing is always larger and deeper area than I used to think (again and again)! Thanks and Q & A Thanks for attending the session / reading this article. We hope that this is helpful, and if EuroSTAR is not over, sets you up for a wonderful time for the rest of the conference. Page 6 of 7

7 We said at the beginning that we hoped that each attendee would come away with thirteen people that you didn t know before our contact details are at the end of this piece. Some of this will be achieved by the Activations that follow almost immediately. If there are any questions, you can always contact any of us, but if the conference is still ongoing, better to try and see us. Our contact details Here are our contact details: Name Country Twitter Erkki Pöyhönen Zeger van Hese Peter Morgan Other articles Rob Lambert wrote an excellent article just before EuroSTAR in 2012, which is posted on the EuroSTAR blog: Likewise for 2012, Peter wrote a 1-page article as a hand-out for first time attendees at EuroSTAR. This is available on Peter s web-site Page 7 of 7

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