2017 in Review: Public Speaking, Amazing Testing Community & Self-Growth

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” –  Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

This quote sums up 2017 for me pretty well: with hard work, determination and motivation some of my dreams materialized and I met amazing people who were willing to help me reach my dreams as well. I will slice up this blog post to milestone-like sections. 

From unaccepted speaker to accepted-to-every-one-I-applied-to

I kicked off 2017 reflecting on how I failed getting accepted to speak at conferences. I had a few useful lessons after my first abstract got rejected 5 times, and, I felt like I learned them – I had a bubbling new idea of what I should talk about. Something that I actually know best – my own story.

Don’t try to reinvent the topic and present something far away from your work – best stories are your own and there is a lot for people to learn from them

So, I created a new abstract called “Testing Big Data to Predict Your Perfect Fit”. I was surprised that sometimes it takes just a question to get some support from the experts: there were so many people who proof-read the abstract and were open to give feedback (Speak Easy, for example, introduced me to the wonderful Nancy Kelln). Once the abstract was ready, I submitted to 3 conferences.

I got invited to speak at all of them: Testing Cup 2017 in Gdansk, Poland, Quest for Quality 2017 in Dublin, Ireland and EuroSTAR 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark! The last one being the biggest European testing conference with around 4-5 speaking tracks at the same time.

Before the very first talk I was so nervous that I couldn’t even sleep the night before. Technically I had some difficulties, but once it was over – the feeling was wonderful! I received great feedback, it was so rewarding to have audience members come to you and tell you that you inspired them or just to talk to you about work problems they have. I felt like I broke the ice and that was absolutely right!

Once you start stepping outside your comfort zone and deliver your first international talk at a conference – it gets better and you feel more comfortable

Quest for Quality’s experience I loved the most (thoughts on why it was the conference of the year for me). Theme spoke to me, talks were very interesting and the fellow speakers and audience in general were lovely people. I really wanted to deliver the best I could and it worked – the audience and my talk definitely clicked. I was voted the best talk of Quest For Quality 2017 with a rating of 4.61/5!

EuroSTAR was a great learning opportunity as it was a very big conference and I could meet a lot of people, but I did not feel the same click as at Q4Q conference. I met wonderful people there, heard good stories, but it wasn’t as cozy as smaller conferences.

In general, I loved public speaking – it was a great challenge. It taught me more about myself and enabled me to meet like-minded people. I am definitely thinking of some talks for 2018 now as well.

Give it a go at public speaking – it will help you grow

Meeting the old & new heroes

Participating in multiple conferences, meetups and online communities I got to meet so many amazing people. That is the best thing that happened to me this year.

Get to know the testing community – be it at conference, meetup or just online gathering. There are so many inspiring people with whom you can bond almost instantly

Imagine that you get to meet Michael Bolton who has been your inspiration since you started your testing career, you exchange stories and he looks at you and says “Impressive, you are going to be big”. It leaves you speechless. And there are so many known faces in conferences – having a chance to meet them in real life is unbelievable. Most of those people are so helpful and friendly that it will give you a kick of extra motivation to reach your dreams.

What surprised me more than known heroes were people of whom I hadn’t heard before. There are so many inspiring, wonderful professionals who add up to the experience of conferences or communities.

Looking at photo archives, I see this heart-warming picture from Quest For Quality conference. With 4 out of 6 people around me here I kept in touch and plan to continue doing so – if you ever meet any of these beautiful humans, tell them a warm hi – they are awesome!

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Also, online testing community has been such a great discovery – a lot of great people in testing are open, friendly and willing to share experiences!

Thank you to every single person I got to meet in 2017 – I am very grateful for every encounter!

Shift from Omega tester towards QA role at my work

For more than 2 years, I was a lone tester or as James Bach calls them Omega Tester. I worked a lot spreading testing awareness in general, not only building automation checks from scratch or getting to participate in groomings/plannings and collaborating a lot with other departments.

This year has been pretty generous to me as I got a new team member! So, now, I am shifting more to the QA role in a sense that I can actually ASSESS quality more – I use New Relic to monitor and spot quality issues we may be having. This ability has given me a lot of knowledge about the product, in-depth understanding of the internals and even got me invited to priority meetings with CEO, account manager and the head of engineering. I am becoming more of a quality professional (which I do love a lot) even if I still do a bunch of testing as well, but my new colleague now helps me out with most of the tasks and we can distribute accordingly. I think it was one of the main lessons in my career:

Clear communication, collaboration between teams and being open to everyone has helped me grow and learn a lot about the product

When it comes to testing, I also got to finally play around more with APIs this year and learn more about back-end. That was so fascinating that I would love to learn more about it in 2018.

2017 in Numbers

My personal numbers:

  • Speaker at 3 international conferences
  • Multiple amazing professionals in testing met at conferences/communities
  • QA & Testing department doubled (from 1 person to 2!)

My blog’s numbers:

  • 7 post published
  • 1404 unique visitors – record number since the start of my blogging
  • 2033 views – second in place after 2016 when I did 30 Days of Testing challenge
  • 338 people read the most popular post: Dear tester! Others care about quality, too.

Resolutions in 2018?

After 2017’s challenges with public speaking, I definitely want to speak again at a conference (or a few). I am researching biases right now. I want to do a talk related to our own and other people’s biases. Especially working as testers we get to deal with that a lot! A practical talk of stories and tips (if you have some stories to share on what you faced related to systematic errors and/or dealt with it –  I’d love to hear them!) .

Apart from that, I am aiming to continue occasional blogging and also learn more about APIs!

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Quest for Quality 2017: Best conference experience of the year

Early this year, I stumbled upon Quest for Quality conference’s website. I was browsing conferences about testing trying to find a place where I could apply to speak at with my newly written abstract. As very often it goes with first impressions, I liked the design of their website and the general impression this conference had: dev-ops and testing are such a great match which I appreciate a lot in my daily work. To fast-forward a little bit: I was invited to be a speaker at Q4Q2017 in Dublin, Ireland and can honestly say it has been one of the best conference experiences I have ever had. 

At this conference, I was both an attendee and a speaker. First of all, I believe one of the greatest benefits of being a speaker at conferences in general is a chance to meet fellow speakers as well as amazing attendees who are interested in your story. It definitely is an ice-breaker for introvert speakers. In Q4Q2017 there was plenty of that thanks to the great organizers who helped speakers to get to know each other in a really cozy and sincere speakers/sponsors dinner before the actual conference. We bonded instantly and it gave a certain confidence boost to know fellow speakers, support them and get their support as well. During the conference, we got to talk to each other more and I believe that we got some great long-lasting connections.

As an attendee, I was impressed that Quest for Quality had such amazing speakers and I loved the selection of topics. All the topics were linked to the challenges of Quality Asssurance and digital transformation in this fast-paced IT world. I will mention a few of the talks and key learnings from them.

The conference was opened with an introduction from Nikola Šopar who is the Director of QA Services, Comtrade Digital Services – the company which has organized the event. I could relate to his talk a lot and I think it laid a great start for all of the speakers. Nikola talked about the change we are facing: the pace is really fast in platform economy and with that the concept of quality is changing, too. In the upcoming two days – that was actually the main theme for the conference: change and adapting to it.

Andreas Grabner from Dynatrace delivered a keynote “How DevOps is done by Top Performers” which I found extremely interesting. The current motto unfortunately is “deliver crap faster” and this should change. Andreas told a lot of interesting stories about how dev-ops and quality interact and the continuous user feedback driven innovation including Facebook, Etsy, Dynatrace, Verizon and SOFICO. I loved to learn how companies made delivery not only faster, but better quality, too. Monitoring can help a lot in those cases to avoid false positives and get extra information from automated checks. Also, what I loved in this talk was this:

Maik Nogens with “How the XING Team Created a Successful Content Platform from Scratch” had a lot of great concepts to share that everyone should be familiar with in testing. Maik’s story was full of great lessons, so I’m just going include a couple of photos from it:

Talking about wonderful new friends – I got a chance to meet Maja Schreiner who is going to be my roommate during EuroSTAR 2017 conference! After talking for a while it turned out we are both going there and would be willing to split the costs. Funny coincidence and I’m so grateful for that! By the way, Maja wrote a really great blog post about this year’s Quest for Quality in her blog so check it out! Maja delivered a talk “Continuous Delivery Using Crowdsourced Testing” about how her company involved crowdsourced testing into their workflow. I think crowdsourced testing is a really hot topic nowadays and it was great to get some myths about it busted.

On the second day, a great start of the conference was the keynote by Finn Lorbeer from ThoughtWorks called “Building a High Quality Product”. It was my favorite talk because I could relate so much to it. Finn gave great examples and a lot of food (or to be more precise – muffins) for thought.

Another great talk was by Amela Teftedarija and Darko Nikolić who presented “Think Globally, Act Locally – Build Stronger Distributed Agile Teams”. Most of us have experience working in distributed teams and there definitely are some challenges with that. Amela and Darko gave a lot of great tips to build amazing distributed teams and be more considerate towards yours team members.

Lastly, on the second day I also got to present my talk “Testing Big Data to Predict Your Perfect Fit” and it was a blast! I was fighting with a little cold, but having mini jars of honey in the conference venue and helpful staff was definitely a big advantage! Audience was great – I got a lot of interesting questions after the talk and I felt so honored and happy to be a part of this conference.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Quest for Quality conference – you will come back changed and what is most important – the people there are simply magical! Big thanks to name just a few: the best organizers team with Evelina & Nikola in front, wonderful attendees and the best fellow speakers Maja, Maik, Finn, Neven and Amela! Good luck to all of you and see you next time.

With closing smiles and great memories: me & Amela after the wonderful Quest for Quality 2017 experience:
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Breaking the ice in Testing Cup 2017

The adrenaline was rushing to my heart so heavily that I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I kept falling into drowsy mind flow, muscles relaxed, but heart just could not calm down. At around 4 AM birds started chirping outside, I still felt the heat wave, took a cold shower and kept trying to fall asleep. At 6 AM until 7 AM I managed to doze off a few 10 minute intervals and then it was time to get ready. The big day was here. June 9th, the conference day of Testing Cup 2017 where I was doing my first ever conference presentation. 

I was so honored and extremely excited to be invited to speak at Testing Cup 2017 in Gdansk, Poland. The greatest ever thing about Testing Cup is that testers can compete for it! How awesome is that? Teams/individuals participate in a testing competition and can prove themselves to be the best bug catchers! Such a great opportunity for testers in Poland! And take a look how the actual prizes look like:

I arrived on the afternoon of the 8th of June, so sadly, did not see the competition itself taking action, but could join the beach after-party which was an amazing experience! I took a train ride to Sopot (on the way I learned a good lesson about Polish trains – the ticket validation machines are on the train stops only, not on the trains themselves!) and after a walk on the beach I joined the Testing Cup participants & speakers in a bar on the beach. There were snacks, drinks, even a DJ and the fire show, and, of course, the most wonderful view with a special appearance of the rainbow:

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After the party, I went back to rest before the big day and here is where we get to the first paragraph of this post. Even if the night hadn’t been wonderful and I was worried, but one of the speakers told me when I asked if they are nervous “I was, for the first talk”, so I believe this is a natural feeling. The good part is that I didn’t feel sleepy at all and could listen actively because of the adrenaline rush.

I arrived to the venue to participate on the second day of the Testing Cup which was the conference day and I haven’t mentioned yet, but the whole competition was in a stadium! This was where we would relax during the breaks or just go to breathe some fresh air:

stadium

The fantastic part about the conference was that it had several tracks! One was purely in English, so I always had what to listen to. To name a few of many great presentations that day:

Andreas Faes talked about his experience of changing beliefs as a tester in his presentation “Losing my religion”. Andreas gave an overview of testing schools, told examples from his professional journey and shared great concepts about testing. I could relate to it so much!

Maria Kedemo delivered a great keynote on testability “Dimensions of Testability”. I cannot stress enough how I agree with the points she made because usually the most common obstacles we face as testers are testability issues.

Ben Simo (better known as “the bug magnet” or “a sort of skilled hacker”) gave a keynote called “An Incredible Mess”. It was one of the funniest talks I have ever seen. Ben shared his story about his experience with healthcare.gov website’s usage and the publicity that was caused by the bugs he reported to them.

And now… what the curious of you have been waiting for – how did my talk go?

I think in general the talk itself went fine, I delivered the content and didn’t feel nervous, but all my nerves went away partially because slides.com just went black once I started the presentation! Even if before we did a tech check (I wanted to make sure it works as I had an iframe which prevented me from using other presentation options then) – all worked well then. However, once I started we had to interrupt the presentation a couple of times and change the laptop (which was not ready for presentation and got some meeting pop-ups!) I think I faced one of the biggest technical problems speaker can get all together, so this just gave me the attitude that – the worst may have happened, so I should just continue and deliver the message the best I can! After the presentation, I really felt like the ice has been broken and the speaker’s words about the first presentation being the hardest were more than truth – it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be!

In the end, even if I wasn’t too happy about technical issues and got my lessons learned (slides.com never again and always have back-ups!),  I really got inspired by the great feedback I got from the audience. This has shown me that it doesn’t matter even that my presentation had some glitches (of course would be better if it didn’t, but life happens!), people in the end came to hear the content! Nothing can be more rewarding to a speaker than to get a message like this:

And I must say, Testing Cup’s audience was so nice! People were smiling, patient and supportive. Once I went to deliver my talk and saw people’s supportive eyes shining with curiosity, I knew that I am in a safe place!

Huge thanks to the wonderful organizers of Testing Cup and the amazing participants. Also, thanks to my colleagues for sending encouraging messages and believing in me from the very start. Lastly, enormous thanks to such a magical community of testers in social media who are always there to support you and are so welcoming to new speakers!

The ice has been broken. I am ready to speak again!

 

Fail Better in 2017: Story of Unaccepted Conference Speaker

It’s that time of the year again: Christmas, relatives, and, a great opportunity to reflect on the past year. I have decided to write about one of the important lessons I had a chance to experience: failing to succeed as a conference speaker.

It is not as drastic as it sounds like – I never actually tried it before, so I just did not get accepted. However, I somehow thought that it will be easier, but everything takes time. After attending several conferences, I thought I have something to share that is really important and should be heard about: I wrote my first abstract and started applying to the testing conferences. You can as well find some tips on how I started this journey in my previous post:  Where to start if you want to be a speaker.

I failed to get accepted to around 5 conferences.

When I got the first reject, I tried to rationalize it: its lineup actually ended up having the majority of men with more than 20 years of experience. Not that I have anything against experienced professionals who tend to be men, but I felt that maybe organizers were not ready to believe that there are more good female speakers even if they don’t have many years of experience. This calmed me down a bit and I started thinking that maybe this is just a matter of external conditions and coincidences.

After a few more rejects, I realized something: there are many reasons why you may not be accepted and don’t let it bring you down. Keep trying.

Sometimes reasons may be actually your topic: maybe conference is interested in a different kind of talk, other times it could be that there are just more stronger and better candidates than you.

A great thing to do is to actually ask why your talk did not get accepted. I did ask for it in all my rejects, but to be honest, I received the letter back only in one of the cases, however, I really appreciated it. The feedback letter explained situation and gave me some information that I couldn’t see: there were more than a 100 candidates and even if my topic was nice, but this year there were some other topics that got prioritized.

So, I started thinking, that if my topic gets overbeated by some stronger topics, maybe I should start thinking of a stronger topic, too. Something that would not get rejected easily.

All the “No” answers actually motivated me to work harder and try again maybe in a different way. So, the advice for this year (my favorite quote ever and in general the motto of my life which I use way too often) is:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Happy 2017! Don’t be afraid to fail – it will make you better.