Change starts with me – Agile Testing Days 2015 – Day 3

The final day is here, and looking at the programme, it was to prove to be a bit of a mixed bag.

Inspiring

The first keynote of the day was by Selena Delesie (@SelenaDelesie), a lovely lady who I had the pleasure to meet both her and her son at least years conference. Her keynote, ‘Agile leadership lessons’, started with some interesting questions like “if you could have dinner with any person alive, who would it be?”. Selena’s was Richard Branson, a long time role model for her. I’m not sure who mine would be, I’m still pondering that one!

Selena said that one of the traits she admires about Richard Branson is his ability to listen. Listening is such an important skill as an effective leader, and so many of us try to listen, but we don’t always hear. She went on to suggest that a good leader (or anyone for that matter) should be present in what people are saying, to improve on collecting information and ideas rather than continually trying to come up with responses. I know I’m very much guilty of constantly trying to process what I’m hearing but at the same time formulating my responses, therefore i’m not really hearing properly.

A large part of Selena’s talk was based around her experiences during some difficult times in her life, and through such times she’s come to realise a few things. One of this is that you need to experience failure in order to grow. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn, so experiment!

Another is to be of service; This applies to many situations, including hostile ones, but rather than returning the hostility, be of service to the other party. Listen to their needs, then figure out how you can be of service to suit both their and your needs.

Through the talk Selena emphasised the importance of joy in what you do. If you do not have joy in a part of your life, including work, it will suck the life out of you, so “follow your joy”!

It was a very inspiring talk, and continued a theme of doing what’s right for you and take control which seems to be the thread through this year’s conference.

Black stories

Death, murder and generally disturbing stories were the topic for the next session I attended. “How black stories invoke creative thinking” with Jordann Gross (@JordannGross) was a great session on both introducing black stories, but also on how to use them in meetings to stimulate the creativeness in those present.

Black stories are riddles, typically involving figuring out how someone died. The process starts with the description of a scene, then through asking questions to the ‘story master’ and getting yes/no answers, you start to deduce what happened. The process through which the scenario is determined is a really interesting one and it can be tied into the five orders of ignorance, but we focussed today more on how this game can be used at the start of a meeting to get everyone thinking outside the box; to essentially warm up their brains!

This was a very enjoyable session, not only because I enjoy black stories anyway, but putting them in the context of being useful in a meeting is a really good idea.

Testing micro-services

Following this session, I went to a talk by a friend and former colleague, Jose Lima (@joseglima). This was his first conference talk, entitled “(Exploratory) Testing micro services”. I didn’t take many notes on the actual content as I was there to give Jose some feedback on the talk as a whole. He did very well; attendance was really high (standing room only!) and he had the most questions of any of the talks I’ve attended with over 20 really good questions being asked at the end. All in all, a very enjoyable and interesting talk! Well done Jose!

“Big ball of shit”

The after-lunch keynote proved to be very enjoyable and perfect for that post-food slump! “Nowhere and back again” by Thom Bradford (@kode4food) was a somewhat ranty story about some of the problems he’s seen in development over the year. Being from Boston, he swore alot. I don’t mind it, and it was used in the right place most of the time, but I could see how it might start to offend or annoy people.

That said, it was an entertaining talk. Thom was working on a piece of monolithic software (aka big ball of shit!), and to make it easier to work on,they re-designed it to a SOA approach, or micro-services. One of the really interesting suggestions he made was to change the language in which it was written. The developers were Java experts, but by changing to a different language, they were all in the same boat of learning it. The preconceptions/bad habits/ego disappeared so they could learn better ways to do it. I thought this was a really interesting idea, and one to think about a little more.

Controversially, Thom then went on to say that tests are waste and that if you write ‘perfect code’ upfront, it eliminates the need for tests. I guess in a perfect world this is true, (and we are talking about automated tests I suppose), and you can significantly reduce the number of bug that are written into code by adopting good coding principles (SOLID, code reviews etc), but where there are people, there are mistakes.

A large part of the talk was about not punishing people for failures, instead help them understand what happened and how they can improve & grow. He gave a few examples of this. I did feel, however, that in telling us not to blame, scold, humiliate people for mistakes and allowing fear to drive work, he was sorta doing that by blaming, scolding people or types of people he’d worked with. It is difficult to draw the line, and I totally get where he’s coming from. In another part of my life, away from work, we have a ‘boss’ who ‘leads’ through fear, intimidation, blaming, humiliation, and it’s just really not pleasant.

Like I said, I enjoyed the talk, especially parts about how a new boss gave the developers immediate trust, and were told to slow down and do stuff properly. This is a far better approach than punishment!

IMG_4410Drawing pretty pictures…

I took the opportunity after the keynote to attend the last of the artistry and visualisation workshop, run by StuartYoung (@Stuartliveart). Stuart was one half of the sketchnoting team doing amazing large-scale sketchnotes throughout the conference.

His session was all about giving us the confidence and some tools to be able to draw, and start sketchnoting. It was a highly compressed version (45 mins) of his day long workshop, but I found it very useful indeed. I enjoy drawing, but don’t get/make enough time to do it these days, but the basics he covered in this session have given me some foundations on which to build.

By the end of it, we could draw all sorts of objects, using several primitives, including people (a common problem!)

Here are pictures of how sketchnoting should be done!

 

@stuartliveart
@stuartliveart
@ctohanian
@ctohanian

Integral quality

The final keynote of the day was by Olaf Lewitz (@OlafLewitz), a gentleman I have had the pleasure of meeting at a visit to Redgate.

The theme to this talk was around change, choice, options and personal development. We almost always have choices, they are not always obvious or easy, but they are choices nevertheless. Ignorance is a choice, we can choose to ignore that we have choices. A bit meta I suppose, but whatever choice we make, means we are responsible for our story, responsible for our options.

Olaf had us recite this little ditty about options

Options have value
Options expire
Never commit early
Unless you know why

Speaks for itself really, but I guess the key message is to weigh up all the options, avoid choosing one until you know enough information about it to make an informed decision, but don’t take too long because they do expire and can become a non-option!

Olaf has a very positive spin on pretty much everything, and put a new spin on conways law to the effect of “Every system is as GREAT as the organisation that created it”. Don’t always focus on the negative, it’s likely to become self-perpetuating. Focus on the positive and success is more likely.

Evolution is a term which is much misused. Olaf suggested that you can’t force or make a company/thing evolve. Evolution is a natural process that cannot be forced, it will happen on it’s own. Perhaps you can influence it, but mostly not.

It was a really inspiring keynote, and with messages around having courage to leave your comfort zone, do what you enjoy, trust people, it echoed alot of what Selena, Mike Sutton and Sue Black were saying. It certainly seemed to be a theme throughout the conference this year.
The conference wrapped up with the now traditional sketch by Lisa & Janet plus friends. This is always funny, and a great way to end yet another fantastic event.

But for those of us not going home until Friday, it was not really over. Following a lovely meal with Abby Bangser, Michael Larsen, Alan Parkinson and Emma Armstrong, we ended up in the hotel lobby with some others getting more and more frustrated with more puzzles and games! An ex colleague spent 2 hours agonising over the pen game, while myself and Abby were battling with a number sequence puzzle! All of these games showed us to look beyond the obvious, think outside the box and don’t get caught up in preconceptions!
Phew, what an amazing three days. It was mentally and physically tiring, but it’s always inspiring and I’m bringing home some new ideas and energy to try to apply to my day job.

Until next year Potsdam! Auf Wiedersehen

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