As I mentioned before, I was lucky to be able to personally attend CAST 2016 in Vancouver. What follows is a quick recap of the sessions I liked most in chronological order:
James Bach: “What Catalyzes Testing? Testability!”
Testability is the quality of being easy to test. After that quick and comprehensible definition the goal was to find out what that really means. So we – the tutorial attendees – were given the following task: Find three things that are really hard and three that are really easy to test. Clearly, James Bach wanted us to find the core elements of testability on our own. We collected many, many ideas ranging from easy to test calculators and text fields to hard to test docker containers and colors. Finally, James gave an overview of his perspective on what he calls “Practical Testability”.
What I learned in this tutorial is that software testability doesn’t only mean the necessity of an interface / an API to drive and check your application automatically. Among others it also contains subjective and project-related aspects. In the end testers should be testability-focused and performing a testability analysis regularly can definitely help the project.
Fiona Charles: “Learning to say NO!”
This was a tutorial with a support group style and lots of role playing. These are some of my learnings on how to better say NO: play it back, use “we”, focus on facts, buy time if necessary, suggest alternatives, be honest, keep explanations to a minimum. The most important conclusions: don’t say YES when you mean NO.
Nicholas Carr: “How automation affects our daily lives” (Keynote I)
I’m not sure on the exact title of this keynote and because there is no recording I wasn’t able to find it out afterwards. The whole presentation was on how automation affects our daily lives. Nicholas Carr stated that Software development and testing is also an ethical challenge. He gave many bad examples of too much automation: planes crashes because of overburdened pilots, car accidents because of drivers relying on GPS and ignoring warning signs. Instead of completely relying on automation, we need to develop rich human skills accompanied by software automation. Nicholas Carr proposed the following ideas to reach that goal:
- only automate tasks after human mastery
- transfer control between computer and operator (example: planes)
- allow professionals to assess situation before providing algorithmic aid (example: radiology)
- allow friction for learning
- don’t hide feedback from automated tasks
These ideas were presented in a very entertaining way. After listening to his keynote I decided to read at least one of Nicholas Carr’s books:
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (2011)
- The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us (2015)
- Utopia Is Creepy And Other Provocations (Sep 2016)
Sandor Boros: “Embedded testers are not undercover cops”
This was a personal experience report of being a tester who is embedded in the development team. If you work closely with the dev team you definitely need deep technical skills. There is of course the problem that you need to wear many hats, i.e. acting as developer and quality guard. Sandor mentioned his experience on management wanting the embedded testers to act as a spy among the developers. During the talk Sandor recommend to do the following if you (want to) work as an embedded tester:
- take responsibility for the product (like every tester?!)
- make use of your veto right if necessary (you’ll be respected afterwards)
- 3 amigo meetings: business analyst, developer, embedded tester
- introduce testing story points
Peter Bartlett: “Create the change you want”
Pete already worked for his company for many years and has seen people changing jobs and companies because they felt kind of stuck at what they do. This talk was about how to learn new skills without changing jobs frequently, especially from a tester’s perspective.
As mentioned in Sandor’s talk, working closely with the dev team as an embedded tester definitely improves your technical skill set. If you’re not already doing it, talk to the developers about what you are testing and learn about development and the used programming languages. Furthermore, if you think you are an expert in a certain field and are not learning anything new, think about coaching / mentoring others. This really helps you to fully understand and master a certain area or skill. Becoming a coach will probably require you to step outside of your comfort zone, but it’ll allow you to grow your knowledge. Finally, do self reflection on a regular basis. Compare where you are vs. where you want to be. Ask yourself: What are the parts of your job you like most and how can you do more of it?
Sallyann Freudenberg: “Neurodiversity & Software Development. Why the Tech Industry needs all kinds of minds and how we can support them”
This was a very good keynote on a topic that I didn’t know much about before. Sallyann Freudenberg quoted different studies that show a high correlation between autism and STEM education / jobs (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). She states that especially the software industry already has lots of people with “different minds” and that many big inventions would not have happened without autism. The main message of this keynote is that we need all kinds of diversity to get more productive teams and neurodiversity is very important as well.
Some software companies are already addressing that in changing their processes, e.g. in recruiting they offer separate integration programs. Also some companies nowadays understand that the usual office / work environment doesn’t fit everybody.
Nancy Kelln: “Lessons Learned in Implementing Exploratory Testing”
That was an experience report from a test manager working in different projects. Multiple approaches were presented to transition a whole team from ‘traditional’ to ‘modern’ testing techniques. This is what I learned in this talk:
- Training for all testers usually doesn’t last long.
- If the trainers / contractors leave, everything will go back to normal.
- Testers need to want to use modern testing techniques. You cannot force anyone to do so.
Recordings I still need to watch
As there were up to four parallel tracks, I cannot cover all talks. Although, I still plan to watch the sessions that I missed but that have a recording:
- Babble & Dabble – Creating Bonds Across Disciplines
- Teaching Testing to Non-Testers
- How King Uses AI in Testing
- Shifting the Testing Role Pendulum
- Why Companies Without Testers are the Best Place to Be One
- Against a Harmful Divide: Testing as the Lifeblood of Development
- When You’re Evil: Building Credibility-Based Relationship with Developers
- Test Management Revisited
I really had a wonderful time at CAST2016 listening to and discussing about so many talks and meeting lots of interesting people! Once again it has shown me that there is a huge software testing community outside and lots of things are happening that I would really like to participate in. The conference focus is more on the testing profession, tester mindset, exploratory and context-driven testing. Unfortunately, I didn’t attend any talk on testing tools or concrete automation solutions. Let’s see what’s in the recordings.
Next year there will be two CAST conferences, CAST X17 in Sydney and another one later on in the US.