Inspiring Action: WeTest Weekend Workshop 2013

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WeTest Weekend Workshop 2013: Style AND Substance

A week ago today I attended and presented at the first ever WeTest Weekend Workshop. The theme of the conference was ‘Challenge & Change’ and it was an incredibly enjoyable and enlightening day, with some really great talks from lots of excellent local testers.

However, what I took away from the day more than anything else wasn’t something I picked up from one of the three sessions I attended besides my own, but was more of a general observation of those people who attended and, in particular, those people who were giving talks and running workshops.

And that one thing is the tendency of great testers to be tenaciously, irrevocably active. They are people who go out and do things, without being told to, often when they’re not supposed to. They are naturally curious about the world, but also courageous enough to actually explore it.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the event’s fearless (and tireless) organisers: Katrina Clokie and Aaron Hodder. Over coffee one day they were discussing how cool it would be to have a peer conference in Wellington. So they created one (with a little help from Assurity, the event’s generous sponsors). It is this sort of zealous commitment to making things happen that makes them such effective and successful testers, but also helps them to influence those around them.

But they were not alone. The sessions I attended were driven by people who had similarly just given something a go, taken some initiative, and backed themselves.

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Noel Dykes runs a workshop on SOA and SoapUI

There was Noel Dykes‘ session on SOA, where he talked through a service driven approach to testing that he became passionate about after utilising it within his performance testing. He has gone on to become incredibly knowledgeable on the subject, implemented it to the benefit of numerous clients and helped share the benefits within Assurity and the wider testing community.

Amy Langbridge too, spoke of her experiences applying Specification by Example – traditionally a technique associated with Agile projects – to traditional projects utilising a Waterfall lifecycle model. This wasn’t something she was told to do, but something she learned about and simply started doing.

Indeed, my own contribution to the day – a workshop on Session Based Test Management which I ran with Sam Nix – was driven purely from experiences I had when I decided to change the way that testing was conducted on a project I worked on. It was something which was new, and hadn’t been done before, but I felt it would be more effective and so I made it happen.

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Attendees at my SBTM session getting hands on with some testing.

Probably the talk that tied this together the most was an experience report from Oliver Erlewein on enacting organisational change. This led to some heated debate around how to change the way the organisations approach their testing. From Oliver’s experience, and those shared by other attendees, it was those occasions when someone had simply taken the initiative and started something that had had the most success – even if they, as the evangelist for change, couldn’t quite make it stick.

So what the WeTest Weekend Workshop 2013 proved, I think, is that it is those testers who are willing to go out on a limb, to take a risk and try something new, or adapt something into a new context, who are the ones who can truly ‘Challenge & Change’ the way that we do things and the way that testing works in our organisations and communities.

Of course, this sometimes has to be tempered somewhat, we cannot always “just do it” – to plagiarise a trademarked slogan – because we also have a responsibility to our clients and the ways in which they might prefer us to work. This raises interesting questions about the agency of testers and our ethical responsibilities which I hope to further explore in the near future.

But for now, the inaugural WeTest Weekend Workshop was an important reminder to ourselves, as testers, that we should have the courage to act on our convictions. To take the initiative and trust our instincts. Being a good tester is not an academic thing. There is no such thing as passive testing. It is an active profession and this shone through last weekend.

In doing so, the old adage that “those who can’t do, teach” was disproven. WeTest brought together a group of passionate and active testers who shared their experiences and hopefully inspired those who attended to do (or continue doing) the same. Perhaps next year the Workshops will be presented by some of those who were inspired in just that way. I look forward to finding out.

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