Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Questing in Boston

I received a 'QUEST 2011: Thank You Letter' from QAI Global Institute yesterday that was emailed to the participants list. I meant to post a blog about the conference when I came back on April 8 but got carried away with my busy work routine and getting ready for a release. This email brought back good memories and I thought I would share a few sentiments here.

This was my first testing conference and I did not know what to expect. Granted I have been to quite a few international conferences when I worked as an interpreter but those were on oil and gas, US-Russia business relations, auto shows and international law. My responsibility was to help people communicate, negotiate, resolve conflicts and build relationships. 

There were days when I would not have time to eat. Meals were provided of course, followed by scrumptious desert, but I was not able to eat as I was busy talking, or rather people talking with each other but through me. People tend to be more relaxed, personal and prone to heart to heart conversations when they share food. If you add alcohol into this equation then the conversions would get more colorful and run longer. I even had lunch with the Honorable Judges Scalia and Ginsburg and my clients. They were enjoying an amazing lunch and interesting conversation and I was busy passing information back and forth in Russian and English.

Needless to say I never really had time to explore any of those shows as I had to follow a rigid schedule and attend workshops and receptions of the clients' choice. This time it was different. Attendees were IT professionals and mostly testers and QA folks. Of course I know that there are so many of us scattered around the US and the rest of the world but seeing SO many test/qa-obsessed people in one place was something!

I got to my first Quest day at around lunch, registered, picked up my badge and joined the gang of hungry testers. I like people-watching and while sitting by myself and observing I was able to tell the ones who were noobs like me from the ones who have either attended Quest or similar events before. They were vibrantly discussing the agendas, upcoming workshops and instructors that they knew or heard of, liked, disliked or wanted to meet. I overheard people talking about Agile, mobile testing, Jon Bach, etc. I looked through my own 'Quest at a Glance' leaflet and circled additional tutorials based one what I had heard -- just in case!

I defined my objectives and mission for the event but also kept my options open. My plan was to learn as much as possible about Agile and mobile testing, attend Janet Gregory's and Jon Bach's workshops, spend time with the uTest team and network if I was brave enough.

My first tutorial on mobile apps testing was with uTest. Needless to say I was beyond myself excited to finally meet uTesters that I got to know over the last few months through either following the uTest blog or working as a freelance tester evenings and weekends. The tutorial covered planning, mobile testing approaches and challenges as well as crowdsourcing. One of the uTesters gave a hands-on walk-through  demo of an iPad application test. It was great. Participants seemed to share my feelings. They were curious and asked many interesting questions and shared their personal stories.

The tutorial was followed by the uTest reception. Right before it I finally met Peter Shih. Peter and I corresponded via email and the uTest forum. It was so cool to finally meet him and other uTesters face to face. It felt like I have known them for quite some time. I changed my career paths and jobs a few times after I moved to the United States. Working for UUNet Technologies, SRA International and with uTest have been my best gigs by far. 

The next two days were filled with good stuff.  I attended sessions on Agile estimation and dealing with defects, Performance Testing, and Test Planning and Design. Even though the material in some classes was a bit high level and over my head I was still learning about new ideas and how people do things in different organizations.  

Another highlight of my Quest agenda was an evening cruise aboard the Spirit of Boston, sponsored by Microsoft. Boy it was fun! I never thought that testers were such party animals! I tend to get seasick even from minor waves and it was quite windy in Boston that evening. I was nervous that I might get a wicked sea sickness attack at when I least expected it. A little bit of wine and dancing seemed to have taken care of that. A couple of people break danced. How cool is that! No one seemed to mind the waves. I had a light headache the next day but that was a small price to pay considering how much fun we had.

After Thursday’s workshop on Exploratory Testing taught by Jon Bach I was proud to say that I finally met both Bach brothers. I loved Jon’s workshop. It was dynamic, entertaining and full of fun examples and brain teaser exercises. Not only have I learned about the Japan Quake Map but ever since I have been obsessed with finding those special penny coins that don’t have a Lincoln memorial displayed upside down when you flip them over.

Quest 2011 is complete. It’s time to get ready for CAST2011 in August. Again I don’t know what to expect since it will be a whole new experience and a chance to explore. One thing I know is that I will meet other Association for Software Testing members and testers who are passionate about our craft and hopefully both Bach brothers under the same roof.