My Experience at QA or the Highway

Event – QA or the Highway
Date – February 18, 2014
Location – OCLC Conference Center – Dublin, Ohio

QA or the Highway was the first conference of the year for me to attend and was practically located in my backyard.  The conference was well attended with approximately 250-300 testers in attendance.  The one day conference consisted of an opening keynote, 4 breakout sessions (with an option to chose from one of four tracks), and the closing keynote.  The speakers consisted of national, regional, and local speakers from the area.

For the details:

Here is my account…it’s a bit lengthy, but so was the day.

Event Schedule  

Opening KeynoteJoe Ours
Keith Klain was originally scheduled to speak, but was unable to attend.  Joe Ours one of the organizers of the event, stepped up to the plate and did a great job in Keith’s absence.
This was impressive as he was scheduled to speak later in the day as well.  Joe brought a first class keynote looking at a variety of topics such as why testers are overworked, how testers might feel undervalued, redefined the testers role, and spoke how testers can provide value to stakeholders.

Key takeaways and “lines”:

– Signs you’re overloaded – you know the security guards by name
– Signs you’re overloaded – The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming
– Signs you’re unappreciated – Viewed as too slow
– Signs you’re unappreciated – People don’t understand what you do
– Undervalued – Always pressured to do more with less time
– Do you yell at your kids for not finding all the eggs on an easter egg hunt? Why is QA yelled at for not finding all the bugs in production?
– Too be valued, we must satisfy our stakeholders needs
– Don’t just spew out metrics – maybe they don’t want those and that’s why that effort isn’t valued. Ask what they want!
– We are information brokers – Information is not the same as data.
– Provide information about a product to stakeholders so that informed decisions can be made
– Be service minded, focus on activities that drive to the end result, and provide useful information.
– Stop presenting data as information, providing information that isn’t wanted, overstepping our roles.
– The OURS method: Observe, Understand, Review, Serve

Session #1
New Tester Skillset – Matt Eakin
This presentation explored many of these new skill sets and outlines how testers can and need to grow and adapt in order to succeed when moving from a waterfall to agile methodology.  Matt focussed on 3 key areas: 1. Emerging Trends 2. What is being transformed 3. Tasks of New Testers

Key takeaways and “lines”:
– What we are seeing: Rapid delivery of software is necessitating rapid delivery and testing of code
– What we are seeing: Evolving testing tools, Agile transformation is a culture change, Emphasis on testing from User/Business Point of View
– Testing can be an achilles heal of teams because: Testing is often brought late to agile teams
– Testing can be an achilles heal of teams because: Testing teams don’t have the right testing tools needed to “Go agile”, sometimes lack automation skills
– Moving to agile gives constant planning opportunities, constant monitoring opportunities, and constant risk evaluation
– Huge wins for the tester can occurs during product planning, sprint planning, and daily standups – excellent time to discuss and evaluate risk for testing
– There is plenty of documentation for agile.  Tribal knowledge is no longer needed.  More documentation than ever in user stories, acceptance criteria, test cases, and Gherkin scripts
– In agile, if you are not automated, you are dead
– Overview of the three amigos
– Developers like to know what tests you will write before they code
– Overview of 4 quadrants of testing by Brian Marick
– Overview of Gherkin
– Skill sets should be improved to include more technical skills

Session #2
Tracking Exploratory Testing Sessions for Improved Reporting Capabilities – Graeme Harvey
In this presentation, Graeme Harvey describes his experiences rolling out and introducing a Session Based Test Management tool based off of a customized version of SessionWeb.

Key takeaways and “lines”:
– Overview of Session Based Testing by James and Jon Bach
– Since the introduction of Session Based Test Management, standard practice has been to save exploratory test sessions in the form of flat text files.
– These flat files require additional tools to search and parse, which limits access to statistical data.
– An open source tool by Mattias Gustavsson, SessionWeb was selected to stores session data in a relational database.
– Provided a demo and display of a number of custom reports
– The team was able to easily add customizations and create additional reports that mattered to our test leads and management
– The on-demand nature of the reports from test sessions increased adoption of session based test management practices in the department
– The goal was to help others realize the amount of potential data that exists within their ET session notes, and how to use that data to provide deeper and more meaningful insights into their teams’ testing strategies and results.

I heard the lunch provided was tasty.  I skipped out for a bit to hang out with my wife, talk to some of the vendors, and other testers.

Session #3
How to (Try to) Motivate Testers – Erik Davis
Erik Davis detailed the steps and activities he used as a test lead and manager to attempt to motivate and engage testers.

Key takeaways and “lines”:
– Erik was sporting the kilt for his presentation
– To motivate, MAKE your testers to think – less time documenting, more time testing.  Exploratory testing.  Try New Things.
– Don’t create lab testers, script testers, or keep arbitrary metrics
– Introduce testing games to build trust and teamwork…have some fun!
– Create internal discussion forum to encourage communication between testers
– Let them learn – Recommend books, blogs, articles
– Let them learn – Let them use Twitter
– Let them learn – Research training, workshops, and conferences
– Testers need to find others to talk with outside of their company.  Go to professional meetings and meetups like NOSQAA, COQAA, NOTiCE, and Software QA & Testing Meetup
– If there isn’t a group meeting, start one

Session #4
A Whole Team Approach to Testing – John Kruger
In this presentation, Jon describes a world where developers own the testing process along with the QA team, where developers and QA testers work together, and where automated testing helps drive the team towards more productivity and higher quality.

Key takeaways and “lines”:
– QA is not the IRS
– QA is not a college professor giving a grade to development
– Overview of the 3 amigos
– Development doesn’t always understand the requirements.  QA sometimes has a different impression of requirements as well.  If acceptance criteria is not well defined, Development and QA can work with the BA until things are understood.
– No coding if acceptance criteria is not defined.
– Development wants to gets rid of waste and get things right the 1st time.
– Gherkin syntax works well for developers and testers
– Break coding into chunks, never spend more than 2 days on a chunk of functionality
– Development and testers can work together leveraging strengths
– Let Development know what you are going to test ahead of time, that will improve how they unit test
– Let Development aid in testing with automation and building test harnesses to save testers time
– When behind in testing, it’s o.k. to pull in Developers and BA’s to test
– Go out to lunch with your developers, get to know them
– Continually discuss as a group how to test
– Make sure everyone understands the definition of done
– Work on shared pain points of the project together

Closing Keynote
Cool New Things, and Some Old – Matt Heusser
Matt closed out the show…like no one else could.

Key takeaways and “lines”:
– It really pays to volunteer for illustrations
– The Software Testing World Cup sounds like an awesome opportunity
– To be able to go to other conferences, show value of the conference that you attend
– Act on 3 things that you learned from the conference
– Don’t ask for permission to make change, just do it.  Show value NOW
– 10 Things You Might Not Know – About Sources of Testing Ideas by Robert Sabourin was an excellent handout.  Contact Matt if you want it.

Personal Reflections:
This was the first conference that I was able to attend with my wife, Mindy.  It was an excellent day of learning.  The conference was put together well, the speakers were dynamic and provided excellent content for the sessions that I attended.  The only negative that I can think of is that I was not able to attend all the track sessions.  Perhaps for next year, the sessions could be recorded for later viewing!  I thank all of the individuals and vendors who made this event possible. I am already looking forward to the conference next year.

On February 25th, if you are in the Columbus/Dublin area, The Software QA & Testing meetup will be discussing “What I Learned from QA or the Highway.”  All are welcome to attend….admission is free!  Erik said you should come and get involved.  I am looking forward to hearing about the experience of other conference attendees.

THANKS to Mindy Hutchison for documenting the day with her photography.  Her pictures were used for the slideshow she made at the beginning of this post.