A Developer's Story From TestBash

In My Case, It Worked!

By Javier Zavaleta

My name is Javier. I'm not a tester, I’m a developer with a wide variety of projects over the years, all at the same company. I've done some web development (front and back end), and mobile development for Android and iOS. I live in Salta, a city located in northern Argentina.

The company I work for is somewhat small. We had limited resources for most of our tasks and I usually worked in smaller satellite projects. That meant there was no real UI/UX effort, and we didn't have a dedicated team to test our projects. Early in my career, I was tasked with managing those projects. QA and design tasks were handled by the team and myself. if anything looked bad or misbehaved, it was like a personal failure in our books. Since I had the responsibility of producing quality applications, when we got a QA team to support us, I've never been the kind of developer to say "it works on my machine" or "you are doing something wrong" when they found something which was broken.

Winning The Tickets 

My girlfriend, Ileana, actually works in the same company as me and is the Team Leader of the QA team for one of our major products. She is really into the testing world, and she has found a lot of resources from the Ministry of Testing (MoT) page extremely useful to solve some issues she had with her team at the time. 

We were planning our vacations in Europe with no clear schedule when our friend Antonella who now lives in Barcelona, and used to work with my girlfriend (as her QA lead at the time), suggested for us to try and go to the TestBash that was going to be held in the Netherlands during May. It was a great idea! Though it was way out of our budget considering the expenses we already had, and the company we worked for wasn't going to pay for the tickets either.

So Antonella suggested that we shouldn't give up and try to apply to the MoT Scholarship. We wrote our letters and waited. I wrote mine expecting to be rejected so I never had my hopes up. Ileana, on the other hand, refreshed her invoice every hour or so. I remember I was working when she told me to check my invoice because she finally had some good news. I was really happy for her since she loves MoT (she actually shed a couple of tears of joy), but I wasn't so confident in my luck. I thought my story wasn't worth the scholarship, and even more, the fact that I'm not a tester wasn't going to make me eligible for a testing conference.

To my amazement, but not yours since you are reading this, Richard Bradshaw (the BossBoss of MoT) had sent me an email saying that I had gotten the Scholarship! I was really happy and very amazed that we both were so lucky! So now, with this, we changed our plans in Europe to go to the Netherlands and attend the TestBash in Utrecht. We got a good hotel and our tickets to get to the city and just counted the hours, minutes and seconds until it was time to start our journey.

TestBash Netherlands

Utrecht Netherlands

We arrived at Utrecht without any issues the day before the Workshop. That night we had our first meetup event with the organizers and attendees of the event. As a stereotypical developer, I'm not a people person, but I was really comfortable from the get go with the people I met there. Everybody was super friendly and easy to talk to, and I could really appreciate how great community MoT was. After a couple of rounds of beer and stories, we all headed back to our hotels and prepared for the Workshops we had early the next morning.

The Workshop

I attended the Building Your Own API Testing Framework workshop. The workshop instructors were Elizabeth Zagroba and Joep Schuurkes and they did a fantastic job. The workshop itself was nicely planned, we were given very clear instructions on how to prepare our machines and be ready to smash our keyboards from the first minute of the workshop. During the workshop, we had very helpful pointers and answers to our questions.

That day we learned how to create a solid framework to automatically test APIs and what should you consider when building your own. But more than that, we learned why and how we should test for some key elements. It was a helpful experience because it gave me a lot of indications on how to manage and design it. Even though I'm not currently using Python to test, the whole experience was inspirational and will be helpful to design and build our automation tests.

TestBash

Jacobikerk Church

The main event was held in Jacobikerk, a church that's often used for meetups and events. It is a rather large building which gave the whole experience an extra flavor making it even more special. The sound quality was great. I had no issues hearing the guest speakers. The snack and coffee tables were at the other side of the hall. it might not sound very important, but it was great to be able to get a new coffee and a snack without losing a single word or slide from the presentation, and be able to do that without bothering the other attendees. It might seem strange that I bring that up, but I’m obsessed with not bothering other people if it can be helped. This was a really convenient feature of the space for me.

The talks themselves weren't as heavily focused on testing per se as I thought, at least not all of them. There were several talks that focused on team and project management. Every talk had great ideas, concepts, and guidelines that had me nodding in agreement and understanding during the whole event. 

Some of them were things I already knew but presented from a new perspective which reinforced my team leading notions. A lot of concepts were really new to me and helped mould new ideas on how to lead the team and enforce good QA practices. Here are some outstanding concepts I got from the talks:

  • QA is a team effort, not just the testers responsibility: I've always thought this to be the case, but I learned how to enforce this idea with the whole team and some useful tools that I could use to actually do it.
  • Encourage pair testing: One of the greatest eye-openers. A simple yet very powerful idea!
  • Free time for learning: Encourage learning and specialization as a team effort. Allow personal growth and turn individuals into masters of their trade.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of course, so I encourage you to see the talks from this and previous TestBash events you can find on the Ministry of Testing Dojo.

99 Seconds Talk

Javier doing his 99 second talk at TestBash Netherlands

We were really encouraged by Richard "BossBoss" Bradshaw to step up at the end of the TestBash and do the  99 seconds talk challenge. Since I was there thanks to MoT generosity, I decided I might as well do everything I could to get the most out of it. Now, I'm not good at speaking in front of a lot of people, and having to do so in front of 200 strangers and not in my native language was very intimidating. I was really anxious and so nervous that I was shivering. And that was just on the way to put my name on the speakers' list. 

I remember rushing to my seat to start scribbling some thoughts as to what should I say and getting nothing interesting on the paper. As I was nearing my turn though, I started to feel strangely calmer and more confident. I was suddenly less worried about the people that were going to hear me speak and more worried about not forgetting an important idea I wanted to say.

Now, 99 seconds can seem like a long time when you are listening to other people, but when you are there talking, they just vanish. In my mind, I thought I had a lot of time to do a little introduction before saying what I wanted, but I just entangled myself in unimportant anecdotes and what I thought were tension releasing jokes. By the time I realized I was dragging my intro too much, it had taken almost half of my time. So I did panic a little, had to read my notes to remember where I was going with my whole speech and managed to close a third of my original idea just in time to leave Huib Schoots (the local TestBash Netherlands co-organiser) with the intent of unleashing the loud imperial march he used to mark the end of the given time to each one of the speakers.

After the event, the 99 second talks were posted in the MoT Dojo. It is really interesting to be able to see how you perform in this situation and it gives you great feedback on things you did. You'll find some strengths and flaws in your presentation which is incredibly important to improve. I believe that this experience left me with a lot of valuable lessons for public speaking, be it at an event or in the office. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the harder the circumstances are the greater the lessons you get. So I would recommend everybody try and do the 99 seconds talk; it's an amazing (and maybe terrifying) experience that you'll really value once you've done it. I, for once, now know that I should really avoid long introductions, enunciate better and try to reaffirm my concepts with better body expressions.

The Meetup

There were 3 meetups organized and we, of course, attended all of them. The first one was held the very same day we arrived to the city. After leaving our luggage in the hotel we went to a bar that was really close by and met several very interesting people. It was a rather short meeting, but it was great to break the ice and it allowed us to get involved with more confidence. It was also very important to go because I discovered almost immediately that we were going to deal with very easygoing and fun people for the next couple of days.

The second and third days were longer meetings and I tried to meet as many people as possible. This is interesting because I'm very introverted and I don't find it easy to feel comfortable in a large group of total strangers, yet here I was finding it easy to chat with everybody. Having gone to the meetups just for the sake of experiencing every possible side of the TestBash, I'm now really thankful that I went and really encourage every attendee to go. You will be able to listen to interesting stories, learn from other people's experience and get to talk with the organizers and speakers.

Back In Salta

After my MoT experience, I went back to my job full of ideas to implement in our processes. I was unlucky to see my project at the time being reassigned which left me out of the team. That might have been a blessing in disguise though because I'll get to design the new project's workflow with all of the ideas and lessons I got from the TestBash from the get go. This new project requires the use of a canned software solution so there are lots of things I can't apply, but given its nature, automation testing will be key to ensure the success of this team.

The company, in general, had a great acceptance to some of the ideas we presented them, and reluctance to follow others, but they are slowly making their way into our processes. The Ministry of Testing community is amazing and inspired us to try and start a new community here. With effort, we'll hopefully see the start of the Salta Tester Community.

Author Bio

I’m a Development Team Leader in Integra Media SRL in Argentina. Though I had this position for many years, I have had several projects with different technologies under my wing. I have managed Mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone; web applications with old technologies like ASP.Net or modern ones like React JS. By necessity, I’ve learned some UI/UX design using Balsamic and then Sketch, Affinity Design, and recently started using Figma. QA was my weakest link but now I’m focusing in that area, in particular with Selenium.

I’m not really active in Social Networks, but you can find me on Twitter as JavaZava, Instagram, LinkedIn or by mail javierzavaleta@gmail.com.