A EuroSTAR Committee member looks back at the 2021 software testing conference.
It has been two weeks since the action packed conference has ended but I am still full of thoughts from the amazingly memorable event it has been this year. I have been associated with EuroSTAR for many years now as a reporter and a volunteer but this year was all the more special, with an opportunity to be a part of the programme committee. It was a huge honour and I enjoyed every moment of playing the role, working alongside some of the biggest names in the testing world Fran O’Hara, Janet Gregory, Derk-Jan De Grood and Szilard Szell. This has been a exhilarating experience to say the least! Right from going through the significant number of submissions, to making decisions on sessions for the three days it was incredibly fulfilling and enlightening to witness the programme come together. The collaboration with fellow committee members was brilliant as we went through an incredibly difficult decision of choosing sessions from submissions of very high quality! The programme always feels incredibly impressive but this year, there was a personal connection. To witness the final form of it get unraveled to hundreds of participants is one of the most unforgettable experiences! This being a second online edition of the conference, there were a number of aspects to be considered but I must say none of that felt like an unsurmountable challenge, thanks to the unwavering support provided by the fantastic conference team. As the event got underway, there was so much energy and knowledge in the virtual environment that I felt transported into a world of unlimited inspiration! So much to learn and rejoice! As always, I want to list the top 10 things from this year’s conference for me. In no particularly order these aspects stood out for me this year:
- Engage theme: I felt this year’s theme was a winner in attracting a huge variety of submissions. It was awe inspiring experience to see the various interpretations of it! I found it to have created a welcoming spirit amongst the conference participants as the theme could have multiple interpretations which helped spur creativity and imagination. Many congratulations to conference chair Fran to have come up with this motivational theme – it was a joy to work as a programme committee member on this theme
- Tutorials – I always enjoy this format of the programme as you get to focus and absorb information on one specific topic. This year, once again I have to say the tutorial experience was an absolute delight, being a part of the award winning team of Anne Colder- Jantien van de Meer, who effortlessly delivered a highly coordinated, superbly crafted session. A stellar line up of speakers including maestros Michael Bolton, Rik Marselis delivered these phenomenal sessions, giving the participants an opportunity to deep dive into topics of interest – a great feature of the conference!
- New terminologies – I learnt a few excellent terms from this year as part of many conversations ‘Critical incident’ is the top one from this year which was shared by Testing Guru Dawn Hayes. As Dawn puts it, critical incident is an experience after which you never return to operating like before. To me, all of this year’s experience has been one such critical experience! Another term is ‘happiness engineer’ – I derived it from an amazing key note delivered by Michiel Boreel who referred to testers as the guardians of digital happiness and in fact went on to suggest we should consider the above new title for testing professionals! These interesting terms have been duly added to my everyday vocabulary!
- Implementable knowledge: All through the three days the sessions I attended delivered not just the theory behind an idea but gave an excellent focus on practical implementation of those approaches. Be it the concept of Building relationships by Lukasz Pietrucha, Automation pitfalls and possibilities by Sune Engsig, Quality and human factors by Andrew Brown, Dealing with conflict by Marielle Roozemond – I can list possibly every single session I attended which gave me new insight on how differently testers can approach real life challenges. As I am catching up on recordings from the event, my learning is continuing!
- Riveting Keynotes: Each and every keynote session in this year’s conference was a gem, I went on being amazed at how fantastically these topics were presented by the skillful speakers. As one of the participants said “how many times can mind be blown in three days!”. I found all keynotes to be outstanding and to have delivered key messages that are highly relevant to our area of work. Rob Lambert, Aprajitha Mathur, Micheil Boreel, Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Janet Gregory – a huge round of applause to have made incredibly impactful deliveries.
- Lightening talks: This has been my favourite format of talk, ever since I witnessed it back in 2018 with none other than Fran O’Hara on the stage! I was delighted to not only see this format again on EuroSTAR platform but also get the privilege of being a part of it! I was one of the eight speakers who delivered a brief 5 minute talk on a topic of their choice, which delivered great nuggets of thoughts for audience to consider. It was a high energy, fast and interesting session. I personally enjoyed preparing and delivering my short piece, felt honoured to have shared the virtual stage with amazing speakers like Dawn Hayes, Tariq King, Elise Carmichael, Rob Meaney, Sanne Visser, Chris Armstrong and Raj Subrameyer. Thrilled to have been a part of this fantastic ensemble!
- Huddle sessions: This is an aspect of the conference I hold close, as my predominant involvement as a reporter / volunteer has been in this space. As always, this was action packed this year with a variety of conversations and activities. Inspirational AMA sessions with Michael Bolton, Rob Lambert, Jyothi Bhatt and Sune Engsig, career advise from Raj Subrameyer, Ensemble testing by Maaret Pyhajaravi, exploratory bug hunt with Marek Lof and so much more! The breaks from sessions had many engaging activities to relax and to network with fellow participants. The feedback sessions were great in hearing from the members of community. Always a hugely uplifting huddle of people!
- Award winners: It was an absolute delight to learn of the most deserving winners of the award which was actually a top secret and not known till announced at the ceremony! Hearty congratulations Kari Kakkonen on the Software Testing Excellent award! I had the privilege of attending Kari’s session last year’s conference and I have since been in awe of his dedication, enthusiasm for testing, particularly about educating younger generation. The winner of best paper Adonis Celeste is again someone I have seen on EuroSTAR platform back in 2018. His white paper has deep insight and excellent pointers for tester role, a highly recommended read. We are fortunate as a community to have such brilliant thought leaders!
- Conference team: I have known this team for a few years now and I guess I have run out of superlatives to express how much I admire them! It was yet another extraordinary experience to see the event being brought together skillfully and coordinated to perfection. What was an additional aspect was how experienced the team has in running the conference and how deftly they apply it in real time. The process was smooth flowing in spite of how complex the three day long event can be in terms of logistics and planning. Their tireless efforts, commitment and professionalism is simply top notch. Truly a wow team!
- Testing community spirit: This entry has stayed in my top 10 list ever since I started attending EuroSTAR conference. This is an aspect I am so proud of and so very much enjoy during this event. The enthusiasm and community spirit just shines through on every occasion. This year too the participants proved that the format is secondary and the spirit of being in company of fellow testing professionals is much more! The conversations during the talks and the engagement with Q&A sessions from this year’s talks was outstanding! It was really nice to get to meet many participants from near and far, covering a big spectrum of career experience. The celebration of diversity in this community is exemplary and I feel really lucky to be a part of it!
As this year’s conference comes to an end, the new one is already looking hugely exciting! To be held in the beautiful city of Copenhagen, the conference is going to be first in-person event after 2 years of being virtual. It will be headed by none other than testing Guru Graham Freeburn, accompanied by the team of experts Sue Atkins, Morten Hougaard, Bart Knaack, and Tone Molyneux. I am sure this fabulous team will come up with a brilliant programme that we all look forward to!
In conclusion, I must mention, this year has been particularly emotional for me as EuroSTAR has been on my mind for the last 8 months. I am immensely happy for the conference Chair Fran, fellow committee members and the conference team on the success of this year’s event. My hearty congratulations to everyone involved – the speakers, the audience, the sponsors – what a festive experience that was from start to finish! I also feel a bit philosophical about the year that has been to us in the larger sense. We have all been through strange times and this event made reflect on how we have managed to stay connected as a community in spite of multiple challenges. Human resilience and adaptability will hopefully see us through as society as we transition back to the ‘original normal’. Here’s to the new sprouts of hope that have started to appear and here’s to good health, well being for everyone!
About the Author
Sowmya Ramesh is a testing professional with over 18 years of IT industry experience currently working as a consultant with 2i Testing. She has a deep interest in the area of non-functional testing, in particular, accessibility testing which she has promoted for a number of years in the testing community. Sowmya writes blogs on topics of professional interest and has been a speaker at events for MOT Edinburgh, DevTest Summit. Sowmya was awarded a reporter role on Eurostar Conferences in 2017 and 2018 and in 2021 was part of the EuroSTAR Conference Committee.