I recently was able to attend STPCon in Miami. It was my first conference and I really enjoyed it. Here are some of my highlights.
People I met
I finally got to meet a few members of the uTest staff. Jessica, Matt, Mike, and Chris were all there slinging swag and preaching the uTest gospel. It was nice to get some face time with those folks. Unfortunately we didn’t have a uTest meet up. Maybe next time.
I did get to meet a former uTester, Joseph Ours. I talked with him for a while about his experiences with uTest and how he has made the transition into management and consulting. Joe is a knowledgeable and well-spoken guy. I really enjoyed getting to know him. Too bad he’s not an active uTester anymore, I would love the chance to work with him.
Hands-on vs. Lecture format
There was a track of 7 classes that focused on hands-on practicals. It seemed like a cool idea to me, so I spent the first 3 sessions in hands-on classes. While they were interesting and it was fun to test with other testers, I didn’t really learn anything. It was more like “Here’s a program, lets think of ways to test it”. I do that every day when I test with uTest. I wasn’t there to test, I was there to learn how to become a better tester.
While I can see the value of the hands-on classes for people who don’t have the luxury of contently testing new things with new people, for me it wasn’t the best use of my limited and expensive time. (I was there on my own dime)
After I realized that, I switched over to the lecture/discussion sessions and really found a lot of value there. Most of those sessions weren’t lectures but more of someone sharing their experience or suggesting ideas on how to do things better. The dialog between the presenters and the audience was also great. There was lots of idea sharing and discussions.
Mike Lyles of Lowes gave a two part talk about how Lowes created a Test Center of Excellence (TCoE). It was extremely useful for me to see what a mature testing organization looks like and how it functions. It helped me start to develop my long term vision for my testing organization.
I also enjoyed Joseph Ours’s talk about “Redefining the purpose of software testing”. Simply put, he was making the argument that testing teams should be looked at as information providers, not gate keepers or decision makers. I have been making this argument for a while now but had been looking at it the wrong way. I thought it just was the definition of what testers should do. His explanation showed me that it actually can be an effective way to explain the value that testing provides. Testing is a service. We provide information to make informed decisions.
One lady in the audience challenged Joe saying that she is the test lead as well as the gate keeper and that in her organization it works fine. Joe and her debated a bit but she wasn’t convinced. After the presentation Joe and I chatted about that point more and realized that we need to think of roles and people separately. A testers role is to discover and provide information. A decision makers role is to make decisions based, in part, on that information. Usually those role are divided between two different people (or groups of people) but in some cases, it may be the same person.
In her case, she led the testing team, but she also had additional business knowledge and the authority necessary to be able to decide when the product was fit for delivery.
Not so great
The Vendor showcase was disappointing. There were only 10 or so booths. I talked to most of them in under an hour and spent the rest of the time trolling around the uTest booth sharing my uTest testimony with anyone who would listen
I’m glad I was able to make it down to STPCon. I got to meet some great people, learn a few things, and get a better understanding of our industry in general. It was a valuable experience and am looking forward to attending next year. Maybe I’ll see you there.