My TestBash Philadelphia Experience

By Jasmin Smith

The Ticket

“We've decided to allocate you a ticket for TestBash Philadelphia!”

When I read those words in my e-mail, I literally jumped off my sofa and let out a yell!  I had applied a few weeks prior for a scholarship ticket to TestBash Philly and had been anxiously checking my e-mail ever since. I couldn’t believe I’d actually been awarded a ticket and was going to the conference!  It was sure to be an experience I’d never forget.

The Venue

The venue for the conference was Fringe Arts, an intimate theater with an attached bar/restaurant. The restaurant had a loft area overlooking the bar.  There was plenty of seating for everyone, but the venue still managed to feel cozy. A delicious breakfast was served both days, and it even included gluten-free and vegetarian options. The breakfast hours, held in the restaurant area, were perfect for sitting to meet new people - attendees and speakers alike. The theater itself was perfect for the conference talks - the seating was very comfortable and every seat in the house had a great view of the stage. Overall, the venue had a unique charm and seemed to support all of the TestBash activities very well.

The Talks

I’m really glad that TestBash was a single track conference so I didn’t have to make any hard decisions about which talk to attend. Every speaker caught my attention and kept it. I remember wanting to tweet about the talks as they happened, but I couldn’t tear my focus away from the presentations. Instead, I furiously scribbled notes during the talks and tried to “catch up” on tweeting later.

The talk “Tests Your Pipeline Might be Missing” was a favorite because it was so densely packed with information. Gene Gotimer walked us through tons of different areas that are often neglected in testing - from checking if your packages and libraries are up to date, to linting, to testing the actual deployment pipeline. He ran through different types of tests, along with examples of tools to support each type of test. One really cool thing he mentioned was mutation testing. I’d heard the term before but had never really understood what it was or how it could be useful to me. After this talk, however, I knew it was an idea I wanted to bring to my team ASAP.

The Circus

TestBash Philly was the first time they tried out the TestBash Circus.  It was like a series of lightning workshops - each about 25 minutes long and there were a variety of topics to choose from, relating to the talks in the conference. These activities were a great way to wrap up a day of presentations. I only wish I could have tried them all out! Fortunately, Ministry of Testing has made the activities available online so I can bring the experience of the Circus back to my team and Dallas testing community.

One example was a risk workshop called “Risky Business - Revealing And Reporting On Relevant Risks During Testing” ran by Neil Studd and Jenny Bramble. For this activity, there was a table full of cards with “bugs reports” on them for a fictional doctor appointment scheduling app. Each participant drew a card randomly and then as a team we asked questions of our “stakeholders” to determine how risky the bug report was. Through asking questions we often found that our initial assessment was off - the item was much more or less risky than we thought.

The Party

After the Circus came the party! The party was sponsored by SauceLabs and it was a big hit! There were drinks, including Ministry of Testing themed cocktails, delicious hors-d'oeuvres, a fabulous full meal and s’mores. Yes, s’mores! There was a fire pit outside with all the fixings for a delicious dessert. Or a pre-dinner snack, if that’s how you roll. Everyone was enjoying themselves and mingling after our first day of the conference. It was a great way to unwind! A big thank you to SauceLabs for this portion of the event!

The 99 Second Talks

To me, this is one of the coolest parts of TestBash conferences. Anyone - speaker, organizer, or attendee - can get up on the stage and talk for 99 seconds about any topic they like. The 99 Second Talks covered a wide variety of subjects, both professional and deeply personal. I gave a (very short) talk on the importance of community, and how the community of testers gave me the courage to stand up on stage. Even knowing I had all their support, the experience was still terrifying for someone with stage fright...but I made it! I’m glad I was able to participate in this unique portion of the conference. Given the chance, I think I would definitely try it again.

The People

Overall, the best thing about TestBash was all the wonderful people I met and getting to listen to their stories and experiences. There were people from many different industries, from all sorts of teams and company sizes and configurations who shared what testing was like for them. We chatted about automation strategies and developer relations. People talked about the presentations and how they related to their particular experiences. Some shared challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them. Everyone I met was open, friendly, and wonderful to talk to.  I feel like my conference experience was deeply enriched by these conversations.  If you ever get the chance to attend a TestBash, definitely make time to meet the speakers and other attendees - you won’t regret it.

The Thank You

I want to sincerely thank Ministry of Testing for the amazing opportunity to get to attend TestBash Philadelphia as well as for all the support they have given me in my testing career through articles, podcasts, videos, and the community they provide. I don’t remember where I first heard about MoT - it was probably from a long time mentor at work who often shared content he found online. I do remember the countless times I’ve turned to the Dojo for information about a variety of testing topics. So, once again, thank you to them for all that they do for the testing community.

Author Bio

Jasmin works as a Lead QA Analyst for Cox Automotive in Dallas, TX. She has been a tester for almost a decade, working primarily on web based software products. She is also the co-chapter leader of the Dallas chapter of Girl Develop it, a national non-profit that empowers women through technology. Besides tweeting and blogging about testing, in her spare time she loves to play with her cats, cook, read books, and meet new people.