For those not in the know, DEWT (pronounced similar to “dude”) is the Dutch Exploratory Workshop on Testing. It’s a peer conference and “boy, a hell of a lot of fun!”.
I was incredibly nervous driving towards the conference. I knew no one. The next 48 hours would be spent with 25 total strangers.
On top of that, there was a chance I’d had to present my experience report. Everyone had to prepare an experience report in advance, with the possibility of presenting it. After these presentations, rigorous and in-depth discussion would ensue.
In my mind’s eye, I saw my ideas torn to pieces by highly critical, well versed testers.
As a tester, I felt curious. I had heard and read a lot of good things about peer conferences. Yet, many stories tell of ‘peer-conferences-gone-bad” as well. (I learned a few extra during DEWT as well.) I wanted to know what takes place, how it’s organized and how the atmosphere felt. It turned out to be incredible experience that was surprisingly embracing.
I’m caught. I feel energized, backed up, and dizzy from all the ideas going around in my head and butterflies in my belly. I got to know so many interesting and lovable people. Each one of them brought something different to the conference and everyone’s perspective was heard, nay, absorbed.
I’m a firm believer that you can’t put 25 people of any other same profession together and experience a likewise challenging, passionate, engaging, yet open and friendly surge of energy as I did this weekend.
I was terribly late. Traffic, you see. But I was lucky the organizers saved me a plateful of food.
A few minutes later, I was talking with three other testers on our way to the bar. They were telling me all about their current project, how they became a team and how they are still improving.
I listened and asked questions. I felt right in.
At the bar, beers were provided and games were conjured. The hotel provided everything we could possibly need. Snacks were brought before you knew you could do with some food and whatever drink you liked suddenly appeared in your hand a few moments later.
Before long, we grew closer together, in a safe environment filled with laughter and like-minded people. Not a worry around us.
I fell asleep just before my head hit the pillow.
What followed, was a full day of presentations and discussions. Everyone pitched in and offered help, a unique viewpoint, books, podcasts, articles and plenty of other triggers.
Most of what was discussed that day will seep into my every day test work over time, I’m sure.
Even today it dawned on me, that where I am working, even right down to the team I am working with, is suffering from a syndrome Ard Kramer laid bare that day. Ard’s presentation was about communicating risk, but what struck me today was a particular slide handling “meaning vs. systems”.
I’ve only been a month at my current project, but have had weekly “process improvement meetings”. Yet, no “value” or “meaning” or “purpose” meeting was had ever.
I had never looked at it that way. Ard showed me and he gave me a tool to communicate it.
The presentations where varied and each gave a different dynamic to the group discussions. I remember Susan’s presentation fondly about a shared responsibility problem and the coaching, understanding and kind words that followed. Or Joep’s presentation that talked of a success-story of some sorts but had a few people’s emotions (my own included) flare up for various reasons. Another presentation by Thomas had us all awestruck by it’s compelling and comprehensive mindmap, listing all the different dimensions of communication.
Day one was long and full of learning. It ended with Michael Bolton visiting on the way through, him playing his mandolin and a group performance of “500 miles”.
Whiskey tasting, party snacks, good beer, good talks, great music and perfect company.
Nothing much seemed changed on Sunday. Never change a winning team, right?
That’s what we thought…
Until chaos unravelled. Sweet chaos.
After a talk by Femke and Philip about pair testing and how they learned to interact with each other, it was Joep’s turn again.
Apparently, he had decided he had played enough with our feelings the day before. Today, he’d f*** with our minds.
He didn’t have to try too hard either, I guess…
“A workshop”, he told us. “A workshop that will combine all the different things you learned this weekend into one big mindmap. And I’ve got just the way to do it!”
Have you ever tried to build a mind map with another person? Have you ever done it with five? Have you ever combined four five-person mindmaps together?
Well, we did. And it wasn’t pretty.
It did get us to think about how everything fitted together and how everything we touched upon was linked.
Even though it might not look like it on a wall, it did in my head.