Agile Testing Days 2021

Amazingly, a week physically away from work and present with other human software tester beings was refreshing. And I didn't contract COVID — shoutout to vaccines! Note to self: bring honey, because your voice will be tired from talking through an N95 mask in a loud room.

Thank you so much Agile Testing Days for the honor and privilege of serving on your program committee this year, and the straight-up spoiling that comes with attending a conference and not speaking. I've said for years that I enjoy the learning more than the being-in-the-spotlight. This year's edition allowed me to do just that.

1. Dagmar Monett - Coming to terms with intelligence in machines

Nobody can agree on what intelligence is; it's context-dependent and culture-bound. Human-level AI is not inevitable!

2. Klaartje van Zwoll - How therapy made me a better teamplayer

All needs are valid! By making your needs specific, it's easier for others to meet them. Journaling can help close the gap between when you experience a thing and when you analyze it.

Boundaries are high-quality information that people need to love you best. If someone crosses a boundary: specify the behavior, tell them the story of how it made you feel, and describe both the behavior you'd prefer and how that would improve things.

After you say no, sit in the discomfort of the silence instead of offering excuses. Klaartje also did a great explanation of ask culture vs. guess culture which I've filed as American/Dutch vs. British/Belgian in my head.

3. Alex Schladebeck - Unit Testing and TDD from the tester perspective

Lots of decisions get made when we're writing code that we never talk about. Writing unit tests for legacy code is hard! Being curious (instead of incredulous) gets you (and your pair) to learn more and have better conversations.

4. Maryam Umar - The Power of Coaching for Leading Test Teams

Questions Maryam asked the audience that are worth a bit of reflection:

  • What are my career goals?
  • What do I want to change personally?
  • What do I value? What do I enjoy?
  • What outcomes are within my control?

5. Gitte Klitgaard - The choice is yours

Choices still happen even if they're not active choices. Options expire. When you make a commitment at the last responsible moment, remember the responsible part. There's space between the stimulus and the response where you can choose how you react. Be the captain of your own ship! We have so much more influence than we think. We can't have everything at once.

6. Raj Subrameyer - It is time for Toxic Leaders to come out of their closet

Masculinity is toxic. Moving on.

7. Jutta Eckstein - Agile Comes with a Responsibility for Sustainability.

Software consumes energy: take responsibility. Change your definition of done. Shift the question we ask in and around the product. Testers are the right people to start doing that!

8. Zeb Ford-Reitz - What's a Quality Dojo?

Zeb's quality dojo: low-risk, low-commitment, high-safety, and long-running. The learning is the product. (The product is the friends you make along the way?) If something is unclear, you need to ask. If you're hoping for a particular outcome, it's not so much an experiment as a bet.

9. João Proença - Limitless within our boundaries

Having a lot of choices is not necessarily better than only having a few choices. Making decisions all the time will lead to decision fatigue. Embrace the constraints that life gives you. Charters and time-boxes are constraints for exploratory testing. Set up the right constraints to be successful:

  • What is the goal?
  • What are the risks you're mitigating?

10. Lena Wilberg - Delivering fast & slow

Be aware of what is the worst that can happen. Know Fiona Charles's 10 Commandments for Ethical Software Testers. Know your personal and career risk tolerance.

11. Bruce Hughes - How to be an Ally to Non-binary Folk in Tech

Never again should you have to explain or justify your existence. Listening is a beautiful skill. Labels are for communicating with other people. You don't owe anyone your time!

12. Lisi Hocke - Growing an Experiment-driven Quality Culture

Include a hypotehsis in your experiments. Identify exit criteria, whether or not you succeed. Are the teams ready, eager, and committed? What is the goal? Tackle the unknown, automate the known. Build on people's curiosity. Metrics work locally, temporarily, in context, at the grassroots level. What information do we need for each context? Raise awareness about options.

13. Dr. Karen Holland - Food for Thought

Mental healthy people can cope with the normal stresses of life. Healthy diets allow us to cope better. Deficiences cannot be fixed by food alone.

14. Vera Baum - The Tester's Learning Toolkit

Experts produce extraordinary results over a long period of time, but only come about after deliberate practice for four hours a day for ten years. Experts should analyze intuitive reactions. Becoming an expert is not everyone's goal! Only generic knowledge is transferrable. Training wheels are holding you back — you can learn from your failures. Reflection is key.

15. Vernon Richards - What does the 'Coach' in 'Quality Coach' mean?

Reward structures can promote anti-patterns. Be comfortable with silence. Stay in the present. Notice how they're saying something, and how they're feeling about what they're saying. Decide when to give them the answer.


I have the urge to name-drop all my friends here, but also, who cares? This isn't a popularity contest. Just look at Twitter to see who was there. I'm grateful to everyone who I was able to give an suspicious eyebrow across the table to, everyone who shared commentary during sessions, everyone whose conversations caused me to skip a session, everyone who patiently waited for me to poorly construct and pronounce Dutch sentences at them, everyone who thought it was fine for me to have a mask on, and most especially, whoever left a piano unlocked. Thank you, and please leave the grand piano unlocked next year.

I also have the urge to apologize for all the exclamation points in these notes, but I regret to inform you that (1) they do reflect my actual enthusiasm over hearing these message delivered directly from someone's mouth into my ears, and (2) I look forward to the day when our writing can reflect how we'd like to communicate instead of how the patriarchy expects us to.