CAST retrospective

I attended the Conference of the Association for Software Testing (CAST) two weeks ago in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It was a fantastic learning and networking experience over four days, and I’m still reeling a little bit.

I started with a full-day tutorial about how to coach testing with Anne-Marie Charrett (her site is here). She and James Bach built the coaching model together but have added their own flavors to it. Anne-Marie emphasized understanding the person and starting from where they are. We had a couple of exercises where we paired up to teach a concept or test something, and we realized how easy it was to move in and out of pairing and coaching alternately. It gave me a lot to think about if I move into coaching, and Anne-Marie’s style of teaching was engaging and thorough.

The overarching theme of the weekend was “Bridging Between Communities”, so a lot of the talks and workshops ended up stressing communication. This ranged from communicating in healthy ways to defuse situations (Don’t Take It Personally by Bailey Hanna – her blog post is here) to a keynote about Cynefin by Liz Keogh where she said:

Having conversations
is more important than
Documenting conversations
is more important than
Automating conversations

in response to BDD being used for automation more than anything else. Her whole talk was just fascinating, and now I want to learn everything I can about Cynefin.

Lisi Hocke (her site is here) gave a fantastic presentation about her adventures in cross-team pair testing, where she has paired with testers from all over the world to mutually learn something, whether it be a new technique or a new concept or just how to better pair. Now I want to do the same. There’s so much to learn!

A workshop about finding bugs before implementation by Kasia Balcerzak and Bart Szulc stressed the importance of conversation using key questions. By asking questions, we can find problem areas and weaknesses (and bugs) before we build anything, making a better product in the end. My team at work already tries to have those conversations during backlog refinement, but I want to use the questions from this workshop to do a better job of it.

Carl and I also gave a workshop about mobile and chatbot testing. A debrief on that will come in another post. Suffice it to say that I learned some lessons and will do some things differently in future.

Other Highlights:

  • Lean Coffee, run by Matt Heusser
  • Erik Davis teaching me the Dice Game
  • Night kayaking with some absolutely great people
  • Seeing a Space-X rocket launch from the beach outside our hotel
  • The many conversations I had with smart, dedicated, passionate people about software testing and life

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