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