22 November, 2009

Software Testing Conference 2009

The 9th Annual International Software Testing Conference 2009 in India was held at Hotel Le Meridian, Bangalore on 19th and 20th November 2009. This was my first time at a software testing conference. Naturally, I was thrilled.

Conference Highlights

Exploring Testing Leadership
The Conference kick started with Michael Bolton. Michael spoke about ‘Exploring Testing Leadership’ which is the need of the hour in India. Testing provides quality related information to make informed decisions. It is the leadership who assures quality. Michael focused on how the leadership needs to change its mindset towards exploratory testing and its benefits. As always, Michael left the audience spell bound. Great start to a great conference.

Weekend Testers – Test, Learn and Contribute
Weekend Testers is a peer testing group that started on 1st August 2009 in Bangalore. This group is a common practice ground for freshers and junior testers now. Till Date, the group has successfully run 15 weekend testing sessions for the benefit of the testing community. Ajay Balamurugadas, one of the key initiators of Weekend Testers group delivered an electrifying speech on how this group was formed, how many open source products have been tested so far and the future roadmap. This presentation received a standing ovation from Michael Bolton, Pradeep Soundararajan, Shrini Kulkarni, Dr. Meeta Prakash, Rahul Mirakhur, myself and many others seated in the hall. During later part of the day, Michael was kind enough to mention that Weekend Testers was one of his best presentations in any testing conference ever. Pradeep Soundararajan has been quietly mentoring Weekend Testers from the time of its inception. This success is owed to him and to all the participants of Weekend Testers who have made it a grand success.

Exploratory Testing – The Steroid of Testing
Shaham Yusuf from Deloitte Consulting presented Exploratory Testing – The Steroid of Testing. Shaham went on to show how he made the shift from scripted approach to exploratory approach to provide quality information about the product to the management. He also mentioned about the support he received from the management. How lucky? Or should I say that is lot of hard work. Shaham’s experience report received rebuke from a few scripted testers who asked a lot of questions which Shaham answered very elegantly.

Meetup with Testers
I was thrilled to meet Shrini Kulkarni after the keynote sessions. His energy and willingness to talk was amusing. We discussed a bit about exploratory testing and how scripted testers see ET more as a threat and less as a complimentary approach. He also asked me about my writing challenges. I was glad to know that he reads my blog because he spoke quite a lot about my post on writing.

Pradeep Soundararajan was there wherever there was a false claim related to testing. He was in his usual best to question and it was fun to watch him. Pradeep’s joy knew no bounds when he witnessed the response to Weekend Testers presentation. He also introduced me to a few testers like Tarik Sheth and Shaham Yusuf in later part of the day. It was fun discussing about the topics in the conference. It was also fun to see his bag carry a paper badge saying 'I don't support Certifications'.

Rahul Mirakhur is a geeky tester specialized in Apple Macintosh. I have known him from my previous company, but he got to know me at the RST workshop the previous day. Though Rahul is the Director of QA in the company he works for, he still tests the products like any other tester. I had very good discussions with him spanning Team egos, Software Testing, Audio books, BBST and weekend testing sessions. He is a very good listener and a good mentor. I want to meet more and more testers in India who choose testing over managerial roles. It is so sad to see that most testers here are merely interested in designations and managerial roles than actual testing. That way, Rahul is very encouraging.

Dr. Meeta Prakash is the first woman tester in India with a PhD in Software Testability. She is also one of the first woman bloggers in India. As a woman myself, I look for the firsts’ in Indian woman because it very hard for a lot of woman to come out of the social dogma and make a mark in their professional lives. It’s good that times are changing for the good. I met Dr. Meeta at the RST workshop. We met again at the conference where we spoke about testing, blogging, discussed about certifications. When I asked her about certifications, she said that she did not have any and did not believe in them. To her surprise, there was an annoucement that she had to distribute prizes to the toppers in CSTE in 2009! Rahul and I had a good laugh while she was annoyed. Dr. Meeta helped Weekend Testers by suggesting a lot of improvements in the regional qualifying rounds and fine tuning the presentation for the conference. I am bowled over by her humble nature and willingness to help upcoming testers.

I also met Allmas Mullah, Govindaraja Gupta, Sathya Thambuswamy, Satabdi Roy, Sheeba Elizabeth Ninan, Subramanya Gupta Boda and many others at the conference. Like I mentioned earlier, the participants at the workshop and the conference represented organizations, backgrounds, cultures that were unique in their own sense. It was superb to learn about testing in such a diversified setting.

What I disliked about the conference?
The first day went awry with Bangalore traffic playing a demon to the conference attendees. Couple keynote speakers got delayed and a few sessions were shuffled. This directly had an impact on the Q & A session after every presentation. A lot of good questions got missed because the organizers shooed away most of the questions.

Most fruitful discussions happened outside the sessions with testers and managers from different organizations. This also meant skipping the presentations in the conference. Maybe, this is the way it works in most conferences. This tells me I need to attend more conferences in and outside India. I need to work on being a presenter than an attendee.

A few presentations were so boring that it just went over my head. I also thought that many people like you and I could present better than some of these presenters. When I told this to Pradeep, he said 'There will be more people who feel the same when you are presenting right up there'. It’s human, Isn't it?

Time for Reflection
I was left with mixed feelings about the conference. On one side, there were many presentations that were designed around buzzwords like Agile development, Cloud Computing and tons of automation tools. On the other side, there were people who talked about predictability models which help in predicting the number of test cases and the number of defects in the software. I was shocked by this particular presentation where the speaker went on to say that the defects and test cases could be predicted and the testers would achieve these targets. What crap!

Overall, given that Indian testing industry is tightly focused on scripted approaches to testing and 100% automation dreams, it was no surprise that the conference focused more and more about these and less about exploratory testing. Nevertheless, it was a good learning experience for me.

October 2009 and November 2009 have been the most hectic times in my life. These are also times where I have learned a lot of different things. BBST, RST, STC 2009 – great experiences. It’s time to put my learning’s to use. It’s time to test better than ever.

Happy Testing,
Parimala Shankaraiah