Bria on the Road: The Magical Learnings from STAREAST -- Orlando, FL

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The first leg of my trip was very exciting—I mean how often can you relate chicken tender subs to behavior driven development!? But, when my coworker Kirsten told me, we were going to STAREAST, it felt like that moment when SuperBowl winners get interviewed right after the game and they say the 5 words everyone wants to hear: “We’re going to Disney World!”

Visiting STAREAST always makes me smile as it is located in Orlando, Florida—about 2 hours away from my hometown of Jupiter. In addition to the great location, this software testing show is known to bring some of the best speakers and topics around the latest buzz in the industry, as well as some very fun times.

I learned a lot from my time at STAREAST this year and I wanted to share some of my learnings with you.

Transforming Your Team from QA to Test Engineering in the Fast Lane

Jennifer Scandariato started things off strong with a wonderful session on transforming your team from QA to test engineering—sharing her own personal transformation journey within her organization. Some key takeaways I took from this session were the importance of leveraging the capability maturity model and applying this to testing. There are five stages of test maturity for growth:

  1. Ad-hoc testing
  2. Defined QA team and defined test cases
  3. Automation
  4. Centers of excellence
  5. Test driven development

After looking at these five stages, do you have an idea of how mature your organization is? Do you know where you want you want to be?

In addition to sharing some tangible action items that testers can bring back to their organizations, Jennifer also shared a quote that left a lasting impression for me around investing in your team for success.

Her example went like this:

  • (CFO to the CEO) What happens if we invest in developing our people, and they leave us?
  • (CEO to the CFO) What happens if we don’t, and they stay?

This example resonated with everyone in the audience (or at least I think it did based on the aggressive head nodding I saw) and it highlighted the importance of investing in your team for success whether that be holding classes for them to learn new tangible skills, acquiring the right tools that will help your team maximize productivity, or helping them with soft skills that are just as important as the technical skills in order to be successful.

What’s Our Job When Machines Do the Testing?

Geoff Meyer kicked off this next keynote session discussing the fourth industrial revolution—the revolution around AI. After walking through the past industrial revolutions, he noted that the difference with this revolution is the growth in productivity with the introduction of artificial intelligence—the difference being that the growth is fast. Like 299,792,458 meters per second fast. Okay maybe just slightly slower than that, but still really fast.

The first step is looking at the data; the quantity and quality of the data is often underemphasized. Data cleaning is really important and something people need to take time to do. Now using the data for modeling is great—and something testbots can help us do that well. But, the human touch is still important.

Machines are here to help us make things faster and help us achieve greater quality. But there’s another important part of this equation—and that’s you. So, let’s let the machines help us achieve faster quality but recognize that the testers job is still important and not going anywhere anytime soon.

Geoff left us off with an important question. After highlighting the 9 skills and attributes of a top tester, noting that 4 of these skills have nothing to do with technical prowess, he asks to the audience…the machines are learning every day, are you?

And more!

These were just two of the keynotes from STAREAST but there were many other speakers, side discussions, and learnings that took place. Here are a few main points I took away from my time at STAREAST.

  • As managers, project leads, and testers it’s important to invest in not only the technical sills but also the soft skills.
  • Machine Learning and AI is here—that doesn’t mean testers jobs are going anywhere though. Leverage AI to improve quality, and then…
  • There is still a lot, and I mean a lot, of people doing manual testing who are trying to get into automation.
  • As devices continue to get “smarter,” i.e. Alexa, Netflix recommendations, twitter spam, etc. Humans are going to be important in deciding a strategy for testing.
  • The machines are learning—it’s important we continue to learn with them.
  • Disney World really is the happiest place on earth—I mean have you ever had the mickey mouse shaped ice cream!? Nothing beats it.

Now this event was great for learning, but another great part of traveling with SmartBear and attending these events is getting to hang out with awesome coworkers. Seriously—they’re the best! From early morning gym sessions, to fun team dinners, and even catching up on work at the end of the night at the bar—it is always fun to travel when I have the greatest team by my side.

Now—traveling among the southern United States has been fun, but I am getting ready for the big stage as I head to Europe! Next stop… Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Follow the author @Bria_Grangard

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