Autumn Camp 2015: the event where the testers discovered the Uncaught OutOfCsíkiSörException

Autumn Camp – if it’s printed, it will happen!

Tabăra de Testare (TdT), literally The Testing Camp, is a community built around testers and other professionals from the IT industry who share knowledge and learn from their peers’ experiences during monthly meetings. The community has four chapters in Romania and some Altoms – Oana, Alex, Adina and myself – are actively involved in its development, alongside a handful of other facilitators from Cluj, Bucharest, Timișoara and Iași.

Besides monthly meetings, the facilitators are working to set up a tradition of a yearly retreat at a chalet in the mountains. The event is called Tabăra de Toamnă (Autumn Camp) and began three years ago. Then, Eniko and Iuliana created and printed a poster for a special event, thus making a commitment that it will actually happen. The facilitators started looking for Romanian content owners, feeling confident that there are testers in the local community that were able to create valuable content. The event was meant to extend the opportunity for sharing lessons learned to the extent that content owners could practice preparing and delivering a workshop. And this is what Autumn Camp actually turned into.

Let’s have more tracks, they said. It will be fun, they said. And it was!

While last year’s Autumn Camp took place in the surroundings of Cluj, this edition happened in a more central place of the country. The chalet we went to, Cabana Balu from Harghita Băi, was known for the people in Altom, as we celebrated the 7 years anniversary weekend there. It was at that moment when Alex and I started exploring the possibility of having the Autumn Camp there, as its location could enable the participation of members from 3 out of 4 TdT chapters. And it did, as we had 52 participants and content owners from all of them. Balu (and their partners) suited the needs of our event, allowing us to accommodate 3 parallel tracks of workshops and presentations. We had 10 content owners that answered our call and filled two days with workshops and presentations on testing or testing related subjects. We added some extra activities to the agenda, like boot camps, adventure time in the park; also, people self-organized for other activities in the resort. Overall, it resulted in an intense long weekend, from which people returned charged with an incredible amount of energy. The word used to describe this event by Elena, one of the participants, was magic – is the first word that comes into my mind when I think back at the autumn camp”.

 Photo credit goes to Silviu Băsu

Examine your testing skills

One of the content owners we had was our colleague, Alexandra Casapu. She delivered a workshop called Examine Your Testing Skills. Ale started working on it after asking herself how she can improve in using her skills to find solutions for intellectually challenging problems (you can find more on her work here). She found an answer in reflection, and this is what she and the participants focused on during the workshop. In the first part, they explored the black-box devices with the aim of noticing how they use their skills in order to discover their patterns (and at risk of missing dinner, as one stubborn team worried). During the debrief and feedback session, the participants started building their own testing skills maps. After that, they practiced reflection on a specific past experience they had in the realms of testing, in relation to their skills.

The workshop has been perceived by the participants (according to the feedback answers) as challenging and eye opening. Many of them left enriched with findings on their own skills and with tools for further work on examining them and extending the map. The same Elena stamped this session with another phrase that is now stored in the collective memory related to this workshop: mind-blowing*.

Our takeaways

What did this event mean for the participants from Altom? While Alex was amazed by the post event vibe we were all charged with, Oana elaborated on its source: “I got a lot of energy back from the event after putting a lot of effort in organizing it. I’ve met there very friendly people and they seemed to have a lot of fun and enjoyed the sessions in a willing to work together mood. I’m thankful to the content owners for the diverse topics and the good content!”

Alongside Ale and the fantastic 4 organizers & facilitators, we had another 3 Altom colleagues as participants: Dolly, Dorel and Levi, each with their story of what Autumn Camp 2015 brought them. Maybe we will read them on this blog?

As for me, after the event, I got to retrospectively think about what it taught me. My very own lessons learned list, as seen behind my organizer/facilitator/participant lenses, is quite long and growing. Some of the lessons are related to the community: I saw for the first time enthusiastic members from all chapters, in the same physical place. And I learned that sometimes, participants’ enthusiasm, eagerness to learn and their benevolent adherence to this testing community combined can overcome any logistical issue. This empowered me so much, that I know now that I will find resources to have my part in the making of Autumn Camp 2016.

I also attended 2 workshops and a presentation from which I was left, briefly said, with: a model to analyze the way I communicate and convert it into assertiveness, a complex sketchnote on requirements on which I definitely have to come back and a nice, long list of to do’s I now want to apply when testing the security of a website. Moreover, I saw presentation skills in action and learned more about preparing content from my role as facilitator for Claudiu’s presentation. Indeed, wearing more “hats” means a lot of experiences to learn from.

* Slightly adapted for publishing

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