Leeds Testing Atelier 8.5 (Oct 2022)
Leeds Testing Atelier is one of those great software development focused events that bucks the usual corporate, cookie cutter trend and offers something unique and ‘punk’, even though it’s sponsored by a number of large corporations like IBM. It brings back the feeling of tech being an exciting, home-grown frontier and I love it.
It’s been well over three years since I had attended my last Leeds Testing Atelier and in between working remote and going into the very quiet and reserved office at work I’d forgotten the energy that you get when, at 9:20, still half asleep you have a loud Australian shouting next to you that it’s time to start the event.
This year’s event was a smaller event with one track (there are usually two) but this didn’t lessen the variety of topics being spoke about in the slightest. Here’s my favourite three talks and the ideas within them:
Quest for Value — Christopher Chant
I spent a lot of my time listening to Chris’ talk and nodding along profusely as he laid out all the problems that I’ve seen when it comes to software development teams and understanding the value that they deliver. Every question I noted down to ask in the Q&A session was answered a few slides later and at the end he gave a list of books to expand further on the views he expressed (which I’ll definitely be reading).
Chris’ standpoint is that often development teams don’t look further than their immediate business-facing ‘customers’ and that this leads to teams that are focused on being ‘busy’ instead of shipping actual value to meet the customer’s needs. Additionally while most teams use some form of Agile framework more often than not that framework is used to increase the ‘busy-ness’ and not increase the value delivered.
Chris highlighted a number of ways of identifying value and visualising this via Value Chain mapping, impact mapping and Wardley Maps. He also proposed that instead of following the more solutionising approach that Scrum and it’s ilk prescribe that having a theme based backlog can help empower teams to ask more questions about the value they’re providing the customer and adapt to the changing needs of the customer faster.
Three books he recommended were:
- The Art of Business Value by Mark Schwartz
- Sooner, Safer, Happier by Jonathan Smart
- User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton
Testing Portfolios: A guide — Beth Marshall
Beth’s talk was really interesting in that she described an idea that I had planned for JiffyCV 1.0.1 as well as basically what I do here with my blog — building a story of your achievements in a given area so you not only have a portfolio of your work to draw from but also the story of how you developed your skills.
It’s a really easy thing to miss which is why Beth’s talk was so important as no matter the level of your expertise when you’re working day-to-day it’s incredibly easy to brush off that development as ‘part of the job’. This makes it harder to distill that experience into a CV and have discussion points in interviews.
Beth also touched on how portfolios provide a lot more context to your skills than CVs as they show you can ‘walk the walk’ instead of just ‘talk the talk’ which having run interviews for a few years now I think is a real asset for not just candidates but also recruiters when they do initial screenings of candidates.
Curating a Platform Experience — Andy Burgin
Andy’s talk while initially aimed at a platform engineer crowd was massively applicable to anyone building internal tools and I would also argue to anyone building anything that has direct customers. This talk was interesting to me as I’ve recently taken on a community building role in my day job so there were a few things that were applicable.
Andy talked about how his team (that provided a Kubernetes cluster to other teams) split into three different units with his unit being responsible for ‘Customer Experience’. He told the story of how he worked to increase customer satisfaction in the product by setting a set of measurements and then worked to increase the net promoter score over a three year period.
It was really interesting to see how through increasing the training and documentation available to the teams consuming the service that they then turned to increasing adoption of the service within other teams. It really showed how building a solid product that delivers value can help increase the customer base without having to put a lot of effort into marketing.
Key Take-aways from the day
- Keep blogging and use it to build up my portfolio
- Read the books that Chris recommended and ask those awkward questions about the value the team’s work is delivering to the customer and not just the business
- Even if you’re building internal tools measure the value you’re delivering so you can improve
- Dogs at conferences are great and there should really be more
- Go to more events, it’s really fun to see people in person and the Leeds testing community is a great crowd