Tesena Fest Vienna – A study in ‘think’

When you are a regular at conference spaces, you often stumble upon what I call the fragmentation of a crowd. People are naturally pulled towards creating groups for conversation or hanging out. Or, for consuming whatever lovely catering options the organizers have prepared. It is something you can't avoid. Vast spaces have this tendency to encourage the visitors to spread out and, unfortunately, separate from each other in the process. This, however, was not the case for this year’s Tesena Fest in Vienna.

I know it might seem like a bit of a strange introduction but hear me out. Spaces defines a lot of things. Our mood, our ability to breathe freely, converse, share ideas, rest. Often an unnoticed detail, yet vital at the same time. The space of this year’s Tesena Fest was based around coziness. Small but inviting, encouraging the exchange of ideas, stories, but also problems (not necessarily defined by the boundaries of the testing world) and the ways of tackling them. It felt like meeting your friends in the afternoon, a get-together made by professionals but not for the sake of professionalism. IT JUST WORKED LIKE MAGIC.

We started the afternoon right off with the roundtables (divided, according to the secret sauce of pure randomness 😊). Get the people together, start a conversation, break the ice. I was quite surprised how smoothly the conversations went,  how nobody was afraid or embarrassed to speak up, introduce and share their passion for various areas of testing.

As a facilitator of one of the roundtables I was terrified by the idea that I would need to use some magic verbal enchantments to get people to speak up. A somewhat terrifying task, especially when one does not feel a hundred percent confident about his/hers testing knowledge among a more experienced crowd. Personally, what I enjoyed the most was seeing people from different backgrounds (not necessarily testing professionals) engaging in the same topics but sharing a completely different perspectives on the subject. I also enjoyed the variety of topics selected by the roundtable groups.

My group submerged in a discussion about the currently very painful topic of finding the right people to work with and how to keep them in the company. We also stumbled into the topic of the ideal tester skills. As one of the key speakers, and member of our group, Gitte said that everybody is expecting a Swiss Army knife. Unrealistic expectations for a candidate are often what makes hiring people hard if not impossible. Ideal, but unattainable.

After our roundtable session and some chocolate testing, we moved on to the main stars of the afternoon – key speakers. I was unlucky to miss the first speaker, Joel Montvelisky, while rushing to check-in to the hotel nearby. Hurrying back, I just got there right on time to witness the speech of Martin Kobza and its endeavor of building the George team from scratch. I was fascinated by the story of how they transformed their team multiple times along the way, not being afraid of making changes. Bold moves by people in power, but also a sign of trust in the people who work on the project. To steer for a change if it pushes you to the right direction.

Our last speaker, Gitte, come up with a challenging task. To speak and advocate on the relevance of Test Managers. Being Test Manager myself, I was looking forward to hear what she had to say about the subject. For the last couple of months, the very same topic had found its way into my mind, and I had started to feel a bit concerned about slowly becoming a testing dinosaur. A relic soon to be passed to the nearest museum of irrelevant professions. I questioned my professional future and how I might handle the change if it comes to it. I wanted to hear somebody who is long enough in the field who sees and understands a bigger picture. And Gitte delivered. I had a chance to understand our role in even broader context of quality, to see the mosaic of tasks, skills, areas of engagement which we, as Test Managers, should aspire to master. I understood that whatever label would be put next to my name, I can still use the skills and experience I learn and encounter in my daily work. We Test Managers are not a lost cause, but we must think beyond categorization and labels.

What I liked about Gitte and her speech was the call to strive for knowledge. To go and learn progressively throughout our career. Do and explore. I must admit it scratched an inner itch after being passive for quite some time and her speech inspired me to push myself a bit and start to learn some new things again. I always feel pulled back by the likes of Gitte towards the beginning of my career. Learning something from scratch is tough – one must be humble but prepared. Prepared to learn something new, move on from the static position of passivity. Not to be afraid.

Afterwards, conversation, food and wine were the main stars of the remaining time. Connecting with people after such a long time of forced separation felt like breathing anew. Taking in the company of fellow test enthusiasts. Getting familiar with people was something I enjoyed tremendously. I felt inspired and humbled, happy to see some familiar and some new faces. I can’t wait to see what Tesena Fest will bring next time.

Author: Katarína Vavreková

Katarina has been diving into test waters for more than six years. With the enthusiasm of a newbie, she explored the testing world as a Tester, Test Analyst, and finally, Test Manager. She mostly enjoys the diversity of the job, working with people of different backgrounds and learning from them. Currently also exploring topics related to mental health in the workplace. In her free time she is an avid fan of non-fiction literature and crosswords, but also appreciates music, visual art, and architecture.