What I Learned from EuRuKo 2016

a non-rubyist perspective

Posted by Alexander Todorov on Mon 26 September 2016

EuRuKo 2016

As my frequent readers may know I try to summarize all the conferences and events I go to. This year's EuRuKo inspired me to take a different approach and instead of quickly summarizing the event I will try to highlight what I have learned from it! My intention is to use this as a tool to improve my skills and the work I do. It will probably be a long post so here we go.

Let me say that I don't consider myself a Ruby developer although I do write a small amount of Ruby code. I also don't really consider myself a developer although I have a formal degree in software engineering and do my fair share of open source contributions.

Being different and thinking differently has always been helpful to me in Quality Assurance and this time was no exception. Attending a conference I knew nothing about and meeting with people whose job is totally different than mine turned out to be my greatest experience on the conference circuit this year.

Lesson 1

Get out of the comfort zone, meet new people, exchange ideas and learn! The very fact that I am writing this post not following my usual summary style proves this is working.

Very early during the event I started to notice a recurring theme which grew stronger by the minute. The Ruby community is very open and inclusive to newcomers and they seem to be doing a very good job about on-boarding everyone who wants to learn. I already wrote about Ivan Nemitchenko's experience of organizing remote internships and there are also the Rails Girls local communities, the Rails Girls Summer of Code (didn't know about it) and the various local Ruby communities who pitched their cities to host the next EuRuKo. I really loved this feeling of community. In the broader Linux, Python and QA world I have not seen this being so pronounced.

Lesson 2

Open up (the open source) community even more. Make it easier for newcomers to join! Treat them as human and don't expect them to be like yourself. Do teach and mentor both to help newcomers but also to help yourself become better!

This is mostly on par with my community work but I think I can do better. I will take the time to evaluate what I've been doing in the past and identify areas for improvements. I also encourage my readers and students to send me feedback as well.

I've also learned that junior developers can make meaningful contributions to production grade code when they are given the appropriate set of tasks and guidance. Stephanie Nemeth argued that companies should hire (more) enthusiastic career changers as junior developers because they have very strong motivation for success.

Lesson 3

Re-evaluate how we look at junior developers, especially how we examine and hire them and how we on-board them.

Both lessons 2 and 3 are valid in the open source world and even more so in the corporate world.

I also liked the fact that some of the lightning talks were given by people who had no previous experience in Ruby. @TeamJoda2016 talked about what they did and learn throughout the summer and really cracked the room with their "oh and btw we are looking for a job" as their final slide!

Lesson 4

If you are new/inexperienced at something don't be afraid to try it out. Give it the best you've got and see how it goes. Worst case .... well nothing bad really happens, best case you end up doing the best job in your life. That's also been my personal experience with software testing.

Carina C. Zona's Consequences Of An Insightful Algorithm (old video here) dealt with the ethical responsibilities of us as developers and this is becoming more common with deep learning neural networks.

Lesson 5

We’re able to extract remarkably precise intuitions about an individual. But do we have a right to know what they didn’t consent to share, even when they willingly shared the data that leads us there?

Krissy's The HTT(Pancake) Request made a great analogy of consuming APIs with your customer experience when visiting a restaurant.

Lesson 6

Design APIs (software in general) as if that was a physical product where your customers happiness matters. We see this all the time in our daily jobs and we're guilty of doing it as well. Btw at the moment I'm in the middle of huge refactoring of django-chartit which breaks all backwards compatibility. I guess I will have to re-evaluate my design and approach.

By accident I've made good friends with Alex Georgiev and the folks at Fyber. I liked the fact that at the conference they had couple of people working in QA and we managed to have a nice talk about QA vs developers and the transformation between the two. That also touched on the bigger subject of testers not being able to code and testers not being available for hire.

Lesson 7

Driving people to improve their skills (learn to code, write tests, etc) is possible but needs to come from management, needs clear direction and also a little bit of peer pressure.

After all isn't that what an agile team is supposed to be ?

Now being the able to code, not entirely Ruby ignorant QA guy that I am I was immediately offered several positions in London and Berlin (and no I'm still staying in Sofia). As it turned out good QA engineers with good development skills are in greater demand than developers not only in Sofia but all around the world!

Lesson 8

Fellow QA guys, please do learn to program. Dear developers, please try thinking more like a tester the next time you write code (me included).

Hiring a barista and furnishing your company stand with the best coffee machine you can afford while having an ugly hand written sign saying "MAIN CONFERENCE COFFEE ->" is a marketing stunt that I really love. I'm not sure how well that worked for their hiring but it got them visibility. I'm definitely stealing this one!

Lesson 9

Conference coffee sucks. Provide better one and developers will queue at your stand. To a greater extent - research your target and their needs and provide a product that solves their problem.

What we gave back

indeed Monica it is. Here's the secret sauce

My personal contribution back was telling Yammer and Deliveroo about mutation testing and pointing them to the right tools and videos on the subject. I wish them good luck and happy testing.

NOTE: I will be speaking about mutation testing at several different events in Bulgaria in the next 2 months so make sure to find me if you want to chat.

tags: events

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