On September 21-22 2018, I was invited to speak at QA Fest 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine. I presented a talk titled “The Secret to Successful Testing”, which focused both on the importance of having a multi-tier test strategy with a clear division of responsibilities, as well as on how to begin to implement such a strategy in a team or organization, while at the same time dealing with some of the human challenges and quirks that sometimes get in the way of adopting new ideas and changes.
The 2018 edition of QA Fest was the conference’s 5th anniversary. The team responsible also has experience running a wide variety of “Fest” conferences (DevOps Fest, .NET Fest, etc.), which was evident in the level of professionalism and attention to detail that the Fest crew showed us speakers, and I’m sure attendees as well. Both pre-conference arragements as well as stage equipment, sound management, lighting, video recording and the overall venue experience were all great.
I particularly liked the idea of an Expert’s Corner, where selected speakers took turns being available for intimate conversaions and Q&A in small groups. The only critisism I can offer was that the space was a bit small and elongated in a way that made it difficult for more than 5-6 people to engage simultaneously with the Expert. But the idea of encouraging conferring at a conference in that way is commendable, which also I’m sure lowers the bar e.g. for people who are new to conferences to engage with speakers, and who might otherwise hesitate to approach us out on the floor.
On the first night of the conference, the organizers threw a big celebration party, which unfortunately was only open until 9 p.m. (venue restrictions), but which nontheless very much engaged the people there and had something for everyone: Board games, stage performances, karaoke, drinks and conversations. Personally, I took the opportunity to both sit down and talk with my old friend Michael Bolton, who gave two separate talks during the conference, and also to connect with a few new friends in the local testing community as well as visitors from outside of Ukraine (special shout out to Roman, Serge and Erkki, though many more engaged with us throughout the evening).
All in all, a very well-managed conference with I think between 700-800 participants, and an expo area with companies that seemed to want to engage in fun and interactive ways with the participants, rather than just do suit-and-tie marketing. Much appreciated.
The only drawback during the conference was that very few speakers had chosen to give their talks in English, which limited the number of takeaways for people from outside the Ukrainian/Russian language group. Not to say that’s necessarily a bad decision though, considering how many people from the region showed up to consume a for them very accessible program. But having a bit more English material on the program (e.g. one full track) would allow for a more diverse crowd of people from other countries to attend, which would give all attendees access to a wider range of experiences and contexts to draw inspiration from. That said, if you’re a speaker looking to try a new conference, I can highly recommend submitting to QA Fest 2019. You will be supremely well looked after.
I had a very brief stay in Kiev, but I did manage to squeeze out a few hours to go out and experience the city in the evenings. It’s fairly easy to get around Kiev, either by subway or by Über and although I wasn’t really looking for them, I got a glimpse of both the Bohdan Khmelnytsky Monument and the Saint Sophia Cathedral (located in close proximity of each other).
I was struck by the stunning architecture all around the city, as well as the attention to detail placed even in many mundane objects. I could definitely imagine coming back here as a tourist and take my time experiencing the city with more care another time.
And if you happen to find yourself in Kiev, do give the Khinkalnaya Gogi restaurant on Leo Tolstoy Street a try. Fantastic Georgian food in a very nice setting, with friendly staff and good atmosphere. No khinkali – no party! 🙂
Thank you Dasha, Marina, Kate and Misha, and the rest of the Fest crew for your help with all the arrangements and guidance, and congratulations on a great conference. Looking forward to next time.
I’ll be writing more in depth about some of the topics in my presentation in separate blog posts here shortly. Stay tuned.