As 2018 draws to an end, I look back at what I have been up to this year and what’s coming up in 2019.

January - March

The beginning of the year was off to an exciting start, myself and a few others (Jordan, Dave, Amy, Lewis) before Christmas had decided we would organise the first DDD Wales. A number of us had been to a few of the DDD (Developer Developer Developer) events and so we decided it was time that Wales got it’s own.

January, it was crunch time, we had 3 months to knock up a website, get some sponsors (to cover food/drink/venue) and run a call for speakers and get an agenda (in DDD events the community vote on sessions to decide which ones make the agenda). We decided though time was tight we’d go for it and try and make it happen.

As the months passed by (very quickly!) things started to come together, we had a venue (TechHub Swansea), some fantastic sponsors both local (way to many to mention but can be seen on the website) and from outside of Wales, and the community had voted on which sessions they wanted to hear and so we had an agenda. As if things weren’t already manic enough I also submitted a session and was also lucky enough to have my talk selected by the community which was really exciting too.

The event I think it was fair to say was a great success, attendees, speakers and sponsors all enjoyed the day and the feedback was great. Before the day was over we’d been asked when the next one was which was absolutely fantastic and made the massive team effort well worth the investment.

Whilst making the last few arrangement for DDD Wales in March, I made a trip down to Pebrokeshire Devs meetup to give a talk. This was a small but really great group of people and you should check them out if your down that neck of the woods.

At work I’d been offered the chance of a promotion to senior tester within the R&D (Research & Development) team if I could provide evidence and so the months January-March I also spent my time evidence gathering to show why I felt I should be promoted.

In my spare time I continued to submit talks to a handful of events as well as start selecting speakers for SwanseaCon and obtaining sponsors for the event which would take place in September.

April

The month started well, I finally got my first promotion at Vizolution to senior test engineer. The promotion didn’t really change the way I worked, throughout the months I continued as I had previously to learn, share and try to push on with bridging the gap between dev and test. I also spent lots of time looking at other ways for the R&D test teams to add value by looking at Postman, DB Testing and Visual Testing and giving show and tells of what I discovered. I’ve blogged a little about each of these on this site if your interested.

April I got the opportunity to speak at a testing conference, a developer conference and a local test meetup.

First up was the Leeds Testing Atelier conference. This was an event I’d kept an eye on for a while and I’d always struggled to try and make time to take the long drive up. Being accepted to speak at the event was a fantastic excuse and opportunity to make the trip as well as to speak at my first testing conference and see friends. After the long drive up I was very lucky that my friend Steve, one of the organisers of the event and his family put me up for a night. The night before the event I joined the organisers for a few drinks at the event venue, this was good fun watching them hand draw the posters for the event and I finally met Ash and Gwen who are some of the organisers of the event as well as meet Gem Hill as she had been selected to speak at the 4th edition of SwanseaCon later in the year, Heather who’s CommunityBoss at Ministry of Testing and Rosie.

The event ran very smoothly, great speakers, organisers and food. Unfortunately I had to make a early exit from the event and couldn’t stay the whole day as I had the long drive home but I’d love to go back at some point as the event was certainly one of my highlights of the year.

A few days later I was heading to DDD South West to give the same session as at the Leeds Testing Atelier but to developers. The event was great, it was actually a year before at this event that I attended my first DDD event, and it was at this event that I got the idea for the very talk I was giving. The talk went well and I managed to get some good feedback which helped me think about ways in which the visual testing framework I was building may be better used as well as getting some ideas for features I may wish to consider adding.

Three days later I headed to Cardiff to the Test and QA Wales meetup to give a slightly different version of the same talk I’d given at the last two events. At this meetup the audience were interested in seeing how visual testing could be added as part of their CI (Continous Integration) pipeline. This was one of the greatest attended meetups I’d seen, the drop out rate was very low (a hanfdul), the room was jam packed and it was great to see so much interest in this subject and get lots of questions at the end.

May

May was set once again to be a busy month, I’d agreed to speak at two meetups and was due to speak at my first conference outside of the UK.

At the begining of the month I headed up to Ministry of Testing Nottingham, this was my first time up to Nottingham and to a MoT meetup. Once again I decided to drive up which turned out to be a very long journey. The journey wasn’t the best, I drove up in a smart car which seemed to sway pretty much all the way up as wind blew across the roads. In one piece I finally made it to the meetup which was great. I got again some good feedback for the framework I was building at work and I managed to network and meet lots of new people which is always good fun.

Mid May I was off to Vienna, to the WeAreDevelopers developer conference. I had asked my good friend Lee to come along with me as I was quite nervous travelling all the way to Vienna on my own. The event was fantastic and invited both myself and Lee to the speakers dinner, covered our hotel stay and provided us both with a ticket for the event.

Even now after attending quite a few events afterwards, this was by far the largest event I have ever attended. The event was over four days with about 8 tracks running over 3 floors of a massive building built for large scale events. In my session there were 600 people and it’s the largest number of people I’ve ever spoken to, previously I’d spoken to about 50-60 people and so this was quite nerve-racking but an excellent experience. I’ve written a blog post on the event here if your interested. I was also really excited I got to meet the superb Angie Jones, this is somebody who’s making big waves in the test space and somebody I’d followed quite a bit on Twitter. I was really nervous when I realied Angie came to my talk and was near the front - I really felt the imposter syndrome kicking in!

A few days after returning home I was off to Bristol to South. West. Test. in Bristol. Here I got to meet the fantastic Danny - you may know him as the Postman dude.. He put on a great meetup and again this meetup was really well attended and there were no spare seats at the venue. If your in the area I highly recommend this meetup as it was full of enthusiatic test professionals, and it was great for networking and to learn about new opportunities.

June - July

June and July were quiet. In June I agreed to just one meetup which was in Hereford, the Smart Devs User Group. This was a nice meetup run by Richard and Ryan and one of the few I’ve been to which is actually funded by the members rather than large companies sponsoring it, which shows the people who attend really are passionate about learning and building a great development community. It was great to meet both again after meeting them previously at DDD events.

The Hereford meetup is now looking for other people to come forward with Richard now stepping down as co-organiser after many years of successfully running the meetup. Get in touch with them both if your interested in helping out.

During this month again I started to try and sell tickets for SwanseaCon whilst also trying to obtain additional sponsorship to help cover costs for the event.

August

August was another quiet month, again just one meetup which would see me return to Nottingham to Tech Nottingham. I was a little concerned re-visiting the same city to give the same talk but the fantastic organisers Emma and Andrew insisted it would be fine and were keen for me to give the talk. This was a really great event and the first meetup I’d attended where my travel and stay was covered which really helped me cover expenses I’d otherwise have to absorb myself. I was also very fortunate that my wife and children could join me for the trip which was good fun, we managed to spend time walking around the beautiful city and visiting the castle and seeing lots of pretty cool Robin Hood statues around the city.

The meetup was really well attended with about 60-80 people turning up and again my talk seemed to go down well. I managed again to have great questions and had lots of feedback to help improve my talk and the framework which I’d been building.

September

September saw the return of the 4th SwanseaCon. The night before the event I received a pretty cool message from the MoT BossBoss, Rich Bradshaw asking me if I’d like to give a talk at TestBash Manchester later in the month. This was way to great an opportunity to turn down even with only a few weeks until the event and so I said yes!

I also received a call from Seb who was due to be giving a keynote at SwanseaCon, he was stuck in Bristol and had no way to get to the venue where he was staying the night before the event. Luckily my wife came to our rescue and picked him up - phew!

The next morning I was very nervous having decided this year to move venues for the event. It’s quite difficult I find trying to visualise how things will play out, where will exhibitors go, is there enough room for attendees, enough food, drink… even little things like are the goodys bags good enough for attendees. It was quite stresful especially organising the event on my own but everybody seemed to enjoy the event and it went down well with speakers, attendees and exhibitors. It was a fantastic excuse also to network and once again meet so many cool people who I look up to (too many to mention). The evening straight after the conference was the ExpertTalks Post-SwanseaCon meetup, this always seems to go down well with attendees and speakers as a great after event to unwind, have a few drinks and reflect on the day whilst also listening to a few lightning talks - thanks to EqualExperts for putting this event on.

Thanks to the unbelieveable support from sponsors in September I was also able to give back to the local community. Using money left over from the event I was able to sponsor a local childrens rugby team and supply their kits. Whilst my goal has always been to help build the software development community this seemed like the perfect opportunity to also encourage children to take a break from computers and phones etc and go outdoors, stay fit and have some fun!

TestBash Manchester came around quick and before I knew it I was on a train up to the event. I’d followed MoT for years and it was great to not only attend my first TestBash but also to have the opportunity to speak at one too. The event was brilliant, really good speakers and the event had a fantastic community feel to it. This was a single track event and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Angie who once again had to listen to me talk about visual testing - sorry Angie!

In September I also started work on a little side project - Testers Playground. The idea being that I’d create a website with various challenges which would help people understand how to use Chrome DevTools for testing by completing various challenges. I’d also planned to use this site as the basis for a talk which I’d hoped to propose later on in the year. You can read more about the Testers Playground here.

October

October was set to be a busy month with 2 developer conferences and 1 test conference lined up. The month started fantastic with me being approached by the company I worked for to become the R&D Test lead - this was an absolute no brainer and so I accepted the new role immediately.

Earlier in the year I’d submitted so many talks to different events it became quite difficult to accept all the offers I had. I had agreed to speak at TestCon Vilnius in Lithuania but soon after got the amazing news that I’d also been accepted to speak at SeleniumConf in Chicago. Luckily with a bit of discussion with both events I managed to make it work so that I could speak at both despite both events being in the same week!

I was really nervous as I set off from London to TestCon Vilnius, this was the first event I’d attended outside of the UK on my own - previously my friend had accompanied me. At this point I’d probably have struggled to catch a couple of buses in the city where I live and so I was quite worried about the trip.

On the plane over to Vilnius, Lithuania I managed to book a seat right next to another speaker for the event Steve Portch. This made the whole trip so much more relaxing and less stresful! The event was really cool, held inside a cinema. It was probably the first event I’d attended in quite a while where I only knew 1 or 2 speakers off the agenda which was quite refreshing as normally you tend to see the same people circulating various events. The event organisers were superb, they organised a lovely city tour, great speakers meal and put on an absolutely brilliant event, one I’d love to go back to if I can come up with another talk next year.

Next up was SeleniumConf Chicago. Everything became quite manic, I had to catch a plane to London and then lucky the lovely people at White October Events (https://twitter.com/whiteoctevents) had arranged for a car to collect me and put me up in a hotel overnight. The next morning I had a flight from London to Chicago and again a car was waiting for me to take me to the hotel where the event was taking place. I arrived half way through day one of the event and unfortunatelty missed Angie’s opening keynote which I hear went down really well with the audience. The event was superb and was a great chance to meet AppliTools who are the leading company in visual testing and so I really wanted to talk to them both about their product and my talk which I’d be giving the following day.

My talk went well, though I had a few hicupps with one of my slides not displaying some differences which was a bit of a disaster but luckily the audience were very kind and we had a laugh about the mishap. It was also an absolute pleasure to have Lisa Crispin front row for my talk - I’d met Lisa at SwanseaCon where she kindly ran a workshop for attendees. After the talk I was asked by a deutch company to do a short piece for a vlog (video blog) which was cool and then headed out for lunch with Lisa.

A day after the event I had an unexpected email and then Skype call from UK Star which is a testing conference in London taking place 11-12 March 2019. I was invited to give a visual testing talk next year!

The trip home from Chicago didn’t go quite to plan, after all my stressing on my way to both events it was on the return where things got quite messy.. I managed to miss my flight home, had no money, no phone signal and was stuck in the departure gate! Luckily I managed to wonder around the airport and find some free WiFi where I could then contact my family to send some cash to my card so I could try to get home. A few hours later after a family member sent me funds I was off to JFK airport, New York before then catching a flight from New York back to London.

A week later I went to Voxxed Days Bristol with a work colleague Joseph on the train. The conference was aimed at developers and one which I’d never attended before. My talk went as planned and I had some good questions at the end which made it worth the trip. I’m unsure if it was me struggling with burn out or something but I wasn’t really feeling the event, I remember it having good sessions but I don’t remember much about it though. Again networking was great and I had the chance to see Yan Cui who I’d seen both in WeAreDevelopers in Vienna and at a previous SwanseaCon event and Samir Talwar again who I knew from being a speaker at SwanseaCon.

A few days after Bristol I had an email from Swetugg which is a .Net conference taking place 7-8 February 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden. I was again invited to give a talk on visual testing next year!

Two more days passed and I received a really unexpected email. Berk Dulger from Turkish Testing Board who was also a speaker at TestCon Vilnius had been in my session and had recommended my visual testing talk to be run as a keynote at TestIstanbul conference in Istanbul Turkey next year. This was such an unexepected but exciting opportunity and something to good to turn down - my first keynote!! It has really made all the trips away from my family and hard work I’d put in over the last year feel worth while and something I cannot wait to do.

November

As the year was coming to an end I had one conference speaking engagement left, this time in Thessaloniki. This was something I absolutely couldn’t wait to do, not only would I be visiting a beautiful city but I would get the chance to meet the organiser who I had met as a SwanseaCon speaker back in 2015 - Patrokolos Papapetrou and Sandro Mancuso - the person who really give me a wake up call and helped me to see I could do great things with the right attitude and mindset.

During my time in Greece I managed to see some great sights, thanks to Pat organising a city tour and I managed to meet some great speakers and attendees both at the speakers dinner and at the event. During the event my talk went as well as I’d hoped but unfortunately I had a flight straight after my talk and so I ended up not meeting Sandro at all which was a massive shame.

December

December has been a really nice month. I’ve managed to spend lots of quality time with my wife and children, having time to look back and reflect.

This month has also been quite exciting in that I took the decision to leave a company I really love who have given me a few promotions and left me to my own devices in order to try working for myself, contracting. It’s early days but so far I’m really enjoying it. That being said I always like to keep my options open and so continue to keep an eye out for opportunities which will give me the ability to keep learning and developing myself and others.

Off the back of the Testers Playground which I started working on in September, I started to work on a new ‘DevTools deep dive’ talk/workshop which I’ve submitted to a number of different events. I felt the challenges whilst they were good fun it would be difficult to use in a session or workshop.

The new ‘Sweet Shop’ project I’ve been building this month will better help me to demonstrate techniques, tips and tricks which will be used as part of a session or workshop. The sessions aim is to arm attendees with the knowledge to incorporate DevTools as part of their web testing journey.

Already I’m pleased to say that my ‘DevTools deep dive’ workshop has been accepted to give a half day workshop in London mid 2019 - further information to follow shortly.

2019…

By the end of the year I’d organised another software conference on my own, co-organised a brand new developer conference, spoken at 15 events in 6 different countries, managed to get 2 promotions at my previous employer, get stuck in Chicago :( , start a new role as a test consultant, meet some new and old friends, and start some great side projects.

2019 is already looking busy with 2 more sessions accepted in 2 Sweden and London, my first keynote in Istanbuland and my first workshop accepted in London. It also looks like unfortunately Angie will be at yet another event where I’ll be talking visual testing - sorry… I promise to submit more new stuff this year! I am already also starting to plan for the 5th year of SwanseaCon and the call for speakers is currently open if you fancy speaking at the event!

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