Feb 25, 2019 · by Ioana Chiorean

My Journey with Europe’s Premier Software Testing Conference

From Contest Winner to Committee Member at EuroSTAR

I’ve been a volunteer for… pretty much all my life. Now looking back, I see that even a role like leader of the class classifies as volunteer work.

Ok, ok, talking more seriously, I officially started volunteering in my first year of university. As representative of my high school at a county level I got in contact with a different Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that held a workshop on project management. This experience helped me a lot when I got to university and joined a student NGO. I held different roles during the university years, but all of them involved speaking to audiences to promote our projects or attending sessions to learn more.

Having this in my blood, things did not change much when I got a job in the IT field. I knew that the learning doesn’t stop with the job contract signed and that there are very smart people in this field from who I could learn from. Volunteering in Mozilla opened up the conferences world for me – I got invited to the first MozCamp held in Berlin where different employees or volunteers presented their work.

What’s EuroSTAR?

While the generic web or IT conferences were amazing, I always felt the QA field was less represented there. So I turned my attention to testing, as I was activating here and wanted to see the latest practices in this field. With a quick search online, you can easily see that the STAR conferences are the most well known ones. And for me, the most reachable was EuroSTAR. With 26 editions until now, I think it is safe to say it is the oldest conference in this field.

Unfortunately, with 1500+ EUR as price for a ticket, EuroSTAR was not that reachable. But I would not let money stop me, would I? I wanted to be among the best in the field, so I had to be creative.

Editions I have attended until now

I was not joking when I said “creative.” Literally this skill got me to the first EuroSTAR. In summer of 2015 they launched a contest on their social media – Orange Tester. The challenge was to make a post with something orange for your chance to win a ticket to the conference. I did not many orange things, but luckily enough I had an orange Firefox umbrella. I simply took a photo of myself with that umbrella. Days passed and I was looking at the entries in the hashtag and saw so many more fun photos than mine. I had to level up if I really wanted that ticket.

I am a fan of investigation documentaries. One day I was watching one of the episodes with a criminal taking a mugshot and an idea came to me. This is something that could make people laugh, I thought. I did have a whiteboard at work and a plain, super large orange t-shirt also from Mozilla (Matchstick anyone?). So, I took a mugshot picture, stating I will be imprisoned at EuroSTAR between the conference dates and posted in the last hour of the contest. Needless to say that they probably laughed so much at it but hey, I won and got my ticket.

After further researching the conference and seeing the great presentations and workshops that would take place, I also proposed a business case for the QA Community in Softvision. The case was approved and I was able to get another colleague there. I did not feel it would have been fair to ask that they pay for my ticket, as we had so many great testers in Softvision who should also have the opportunity to attend. I also did take days off, and paid my travel and accommodations on my own, but hey, I felt lucky enough to save the ticket money.

I had a blast at that edition and realised how big the testing domain is and how little we are able to learn just through work. We had also an attendee supported by Softvision to it (Adela Perijoc) and fellow friends from Tabara De Testare Cluj.  

Having such a good time and seeing the value of it, I decided to go back next year. So in 2016 I was looking to see what kind of contests they would put out for people. I wanted to give other changes too, so no more pictures from my side. I saw the call for apprentice from the Test Lab Crew, organised that year by the creators of this concept – James Lindsay and Baart Knaack. I applied telling them about my volunteer, speaking and technical experience. And yes, I got in! I was super happy for the chance and I would make the best of it. Together with Eddy, the other apprentice, we joined James and Baart in Stockholm for three days of activities at the Test Lab @ EuroSTAR.

This role came with a promise that in the next year, if things were to go well, I would be returning to EuroSTAR as master (of ceremonies 😄) at the TestLab. The challenges of 2017 were to spread the call for apprentice and choose the best applicants from a pool of over 25 diverse hopefuls.

In 2018, being on a roll with EuroSTAR, I did take a break from doing something there and decided to just enjoy it. Being in the Test Lab required me to be there almost at all times. We did choose a session or two to watch, but as people were hanging around our playground most of the time, it did not feel right to leave them waiting for us or leave the team doing all the work. So, I just attended the EuroSTAR. I do remember a funny thing happening. I took a central place at the opening of the conference (yes, for good pictures) and got to seat near a woman named Isabel Evans and chatted a bit about what this edition looked like. In the closing session when they announced Isabel as the following year’s Programme Chair, I said to myself: “Man, you talked to her right at the beginning. If only you would have known she would be leading the next one.” But that was just a passing thought.

Why I have accepted to be part of the committee this year

Of course there is a little story for 2019’s edition. It wouldn’t be fun without one, right? In December, I had a week of vacation with little to no access to the internet. So, reading emails was definitely not on my list. But hey, notifications still popped up each time I got online for five minutes daily to write back home. One notification in particular was a bit outstanding. A mysterious sender wrote me an email with “Confidential only” in the title. I was thinking, they do make spam more appealing than they did back in the days.

Later in the evening, I saw a connection request on LinkedIn from Isabel Evans and a message. Being offline, the message would not load all to see what it was about. But then it hit me! The email was from her. too. Let’s see what it was about because that should be available offline. And there, my friends, was the invitation to join the committee this year. It was not hard to accept it, to be honest. Being in the committee of EuroSTAR is not something you get to do daily nor have many done it before. I wanted to see what implies, what is behind the oldest and biggest testing conference on the old continent and to add my own experience to it.

So here I am, two months later, reviewing submissions and working to make the best programme for this year’s edition. We are not alone in this. Beside the EuroSTAR employees and Isabel, I have two other committee members.

The process has been hard, but rewarding. Hundreds of inspirational applications await our input. And it is just the beginning of the year! Stay tuned for more, and I hope to see you this November in Prague!

My takeaways…

No matter what level you are in your career, you can always learn from others. Most conferences have different levels for the talks – from beginners or introductory to advanced.

You should definitely step up and join the stage sharing from your own experience. It can be the tools you use, the processes you define or the lessons you’ve learned (sometimes the hard way).

My personal motto was always, “If I can do it, you can do it too…even better” and I try to inspire others to speak at events.

Ioana Chiorean

Ioana Chiorean

QA Community Lead
Ioana Chiorean is a QA Community Lead at Softvision, based out of the Cluj-Napoca Studio in Romania. Ioana studied at the Universitatea Tehnică, Cluj-Napoca, and has been on the Softvision team since 2010. Ioana is often invited to speak at tech conferences, workshops and meetups, and she enjoys inspiring others.
Ioana Chiorean
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