Over the last 20+ years, I have attended several training sessions and conferences. Some have been good, and some have been fairly poor. In conversations with a few other EG folks, we were trying to boil it all down to determine what makes for a good training or conference. Why do we put forth the effort? What are we trying to accomplish?
When a company commits to the level of investment in its people that continuing education requires, it should have a plan. It should know why it is making the investment.
The Training Triangle
When we send people to a conference or training session, we are looking for three key results.
First, we want to show the employees that we appreciate them. We value them, and we are purposefully going to invest in them. We are committed to coming alongside them to support them as they invest in themselves.
The second result we are looking for is team building. When we send a small team to a training or conference, they travel together, eat together, and play together. This time is very valuable. The members of the group get to know each other better and build a deeper relationship than they would have otherwise.
The final result we are looking for is an actual increase in skills that will help the employee become a better consultant. These are often technical skills but may also be soft skills.
Results Will Vary
The first two results are pretty easy. Anytime you throw several people together for a little travel including a budget for some good food, you will show people you care about them, and they will have a good time.
The skills development, however, is often disappointing. I have attended several “hands-on” technical workshops at conferences where no setup instructions were given to the attendees ahead of time. Or if it was, they did not complete the setup. These workshops had one presenter and 40+ students that could not get things to compile or run. At some point, everyone just gave up and became spectators rather than active participants.
In the past, we simply accepted that two out of three is not bad, and if the team going to the conference met up ahead of time and continued to work together after they returned, they could make it work and had a pretty good experience.
Getting Better Than “Good Enough”…
How do we get better than good enough? This year we decided to try something different. Our Automated Testing team has a unique problem. There are so many frameworks and tools that we cannot consolidate on one. Today we are actively using Selenide, WebdriverIO, Cucumber, Appium, Postman, SpecFlow, RestSharp, BlazeMeter, Protractor, JMeter, Rest Assured, and likely one or two I am missing.
Sometimes Means Building Your Own
We decided to host our own QA AT Retreat. The first task was to find a location. We wanted to find a place that was far enough away that people would not be tempted to drive back-and-forth but close enough to minimize travel on our first retreat. We needed a very large table and as many bedrooms as we could get. We found a very large house an hour and fifteen minutes from our office that had a dining room table that sat ten people.
We accommodated 12 people in this large home for a 4-night 3-day retreat. This allowed for three full days of training. We broke those days into morning and afternoon workshops of three hours each and a 1-hour book review before dinner.
|Session: Git||Session: Security Testing||Session: Selenide|
|Session: Azure DevOps||Session: WebdriverIO||Session: Docker and Cucumber|
|Book: Deep Work||Book: Agile Testing||Late Session: Jenkins|
In addition to all the training sessions, we prepared an enormous amount of food and had games for each evening.
What About the Results?
Our goal was to be very purposeful about maximizing each leg of the triangle (appreciation, team building, skills development). From the feedback we received, I think we nailed it. The team had a blast, ate too much, and targeted our training at the skills we are currently working with.
This does not mean we will never go to a conference again, but we will certainly plan more of these retreats. From a budgetary standpoint, this retreat was also one of the cheaper per person options we have done. This allows us to be more creative with our future locations.
The Future? Imagine…
Future plans also include submitting some of these workshops to conferences. Imagine attending training on Behavior Driven Testing using Gerkin, Cucumber, and SpecFlow. Imagine your dev and test environments are hosted in Docker containers eliminating setup issues. Finally, imagine that instead of one presenter, you have a presenter plus three or so folks walking around helping everyone. That sounds like a workshop worth going to.
If you are interested in some of the information we presented, stay tuned. Connect with us on our social media channels (at the bottom of this page) to be notified when we create new posts in this series. Our team members put a good deal of work into designing these workshops, and we appreciate each one of them.
Don’t miss out! Here’s what’s coming up:
- Introduction to Git
- Docker & Cucumber
- Azure Dev Ops
- and more…