Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lessons from NEXT2012 in Romania

I often see folks blogging about what they learned, were inspired by, or impressed them about attending an event. it is far less often when I see a headliner, or promoted presenter blog about the lessons they learned or what inspired or impressed them after the event. I've often wondered why that is.

For me, it has a lot to do with needing to quickly shift gears upon completing an event to catch-up on all the things that I put off to prepare for the event, figure out what immediate stuff landed in my inbox while I was ignoring it, and to follow-up on leads, lessons, inspirations and curiosities from the event itself.

Well, I'm going to make a concerted effort to do better about posting my lessons from events, starting with NEXT2012, hosted by SoftVision, held in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Oct. 26-27
So, what were my take-aways from NEXT2012?

  • I'm *really* excited about how I'm now organizing and packaging my performance-related materials (more on that in a separate post).
  • SoftVision did a fantastic job organizing and handling logistics.
  • I am seriously impressed with the people I interacted with on both a professional and technical level.
  • Those same people are social, collaborative, friendly and are able to enjoy their work and create enjoyable work environments while being professionally and technically impressive.
  • Romania (as well as several surrounding areas not widely considered "software/technical powerhouses") is an emerging market worth watching.
First off, I want to personally and publicly thank Ady Beleanu, Sorin Stan, the entire SoftVision Team, and all of the NEXT2012 participants for treating me not like a random guest speaker and not like a celebrity, but like family. From the moment Ady & Sorin picked me up at the airport, I felt welcome, comfortable, and cared for. For those of you who are not travelling speakers, take my word for it when I tell you that this is not just a great feeling, but it is rare, appreciated, and entirely different from how speakers are generally treated at most Tech events. I feel lucky to have experienced this more than once (previously with Dell in Brazil, CES in Uruguay and Logigear in Vietnam), but I'm still taken by surprise and incredibly pleased when it happens. If you are interested in stories about the tours, dinners, wines, history & culture, find me at a conference sometime and I'd be happy to share, but for now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Day One:

The first day one of the event was a modestly priced, full day of Scott Barber talking performance (slides here). My first clue that this wasn't going to be an "average" event was the fact that all 250 seats sold out in under a week (and from what I saw, virtually everyone showed up). Most established conferences with multiple speakers, marketing departments, etc. etc. I attend aren't this big!

The next noteworthy thing I observed was that I was quite possibly the oldest person in the room... I estimate the median age of the audience at 30. Typically when I do performance-centric talks and events, I'm one of the youngest people in the room. I can't begin to express how energizing it was to see so many young people in audience.

Throughout the day, I came to realize that these young people were intelligent, technically competent, attentive, fully aware of the importance of context, and were there to learn. As impressed as I was by all of that, the most pleasant surprise was seeing how open to new ideas, un-jaded by negative experiences, friendly, interactive, funny and social they were as a group. This group, this large group, of performance-interested, young, software project contributors from a region of the world not generally thought of as a "technology powerhouse" absolutely embodied everything we "old-timers" keep hearing about the latest generation of technologists.

Day Two:

The second day actually began about 1am when I got back to my room after a wonderful evening of social activities with me realizing that what I had planned as a full-day tutorial was not going to be challenging enough for this group. Abandoning my original plan, I spent the next several hours devising a new plan... one that I wouldn't recommend to any but the most experienced trainers who are absolutely confident with their expertise in their craft.

After a short nap, I came downstairs to 50 knowledge hungry employees and clients of SoftVision anxiously waiting to begin a day of hands on exercises related to the lessons from the day before. I can honestly say that prior to this event, I'd never done a hands on performance-related tutorial with more than 20 people -- especially not one where:

  • Each pair got to use whatever tool(s) they chose... at least a couple of which I'd never even seen a demo of before teams shared their results with me.
  • Each pair had the option to complete their assignments against either the application I had chosen, or any application of their choice (so long as it had certain attributes that I specified)
  • The exercises were pulled directly from client engagements and had never been tried in a classroom situation.
As it turns out, I thought it went fabulously - and much of the feedback concurred. I'm exceptionally glad that  I refactored the tutorial. The folks in tutorial would absolutely have been under-challenged by what I had planned.

Think I'm over-stating this? Watch the videos and view the photos for yourself!


Aside from the fact that I had a wonderful experience, I have to say that based on my experience, I'm greatly looking forward to working with folks from SoftVision and the surrounding region in the future. And to be completely honest, if you are involved in outsourcing software, you'd be a fool to dismiss companies from Romania and the surrounding region -- further, if you want to stay ahead of what outsourcing companies from emerging markets are doing before they leapfrog you, I suggest you pay attention to the work coming out of South America, Vietnam and Eastern Europe.

Scott Barber
Chief Technologist, PerfTestPlus, Inc.

Co-Author, Performance Testing Guidance for Web Applications
Author, Web Load Testing for Dummies
Contributing Author, Beautiful Testing, and How To Reduce the Cost of Testing

"If you can see it in your mind...
     you will find it in your life."

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