East of where? Why, Belgium of course. Where else would you place the center of the universe?

I’ve written about several conferences before, such as TestBash & Eurostar. It occurred to me that all previous gatherings were placed North of my hometown, that’s to say, until a few weeks ago. A new wind called my name.

After surviving the far and cold North, where I made friends around warm campfires and was taught the dance of ‘socializing while balancing a beer’, my steel winged carriage pointed another direction.
My next adventure lay East. To the haven city of Gdansk and the Transylvanian valley of Cluj Napoca.

I would tell you of my ride across the hills where I battled three packs of wild Romanian dogs, or the dance of fire that initialized me into the ranks of the Polish testing army. But that would be largely exaggerated and are best told at a bar.

None the less:
Two more conferences have been scratched of my bucket-list since then: Romanian Testing Conference & Testing Cup.

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TestSphere’s workshop: “The Quest for the Ultimate Test Story” in action

The Romanian Testing Conference

Imagine being picked up at the airport in a very expensive Audi. Imagine the driver telling you he arranged a bike for you (you like biking, btw). Imagine that during the ride you oversee a valley filled with houses and old church towers but green hills all around. Imagine a slight hill in that valley with a grand hotel of marble on top.

That’s the first encounter I had with RTC. They had everything planned for me, the bike, the hills, the hotel, my evening dinner and the scenery was groteske. I mean that in the best possible way.

The conference itself was inside the many rooms of the hotel and for several days it was bustling with a 300-400 headed enthusiastic and diverse group of testers.
What struck me about this crowd is that it is much younger and much more evenly distributed across gender. And the hunger for knowledge… Dear lord were they thirsty.

The people I talked to were very eager to hear my stories, were inquisitive, well spoken and remarkable.

I am greatly impressed by the organisation, the participants and the group of speakers that assembled. I would be remiss not to mention I will fondly look back upon the time spent exploring the city with Ard Kramer & Elizabeth Zagroba and Nicola Owen, Mike Noggens, and Keith Klain.

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Andrei Contan receiving his prize for telling the Ultimate Testing Story

Testing Cup

I’m a sucker for Poland. Over the last 3 years, I’ve visited these greener pastures a good 4 times. But this time I was reminded that I had been visiting some of the wrong sides. Gdansk is more modern than any other city I visited in Poland by a long shot.

Upon arrival in the old town I was rejoined with Zeger, Andreas, Ard, Marianne and Johan. From that point on, everything went into light speed. That was the moment the stars became white lines flashing in my peripheral view and the limits of the universe became in reach.

I didn’t look back.

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It was the second year that Testing Cup grew larger than ‘just their testing competition’, which was incredible, make no mistake. Last year they experimented with several international speakers and this year they invited a larger group.
As a team we immediately set forth to gather all speakers in a whatsapp in a “got to catch ’em all” kind of style.
This medium was the center of much, much absurd humour and self mocking. I loved it. You may find a selection of shared pictures at the bottom of this post.

Much like in Romania, we found a large amount of young, knowledge-hungry and diverse selection of Poland’s best testers.
They demonstrated that in the competition and in our workshops with witty remarks and colourful stories.

Two particular moments will haunt me until years to come:

The party was a surge of positive energy. Having drinks on the beach, standing barefooted in the Baltic sea, enjoying the view of a spectacular fire show and dancing until well in the night in good company.
The party was amazingly good, which was noticed in the sheer number of attendees that trickled in much later than intended the next day.
The first day we had 40 participants (the cap) in our workshop, the second one we had 9.

Another impression about how greatly the attendees LIVED this conference was all the way in the end when the champions of the competition were announced.
I saw a Software Tester run in the middle of the Gdansk football arena waving a huge golden cup above his head. I imagine he felt like Ronaldo. His face showed pure pride and happiness. The crowd was enamored.

Aftermath

What I witnessed at both conferences was a strong organization and an exceptionally large number of volunteers. Even though it felt like they weren’t there, that’s exactly what their strength was. They supported us, carried us and led us to have the best of times. We didn’t have to worry about a thing.
That’s Joanna Mocko, Maciej Chmielarz, Andrei Contan, Andrei Ghinescu, Radek Smilgin for you.

As a speaker, I recommend these conferences with the highest of regards.
Say hi when you’re there. I will be too.

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