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If you missed QUEST 2017, here's what you need to know

The QUEST 2017 software testing conference brought people from around the world together to discuss the latest challenges and opportunities. Expert Gerie Owen shares her experience.

The QUEST 2017 Testing Conference was in Chicago April 3-7, and brought together 400 testing practitioners, thought leaders and experts from worlds including test automation, exploratory testing, testing strategies and practices for today and in the future. While the weather was cold and wet outside, inside, the environment was highly conducive to learning and sharing ideas.

While many of the attendees came from the Chicago area, 33 states and 19 countries were also represented. The varied backgrounds of the QUEST 2017 attendees provided fertile ground for a rich exchange of professional information on testing theories and practices.

The conference included tracks on automation, mobile, open source, Agile, leadership and others. It included keynote speeches, full and half-day workshops, and sessions from established experts, such as Bob Galen, Bob Crews, Tom Cagley and Michael Mah.

All of the tutorials and workshops, as well as most of the track sessions, were focused on practical skills and information. Some of the most informative sessions focused on functional test automation with open source tools, internet of things (IoT) testing strategies, innovative leadership and security testing. These topics were interwoven through day-long or half-day tracks, so attendees could attend sessions of interest in any track. In particular, Bob Crews' informative session on IoT gave attendees a lot to think about in the future.

The QUEST 2017 keynotes were especially valuable, as they focused on personal development, with topics surrounding self-actualization, dealing with change and creating a positive attitude. Attendees were capable of taking the advice presented in the keynotes and going back to their organization as more mature and effective testers.

There were also plenty of opportunities to network with peers and experts. Thanks to a shared meal venue and evening social events, attendees and speakers interacted in both learning and social situations. The result was an explosion of conversation, understanding and advancement of the profession. At every point in the conference, people were talking testing, careers, skill sets, certifications, practices and anything else related to their work.

How QUEST 2017 made it work

Many conferences offer destinations that enable technology coupled with vacation opportunities, hoping to attract casual participants. QUEST is more about the technology and practices, and it showed in how serious and dedicated the speakers and presenters were in delivering content and interacting together.

While there was an evening event, weather precluded the harbor cruise as planned. However, the networking opportunities remained intact. And although the venue was not a destination, what the conference program provided outweighed the benefits of having it hosted in destination cities, such as Orlando, Fla., or Las Vegas.

The following are some of the specific benefits of the QUEST 2017 conference.

First, I reconnected with the larger testing community. In doing so, I learned where others were working, what they were doing and what skills they were employing. I traded best practices with consultants, experts and fellow practitioners, and was able to absorb knowledge in a fast-paced environment.

Second, I learned new techniques and practices. Most of the sessions contained practical information that could be immediately applied to many testing situations. QUEST 2017 attendees went home and could immediately apply many of the practices and ideas they learned. They also discovered things that may not have been immediately applicable, but that would almost certainly be useful down the road.

Last, I was introduced to some technologies -- such as IoT, machine learning and wearables -- that will change the practice of testing in the coming years. Increasingly, testing encompasses not just software, but also devices, machines, watches and even automobiles and aircraft. We may or may not get the opportunity to test such products in the future, but we need to know about them in advancing our professional development as testers. In particular, we have to be able to talk intelligently about the issues involved in testing these systems, and to feel comfortable if we are ever called upon to do so.

While other conferences in the U.S. get higher profiles, QUEST delivers the goods for any serious testing professional. You may not be able to visit the Magic Kingdom while you are there, but it will fill up your day with great speakers, compelling topics and made-to-order techniques and practices.

I hope to see you at QUEST 2018.

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