The past few months were really busy for the Software Test Engineers team. We were all working hard on upcoming releases and the day-to-day testing tasks took up all of our bandwidth. We were so busy working in the sawmill that we forgot to sharpen our saws. To break out of this vicious circle, we organized a week long event, aimed at learning new skills and exchanging experiences. Finally, just last month we had the STE Week, or – what we like to call – The Inaugural Annual Unity Test Engineering World Congress!
So what did we do with these 5 days? Well first of all, we got everyone together! We are over 20 individuals distributed among Unity offices in Copenhagen, Odessa, Vilnius, Berlin, Boston, Austin, Singapore, Seattle, Montreal, plus a few who work remotely from home. So the most exciting part of the week was to finally gather our growing team and meet everyone in person. The location for this year’s gathering was Vilnius, Lithuania.
Monday was kicked off by one of the STE leads, Claus Petersen, giving a presentation about the upcoming changes in R&D and their implications for the STE team. The shift in the way we organize our development activities is like a hike in the mountain; it’s exciting, you get a beautiful view of the mountain peak in the distance, but at the same time it’s challenging and can be really hard (there could be trolls around – who knows). The activities we did during the STE week can be compared to equipping the team for the rough terrain they will be traversing during the next year.
The next topic on the agenda was “schools of testing”. We looked at how different groups of testers in the industry perceive the testing craft and how it influences the way they interact with other parts of their organizations. What can we learn from their approach to testing? The presentation, followed by exercises, was meant to ignite a discussion in the group. Even though our STEs are on the same page about elementary testing principles (testing is a context dependent activity), there is always room for a professional exchange of opinions. That is precisely what followed.
At the moment R&D is undergoing some structural changes to adapt to the growth of the company. While we are not doing Scrum at Unity, we are moving towards an organization inspired by this way of working, in multiple ways. For this reason, we conducted a two-day workshop on Scrum.
Tuesday and Wednesday were both designated for scrum related activities. First, there was an elementary introduction to Scrum – an outline of goals, roles and responsibilities. The next day and a half was reserved for group work. The testers formed four groups and started developing a small game from a brief outline of a game concept. Each team had a designated Product Owner that they discussed the content of their games with and a Scrum Master. They used Scrum poker for estimating the workload, discussed the priority of game features and bargained the scope of each sprint with the PO. They worked as a team helping each other and taking responsibility for unfinished work, held standup meetings, retrospective sessions, and proposed improvements for next sprints.
Cards used for Scrum poker.
The workshop was a miniature Scrum experience where the sprints were only 90 minutes long. However, the time pressure, PO’s expectations, and the prospect of failing to complete the tasks were very real. This was an intense exercise in communication and compromising, and a good team building activity. In the process, we also did a fair share of dogfooding Unity.
Afterwards, Marc Eriq Quesnel, another of our STE leads, talked about the pitfalls that testers can encounter when the organization moves towards Scrum. Things can go in many different directions. For example, one common tendency is that a tester in a team will be perceived as the process guardian and therefore will be pushed into a Scrum Master role. Moreover, there were discussions about planning poker, which was a new concept to many of us. We also discussed the type of projects and teams that Scrum can be applied in.
On Wednesday evening, we did a really fun team building activity – escape rooms! These rooms are specifically set up and then locked with participants inside. “Prisoners” of each room cooperate to find relevant items and hints around the room. They need to put these clues together to be able to unlock the door and escape the room before the time runs out! Even though this was purely meant to be a team building experience, this problem solving activity is very much like testing! That night we were breaking out of prison cells and mental asylums! At least some of us managed…
Three prisoners, one cell and one hour to escape.
Unity Test Tools workshop
Thursday was another exciting day. Tomek Paszek, one of our Toolsmiths, ran a workshop on Unity Test Tools. The workshop was a mixture of getting to know UTT as a tool for game automation and a hands-on session where we did some test driven development. A big part of the STE team is technically oriented, so this workshop was a good opportunity to refresh the programming skills and also see coding from a new, TDD, perspective.
On the last day we had a test consultant, Ilari Henrik Egerter, visiting us to run a workshop on communication: “What if you can’t see each other”. We were split into teams and then some severe limitations as to how we could communicate were introduced. The workshop exercised our creativity for communication, and espionage. It ended up with paper planes flying around the room, which led the team with the most effective communication and collaboration to victory. Friday also featured a wonderful solar eclipse, which we all had a chance to observe on a cloudless Vilnius sky.
Freshly manufactured paper planes ready to fly.
So there you have it! If you ever wonder what our STEs do for education and fun, now you know. We will definitely have another off-site week in the future, as it’s a great time to focus on our core tester skills, to learn new abilities and last, but definitely not the least, to increase our “tribal cohesion” – to interact and to feel like the team that we are!