One of the things Covid took away was offline Conferences. Although we moved them online, I have never gotten used to it.
I was so glad to see that it is again starting and we can meet face to face again, learn from each other, have fun and discover new people and countries.
SQA Days in Minsk were my first abroad conference ever as a speaker back in 2015. Since that time, I visited this conference several times and I got an invitation also this year.
However, It was a quite tough decision this time, because of war of course. But on the other hand, before the war, many participants were from Ukraine and it was always a very friendly atmosphere.
My personal opinion, confirmed by many attendees, is that most of the IT sector in Russia and Belarus does not support the war. It is also confirmed by the fact that several thousand of IT people left to Armenia and decided to stay there. Armenia was chosen as the place to host SQA Days this year and so I decided to go, also a bit motivated to discuss these topics with attendees. Almost everybody I talked to during the conference was of the same opinion – the war is bad, it is a mistake.
But enough politics, let me share how it was in Armenia – spoiler alert – it was great.
The first interesting thing, I am not fun at all, is that almost all flights to Armenia are at night. So I left my home at about noon on Wednesday, just to have a good buffer for security control in Cracow and I was really surprised, there were no queues at all – lucky me.
A different story was in Warsawa, the flight was delayed by almost 2 hours, so I arrived in Yerevan at 4:30 AM local time. Take a taxi and went directly to bad.
BTW: having a room with number 404 was funny, lady at the reception did not get the joke about the not existing room.
On Thursday I met with one of the friends I made thanks to Conferences, Olivier Denoo, and we went for interesting sight sightseeing and lunch. I say interesting because some parts of the city are really nice, but you walk another 100m to another street and it is not nice anymore. However, it is always safe and I had no feeling of fear at all.
After lunch, I went to see the Cascades with a nice view of the entire city and the monumental mountain of Ararat.
The beautiful thing about Armenia is, that weather was like our summer, 28 degrees of Celsium, but always a bit windy, so very nice.
Friday – sightseeing day
SQA Days is always a 2-days conference, but this time I had a talk on Saturday, so I decided to take Friday off and went on a full-day bus tour to several monasteries, caves, and wineries. It was one of the best guided tours I have ever been on. Big kudos to our guide, that guy was simply amazing, he was very friendly but most importantly he really knew Armenia’s history very deeply and gave us a lot of details. I took this particular trip but there are many others on Trip Adviser and I would recommend you to book them there and avoid street sellers.
We started near the hotel, which was located on the main square of Yerevan and even the ride to the first monastery was really interesting. We could observe a huge difference between different neighborhoods of the city and one interesting fact is, that all their factories were located on one side of the city. Why? Because of wind? It always goes in one direction so the smoke is not polluting the city itself.
We were riding on the main road, but do not imagine the main highways you know from Europe, this was tarmac, but quite bad and only online in each direction. Every few hundred meters there were local farmers selling fruits, vegetables, etc. along the road. I quickly recognized the most common car in Armenia must be an old Lada – you can see them everywhere.
The first target of our trip was the monastery Khor Virap located under the mountain of Ararat very close to Turkish borders. The view was simply amazing and we were quite lucky because there was no fog or clouds, so the mountain was nicely visible.
We continued by bus to see the T’rchuneri (Bird) Cave. It took about one hour and the views were astonishing – going over high mountains and through small villages and listening about Armenia’s history.
The cave was small, very different from the ones we have in Czech. It was interesting to see one of the oldest vessels to store wine – more than 6000 years old. Also, the leather shoe was found there dated to be older than 5500.
After the cave, we went for a wine tasting in a local winery and lunch. I really like the way how Armenian are serving food – a lot of vegetables, cheese, etc.
Our last stop was the amazing monastery Noravank – located just a few kilometers from the cave but really up in the mountains. Simply perfect. One interesting fact about churches in Armenia is that there are no paintings, decorations, etc. They are saying you should focus on praying, not on art.
In the evening we had a nice dinner with the local ISTQB community and I really enjoyed it. I am not part of ISTQB but I have friends there and I think they did and are doing a lot of great work for the community and industry. Of course, I disagree with some ideas, I do not like certification in general, but that it is not a point.
Point is, that I really hate when some other people fight against ISTQB or any other group and attack it being very aggressive. We could disagree, and we could have many differences, opinions, and beliefs, but still, we should be working together to make our craft of testing better, not fighting each other – it is sometimes very sad to see how our industry is divided. Why? Money? Maybe… Probably… But it makes me sad…
Saturday – Conference day
I had my talk right in the morning as the first talk of the second day. My topic was Exploratory testing for beginners and I split my talk into two parts – theory and exercises. I really enjoyed it and the audience too – at the end, I won a prize for 2nd best speaker of the conference, so after several 4th places, I was finally on the podium. Congratulations to the winner – Joel Oliveria, who delivered three different talks in two days – good job my friend, I do not understand how you can switch between three topics in such a short time 🙂
I attended several other talks on Saturday having an interesting experience – simultaneous translation to English. It is quite common in Eastern countries that attendees are not good enough in English so every talk is translated into Russian live. This time there were also translating Russian talks back to Czech and finding it very challenging to listen and focus – everything is delayed by a few seconds so the speaker’s non-verbal communication is not synchronized with your listening – very hard for me.
I traveled back on Sunday morning leaving the hotel at midnight and it took me about 16 hours to arrive at home. Thank you, Vipul Kocher, for the great company and conversation at the airport – it is always nice to talk about something else than work, and thanks to you I learned quite a lot about India, the historical education system there, etc.
At the end, thank you Vladislav Orlikov for organizing the conference and inviting me again, it was really nice to see you all after a such long time.