It’s been multiple years since I wrote about the impressions from a tech conference. What took me so long? Well… First of all, the pandemic. Secondly, I attended one or two in the last few years, and some were online, but after many conferences under my belt, it’s getting harder and harder to surprise me. Especially as a QA in testing conferences, I repeatedly hear similar thoughts from familiar voices.

Comic on Agile Capture from Luxshan Ratnaravi’s talk at the Agile Meets Architecture 2022 conference

A colleague told me about Agile meets Architecture conference in Berlin in 2022. I saw one of the principal backend engineers showing his interest, and it sparked mine, too. I do like Agile. It’s essential for building a high-quality product. And I do find that architecture plays a huge role in the quality of the product, too.

Most frequently, I see companies deal with systematic problems which are not as straightforward to change (like processes, or the original architecture decisions). So, why not, I thought. I was a bit afraid that the Agile part may be too theoretical and represent some abuse of Agile I often see. Or that architectural talks would be too “technical” (I hate this term, by the way, I believe nothing can be too technical, just maybe too dry or technology-specific) and boring to me. Oh, could I have been more wrong?

I loved this conference. It’s been months since it happened. I keep on coming back to ideas I’ve heard, citing authors, and sharing learnings with my colleagues.

I waited patiently for more talks to be published so that I could share the links to them, too, in this post. So, the time has come to write down my top 5 (I started with 3, but there were way too many gems not to add two more!) talks and learnings from the Agile meets Architecture conference.

Pat Kua — Organising and Governing Evolutionary Architectures (Fitness Functions)

Pat Kua is one of the most inspiring tech leadership voices globally. With Rebecca Parsons (Rebecca’s talk “Building Evolutionary Architectures: Principles and Practices” at a conference is a bonus mention that I’d also highly recommend checking out on a high-level view on evolutionary architecture) and Neal Ford, Pat wrote “Building Evolutionary Architectures” book.

Did I think I’d ever read that before attending the conference? No. What do I think about that after seeing Pat’s talk? I cannot wait to read it and have recommended it to many colleagues.

This talk was my absolute favorite at the conference. It gives a brief explanation of evolutionary architectures and explains what a fitness function is. When I told my past colleague Birgitta (Birgitta also spoke at a conference on Cognitive Biases and Agile Architecture) how much I loved the talk, she laughed: “Of course you did. Isn’t it all testing?”.

It is. It’s about having confidence nets when you work on software. It’s about change and people. It’s about the fact that we cannot get things perfectly from the start. We make mistakes. We learn. We grow. So does our software. We need to learn how to… evolve.

“An evolutionary architecture supports incremental, guided change as a first principle along multiple dimensions.”

To evolve confidently, we can have a set of practices to support us, like fitness functions. It is a lot about intentionality. If we imagine the software as a garden, the fitness function will check if our new addition is “fit for the environment.” They can come in different shapes and forms, for example, having an automated health check for any service you set up. However, what I found extremely interesting was Pat getting into examples of fitness functions and explaining what could be better than our sometimes “naive” solutions (which I could recognize and was very curious to hear what to do instead).

YouTube link to the recording: Pat’s talk at Agile Meets Architecture 2022.

Aino Corry — What your mother never told you about agile development

This talk was the first I heard at the conference - it set the standard so high that I knew it would be an excellent conference.

Agile gets lots of misunderstandings, and as a result, many people see it as something they’re “allergic to hearing about.” I get that. Some of the so-called “agile coaches” I frequently got to work with felt like they did not understand what agile is in practice and just used their certificates or theoretical (mis)understanding.

As Aino said in her talk: “Sometimes I have to call myself something else than an agile coach. Sometimes I call myself an efficiency coach. Sometimes I call myself something completely different because if somebody sees an agile coach, they’ll be like: “Shhhhh… where’s the garlic?!”. We don’t want that person in there to waste our time.”

This talk is an enjoyable and entertaining session breaking lots of misconceptions about Agile. I also will never forget a conversation I had with Aino later:

You said, “no need for estimations.” What should we do if some stakeholders still insist on that?
You lie.

YouTube link to the recording: Aino’s talk at Agile Meets Architecture 2022.

Kenny Baas-Schwegler — Autonomy, is that what we really want?

Autonomy talk slide by Kenny Baas-Schwegler Kenny Baas-Schwegler presenting his talk at the Agile Meets Architecture 2022

I have heard the term “autonomous teams” countless times in the tech world. We believe in the concept of these teams who proactively solve all the problems without depending on others.

Does that really exist? Do we all want/can be autonomous?

There were so many great thoughts and funny moments in this talk. Management often says, “You’re autonomous. Go and do things”, but the team members may not feel like they’re ready/capable, or they may not even want that. So it’s essential to understand the nuisance.

Kenny nicely states in the talk: “As a manager, manage the mess. Do not just say that the team should just make the decision - they may not be able to. Support and empower so that the team is capable of making the decisions themselves.”

YouTube link to the recording: Kenny’s talk at Agile Meets Architecture 2022.

Thomas Much — How Testability Supports Your Agility

Thomas Much is a technical product owner. So listening to his talk was fascinating, and understanding that a PO can be involved in many aspects, even promoting testability, gave me hope for really heading towards building high-quality products.

YouTube link to the recording: Thomas’ talk at Agile Meets Architecture 2022.

Joshua Kerievsky — Agility in Software Architecture

Agility in Software Architecture talk capture The opposite of Agile is stuck, hurried, and rigid: Joshua Kerievsky presenting his talk

This talk is a talk full of excellent references in general and concepts. For example, Joshua mentions the need for confidence nets (which I love as a metaphor for tests for building software) with a real-life example of the San Francisco bridge construction and an actual physical net to protect the workers.

I also loved all the mantras and philosophical ideas in the talk, which also are depicted in the speaker’s just released "Joy of Agility" book.

YouTube link to the recording: Joshua’s talk at Agile Meets Architecture 2022.

Last words

Five talks, two extra mentions, and I could mention even more of the talks. The second day’s keynote blew me away with the inspiring talk “Developing sustainable empathy systems” by Sharon Steed. A wholehearted storyteller who is a black woman with a stutter. What a fantastic choice of the conference organizers.

This conference exceeded my expectations: a great lineup and valuable content. I highly recommend attending this conference for any leadership positions.

I want every company’s C-level to be there and hear why architecture and agile matter greatly in building healthy organizations with great quality products.