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Recommended QA conferences for software testers of all stripes

Testing, QA and development conferences host a breadth of experts and helpful peers. From one-day vendor events to weeklong national shows, there's an option to fit your needs.

For software testers, QA conferences provide one of the best and easiest ways to learn about test techniques and innovations in the field. Additionally, testers can get to know a variety of peers, receive feedback on ideas and network with respected industry professionals -- all in just a few days. For those who are worn out or discouraged in their roles, QA conferences are great for recharging enthusiasm.

But there are many testing and QA conferences from which to pick. The right one depends on your goals.

If you want to learn about a specific tool or tool set, take a look at vendor-sponsored conferences. If you have a limited budget for travel and want to connect with similar testers, a regional conference should be a good fit. If your objective is to network and learn about new techniques, a national or international conference might be the best choice.

Vendor conferences

You can choose a conference, such as SeleniumConf or CukenFest for Cucumber, dedicated to a tool set that you'd like to learn. These conferences can help you acquire particular skills. Vendor-sponsored conferences, such as QASymphony's Quality Jam and Sauce Labs' SauceCon, offer presentations on test techniques and training tailored to specific products.

Regional options

There are also several high-quality regional conferences, such as QA or the Highway in Columbus, Ohio, or the TISQA Conference in Chapel Hill, N.C. TISQA stands for Triangle Information Systems Quality Association, and the nonprofit group is dedicated to software quality work around the Research Triangle Park area. TISQA is a federation chapter of the Quality Assurance Institute (QAI). Some regional conferences focus exclusively on QA and testing, while others center around development or Agile and DevOps topics. If you have the option, a local conference will likely entail less travel expenses than a national event and reasonable registrations fees -- usually less than $500 per attendee.

National conferences

For your first in-person experience, I recommend attending one of the national test and QA conferences. At a national conference, you likely will hear a wider variety of topics presented by speakers familiar with more macro-level testing trends, as opposed to at a regional event.

There are several TechWell conferences, such as STAREAST, STARWEST and STARCANADA, which offer a highly professional and engaging program with outstanding speakers. These conferences -- typically held sometime during May to April in Orlando, Fla.; September to October in Anaheim, Calif.; and October in Toronto -- include daylong certification courses for specific skills. These are the largest purely software testing conferences in North America.

Additionally, the QAI Global Institute puts on a good conference called QUEST. This show typically reels in about 400 attendees who are mostly practicing testers. It enables attendees to build relationships with peers, take certification courses and tests for specific skills and follow special tracks on subjects like Agile and test automation.

STPCon emphasizes the practical aspects of test management and execution, while offering opportunities to network with industry leaders and fellow practitioners. This conference occurs in the spring and fall and alternates between western and eastern U.S. locations. Several excellent QA conferences take place in Europe, including QA&Test, EuroSTAR, Swiss Testing Day and SEETEST. EuroSTAR, in particular, draws about 1,000 attendees.

Agile and DevOps shows

If you are in the midst of a transition to an Agile team or just want to learn some relevant techniques, Agile Testing Days offers plenty of topics on testing in an Agile environment. This conference includes presentations by top testing Agilists and also provides Lean Coffee and Open Space events -- in which industry experts answer attendees' specific questions. There are other social events and testing games designed to spread Agile testing expertise. Agile Testing Days was held in Germany for several years but came to the U.S. in 2018. It will be held in Chicago in 2019.

DevOps conferences can also prove valuable for your organization, even if it hasn't yet made a DevOps transition. Devopsdays runs as more than 50 one- to two-day conferences around the world, and they are inexpensive relative to other conferences. These conferences provide insights into how DevOps teams operate and what tools they use. They also feature Open Spaces with great discussions. Also, TechWell offers two Agile and DevOps conferences boasting a variety of topics and speakers.

The choice of which conference to attend is less important than making the most of it. Once you select a conference, take advantage of everything it offers, including tutorials, vendor expos, lunches, workshops and social events.

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