One session at WCNGT 2020 that particularly chimed with me was by Anaïs van Asselt on Sustainable Test Automation. She framed the challenges of test automation in terms of a garden and an ecosystem. It’s not the first use of the metaphor, but I liked the way this talk very neatly brought in both technical choices and social interactions, and the way she was able to connect different elements under that one scheme. A lot of the activities she highlighted were strikingly architectural: mapping out a technical toolset and its interactions, thinking about the underlying drivers for the design, and coaching stakeholders so they made decisions in the context of a larger system evolution.
I argued in Platform QA that for agile software contexts, if dedicated automation engineers have a role, it is one with a mandate for an entire platform. That also requires system design thinking, and partnership with architects, in the contemporary Gregor Hohpe sense. Michael Feathers has also has some good thoughts on organic structures and code gardening.