Posts Tagged

Conference

Weekly Post 14th Sep 2018

Welcome

Welcome to my weekly post. In this posts I share thought and ideas or fact that I have experienced during my last working week.

We are all too busy to actually write entire blog post on any small details, but small and concise info can be gathered in just a few minutes, and writing them down is helpful both for the writer ( allows him/her to think about the events) and for the readers (that could learn from it).

I really hope you enjoy it, and as with every of my post, I look forward to see feedback and comments.

Conference for president – SwanseaCon

No better way to start this post by thanking my company for giving me and many of my other colleagues, the opportunity to go and attend SwanseaCon. I have already shared my love for conferences in one of my previous post (Why sending your staff to conference is actually a good idea), but sharing my appreciation again does not harm! ūüôā

If you have never attended a conference I greatly suggest you to try and find one nearby. They can be costly at times, but there are always free tickets and promotions going around, and if you really try hard, you usually can get a good discount on prices!

If someone would ask me what is the main benefits for attending conferences, I would probably say that it is not just the “learning” part of it, but it is actually what I call the “eye opening” moments.

What I mean by “eye opening” is hearing attendees and speaker discussing the same problem that you are facing, the same issues that you are yet to resolve, and the same long lengthy meeting that you are forced to attend. In simple word, it help you realise that the neighbour lawn is not actually greener that yours. This conversation helps you to appreciate what you have, and in same ( mine) even feel blessed.

Help your peer

As many of you know, I am very keep in helping individuals around the globe to join our industry. I do this primarily because I really like to teach other people, but also because I am of the idea that teaching is the greatest learning tool existing on earth ( Maybe a topic for another day).

There are lots of fantastic movements around the world, that are helping people in learning the basic skills (freecodecamp, codeacademy, codementor), but unfortunately this is still not enough. My experience has shown me that the overwhelming part of a full time job in coding is actually encapsulated by the dozens of actions and tools that we all use on a day to day.

You may know the basic understanding of array and how to declare objects, but no many people actually help you learning the GIT branch and release processes, IIS website setup, Issue tracking tools (JIRA, TFS), SQL/MYSQL migrations, coding standards, etc…

The reason why I am mentioning it in my weekly post, is because I have accepted the first PULL request for one of my mentee. This can be a simple day to day activity for a seasoned developer, but I think for others can be a very important moment and I wanted to share my happiness!

The power of “face to face”

We live in a time where “remove working” is the cool job, where big offices are being replaced by small local ones, where people that seat just a few desk away prefer to contact you by Chat instead than have a proper conversation.

As much as people praise the above actions and movement, I am a still a strong believer that a good face to face discussion is un-replaceable. I am blessed to have good flexibility in work, and I use it just when I am in real need for it. I cannot deny that I am very productive, that if needed I am able to switch off all chat and really focus on my day to day activity, but I am also aware that all the chat and the conversation that I may be avoiding¬†could actually be more important than my “focus” time. ( I am aware that staying home does not mean that no meeting or conversation take place, but I get less disrupted when home).

In the company where I currently work full time, we have few offices, and this week there was a last minute sprint change that put me in “charge” of a team over 100 miles away. As much as I like my bed, and I like to be in the comfort of my office, I decided being able to have the “face to face” meeting was more important.

The team was willing of having “remote” meeting and was not too bothered about it, but I can guarantee¬†my visit made them more than happy.

The first good feedback that I saw was that everyone, knowing that I was going early in the morning, made a good effort of starting at a reasonable time to have “as much time as possible” together. Next, we manage to achieve so much in a single day, and it was all due to the guys great intensity in using my time wisely. Last but not least, during lunch, pleased from the great attitude I offered the team a coffee and we had a great break where we “bond” as a team.

I know many people that have been working remotely for years, and I am not saying anything against it, but personally I know that I prefer to share a desk and a coffee with someone instead than hiding behind a webcam. (probably because I am Italian, and I use my hands too much to just do a video call!)

The hard choices (Spaces or tabs)

This is the last point that I want to share with you all. In fact it happened on Friday, right before the end of my busy week.

If you have been a developer for many years, and if you are in a medium large company you have surely been part of a meeting like this before.

Due to some technical changes, I had to get together with the rest of my colleagues to “update” our existing coding standards. As the title show, this meeting turn our to be very hard indeed.

Unfortunately, everyone has personal preferences, and by the time you reach an advanced/senior level you will have a strong believe in your ideas.

I have found an happy medium in the past few years, where all the “coding standards” are decided democratically using questionnaire that are shared with all our developers. The advantage of this method is that it reduce the amount of arguments ( reduce not remove!)¬†but on the other hand it give no control at all one what will be decided.

As much as I suggest to you all to use the same approach, I warn you that people “preferences” still stand strong, so no matter if you manage to go through and decide once and for all if you will be using commas before or after, and the amount of spaces you want, this conversation will ALWAYS come back as soon as the work “coding standards” is mentioned. This means that you have been open to the possibility of changes overtime, if you like it or not.

I cannot say that I am happy to deal with coding standards and be part of this “hard choices”, but deep inside I feel good when having this conversation. The show that people care, they show that they want they voice heard, and you should never stop from happening, as hard as it is.

Summary

This week has been quite a roller coaster, even if I do not remember when it was the last time that I had a quite week. I really hope you enjoy the topics covered above, and please feel free to discuss and comments below or by contacting me on twitter.

 

Conference presentations – behind the scene

A few months ago, I was delighted to be part of the amazing DDDnorth conference that took place in Bradford. This time, I was actually facing the attendees as I was taking the role of speaker for the first time.

It was a truly amazing experience, and I want to share my afterthought with you all, in the hope that I will be able to convince some of you to take this extra step in your career.

The hidden Iceberg РThe preparation

Many website accept your talk from the abstract ( a few hundred words to explain the content of your talk), and many speaker actually do not prepare the actual talk until their talk has been submitted. I thought that was just my mistake, but it seem to be a big mistake from newbie that I am not going to repeat again.

The actual preparation that goes behind a conference session is immense. I have spent almost 25 hours changing and adapting the Powerpoint and another 20+ repeating it over and over until I got it just right. It would have been fine if you share this over an extensive period of time, but do it between being approved and the actual talk ( less than a month) was not a great idea, and I really suggest you all to learn from my mistake!

I have been lucky to keep an initial copy of my presentation, and I have been able to compare it with the final one. It is admirable how much it changed. I am not just talking at the actual design of the slide or the odd pictures, but the overall content and message that the presentation broadcast to the audience.

This is probably one of the main reason why sometimes the abstract can be quite different from the actual presentation.

A journey to self discovery

Writing an abstract to submit a Call for paper (CFP), is quite easy. We all have our “special” topic that we like to discuss, or a personal experience that we want to share, and this is usually good enough to draft down the bare bones of a presentation. But the real work needed to actually create enough content to present a whole session is a different story.

Spending time, trying to put your thought on paper is not easy, I actually felt the pain of all writers, that have something beautiful stuck in their head, and do no know the best way to share it with others. Luckily I was surrounded by great people, I would ask you all to ask and get people involved, because there is nothing better to actually share your thoughts to give you the energy and the power to continue and make a great presentation.

When I applied to be a speaker, I actually thought to know enough on the topic, and did not think that I needed to do any research, but I was completely wrong. You can never know too much! I have learned so much on my specific topic, and the feedback from other speaker was completely the same! Some people have even confessed, that the main reason why they speak at conference or write blog post is to “force” themselves to actually research and study specific topics in details.

The main event

There are no nice words that I can share, or special powder that will save you from the “Speaking anxiety”. Some people are affected more than others, and luckily I coped very well with it.

If Anxiety does hit, I can only suggest to remember that it is too late to back now, so do you best, if thing goes wrong, just work hard and try again! We are all humans after all!!

In my case, I felt amazingly energetic after I started my session. For the first time I really felt like all the preparation, all the hard work and all the hours talking by myself were finally worth it! Having lots of people staring at you can be scary, but remember that people are not there to judge you, but they have joined your session because they think you and your topic are worth the time!

The actual talk and questions time will fly! You will not believe how quick it will be before someone will warn you of the time!

The after event will be the best part of the conference for you, it is the time to try and get as many feedback as possible, because do not forget that the aim is always getting better and improve, so even if you did something wrong, you just need to focus and see what you can do to improve and not focus too much on the actual mistake!

Conclusion

I have personally loved it, and I cannot wait to do it again. The amount of work that goes behind it is incredible, so make sure you are really ready for it, and give 150% of yourself, but do not let this get you down because the personal satisfaction is the feeling of accomplishment that you receive at the end cannot be explained!

 

 

Conference, why send your staff is actually is a good idea

It’s Monday morning, I am getting ready to leave the house, but this time something is different, instead than actually going to work, I am going to¬†SwanseaCon¬†an agile development and software craftsmanship conference based in Swansea. I have actually been very lucky, as this is the 3rd time that my company has allowed employers¬†to attend this conference, and today I have decided to share my thoughts on, why sending your staff to a conference is actually a good idea.

The usual excuses

  • It is too expensive
  • We do not have time for this
  • I do not want my staff to leave (conference are always full off recruiters).
  • The topics are not specifically helpful for our workflow

You may have heard these sentences many times before. because these are the usual excuses used by employers to convince themselves that they have done the right thing. But the reality is different.

Extend your horizons

The main benefits in attending a conference, is that it extends your horizons, allows you to see outside the box, it connects you with the rest of the industry. All this can actually support a single individual growth, but also be very beneficial to the whole company.

Spending some time with people around the same industry, can be an eye opening moment. It can highlight point where the company is succeeding, for example in our case I have been able to find out that our current implementation of agile is actually in a better and more mature stage than I actually thought, or provide insight on your failures, highlighted by a single discussion with others attendees that have clarified our lack of microservices and continuous delivery that seems to be the norm around the room.

Support teams

Speaking with other attendees is fantastic, but the strength of conference could actually be closer than you think. You may be working in a company for many years, and had the same colleagues for years, but how many time have you stopped and had a technical conversation with your tech colleagues that did not involve work related issue?

Allowing your teams to attend conference could be very beneficial in supporting them. It could enforce the team bonding and help team members share information that would otherwise been kept from the rest of the team.

Giving them a chance to go around will actually make people happy, and happiness increase productivity that it will directly affect your business.

Having very well structured team that feel unified and can work well together is priceless and should be encouraged when possible.

Do not give them reason to leave

The harder conversation to have with your manager is about recruitment and possibility of your staff being approached from other recruiter, and I would be a liar not to admit it. But maybe we should actually approach this subject in a different way.

Would the fear of loosing people, actually help us to see what the company is doing wrong? Denying an employer to go to a conference, it is not the actual solution to the problem, because it will not prevent him leaving, but just delay the inevitable.

This events should actually be used to analyse your position in the industry and see why your staff would ever attempt to leave.. Is is about benefits? are you underpaying them? are you pushing them too much, without proper remuneration? maybe this are the real problem and not actually granting them the chance to attend a conference or a meet up.

Conclusion

I cannot thank my company enough for giving me this opportunity, it support me immensely and in return I try to pay the company back in return.

Conferences can be expensive, and I am not trying to convince you to actually send your staff to every¬†single one around, because that would not be manageable. I am really of the opinion that being active in the community, supporting your staff and making them feel comfortable to go around and share their knowledge and “advertise” your company should actually be encouraged because it will support not only the personal individual but it will also support the whole company.