The past two days, I have been attending Glue Conference in Broomfield, CO. As they say, “Glue is a case study of what a conference is supposed to be.” Being a new software developer, it was the first tech conference I’ve ever attended, so I don’t have a gauge on whether or not it was better or worse than the average. That being said, I can say that I really enjoyed myself and learned A TON. Here are some of my reflections on the past 48 hours.
- You learn a LOT about emerging technologies and best practices for design and development. At my work, we have an API that our customers can interact with to integrate with their own software. We use Swagger to document our API, which works pretty well for our needs. One of the seminar tracks offered at GlueCon was all about APIs: design, implementation, maintenance, and deployment. What I took for granted at work was suddenly demystified; suddenly I could understand WHY our API was designed the way it is. Hearing people talk about big ideas helps you go beyond the HOW of developing.
- You get to have fun! I came into the conference with a very serious attitude. I told myself, I would be professional, network, and learn as much as I could. But everyone else seemed to have a different agenda. Obviously, people are there to learn and network, but they are also there to catch up with friends, make new ones, and just talk about what they’re interested in. I had a great time meeting tons of people, exchanging information, and just being able to share my excitement about being an up and coming developer. As an added bonus, you get a ton of free swag at these events – STICKERS GALORE!
- The keynote speakers are excellent. While some of the breakaway optional lectures were not the most exciting, all of the keynote speakers were quite good. While I wasn’t always able to follow them exactly (like the one about data encryption and authorization), I did get a sense of the scope of their ideas and the issues they were trying to address. More importantly, I learned how I fit in this grand ecosystem of development. It’s exciting when you begin to understand the role you play as a developer.
- You get to ask questions. Go to the booths and talk to people. Usually they want you to know all about their product, and if you don’t know what they’re talking about, they are willing to break it down and explain it to you. Before yesterday, I really had no idea what proxies were, but a gentleman at linkerd was willing to help me understand how their product fit in side-by-side with any existing app. Because there are so many people with so many specialties, you have the opportunity to be brave, ask questions, and learn so much from experts.
- You will feel like you know nothing. As a new developer, I was overwhelmed by the many facets of development that I still don’t understand. Most of the attendees were much older than me and had be in the tech industry for multiple decades. They would make jokes about the old days when they had to manage fires with their deployment and all I really know is how to use heroku to deploy my apps. That being said, it motivate me to work harder and try to be a more complete developer. I don’t necessarily need to be an expert in everything, but understanding my place will make me a stronger coder in the long run.
- Some people are not friendly. Just a couple of times, I mentioned that I was a Ruby on Rails developer and the person I was talking to straight up scoffed at me. Another time, someone tried to make a joke about how they felt sorry for my struggles. Look, I understand that maybe you don’t like Ruby or you might have opinions on my language of choice, but that doesn’t mean you have to be dismissive. I found the best way to approach this behavior was to just smile, carry on, and try to leave as soon and politely as possible. I’d rather spend my time talking to people who are willing to help me grow as a coder and not just patronize my career path.
- Some presentations are not good. There’s no getting around attending a few sub-par presentations. Not everyone can be a rock-star public speaker/developer/comedian/motivational speaker/coder/graphic designer. There was one talk I attended that was difficult to follow, and I tried my best to stay engaged and learn something. But I learned nothing because the speaker was too quiet and the content wasn’t presented well. Since conferences are very long and exhausting, my advice would be to leave the room, take a walk, get some fresh air, and recharge for the next few hours.
- Go register for a conference! They are AWESOME.
- Look for scholarships online or ask your company for a subsidy. Maybe your boss is super nice and will support you if you’re going for a specific reason.
- Email people you want to meet before hand. Personally, I got a lot out of GlueCon specifically because I was able to meet with Lee Hinman from Elasticsearch, who gave me some great advice on implementing Elasticsearch into our Rails app at work.
- Go to the keynotes addresses. You may not understand everything the speakers are talking about, but you’ll definitely learn something.
- Take breaks. Go to the vendors and get some swag or go for a walk. It’s hard to sit through 6 straight hours of lectures.
Personally, I think GlueCon is amazing and I am definitely going to return next year. Hope to see you there!
People start to trickle in and the exhibitors get fired up
Joe Beda talks about authorization in the modern world