Developer Week 2017 - Conference and Hackathon Review

General

I spent the majority of the past week in San Francisco attending Developer Week 2017. I had an amazing time and I am so glad I was able to attend. This conference amazing! While I definitely enjoyed some parts more than others, I learnt a lot and would definitely do it all over again.

Pre-Conference Hackathon

I spent some time leading up to this hackathon psyching myself out way more than I should. I know San Francisco is a more competitive environment that I am used to in Portland, and I managed to convince myself that I was going to be the worst coder there (even though my cousin was coming with me and I know I have way more experience than him). It was totally different than any hackathon I had gone to in the past, which also made things a little harder for me. I am used to having one topic or challenge for the hackathon, not 50. I got a little bit of choice overload and had trouble selecting a challenge to get started on.

I ended up spending a lot of time looking at the different products and reading a little about each one. I eventually started working on a project on FlockOS with my cousin. We didn’t get super far, but we had a great time learning and both walked away with a long list of things we wanted to try in the future.

I really enjoyed that so many different companies showed up with a variety of challenges for us to attempt on their own products. I got introduced to things I would not have otherwise been aware of. I also thought it was pretty cool that they had workshops scheduled throughout the day to introduce us to the different platforms brought forward by the sponsoring companies. It was great to be able to walk up to the developers of the program I was hacking on to ask my questions directly. Awesome experience!

Hiring Mixer

While this was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to this conference originally, it ended up being my least favorite part. It was such a small space and there were so many people looking for jobs that it was just about impossible to hear the people I was trying to talk to. The venue had music playing at the same time which made it that much harder. Also, with the number of people, it was difficult to move around and to get to all the booths.

Conference - Expo

The expo ended up being much more productive to my job search than the hiring mixer had been. It was a larger space and didn’t get as crowded as the hiring mixer. I think because it was opened for the full two days of the conference, people came and went over time which kept the noise levels down to a reasonable volume. I had a great time walking around to all the booths and getting a chance to talk to everyone. I felt that there here was a good variety of companies represented. I learnt a lot about new companies and also about companies I already knew a bit about. I am also definitely enjoying my 45 new awesome t-shirts!

Conference - Talks

I was worried going into this conference that I wouldn’t be able to find talks to go to since I only had the open ticket which didn’t have a lot of JavaScript. It was definitely not a problem at all! It actually made it better because it got me to go to talks I normally wouldn’t have, which expanded my interest in other areas of tech. I learnt a bit about bots and AI and discovered that it wasn’t as scary as I had previously thought. I went to a few talks on VR and even got my own VR set for mobile phones that I can play with now. It was all presented in a way that made it seem accessible. There were other talks that got more technical, but I still found that the speakers kept it interesting enough and explained everything well enough that I was able to follow along and never feel lost. I definitely added several topics to my list of things to learn more about.

With only one minor exception, I found all the speakers I heard to be excellent! I learnt something from everyone. Unfortunately, one speaker had to cancel last minute and a different person filled in who hadn’t had a chance to prepare. I don’t blame that speaker at all for being less engaging, and still enjoyed the talk well enough. For having no time to prepare and not being used to being a speaker, I think he did well. Certainly better than I would have been able to do even if I had prepared for a talk.

Conclusion

My overall score for this would definitely be a 1010! This is on my list of conferences to come back to next year. I think year two will be even better as I will know a little more about what to expect. I learnt a lot and certainly found myself inspired. This conference helped to reignite my love of code and technology that I had felt starting to fade recently.

I also found that this conference might have sparked a small interest in maybe giving a talk of my own at a smaller conference at some point. I don’t know what I would talk about and I’m not totally sure I am qualified to talk at one. I am also pretty terrified of public speaking to any number of people. I think I want to make this a two year goal all the same. Probably start with a smaller talk at one some of the meetups I go to regularly, and work my way up to giving a talk at one of the small local conferences.