That Conference 2017 - My Experiences

Well, the Przylucki clan has returned from another fun, entertaining, informative, and enlightening excursion to Wisconsin for That Conference.  I wanted to put down some of my thoughts and what I took away from the three days here while it was still fresh in my head.

One of the big things I traditionally take away from attending That Conference has been the spotting of trends in the industry.  What is the coolest, hottest, slickest new thing that everybody is doing? It has been fairly easy to spot most years.. Microservices? Docker? Git? Cloud computing? Xamarin forms? Node.js? yup, I've seen those things come in from year to year and have a strong presence on the schedules of many of the past years.  Also, I've learned to pay attention to those things, and even make myself go attend talks on those topics, even when it may not have been something on my radar previously.  While it may not be something I'm doing today, it's a fair bet that it's something I will be better off having some familiarity with in the not too distant future.  Git? yup, I'm working on that now. Node? sure, while I'm not currently doing Node, a little background and knowledge is helping me as my current client is starting to add that, and we have to create build and releases for it... Things like Docker and Microservice architecture are not something that I've gotten my hands in to yet, but I know its coming, just a matter of time...  

So going in to this year, I was looking for "that thing" that I needed to go get my head wrapped around.  This year however, I had a hard time finding "that thing".  Not sure if there was just not one overriding thing, or if the That Conference organizers had made a more concerted effort to not have as much overlap in topics, but going in I just didn't see it.  There were topics like AI, or programming Alexa tasks, or Docker that had multiple sessions, but nothing was hitting me in the face as the thing to go do.  So I went in more loosely on my session selection this year than I have in the past, intent on looking for the thing I wanted to see more in the moment that as rigidly planned out as I had in the past.  Now looking back on things, especially after looking at all of the Open Spaces sessions that were added during the week, I think that "thing" this year may have been React.. and I didn't react fast enough to make it to a React session.

As always, I took away a good deal from the daily keynotes, and this year in particular, I really enjoyed Brian Hogan's talk on Combatting Fear.  The ideas on stepping up and recognizing where you're being held back by fear, and then leading and fostering a community that is capable of breaking through fear was energizing and inspiring.  

Some of the other top sessions that pop to the top of my head are:

  • Chris Powers' talk "TDD Like You Mean It" - talking through TDD, while actually doing it really was a great way to drive home the points of making TDD your default programming pattern. This is something I really need to practice more and work on, and even though this was not my first exposure to TDD ideas, this talk was super helpful
  • Angela Dugan's talk on agile teams and how to get them unstuck was a great look in to common pitfalls and how to identify them, and strategies for getting through them.  Always a great topic for me to hear, helpful info, lots of learning for me.
  • Cecil Phillip's talk on Microservices discovery patterns was super helpful and informative.  As somebody that's not really working in a Microservices architecture right now, I left this session feeling like I made a huge leap in understanding and knowledge on how it practically works and can be leveraged in an enterprise.
  • Scott Davis' talk entitled "He is the most Paranoid Developer in the World" lived up to its name, and was both super informative, and fascinating.  The lengths he has had to go to in order to properly safeguard and secure his mobile game showed us all just what vulnerabilities are out there, especially when building mobile apps, and gave a lot of food for thought on how to think through how and what you want to keep secret and secure.
Plenty of great take-aways from all of those, as well as the other topics on Devops, or Alexa, or JSON Web Tokens, or Waterfall to Agile transformations that I attended. Loved it all. I came out this end better prepared for life as a consultant than I started with.

And of course, it is That Conference, and the family aspect of this is great.. Over the years, my boys have loved intro to programming courses, minecraft hacking sessions, internet security talks, and on and on.  Now I find after going for four years on, that my now teenage boys are finding less and less that interests them.  This year the big hit was for my 13 yr old son and the "Science around the Campfire" put on by Sage Wheeler.  He saw that Oobleck was going to be in play there, and he was sold.. and he came out of that session smiling and a happy boy having had a chance to geek out playing with science.

So plenty of learning, plenty of growing, great stuff for the family, all wins, but the fun side of That Conference is also very special, whether it was running That5K, or enjoying time at ThatWaterparkParty, or playing with my boys at ThatGameNight, or just eating all the bacon, lots of great time for the week. Had all of ThatFun!

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