Why I speak at conferences

15 Jan 2019 - Tags: speaker, conference, evangelist

I have recently counted the number of conferences listed here on my blog, and I realized that I am over 50 talks! I decided to write this post about why I have started and why I speak at conferences as celebration.

Community

Everything started when I learned how to develop. When I left university (it was not the best accomplishment) I began to work in one of the Lab to build a CMS in PHP to manage their instruments. It was my first experience ever and the worst scenario I was a solo-man in that company. Kind of a dangerous first job to me I that’s why I call my experience a community-driven success. I wrote the application three times:

  1. Spaghetti code until I reached the limit for the codebase.
  2. partially re-wrote it with Classes.
  3. I jumped into IRC, and I discovered the community behind Zend Framework.

They helped me to figure out how to write the proper version of it. I am in love with all this open source people that were there to help a newbie like me, and I discovered the PHP Meetup in my city, Turin. Thank the people I met during an event I got my second job in a proper company, with other developers and servers in the basement!

To summarize, the community gave me a lot since my first day: things to learn, new friends and mentors, and a job. It is natural to return everything I can.

I gave my first talk at one of the local Meetup about Vagrant in 2013. I heart about it on some IRC channel; it was not popular in Italy yet. So the perfect chance to give something back to all the people that helped me.

Today after a couple of years technologies and motivations changed, but this is how I started. I like to be part of a community, that’s why open source is so important to me. And I want to share what I do and to learn from other people.

Italy is too small

The side effect about being part of an open source community is globalization. You have teammates from everywhere, and you discover great use cases every day. The way I look at Computer Science requires new challenges and issues to solve, and I am not ready to take a nap solving too easy problems. This means that I need to take risks, I changed a lot of companies, and to do that, in some way you need to share what you are capable off, you need to put your face out there.

This is a rephase from a recent tweet from @rakyll or at least how I interpreted it.

Speaking at conferences is an excellent way to discover what other teams are doing and to meet smart dudes that can turn out to be great mentors.

Remote Work

Two years ago I went back from Dublin, and I decided to try remote working. I enjoyed it, and it is hard for me to get back at the moment. Working at home means that I don’t have a lot of social interaction. I am alone for about 8 hours a day, you can fix it moving to a coworking, but conferences or meetups are a great way to get out! You don’t need to go far away, that’s why I run a meetup in Turin about cloud computing feel free to let me know when you jump in if you would like to speak.

Conclusion

I am not a developer advocate, and I don’t work in the marketing or sales team for this reason you need to have support from your company. This is not easy, a lot of people think that if you have social skills and you are not similar to a robot you are not a good coder.

I always had managers that helped me to keep going, and I appreciate it. I work in a startup and time to time is InfluxData that needs technical people at the conferences that they sponsor, and luckily I love to speak about topics that are related to what I do at work or to what my company does like monitoring, observability, distributed system, and clouds, so I am always happy to go!

That’s it! Let me know why you speak at conferences via @twitter, and I hope my experience will help more people to share their experiences; you are great! I will probably follow up with other articles about how I approach a conference or an abstract so let me know if you would like to read it as well!

not really!

During the process or writing and digesting this post I realized how important conferences are for me as person and how sad is that not everyone can enjoy them as I do even if they would like to do it. There are plenty of reasons but I am not speaking about laziness here. I am speaking about under represented people or who can not afford to pay or it is not supported by its company.

Luckily there are a lot of groups that we can support to mitigate this problem and to figure out new ways to bring more people in and to build a comfortable and friendly environment for everyone. This is a win for everyone! ProjAlloy, WhomanWhoCode accepts donations, but even if you can not give money our you can look around when you attend a conference in order to be nice and how to make everyone around you too feel good!

Best Regards, Gianluca

[1] if you don’t know where to start you can pick a Meetup close to your place! They are always looking for a speaker and a smaller community can help you to give your first talk! I usually try my new talks in a meetup too!

[2] Be open during interviews, if you like to speak at conference you need to convince the new company that it is a valuable skills for them too!