The only free tickets that I have ever received have all turned out to be more glorified marketing exercises than anything else, so when Women Who Code awarded me a free pass to the Java DevOps conference, my luck finally turned.
After a 4am start, closed tunnels, electronic customs failures and a plane delay, I arrived at a very nice hotel by London Victoria Station in early April for two days of talks from 'renowned pioneers of the software industry' presenting 'the most important trends and visions'. The DevOps conference covered continuous delivery, microservices, container technologies, cloud platforms and agile processes.
I am currently a scrum master working with technical teams at BearingPoint, a 300 person IT/consultancy in Dublin with 11,000 people worldwide, and so I was particularly interested in the agile sessions, as well as continuous delivery and microservices, both of which are areas particularly relevant to our current projects.
Given the focus on DevOps, I should have probably expected the gender disparity, but was still surprised to see just three women in an audience of 60 at one of the first sessions. In fairness to the organisers though, the first two talks I went to were both women presenters, as was one of the three keynotes, but it’s definitely an area with a strong gender bias if the conference attendees were anything to go by.
A few sessions were particularly memorable, with some key personal learnings for me:
‘Agnostic agile’ from Antonio Cobo (Open Credo) has its own website (http://agnosticagile.org/), and emphasised the fact that one size of agile doesn't fit all, and that the focus should be on helping clients attain the right level of agility that meets their needs, remembering that this may be a gradual process. This has been something I've been thinking about for some time, having experienced attitudes of 'if it's not absolutely totally agile, it's not right' from strong believers in the agile way of doing things, and it was nice to hear there is a group of people out there thinking about a more pragmatic approach.
A keynote on blockchain by Barbara Mellish (Centre for Citizenship Enterprise & Governance Think Tank) showed how technology could be used by people to promote specific values. Her organisation is helping people create cryptocurrencies supporting specific groups in society, with ones for women, and students already in existence, and an African currency 'Ubuntu coin' in development.
An ‘Effective leadership’ session was led by Micheil Rook (Touchdown Consulting Service), a soldier from the Netherlands. The management/leader axis and where particular types of actions lie on it was very interesting for me, particularly in relation to how you move along it, although some of the soundbites like 'shouting is a sign you've lost control' were thankfully more relevant for home life than work life.
There was also an interesting keynote ‘Money on Autopilot’, on the future of banking apps. A Swedish app, Tink, connects 400,000 Swedes to all their bank accounts in one interface, no need for multi-logons any more, and with a view in the future to get it to auto-renegotiate your mortgage for you to ensure you're on the best terms, find the best gas/electric supplier for you and autoswitch. The idea was all about taking a lot of the drudgery out of finances, which is one that makes you think ‘it’s so obvious, and so neat’ but also one which gives you pause for thought over how much control machines will have over our lives in the future.
Sessions on microservices and the value of testing architectures (Daniel Bryant, Big Picture Tech), and how dashboards can change cultures (Steve Poole from IBM using Dashing) were great and definitely food for thought.
It was a great opportunity for me to attend this event, and I hope that many more people will get the chance through Women Who Code. If you see something you're interested in on their event lists, it's definitely worth applying. You just never know!
For my key takeaway from the conference, I ended up paraphrasing Jackie Balzer from Adobe, in a talk entitled 'Continous Integration/Continuous Delivery for Humans', who said 'Great art is heart work'. We have to remember people are human, both our developers and our users and we need to design – whether it be working practices or interfaces - with that in mind. We are lucky to work in an industry where so many people love what they do. Keep learning, keep connecting, keep improving.