Recently I have been attending Code Craft, a local meetup in Glasgow where people talk about… well, code craftmanship, of course! The main difference from a lot of meetups I go to is that it’s not just one or two people up giving a talk to an audience, it’s a group of developers around a table in a bar, talking about coding best practices, and getting some rants about bad practices off their chest! Although I was at first too intimidated to go along, the introvert in me couldn’t cope with the idea of going to a bar with no one I knew and talking about my coding skills! But when I finally did I realised that #1: I actually knew a bunch of people there and #2 there was no need to be intimidated, everyone was nice and encouraged input from all.
So, when I had the chance to go to their annual conference: CodeCraftConf, I was super excited. On 15th September I went along to Citizen M Glasgow to spend the day with about 60 other developers chatting about code!
The format of CodeCraftConf is very different to other conferences as there is no speakers, no slide decks, no keynote. It’s about wanting to “put the confer back into conference”. This takes the format of a series of Guided Conversations. You can read more about that here, but it is basically a group of people having a conversation about a given topic. It isn’t completely unstructured though, there is a guide who has prepared questions to help get the conversation kicked off and keep it going.
Another unusual point for tech conferences, they encouraged us not to tweet and use our phones the whole day. For someone who tweets a lot and uses their phone as her comfort blanket in social situations, this was a welcome change! Therefore this blog post, unlike others of mine, isn’t full of pictures as I was too busy chatting to people to take any :)
There were so many interesting topics but the ones I particularly liked weren’t necessarily code craftmanship related! But were based around how other organisations approach things. For example, “Developer Interviews”. This session spoke about formats for developer interviews from both the perspective of interviewee and the recruiting company. I personally don’t agree with the developer interview cliche of putting someone in front of a whiteboard as a way of testing someone! So, it’s interesting hearing how other companies carry out their recruitment process and how best to decide on who joins your team.
I also enjoyed the “Personal Development” session. This is something that interests me: how can we possibly keep up with how quickly the industry moves?! I was keen to hear what others do, some examples of this was: exams/ certification, “20% time”, going to conferences and just having unallocated time to read up on blogs or tutorials. An interesting point from this was the conversation around who’s responsibility is it: the developer or their company to provide the time for this? We also discussed what would count as personal development: must it be technology based or should or companies give us time to pursue other activities (wakeboarding was the go to example!) that won’t directly impact our productivity at work.
My session: Mental health side of development
Leading a guided conversation is something I could never imagine doing even a year ago and I am really pleased I made myself say yes to putting myself in a new situation. My topic was based on many separate conversations I have had with developer friends about pressures, stress and anxiety in this job. It was really great to have a room full of people being honest about mental health, acknowledging why it’s important to spot signs of burn out and the role of organisations in helping their employees.
At a few points throughout the day there were lean coffee sessions where you can just drop in and take part in a session if none of the guided conversation or workshops were suitable for you. These are where the topics are suggested and voted on by the group… democracy! I have done one of these sessions at a monthly meetup code craft before and I quite like it. If you aren’t interested then you only need to deal with it for about 6 minutes!
I would recommend CodeCraftConf to developers of any level in their career, I think exposure to people from all different parts of the industry, using different tech stacks is really important to not get stuck in the “this is how we do things” mentality. But, you don’t need to wait til next year… come along to monthly sessions! I have only been to a few but there are some interesting formats like guided conversations and lean coffee. Follow @codecraftuk on twitter to get announcements on these.
One more thing.
A big well done to the organisers of CodeCraftConf for such a well organised conference, but also for something I noticed... Having a look at the sessions I noticed *another* welcome change from the usual tech conference: a 50/50 gender split in the guides leading the conversations! This is so awesome and important for other women (and men!) to see women leading conversations. High five to Code Craft organisers, for showing other conferences it CAN be done, there is no excuses for all male speaker line ups!
And thanks to everyone who said hello or followed up on some points of the conversations with me, it was really nice to meet everyone and take part in such a unique conference.