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Ellie goes to The Lead Developer London

by ElectricStudio, July 25th 2018
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Ellie is one of our backend developers here at Electric Studio, having joined last November. This is her write-up from the Lead Developer London conference that she attended last month.

The Lead Developer London 2018

At the end of June I was able to use my training budget to attend the Lead Developer conference in London. I love this conference. I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended every year since it began; it has a mixture of tech and people skills that I adore.

I enjoy the specific tech talks. They are wide-ranging and may not be something I’ll necessarily use immediately, but this is a great way to hear about things that may otherwise fall outside of my bubble. The talks on functional programming from Marek Rogola and on ReasonML from Jack Lewin both fell into this category – you never know when these seeds of knowledge will be useful. Alice Goldfuss’ keynote on containers was definitely useful. I class myself as a backend dev with minimal systems knowledge – Alice’s talk filled in a lot of gaps in my understanding of containers, and allowed me to more confidently put them aside as something that Electric Studio and our clients do not need right now.

This year I noticed an interesting set of talks that were about tech issues that we all face, but talked about more strategically than concretely – again, something that this conference with its broad tech focus allows where a more specifically-focussed conference may not. Julie Qiu talked about editing data in production – no, not via the UI, via the database, and yes, we all know it happens – and different strategies to implement balancing speed and safety. Jackie Balzer focussed on deployments, and how a well-designed deployment process helps to de-stress your developers. I hadn’t really thought about how much of a difference it makes, but ask me to deploy over FTP and watch those stress levels rise. Uberto Barbini talked about replacing legacy systems with the strangler pattern.

The people talks are what keep me coming back. You can find out a lot about tech online, but tech-specific people skills? Not so much. I felt there were loosely two categories of people talk this year: focussing on you, and focussing on the team.

Both Menno van Slooten and Dan Persa delivered insights into the ways that their self-images had had to change as a result of becoming leads, both reflecting on how it is more of a career change than a continuation. Alicia Liu went further, exploring how the stresses of changing role had affected her mental health and sharing strategies that she had found to help her overcome this. Christian McCarrick shared his tips for scaling yourself – how to get a lot done without burning yourself out.

The more team-focussed talks are sometimes a challenge for me to really absorb. Most of them are given by people who work in a more product-focussed environment and many seem to have worked with far larger teams than I’ve ever been a part of. But there are often tips and tricks that can be transferred.

Nickolas Means is an amazing storyteller, who was talking about blame via the story of Three Mile Island. His point that placing blame on individuals can prevent us from taking a more systemic approach to preventing things happening again is definitely something to be aware of, in any size or configuration of organisation. Kevin Goldsmith talked about using agile techniques to enable group communication, and I think that some of his techniques for defining roles and responsibilities may be useful even if done on my own. Clare Sudbury’s talk about learning was immensely entertaining, and caused some pennies to drop for me. Alex Hill looked at the interpersonal dynamics that come into play in code reviews, and how to make them useful rather than contentious. Dirkjan Bussink talked about some tips and techniques for working with a distributed team, and although we work in a single office there’s often one or more of us working from home so some of this felt useful.

Two amazing days covering a really wide range of information. Meri Williams and the White October Events team have knocked it out of the park again. Roll on next year!

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