That Conference 2014 – My first speaking gig!

Last week, I attended my first ThatConference ever with my husband and teenaged kids and truly enjoyed the experience. The drive was a bit long but thankfully uneventful. Best of all, there were no road closures due to snow storms the way there was when some co-workers and I drove to CodeMash in January.

Our first ThatConference experience was the lining up for pre-registration on the Sunday night. The lineup was surprisingly long but, as a speaker for the conference (my first official conference speaking gig ever), I was invited to skip to the front of the line with my family, a luxury I am very thankful for!

We then spent a little while getting our bearings in the conference centre and checking out the room I would speak in. Here and there, I ran into speakers or people I had previously met at CodeMash so there were a few familiar faces in the crowd.

The next 3 days disappeared in a blur. Conference sessions, food, great conversations, and waterpark activities made up most of my days. Here’s a quick summary of the sessions I attended:

Pushing Data to Millions of Devices in Seconds – Chris Risner: Chris gave an overview of the Azure Push Notification Service. He covered some of the challenges encountered with high scale notifications as well as the various implementation decisions you might wish to make depending on your usage scenario.

Leon’s Allegory of the Cave – Leon Gersing: Leon started his entertaining talk with finger puppets but quickly moved on to meatier content as he moved through Plato’s allegory of the cave and mapped it to our own lives, encouraging us to be both teacher and student and to honor the journey of those beside us.

The Open Source Survival Guide for Women – Coraline Ehmke: Though I was interested in the topic of open source contribution, I hesitated attending this session because it was targeted to women and my personal philosophy is that gender should have no impact on the subject at hand. I felt my fears had been justified when Coraline kicked off her presentation by asking the dozen or so of us to introduce ourselves and tell the group about a childhood fictional hero of ours. She then walked us through her own personal guide for carving a niche in the open source world. To get a foot in the door, she suggested either starting our own projects or getting involved by fixing bugs or writing documentation for tools you are passionate about in order to build a reputation and a circle of connections. Once the community knows your dependability and your skill level, it’s easier to get involved in the actual development of tools. In spite of the shaky premise and doubtful start, the content was well worth attending.

Read World SPA: A Knockout Case Study – Corey House: Corey walked us through a SPA he and his team developed using Knockout and a whole slew of other tools. He explained the motivation behind the choice of the various tools and described the benefit derived from using them. He also explained the reasoning behind some of the less intuitive choices that the team made that appear to go against what are touted as best practices.

Machine Learning – Recommender Engine and Anomaly Detection – Seth Juarez: Seth’s presentation was awesome. Through well-though-out demos, he showed us the various strategies behind machine learning. My teenaged kids who chose to attend this session as well understood and had their mind blown by how powerful the results are yet how simple the math that makes it all possible is.

How to Build Amazing Creative Music Apps for Windows – Pete Brown: Pete showed music apps and used them to outline the various elements that make an app “good”. There was no programming in this session. The session was focused more on guidelines to adhere to in order for your app to be as great as some of these other ones.

Keep Your Campfire Secrets… Secret – Robert Boedigheimer: This session provided a nice review on the basics of the various cryptography algorithms, their strengths, weaknesses, and recommended usage scenarios.

High Speed Coding in VS with CodeRush – Mark Miller: This was a fun-filled session in watching an expert show off the various CodeRush features that simplify software development. It made me realize that it would be well worth my time to become more proficient with this tool.

The Sketchnote Mini-Workshop – Mike Rohde: This was a hands-on session where, rather than write down notes in words, we were encouraged to develop our own dictionary of glyphs and images we could leverage in a note-taking situation. The presenter then invited us to draw a treehouse and then present our artwork to the rest of the class.

“OMG! This Codebase Sucks!” Paying Down Technical Debt While Continuing to Deliver Value – Jim Homes: Jim outlined the process which should guide an organization when it is considering tackling technical debt: Should we fix it? Can we fix it? How do we fix it? Fix it! Each step came with real-life information about the stakeholders and the factors which influence each decision.

From Zero to Full Deployment Automation in 60 Minutes – Danielle Boldt: Danielle did an outstanding job illustrating how you could automate the deployment of a project so that the action of checking in the code results in the project being deployed on a test bed. 😉

All joking aside, my session went very smoothly though I’m concerned I might have zipped through the material too swiftly for people to grasp. If you attended my session at ThatConference and would like to provide me with feedback (positive as well as negative), I would greatly appreciate it!

Open Spaces are big at ThatConference but the ones I would have liked to attend coincided with sessions I also very much wanted to attend so I regret to say I did not participate in any open spaces. It is an experience I wish I had had.

Attending ThatConference allowed me to finally meet a handful of co-workers that work at the Wisconsin office and provided me with an opportunity to share some of my budding automation expertise with my peers. I truly enjoyed the experience and hope to find other opportunities to do so again.