State of the Browser 5, what I’ve taken away

Another year, another State of the Browser is finished. I still can’t believe we made it. Again.

This year all of us have been immensely busy, but I love it how we all just come together and SOTB happens! It’s always such a massive wind-whirl so I thought I should really try and write my personal low-down on the conference, as an organiser, as an impostor, as a developer.

On diversity at SOTB5.

My biggest contribution has been all the research and reaching out I’ve done to potential female speakers and I’m so, so glad I got some really good results, considering the struggle and confusion (as explained on my The Pastry Box article “I’m confused about women in tech“) I have been experiencing as a conference and events organiser.

My personal goal was to achieve a 50-50 lineup, but a (almost completely) blind call for speakers meant the final chosen could have been of any gender. So I worked hard in trying to reach out as many female potential speakers and invited to submit a talk before hand, with the hope that the female submissions would have been a good percentage.

I generally had a very good response from most women I contacted, considering I was literally wondering in the dark and contacting them out of the blue. But I believed somebody out there had something interesting to say and might need a big push (read encouragement and help preparing a talk, thanks Sole who mentored her!) so look at Laura Elizabeth’s presentation! Everybody was so impressed with her first talk!

So if there’s one take away from SOTB5 from me, is that if you want a more diverse lineup at conferences, just get out there and get in touch with female developers, designers and UXers. Bring Laura’s example if you need to, but start encouraging them. Get them in touch with an experienced speaker who could mentor them, and let them understand how even the veteran speakers are nervous and rehearsing for the millionth time until the last minute, but that, regardless of how many times we’ve seen them on stage, we believe in them, because we, as an audience, know they will have something to say we don’t yet know or know very little about. So we’ll be appreciative of their presentation, some of them, will change our lives.

My take aways from SOTB5

It’s needless to say how impressed I am with all the hard work all my fellow organisers put in it: the video volunteers made it so professional; how smooth everything went in the refreshments and registration area thanks to Rupert, Steve, Nick and Ginestra (and Seb!); how beautiful the photos are that Steve took throughout the day; how good Dave Letorey was on stage, now a natural he is now, compared to the first time he presented at State of the Browser, but most of all how smoothly all the AV on stage went!

As an impostor, though I have a few confessions I feel I have to come clean about:

  1. at least this year I managed to remember all the Speakers’ names and talk titles (phew!) – each year I get so lost in all the things to look after, I sometimes have forgotten the most important part
  2. I got coffee for everybody else, except for Bruce Lawson just before he was due on stage (a mistake I am still paying with my life :p)
  3. I was so nervous or tired, I could not fully follow some of the talks, my concentration span was of a few minutes, but I am grateful for what I saw.

I will never get tired of Bruce Lawson and Seb Lee-Deslisle’s talks – no matter the subject, no matter the technical difficulties, their presentations are shows. And don’t let them fool you, they are carefully crafted and they still will have something to teach.

Ada and Ed are outstanding researchers. I am so looking forward to watch their videos again.

I am glad Adam, Michael, Michael and Melinda presented. They are a solid inspiring bunch

I am grateful to Phil. His high and new energy put such a fantastic end to the day and got everybody fired up for the after party (and the future!).

How to fix our industry: on a conversation with Cristiano Rastelli

I had quite a long (breaks permitting) conversation with Cristiano on how we could try and fix our industry, but I’ll let him explain his idea, maybe he will write about it soon, but I left with no solution to the problem. Today, the day after the conference though I tried to look back at it and think about how I am (if at all) dealing with the issue.

After leaving SOTB5, I feel once more I am just getting by and my job as developer is still there because, luckily, our employers don’t expect to take in and learn by heart all those teachings we take from a conference, or daily articles, blog posts, podcasts, all that thousands of web developers out there are publishing every day.

I think I should join in with the conversation and admit how I too feel overwhelmed by the amount of “things we should be expected to know” as developers. From frameworks, to CSS features they’re not even available on all browsers. And now I feel, after yet another conference I have helped put together, I have just contributed to this overdose.

I am sorry if you have left SOTB5 feeling overwhelmed, like you should have known all of that stuff already, just because it was said at a conference.

I am sorry if you have left, like I have at many events, feeling left out and once more not enough for the job you already have and for which you already are supposed to know it all.

I hope these are not the feelings you have left with.

I hope you have left with some practical material (and videos soon on our Vimeo channel) you can look back at but won’t have to, because I think we could start a better way to digest and process and filter all those “things out there we should know and look at”.

Wouldn’t it be great, if we just would go “I am not really that interested in Canvas, I’m more interested in data”, or “I have not looked into SVG because I don’t feel I have any interest in design”. If we all picked technologies/tools we truly had interest in, regardless of what’s hot or new, maybe all the hype around the new stuff, the pressure on us implying we’re not good enough and we have to learn more and decisions by companies to just “rewrite everything in React.js” might not happen.

How about companies start explaining in job specs how they do recognise how much there is out there for us developers to keep up with, they don’t expect candidate to know it all, but that they are instead looking for somebody with the interest to learn more without unnecessary pressure; they recognise instead how within a team developers might have different interests and might pick up one or more of those technologies but that it’s not expected from them to know it all and especially at interview point? Instead joining the company should mean joining a safe and nurturing environment where a candidate can grow and expand knowledge on one or more of those technologies listed in the job spec, because the job spec is where they want to take the candidate to, not where the candidate should be before even joining.

Let’s be realistic. Because the main reason why a few years ago I went contracting is that what we get exposed and told at an interview might not all be true and you can’t really know what a place is like until you start working there.

So it could be that all the nice things a company might write on a job spec, might not quite be even yet in place. A company might add “Angular” in the job spec, when they have not even written a line of code yet, it’s more what they would like to be doing right now, but in that declaration of expectations, us candidate instead read it as a must. Is that fair?

We don’t seem to know where to start with fixing our industry and managing the amount of pressure and overload of information, but I think I have been experiencing the impostor syndrome for a long time now, mainly because web development was my hobby rather than what I studied at uni, so I am aware of how much I feel I don’t know and how hard I need to work every day to keep up and how I am just not able to.

Instead I have realised, I am picking up things to learn based on my interests and I think now on, I’m going to own up to that. So I’ll go first, I hope some of you will follow too 🙂

I have not even looked at SVG or Canvas or Backbone or React because I’m not interested in it right now. My interest at the moment is to get better at JavaScript in general and make my Front End Dev role more rounded. By the time I’ll get where I want to be for myself, React might be gone. Or it might be the next natural step for me. But for now, I am not going to let the hype distract me from my plan for myself. Because they don’t interest me.

Let’s not all fall into the trap.

 

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