Software Practice Advancement 2017 review

Posted by Mariano Gardellini

Did I find the conference interesting? Yes! Will I come back next year? Yes! Was it perfect? No…

The conference is about learning, sharing and interacting. The organisers implement that by having hands-on sessions where the speakers engage the audience with practical activities. Be aware though that is not all about coding, definitely not. For example I learnt how to knit - yes, you read that correctly: knitting! But I also deployed and ran in AWS some lambdas learning the fundamentals of serverless computing. So in a nutshell it is a very diversified conference.

There were three lanes of talks and the attendees joined everyday for a collective keynote session. Be aware that keynote at SPA means let’s do and learn something altogether, not just sit down and listen to someone while yawning and checking your phone. On top of that every evening there was an extended session where you could learn how to build something or brainstorm with your peers.

I personally attended all the sessions where technology was not the main focus. For instance there were a few talks about coaching and servant leadership. I am really interested in those topics especially now that I am asked to help developers to grow and thrive. I learnt two techniques (that I am not going to reveal in this post..) and I am already applying them with some good results.

A very interesting session was the one about the HiPPOs. We all have a hippo or we are one. The speaker gave us concrete tools in order to show or convince a hippo what to do or how to prioritize. If you choose your sessions wisely you can really bring some tools home.

Another great session was the initial keynote by Bruce Anderson - he introduced the Gang of Four to each other. He talked about the history of SPA and computer science from the 60’s on. He made it personal by talking about what he did during those years, showing us the punched tape that he used to program at the dawn of computers and the old SPA conference brochures. How much tape do you need to store a terabyte of data if you can write 7 bits in 2.5 cm? Seriously, how much?

The biggest flaw of the conference was the attendance. A few more people would really had made a big difference in terms of networking and fun.

Another good thing: the diversity of the speakers!

“I know that people love to collaborate and learn together, and from each other, when they are free to do so - free from unnecessary pressure and free from false models of learning and knowledge. Such people enjoy life and work productively.” - Bruce Anderson

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