Conferences. Chances are you've not been to one. Chances are you want to but just have not had the opportunity. They are often expensive affairs and its hard to justify the cost and time you will need off to your boss. The thing is though, they are really important. Outside of formal education they are probably the best source of learning a developer can get.
I'll point this out straight away. I talk about NDC specifically in this post. However I'm in no way affiliated with them. Nor have I been asked to promote it. It just so happens I think it's a very good conference.
June 2013 I got the opportunity to go to NDC Oslo. This was my first major conference and it lasted a full 5 days. The first two days being day long workshops followed by 3 days of talks (with a choice of up to 56 talks a day!). There was free food and drink provided all day long with after conference events organised for each day.
This conference was incredible. Luckily my boss didn't take too much convincing to send me and I learnt so much whilst I was there:
- It completely changed my perspective on TDD.
- It introduced me to a lot of new design patterns and methodologies.
- I learnt about a lot of new technologies. Including Puppet, F#, AngularJS, Nancy and many more.
- It taught me more about the existing technologies that we use.
- I found out about better ways to work the development life cycle.
And this stuff wasn't useless. Since coming back from the conference it brought these benefits to the company I work for:
- We're currently in the process of implementing continuous integration.
- We have improved our unit testing and are looking at integration and browser testing.
- With improved understanding of the tech that we use we've managed to cut down large sections of code.
- New technologies (most recently automapper, thanks Mr Bogard) have given us new ways to improve our code.
As well as a lot of other things. You can learn a lot of these things from just browsing the internet but its not the same as at a conference. At a conference you are totally focused on the learning.
Another great and beneficial part of conferences is the networking and socialising. All these subjects and technologies that you learn about will be discussed at length with the other developers at the conference. It's a chance to exchange ideas with developers outside your company. Learning how other teams approach problems, how they avoid common pitfalls and much more.
At NDC I got to met developers such as Paul Stack, Ben Hall, Rob Conery and Rob Sullivan. All who gave me new ideas and perspectives.
If you're lucky you may even get chance to sit down and hack out some code with these people. This is a huge benefit.
I can't stress how much of a benefit this is. Often, working at the same place its very easy to become insular in your ideas. Allowing developers to go to conferences gives them an opportunity to get ideas from outside there usual group.
That's not all. Conferences can be good places to recruit from and set up new relationships with other companies. If you are lucky enough to have the chance to get a stall at a conference it can also be great promotion for your company.
£1500 might seem like a lot of money but developers and the companies they work for get so much more in return.
Ok, I'm going to finish with a small sell. If this post has convinced you to go to a conference a great start would be NDC London this December. It just so happens I'm fortunate enough to be speaking at this one :D.