I live in the tropical island nation of Singapore. For those of you who have never heard of Singapore, it’s a small island in the South China Sea. That ought to be a good enough geographical hint, right? I mean, you can’t get any more explicit than that. The sea which is south of China, is definitely in Asia. Okay, lame geography session over. The point I want to make today is about conferences.
There are plenty of conferences for web developers these days. An Event Apart, Smashing Conference, JSConf, CSSConf, and these are just the big names. A full list would be pretty lengthy (Smashing Magazine publishes a list of upcoming events every 6 months). My peeve is that almost all of these conferences take place in Europe or America. There seems to be a dearth of web development conferences in my part of the world. You might be thinking, who cares? What’s the big deal about conferences anyway? Just a bunch of nerds talking about nerd stuff.
Well, first of all, nerds are essentially the ones running this planet already, so you probably don’t want to piss us off (Then again, if you’re reading this, odds are you’re one of us). But the matter of fact is this, attending a conference with the right mindset can really push you forward to becoming a better developer than you currently are. Our industry moves ridiculously fast, and it doesn’t seem like we’re slowing down any time soon. It does take a bit of effort on our part to keep up and attending a conference is a great way to do that.
A concentrated blast of great content
I haven’t been to conferences in other industries so I’m not sure how things work there, but for developer conferences, a lot of value comes from the content. The pace of our industry ensures that there will always be fresh content on new technologies, the latest practices and innovative techniques. Most people are caught up in the daily grind of their 9-to-5 (or 9-to-9 for that matter), and don’t have time to read articles, tutorials and books. Attending a conference is like receiving an instant power-up.
Of course, you won’t become an expert just by showing up, but it really helps bring you up to speed so you can explore using these new technologies and techniques moving forward. That’s infinitely better than not being aware of them at all.
Connecting with like-minded people
Although a lot of developers work in tech companies, there are a lot of us out there who work in other industries as well. I actually work in Advertising (keep the snarky comments to yourself, thanks). Our development team of 4 is pretty tiny in the grand scheme of things. And almost everyone outside the development team don’t really understand what’s going on in our day-to-day. When my team and I talk shop, I can literally see their eyes glaze over. I mean, they sort of know what it is we do (type cryptic-looking text onto our screens while mumbling to ourselves) but not how it is we do it.
This is why I love going to meet-ups. It’s not just talking about code (although that’s often my favourite part), but also discovering different perspectives and approaches, learning about how other teams work, methods of collaboration, project architecture, workflows, this list will be endless. If you haven’t been to a meet-up, you really should try it. A conference is essentially a 10x-ed meet-up.
But I am shy/am introverted/don’t like people, you might say. Personally, I fall right smack in the middle of the spectrum, in that I don’t get anxious meeting and talking to new people, but neither am I the type to get to know everyone in the room. I usually develop a conversation with a small group of people and just continue that conversation throughout the meet-up. Some of you might find interacting with new people a draining experience. But I really do think that a conference is worth saving up your energy for. A lot of good stuff happens at meet-ups and conferences. There’s definitely opportunities to make new friends, meet potential clients, find interesting projects to collaborate on and generally just geek out on development-related topics.
Break up the monotony and get inspired
Regardless of how much you love your job, going through the same routine every single day will inevitably set you on some sort of an auto-pilot mode. Attending a conference breaks up this routine, especially if you need to travel to get there. You get to wake up in a different place, eat different food, meet different people. Breaking out of auto-pilot can inspire new ideas, and conversations with new people can trigger your mind to think in ways you never thought of before.
It can also be a good way to recharge yourself. You won’t be stuck in work meetings, or answering emails, or fixing bugs. For the duration of the conference, you get to free your mind from work and do something different instead. Who knows, a solution to that problem that you had been stuck on for weeks might come to you while you’re tucking into some refreshments during the break.
Conferences in Asia, the lack thereof
As I mentioned earlier, there seems to be a dearth of developer conferences in Asia. Just quickly scan Lanyrd for upcoming web development conferences over the next 2 months and you’ll be hard pressed to find any held in Asia (probably one or two). As much as I would love to travel to America or Europe to attend one of them, money doesn’t grow on trees. I usually end up signing up for online conferences (CSS Summit was a great one) or just hope that the conferences post their talk videos online. But that just covers the content part of things, not the connections part of it.
I have a theory on why conferences aren’t so popular here. It’s purely anecdotal so feel free to dismiss it, if you wish. I feel that a lot of developers here haven’t realised the value of attending a conference. We don’t have much of a conference culture here. I’m pretty sure if you ask around, one of the reasons would definitely be, “My company doesn’t want to pay for this. So I’m not going.” Let’s face it, conference tickets don’t come cheap. But that’s also because organising a conference is a very hard thing to pull off. I feel developers need to see conference attendance as an investment in oneself.
The insights we can glean, the knowledge and techniques we pick up, the potential connections we make, are definitely worth the price of admission and then some. Attending a conference will not instantly boost your profit margin or give you a raise. But you get back from a conference as much as you put in it. If we fully immerse ourselves in the conference experience, speaking with other attendees, making notes during talks, engaging with the speakers when the opportunity arises, the returns on this investment will serve us well long after the conference is over.
Dev.Fest Asia 2015
What we lack in volume, we make up in quality. Although we don’t have a big-name conference every other fortnight, we do have an awesome event this year. Dev.Fest Asia 2015 is Southeast Asia’s first community organized web developer festival taking place from Nov 12 till Nov 22. It’s a week-long event filled with workshops and meet-ups, building up to the main events of CSSConf.Asia 2015 on Nov 18 and JSConf.Asia 2015 on Nov 19-20.
The speaker line-up is fantastic, including “the father of SVG”, Chris Lilley, co-creators of CSS modules, Mark Dalgleish and Glen Maddern, developer evangelist, Christian Heilmann, just to name a few. You can buy tickets for CSSConf.Asia and JSConf.Asia here.
If you need to convince your boss to let you go, feel free to use any of the points raised in this article. Maybe they’ll even pay for your ticket ٩(^ᴗ^)۶. Regardless, the value you’ll receive from attending these conferences is definitely way more than the price of admission, so don’t wait any longer, buy your conference ticket now and level yourself up at DevFest.Asia 2015.