Thursday, September 14, 2017

The importance of peoples tracks at IT conferences

Let's talk about the importance of peoples tracks at IT conferences.

Some IT conferences only focuses on technical issues, but some conferences, such as the QCon conferences and the GOTO conferences always include a peoples track.

I generally go to these tracks if I have the chance, since I think they are important.

Last month, James Damore published his now infamous open letter, where he wrote a screed against diversity in Google and the tech sector as a whole. The screed was not only incredibly scientific illiterate, but also clearly demonstrated the need for people tracks at conferences.

In the upcoming GOTO Copenhagen 2017 conference, there is a people track that illustrates why I think they are important.

The track contains five talks:
  • The Engineering-Manager Transition: How to take great engineers and make them great technical leaders
  • Stress and depression – a taboo in our time
  • Scaling Engineering Teams
  • The 2D Kitten Problem
  • Build the right thing: how to survive the accelerating rate of business change through experimentation
While these talks are all about people, they are quite diverse, allowing the listeners to learn from the experiences of others, and to see new perspectives.

In the above list of talks, it is especially the second and the fourth talk that I think makes the track worth my time.

The second talk,  Stress and depression – a taboo in our time by Gitte Klitgaard, raises a subject which is all too rarely discussed, and which most of us are affected by - either directly or indirectly.

The fourth talk, The 2D Kitten Problem by Laura Laugwitz, is described thus:
"Diversity" is one of those buzzwords that alternates between being supercharged and sadly hollow. While many tech companies like to boast about their diversity programs, the numbers regarding their employees don't change much. But that's no reason to give up on the concept of diversity just yet! However, we need to re-examine what actually constitutes this term in order to make it sustainable: Diversity is more than hiring a few "different" people, it's about empowering oneself and others to create positive change.

This talk will give back some meaning to the term diversity while illustrating why it's still important. There will be some interaction, some tangible examples and more than a few cats to help you through the more challenging parts of theories and self-reflection.
While it is highly unlike that James Damore would ever go to such a talk, it is talks like this that would have allowed Damore to understand the importance of diversity.

It is not possible to reach Damore and his irk, but there are other people out there who are not aware of the importance of diversity, who can be reached through such talks. This is why I think people talks are important, and why I hope conferences keep having them.

Disclosure: This blogpost mentions the GOTO Copenhagen 2017 conference. As a blogger who blogs about that conference, I get a free ticket from the organizers. The organizers don't dictate what I write about, and don't have any say about the content of the posts.

1 comment:

  1. YES! People are so important in CS. Almost everything we make these days is actually for people - it's just such an important factor <3
    Also, have an amazing conference, sad not to be there with you!


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