Organizing Conferences

As a developer, I’ve been pretty lucky in my career. I contracted for a bit, worked on some really interesting (though not very sexy) problems in the academic software field, learned the beauty of Open Source Software development, and escalated all that until I became a speaker at conferences, something I really enjoy doing.

It might be the assumption is the next step is to either hang up my boots to become a farmer or open a fix geared bike shop or some such. Or to become a director at some startup, or start my own with all the knowledge and skills I’ve gained. That would be weird.

For me, the next step in this progression has been to help organize conferences. It started rather large, planning two conferences in the same year, in two locations, with two different goals.

Nickel City Ruby grew directly from our local WNY Ruby Brigade meet-up. The idea was, we had a successful meet-up, we were all having a great time at conferences like Steel City Ruby so why not start our own? We could get great people from the Ruby Community to come to our awesome city, see big names, and hang out for a couple of days. It seems like it went pretty well. So we did it a couple of times.

At the same time, I was helping to organize Distill, a conference based entirely on the essence of development. Whereas NCRC had a team of 6, Distill was a massive undertaking that was the brain child of my friend Eamon Leonard, a tech founder with a penchant for creating conferences. We brought together the best programmers, designers, system analysts, and database geniuses to come together in San Francisco for two days. To say it went well is an understatement. I’d argue that nothing like it has happened since it was cancelled after year two.

Since Distill, I’ve helped organize or been a part of curating several conferences, WebSummit’s Builder’s Stage, MagmaConf 2015, Collision, just to name a few. Most recently I planned the first ever Elixir Daze with my friend [Johnny Winn], and while I can’t say it went off with out a hitch (that keynote was something special), I can say it was an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to next year.

While I’m not sure what comes next, I can say I’ve enjoyed bringing people together to share their stories, both as words and as code. In some way, I’d like to think I help people. Whatever comes next, it’ll be fun!

Check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this series on my conference obsession


A place to ponder...and pander