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NorDevCon a day filled with passion!

NorDevCon 2015 closing keynote audio-visial bonanza.

This years Norfolk Developer Conference (NorDevCon) took place on the 27th of Febrary and what a feast it was! The conference which traditionally has a heavy focus on Tech and Agile was this year bolstered by a new business track as well as more design sessions.

The day started off with an introduction by Paul Grenyer (@pjgrenyer) who organised the event, followed by a short speech by Huw Sayer (@HuwSayer) congratulating Norwich on now being an official #TechCluster on the (@TechCityUK) map. This is a great achievement and it was interesting to hear about the journey that lead to the official recognition.

The event was then officially opened by Jon Skeet (@jonskeet) giving the opening keynote, which was all about passion! Jon started out on the premise that conferences are useful for connecting and inspiring people and this comes from passion. In fact Jon went as far as saying that conferences are all about inspiration and not about learning.

One take home message from Jon’s talk was that we can not always work on things that we are passionate about. However, we can always strive to find something interesting in the dullest of tasks. For example by trying to understand the problem space or by working out how to do something as well as possible. In other words be curious. If nothing else it will make you a more interesting person to work with.

How do you share and grow passion with people that you meet and work with? Jon suggested that you should listen, encourage, nurture and feed other people’s passion. However, which ideas spread will be partly down to charisma. This means that we all have a role to make sure that this does not become too unbalanced. In other words we all have a role in echoing what other people have done; to amplify other people’s message without taking them over. One of the great benefits of nurturing passion is that a team with shared passion can really “motor along” and achieve great things.

The dangers of passion were also dealt with. Jon identified three types of destructive behaviour and outlined ways in which to deal with them.

The first scenario was when two people on a team disagree. It happens a lot. It happens a lot with good people. It is inevitable as more often than not there is more than one solution. What to do? The team needs to pick one way forward. However, it is at this point that the whole team needs to look after the person who “lost”. Otherwise the dynamics of the team can get unbalanced. In particular if the same person “loses” several times there is the danger that that person will feel that his/her opinions and suggestions are not appreciated and he/she may well start looking for a different place to work and the team will loose diversity.

The second danger scenario identified was inter-team disagreement. For example the fast and furious team having to work with the really careful team. In this case you get positive feedback loops in both camps, where all the negative views are constantly being re-enforced by the people you trust, i.e. the people on your team. In this scenario there will be a need for compromise and the teams will need to talk face-to-face.

The third danger scenario was a team with no disagreement at all. Although a team with shared passion can really “motor along”, what happens if the team was running in the wrong direction from the start? To avoid this scenario Jon’s suggested solution was to take a step back and make sure that you think about the business value. What is the ultimate goal of the project? Will it make people happy?

After describing the dangers Jon did add the caveat that clearly the easy solutions outlined above are not at all easy in real life.

Finally, Jon gave us a challenge. The challenge was to bathe in passion! If a speaker did not inspire us with passion we should leave the session and find passion somewhere else. When we introduced ourselves to each other in the breaks we should do so with passion!

With those thoughts embedded in our minds we then went out to seek our fortune in the rest of the conference.

I had a great time! I met up with old friends and I made new friends. I had my appetite whet for Docker by Dom Davis (@idomdavis). I learnt about browser APIs from Ruth John (@Rumyra); via the medium of VJing! I was inspired by Seb Rose (@sebrose) to write more and better tests. I had minor revelations on how to improve my coding style during the talk by Kevlin Henney (@KevlinHenney). It was great!

The day was rounded off by a fast and furious closing keynote by Harry Harrold (@harryharrold) and Rupert Redington (@rupertredington). It was an audio-visual bonanza, shining a light on the Agile manifesto, ending up in fireworks!

It was a day filled with passion and I am already looking forward to next year’s instalment of NorDevCon!