Teaching Is Learning

Hello everyone,

For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed teaching. It’s gratifying to relay information that helps others. Also, for anyone who’s taught before, they can tell you that it’s challenging. To teach properly is to know what you’re trying to teach with a great deal of certainty, lest you risk public embarrassment and passing out false information. So, at least for me, it takes a great deal of confidence in what I’m trying to teach before I teach it.

So far, I haven’t been confident enough in my current abilities in development to do a talk at a user group or conference. Not that I don’t know anything, but that I didn’t believe I knew anything that would be of great value to someone else. I feel that a talk should have content that is compelling and gives the listeners something that could help them greatly. I feel what I know would be better shared in this blog, as they’re usually little snippets of information that wouldn’t fill up an hour block for a session. However, thanks to the different perspective of good friends and colleagues, I now know I have something of value.

Seriously though, thanks!

Seriously though, thanks!

I hopped on Twitter recently, and noticed Seth Petry-Johnson, Matt Groves, and Calvin Allen of Heuristic Solutions and Craig Stuntz and Rodney Smith of Improving Enterprises wanted to get together at the Improving Ohio office to review CodeMash abstracts. Being curious, I was going to show up just to be helpful in reviewing theirs. It was pointed out that CodeMash does have Lightning Talks, which I didn’t know, because I haven’t attended yet. Although this type of talk would be more up my alley, I still didn’t know what to talk about.

For awhile, many in the community have suggested that I talk about more DevOps-type topics. This would make sense, due to my system administration and tech support background and more-recent familiarity with development. However, I’m more interested in a pure development role, and don’t wish to make it seem as if I’m interested in continuing down the ‘ops’ part of that role. So, I went to this abstract review in hopes that I would get some feedback on what else I can provide to the community.

...but not this kind of feedback!

…but not this kind of feedback!

They suggested I use my perspective that I’ve gathered from my previous blue-collar and system administration/tech support positions to assist in an area that developers may not be aware of. It was also suggested that it be something that I’m passionate about. This is so I will be fully engaged and have a good amount of material to talk about, as it will be a priority to me. Immediately, I think of the social struggles that many developers have, and some do not realize the implications of these issues, or that these issues even exist. I’ve witnessed these issues in others, and have struggled and overcome many of them myself, so I felt this was a good fit for a talk.

I wrote up the idea in a gist and received a ton of great feedback. Although this was to be a lightning talk, I got a lot of ideas from Justin Foley, who showed up randomly at the review. These ideas, coupled with having to wait a couple more weeks to submit my Lightning Talk, I decided to submit it as a full session. Whether it will be selected or not is yet to be determined. Even so, it will give me a great motivation to continue learning on the subject.

I’ll update via the comments section and all the social sites whether my talk is selected or not, for those who are interested.

Thanks for reading!


So many conferences, so little time!

At this point in my story, I’d found some good groups and meetups to attend to give me some foundation. Many of these groups had suggested that I go to conferences to expand my knowledge and get acquainted with more people. Following their suggestion, I decided to go to a local event, called Central Ohio Day of .NET, and it was great! Some of my acquaintances introduced me to more devs who I still follow on Twitter to this day and receive valuable information from them. Also, by this time, I’d made a habit of following speakers that had good presentations, which has helped out quite a bit as well (some from this event were: Brian Prince, Steve Horn, Dennis Burton, Joe Kuemerle and Matt Casto). Afterward, some of the devs went over to the Microsoft offices and had a game night, which was a blast!

After that, some time had passed, and CodeMash was on it’s way. This event is generally well-received as being one of the most awesome conferences, so I badly wanted to go (if my facts are right, the event sold out ~1000 tickets in about 1 minute…insanity!). However, considering it’s popularity and it’s location being in a pretty nice place, the ticket price is pretty high. I couldn’t afford it, so I asked my company to pay. However, I hadn’t produced anything of solid value in the field of development, so they didn’t want to spend 100’s of dollars on something until they saw that I was really doing something in that field. I plan on going to this one in the near future though, so save me a seat 🙂

Thankfully after that bombshell, there was another conference of great value (and affordable price) that was coming up: KalamazooX. This conference is a bit different from the rest, in that it focuses on soft skills (like communication, motivation, emotion control, when to quit a job, etc.), and it was really good. Although it was focused on developers in professional environments, I feel like this conference helped me in a big way personally, and would’ve been good for anyone to hear, developer or not. Considering the distance from Columbus to Kalamazoo is pretty long, I decided to carpool (thanks for putting up with me Seth). Generally others are interested in saving money too, so asking around helps in these scenarios.

During KalamazooX, and a few times before in some groups, I’d heard about StirTrek. This conference also has a unique piece to it, where there’s technical talk followed up by a movie (the whole thing’s hosted in a movie theatre). This year, it was the new Star Trek movie, so I was sure to go. However, the conference had gotten popular over the years, and I was quite busy that day, so I missed out on the registration (it sold out in 8 minutes!). I kept my chin up in hopes that the waiting list or Twitter would pop up a ticket for me…and Twitter did! I got a tweet from Matt Groves that someone was selling a ticket (Randy Beiter; haven’t talked to him about technical things, but he’s a nice guy nonetheless) and we worked out a transfer of the ticket with the organizers. Sadly, I didn’t attend most of the events because I couldn’t get the day off, but I did get to rub elbows with some new acquaintances at lunch and watch the movie afterward.

It seems during the summer time, a lot of conferences are scheduled, because after StirTrek I had a list of different events to choose from! Eventually I chose CodeStock due to price and location (never went to Knoxville before, but loved everywhere else I went in TN, so I figured it’d be all good). Interestingly enough, there was a decent amount of people coming from Columbus, but I could find no one that wanted to carpool with me (Seth must’ve warned everyone :D). The event was like many others in many aspects, but was two days long and had open rooms where people could discuss things not on the main event schedule. Also, they had an after party at a nice bar/restaurant just down the way that allowed us to relax and talk more freely amongst ourselves.

Well, that pretty much wraps up the big events and people that I’ve met that’ve helped me get to where I’m at now. Next, I’ll be focusing more on direct things that I’m working on, and will update on the latest events/conferences that I attend.

Once again, if you got this far, thanks for reading!