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My experience with Voxxed Days 2018

Background

This post is about my experience about the Voxxed Days Singapore 2018 conference. I had attended the conference previous year and had shared a similar experience following the 2017 event. This is my attempt to give my perspective about the great event which happened on 1st June 2018.

Brief history about my own journey from attendee to the speaker

Voxxed Days 2017 is a life changing event in my career. I was inspired and highly motivated by the talks from the event. Two talks which remain in my memory forever were the ones by Josh Long and Burr Sutter. There were definitely others which were equally good, but these two guys left a lasting impression on me. I was determined to follow in their footsteps and share my knowledge with the community.

I was active in the community events as an attendee before this event. But after 2nd June 2017, I was inspired to give back to the community as much as I could. I managed to speak at couple of our internal Tech Talks in our office which helped me polish my public speaking skills. I tried on couple of occasions to speak at the Singapore Azure Meetup events. All these talks gave me confidence that I could speak at a bigger stage.

So when the call for papers was out for Voxxed Days 2018 in January, I got super excited and submitted 3 different topics. And luckily one of them was selected for the full length session on Modernizing Application Development with Highly Scalable Architecture using Docker and Azure. I was on cloud nine when my name was confirmed as the speaker among first 10 talks selected for this year. I was also fortunate to present a similar talk at the Global Azure Bootcamp which happened on 21st March 2018.

Preparation for the event

Credit Agricole CIB, my employer was one of the platinum sponsors of the event. We had a booth at the venue to promote our culture and to improve our branding. As part of our efforts to improve the branding we had showcased the different community engagements via a small video. I am fortunate enough to be part of the core community group which organized more than 25 Tech Talks consisting of internal as well as external speakers. Like last year we transported various goodies from our office to the event location Marina Bay Convention Center on the evening of 31st May.

Meetups before the event

We had been extending our scope of community engagement by hosting Meetup events in recent times. My colleague Stephane Martins is part of the Voxxed Days organizing committee. He managed to arrange one Tech Talk on From JavaScript to Haskell functional programming made simple by Xavier Detant and Laurent Maillet on May 30. We also had a NightClazz by Xavier Detant from Zenika on 30th May at our office.

And then there was a big meetup for Java User Group (JUG) on may 31st, with Burr Sutter and Kamesh Sampath presenting Jakarta EE. As part of the same event, there was also a talk by Sergie Almar on Spring ecosystem. The period from around 23 May onwards was bit hectic in preparation for these meetups and Tech Talks. But whole of our core group consisting of Stephane Martins, Baltazar Chua, Yuvaraja Chennakrishnan, Svetlana Mae Ebbah (Yvette), Ross Brigoli, Sandeep Mishra and Allan Chua were all excited and charged up to make it a grand success. We also had support from other volunteers who helped us with the logistics. There was lot of buzz around the office space as we were hosting world class speakers in our premises. The feedback from the attendees was quite positive to these events.

Speaker Dinner

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As is the practice with most conferences, I was invited for the speaker dinner. Although I was little bit late in reaching the spot after attending the JUG meetup with few other organizers, it was a great experience. I made some new friends. Sitting alongside experienced speakers and listening to their views was in itself a great learning experience for me. I got some great tips from Simon Jaillais who shared his views on how to manage the emotions before the talk and how to prepare and relax at the conference. He was in fact giving the tips to fellow speaker Minisha Murugan who was also presenting for the first time at an international conference like me.

The Day of the event

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I reached the venue at around 7:40 in the morning. Registrations were starting at 8 AM. I was super excited to receive the coveted speaker badge and the speaker t-shirt. As people started coming in, we had quite a rush at our booth. We had prepared a small questionnaire for the attendees and were giving away a t-shirt with a very nice catchy design on it. Our initial plan was to distribute the t-shirts in multiple batches during the morning before keynote, during lunch time and during the coffee break in the evening.

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The t-shirts were so popular that we almost ran out of stock even before the keynote started. That was a fantastic beginning to the day. The event started on time with the Keynote by Burr Sutter and Kamesh Sampath. There was also a small ceremony at the beginning where representatives from the sponsors were presented with a memento. It was a proud moment for us to have one of our core team member Baltazar Chua receive the trophy. 

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Small tribute to the man who shaped my life

I am not know to be a very emotional person. By nature I am one of the most introvert person on earth. There have been very few occasions in my life where I have shown emotions. On this occasion, I went through lot of emotions. Due to my inherent nature, never in my wildest dreams I had imagined that I would be speaking at such a conference.

Ever since my talk was selected for the event, I had been constantly remembering the person who shaped my life. People who are close to me, know the importance of this person. It is none other than my maternal uncle Ashok Bhat. Whatever little success I had over the years, I owe it to him. I was completely clueless after finishing my class 12 exams and did not know what to do and where to go. He took me under the wings and ensured I had all the liberties that were needed for my higher education. My parents could not afford to pay fully my tuition fees. He  was the one who told my mother to forget about the financial difficulties and sponsored my full education.

When I was leaving for Bangalore in 2002, he told me one thing which has remained with me forever. He said I would like you to give your best in whatever you do wherever you go. Do not restrict yourself to just to Bangalore, but I would like you to travel abroad and make us proud with your work. I did not have any goals for myself. It was his dream to see me succeed which changed everything for me. I had never thought of moving out of my birthplace Goa, but destiny had other thoughts in mind for me. It was my uncles dream that I made mine and have been living ever since. I do not know what he saw in me that he backed me every time. When most of the other people would ridicule him saying this kid is not going to do anything in life, he would ask me to ignore all others and focus on my strengths.

Unfortunately, my uncle is no more with us. I literally cried on multiple occasions while preparing for the talk remembering his golden words. I wish he was there to see me talk in front of audience. I would have definitely bought him a Voxxed Days ticket and made him sit in the front row if he was here today.

Moment when I was dumbstruck

IMG_2157There was another moment during the day which triggered emotions for me. I was siting at the booth rehearsing my talk for the last time after lunch break. Someone tapped on my shoulder and handed me a copy of the Cloud Native Java book signed by Josh Long himself. He gave me a hug & said this is my gift for you and I hope you like it. I did not know how to react for few seconds. Thank you Stephane Martins for your wonderful gesture in making me feel so special. I am totally humbled by your graciousness.


My fanboy moment with Josh Long

After I received the book, I managed to get few moments with Josh Long at the Pivotal booth. I was too shy to talk to him for more than couple of minutes. It was my fanboy moment with him when he agreed to pose for a photograph with me. It was his talk last year at the same event which inspired me a lot. I would frame this photo and keep it forever to tell my grandchildren about my fanboy moment with the iconic Josh Long.

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Feedback about the talks I attended

I was trying hard to cool down the nerves before the first big talk of my life. I did not attend many talks this year. I preferred to stay at the booth and relax a bit knowing that all the talks were recorded and I could watch them later. There were couple of talks which I attended. Here is my personal opinion about it.

Designing Reactive Apps in Kotlin by Stephan Goncharov

I don’t know anything about Kotlin. The speaker tried to explain language features and his experience in using some of them. It was decent talk with some practical advice on how to apply some language constructs.

Reactive Spring by Josh Long

As the Kotlin talk finished earlier, I moved to the adjacent room where Josh Long was enthralling the audience with his inimitable style. Even though I attended only the 2nd half of his talk, there were so many wow moments in it. Here is the video link to this exciting talk. I am sure you will agree with me on this point. So far I have attended 3 live talks & sessions by Josh Long and every time he inspires with his passion and energy levels. I hope some day in this lifetime I can do a live coding session like him.

Kubernetes for the Konfused, a strategy toolkit for normals by Michael Cote

This talk was in the same room after my talk. For initial 5 minutes or so I was not sure where Michael was going. His references to blinking cursors and stuff like that did not make much sense. But after about 5 minutes everything started to come together and I really liked his talk. The way he explained concepts was like a sage explaining things in a calm and composed manner.

A bit about my own talk

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My talk was scheduled in the Steve Jobs room from 16:00. I had prepared the talk for about an hour. But then when the organizers asked me to keep it to 45 minutes, I was bit worried whether I could do it in that time frame or not. I breezed through some of the sections and managed to finish the talk in about 40 minutes or so. It was a great experience. I had few questions from the audience at the end. There were couple of guys who requested me to send the copy of the presentation to their email ids. There was an experienced professional who spent more than 5 minutes trying to understand why I was using Docker compose instead of Kubernetes manifest files. He also shared his experience with expired certificates problem with an existing Kubernetes cluster.

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I was thrilled when one of the attendees told me that it was the best session he had attended during the whole day. That made my day. A small compliment like this is worth all the effort we spend as speakers in preparing for the talk and delivering the talk. Frankly speaking, I did not expect that  kind of complement knowing that there were far more accomplished speakers at the conference.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank two of my colleagues who helped a lot during the preparation of the demo for the talk. First it was Yuvaraja Chennakrishan who created the initial project for a tech talk on .Net Core that we delivered together about 6 months back. I have been using his initial codebase since the time for my various tech talks. Next is Baltazar Chua who has been giving me different challenges of sorts to incorporate into the demo.

Every time I discussed with him about what I am going to present, he would ask me why not you do this or that? The stuff that I showed during the talk about container monitoring using Prometheus and Grafana as well as the state management using Persistent Volumes were his suggestions. These things were not in my initial list of things but were included as per Bal’s suggestions. This guy is a genius and that is one of the reason I have a special hashtag for him #BalIsARockStar. Thank you guys for your contributions.

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My colleagues who attended the talks made me feel like a celebrity by taking a selfie with me. Thanks you guys for making me feel special. Without your constant support I could not have done this alone. A big heads up to the guy in red T-shit Stephane Martins who really motivated and inspired us to get out of our comfort zones and to be active community members. He managed to infuse the community culture in our DNA.

I can’t thank enough my friend Allan Chua who recorded my talk. The video is available on Engineers.sg site.

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I received couple of other feedbacks from my colleagues about the talk. I would really appreciate if the attendees could give me their honest feedback which will help me improve my future talks.

Closing keynote by Go-Jek CTO Ajey Gore

When we go to conferences like this we do expect great talks from star speakers. There was one talk which most of the guys found really interesting. It was the closing keynote by the Go-Jek CTO Ajey Gore. Throughout his talk he made statements which were thought provoking and experienced professionals could relate to what he was saying. The little nuggets of wisdom that precipitated during his speech were simply awesome. After the event, my colleague Nikhil Baranwal shared a link about an inspiring story of Ajey Gore about how a small town commerce graduate became CTO of a multibillion dollar company. It is real life stories like this that inspire us to believe that you don’t always need to be a computer graduate to become successful in IT industry. All you need is passion to succeed, a little bit of luck and lots of hard work to make the things happen. 

Conclusion

The overall event was a great experience, both as a first time speaker as well as attendees. The organizers did a great job in raising the bar from the previous year. They paid special attention to the needs of people fasting during Ramadan by providing a special meal at the end of the day. It was attention to such minute details which distinguishes great conferences from good ones.

At the end of the event, I was discussing with few colleagues. I had read somewhere that when we go to such conferences, do not expect the speaker or people at the booths to solve your problems. The context in which you are presenting the problem and the one speaker is using will be completely different. The role of the speaker is to infuse enough curiosity into your minds in about 30-45 minutes that you can go back and try to find solutions on your own to your problems using the new found knowledge that you acquired during the talk. I hope attendees managed expand their network with some of the experts from the industry. I had opportunity to make new friends. Personally I am satisfied with what I got from a day well spent at Voxxed Days. We managed to have lots of fun. I hope next years event will be even bigger and better.

The recording of all the talks is available at Engineers.sg site.

Until next time Code with Passion and strive for Excellence.

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