That's a wrap! I miss it already. RailsConf is a wonderful conference, and I'd encourage any Ruby and/or Rails engineer to go.

I don't think I went to any conferences before joining Hired. We've been a sponsor for all three RailsConf's since I joined in 2014, and I've gone every year. The company values career development, and going to conferences is part of that. We are a Rails shop, our founders are hardcore Ruby junkies, and we believe in giving back to the community for all the things it's done for us. Of course, as a tech hiring marketplace, it makes business sense as well.

I gave Hired's sponsor talk this year - my first time speaking at a conference, and a big 'ole check off the bucket list. I'd love to do it again. I'd love to give the same talk again for meetup groups or something - I learned a lot from having a "real" audience who are neither coworkers nor the mirror at home. It'd probably be a much better talk with a few iterations.

I went through two of our open source libraries from a teamwork and technical perspective. This post will get a link to it once ConFreaks puts it up.

Developer Anxiety

This seemed to be a major theme of the conf overall. DHH's keynote talked about the FUD and the shiny-new-thing treadmill that prevents us from putting roots down in the community of a language & ecosystem. Searls' keynote talked about how many of his coding decisions are driven by fear of familiar problems. There was a panel on spoon theory - which applies more generally than Christine Miserandino's personal example.

Studies of anxiety and stress in development seem to indicate that anxiety is bad for productivity. Anxiety and stress impair focus, shrink working memory, and hurt creativity - which are all necessary for doing good work. These studies are marred by small sample sizes, poor methodology, and the fact that we generally don't know what the hell "productivity" even means for developers. But the outcomes seem obvious intuitively.

It would behoove us to figure out how to reduce the overall anxiety in our industry. May is Mental Health Awareness Month in 2017. I've seen a lot of folks talking about Open Source Mental Illness, which seems like a great organization. There's not going to be a silver bullet, it'll take a lot of effort to educate, de-stigmatize, and work toward solutions. At least talking about it is a good start.

Working Together

Lots of talks dealt with empathy, teamwork, witholding judgement, and team dynamics. Searls had a quotable line - I'll paraphrase it as: "When I see people code in what I think is a bad way, I try to have empathy - I would hate for someone else to tell me I couldn't code my favorite way, so I can put myself in their shoes."

The Beyond SOLID talk discussing the continued divide between "business" and development. Haseeb Qureshi countered DHH's pro-tribalism, saying it's a barrier to communication that prevents developers from converging on "optimal" development. Joe Mastey's talk on legacy code discussed ways to build team momentum and reduce fear of codebase dragons. Several talks covered diversity, where implicit bias can shut down communication and empathy right quick.

Working together to build things is a huge and complex process, and there's no overall takeaway to be had here. Training ourselves in empathy and improving our communications are key developments that seemed to be a common thread.

I didn't see a lot of talk about the organizations or structures affecting how we work together. Definitely something I'd like to hear more about - particularly with examples of structural change in organizations, what worked, and what didn't. How do you balance PMs vs EMs? Are those even the right roles? How does it affect an org to have a C-level exec who can code?

Some Technical Stuff

There were way fewer "do X in Y minutes" talk this year, for which I am greatful. That sort of thing can be summed up better in a blog post, and frankly hypes up new tech without actually teaching much. There were more "deep dive" talks, a few "tips for beginners" talks, and some valuable-looking workshops. I didn't go to many of these, but it seemed like a good mix.

Wrap-Up

It was a great conference, and I'd love to go back next year. I'd like to qualify for a non-sponsor talk some time, but I should probably act more locally first - perhaps having a few live iterations beforehand would improve the big-audience presentation.

If you're a Rails developer, or a Ruby-ist of any sort, I'd say it's worth the trip. There may be scholarships available if you can't go on a company's dime - worth a shot.