Conf Report: DevOpsDays Buffalo & RubyConf 2021
January 5, 2022 Jamey Alea 0 Comments
Oh my gosh! In-person conferences! They’re starting to happen again! (With some stipulations, of course.)
I was able to ease back in a bit because the first tech event I attended in person was DevOpsDays Buffalo, which had a limited number of people and was in my own hometown. They had a very fun format: it was a virtual hybrid where the daytime content was streamed for everyone, and then the evening content was also streamed but also had an optional in-person portion at the Transit Drive In. That’s right: tech talks playing on a drive in screen. It’s an amazingly cool concept in general, but also the Transit Drive In has been a really important place to me for my whole life, so honestly… I was pretty emotional about seeing myself up there!
I was really glad for the chance to ease back in because seeing conference folks in person for the first time in so long was… a lot. But it also felt great to get back into it. I hadn’t done any virtual conferences in 2021 because I was feeling so burnt out, so it had been a while since I’d gotten to even interact with any of my conference friends or even see any new talks!
Speaking of, let me recommend some presentations! My favorite talk by far at DevOpsDays Buffalo was Aaron Aldritch’s “Anarchy, Blaseball & Community Development” which was a masterpiece in my opinion – funny, thoughtful and really got to the core of what makes communities strong and interesting. PJ Hagerty’s “The Pony Express and How Technology Moves Fast” was also engaging and fascinating, getting into the way that new, cutting-edge technologies enhance and eventually supplant each other. (Of course, you’re also welcome to watch my talk, “Reframing Shame & Embracing Mistakes”, which is about using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to combat anxiety and imposter syndrome in the workplace.)
And then it was only a few weeks later when I had to actually get on an airplane to go to RubyConf, another virtual hybrid where the in-person part was held in Denver, CO. It was a real mixed bag of feelings leading up to it, as I was both totally nervous to be around so many people and unbearably excited to see all my RubyFriends after so long. (Thankfully, RubyConf was a vaccine required event and people were good about masking like we were supposed to!) Also, I know it’s a little silly, but I was afraid that everyone would forget about me if I went too long without giving a talk, so it was kind of a relief to see my name on the daily schedule again.
And my talk went really well! After doing several pre-recorded and virtual talks in 2020, it felt great to speak actually in front of my audience, where I could get some feedback and energy from the crowd. Again, my current talk “Reframing Shame & Embracing Mistakes” is all about mental health and harmful thought patterns and imposter syndrome – and of course it’s nerve wracking to talk about that kind of stuff! But when you can tell that it resonates with people, that makes it totally worth it. (I’m sharing the video for this one because I was super happy with the delivery of it!)
Let me recommend a few others as well… Of course I always recommend Brandon Weaver’s newest lemur talk because they’re always excellent, entertaining and informative. (This one is about decorations in Ruby!) Vaidehi Joshi is another person who I’m always excited to see, and her latest talk The Science and Magic of Debugging was no exception. And Kevin Kuchta’s talk Vertical Assignment in Ruby has to be seen to be believed. Seriously, I can’t explain it, just watch it, trust me.
But the most exciting part of RubyConf for me was definitely just catching up with my RubyFriends. Honestly, the first day or two were a little rocky and I was feeling like I had forgotten how to conference and how to interact with people in general. But it came back over time and the confidence hit from my talk going well helped a lot and in the end, it felt great to catch up with folks. Sure, it was smaller and we wore masks and I didn’t go to the sponsor party, but it still felt like a little slice of delightful normalcy and human connection – a beautiful reminder that just because things are missing from your life for a while doesn’t mean they’re gone for good.
Now that I’ve broken the seal, I hope to see many more of my conference friends (safely) in 2022! I believe the next event I’ll be attending is CodeMash in early January, where I’ll be staffing the Maker Space and teaching soldering classes all 4 days of the event! Maybe I’ll see you there?
I’ll end with one more little bit of joy, this photo from Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station art exhibition, which I was able to see in Denver the day after RubyConf ended and it was incredible. Doing weird little things while I’m in interesting cities for conferences is one of my greatest joys in life and it was wonderful to be able to do that again too, especially since I’ve been wanting to see a Meow Wolf exhibition for many years. You can’t tell, but I’m absolutely thrilled behind my mask in this photo! Cheers!