Speaking and Attending Scala eXchange 2014

Last week I was fortunate enough to present at Scala eXchange in London, alongside the likes of Martin Odersky, Peter Hilton, and many other people who are famous in the Scala community and have shaped my Scala path from afar. It was a great conference, put on by the Skills Matter company who for some reason do not yet operate in the US, which is a shame. They are a treasure for any programming community to have, organizing conferences on many different languages, videoing most of the presentations and making these videos available for free to all. In fact, I am not entirely sure how they make money. The conference had four tracks of talks so there was always something I was highly interested in.

I presented as part of Underscore Consulting‘s Diversity Program. Which refreshingly was not targeted at women, but at anyone who had not spoken at a Scala conference before. They offered financial assistance to attend the conference, which I was going to need because no company in their right mind would pay for an employee to go to a conference on another continent when there are perfectly good ones much closer. But more importantly they offered “speaker training” which was just that extra bit of support I needed to craft a proposal and the eventual presentation.

Without Underscore and my old boss Eric Smith’s encouragement I would have assumed a beginner talk on Slick would not be interesting to the Scala community, who from afar seem like a group of all super high-level people who only are interested in high-level things. And there are a few members of the community who are like that, but for the most part this has not been my experience. Both Jan Christopher Vogt, the creator of Slick, and Stefan Zeiger, who is the lead developer on the project now, attended my talk and spoke with me about it afterward. I am sure you can imagine what a delight that was. Stefan had taken notes of my problem areas with the library and went down the list explaining how most of them would be fixed in the next release. Peter Hilton, an author whose book ‘Play for Scala’ I had purchased and read a few years ago also attended my talk and spoke to me about it and other Scala opportunities afterward. These are all examples of high-level Scala users who were interested in me and my experience.

And there has also been some feedback from lower-level users of Scala who appreciated a talk that was aimed more at “Joe Everyman” (or Jane Everywoman) programmer who is just trying to write small-to-medium size web applications. There was a panel discussion at the conference on the topic of what Scala needs to grow, which I think the consensus was to appeal more to the masses of programmers, and perhaps my talk helped with that.

Some of the things I did to prepare for this talk that really helped were
* Give the same talk to a local user group one or two weeks before the conference
* Give the same talk to some technical friends one or two weeks before that (maybe do this twice)

What didn’t really help:
* Writing out everything I planned to say word-for-word, because nobody else was using paper notes so I did not feel comfortable doing so as much as I had planned on doing

Here is a link to my presentation https://skillsmatter.com/skillscasts/5851-slick-bringing-scala-s-powerfu…
And just the slides are here http://www.slideshare.net/rebeccagrenier509/slick-learn2

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