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Polyglot YYC 2019: My First Unconference

polyglot_yyc Source: Polyglot YYC

This weekend I went to Polyglot YYC 2019. It’s a gathering of tech people from around Calgary. The event was open to all possible topics, hence the name Polyglot. It was the first unconference style meetup I went to and this post is a summary of my day.

About the attendees, I don’t have the official count, but I imagine there were close to a hundred people. Quite a few people represented the sponsor companies. The sponsors advertised for hiring new employees, mostly software engineers. On the other hand, I met a few people who joined this venue to talk to prospective employers. Some of the attendees were enrolled in a coding bootcamp to switch careers. I was quite happy to see the community praising their enthusiasm towards the bootcampers. Moreover, I met a few regular tech meetup people after a long time. I used to go to all tech meetups I could find in town before having kids, and I felt great to be among the self-motivated crowd after a long break.

About the event, I was fascinated by how the unconference took its shape. At check-in time, everyone got a couple of forms to write down topics of interest, either as a host or a participant. Everyone could vote for five such topics. I didn’t prepare beforehand. So, I put up a topic that I’m presently curios about, “Writing for Developers”. A handful of people voted for me, but it didn’t make the cut. I found some ideas better than mine and was happy that those got voted to the top. In hindsight, I should’ve proposed the topic of “Why Are You Not Innovating?”. I did an internal presentation on this topic at Cisco and it was generally praised by my colleagues.

My other observation is, between technical and soft-skill related topics, I liked the soft-skill ones better. For example, I found the topics on hiring, choosing a technical vs. managerial career path to be more interesting than the topics such as GraphQL and ReactJS. A few years ago, I’d just choose the technical topics without thinking twice. This is also a pattern in my recent blog posts or reading list.

In the hiring session, I saw a positive attitude towards hiring remotes and treating them as equals. This is a major mindset shift among the community.

In the individual contributor vs. management career path session, the attendee list included both kinds as well as people that had transitioned in either direction. The one take home message I got from this session was, when confused with career choice, individual contributors and managers should take the step to switch roles. And if things don’t work out, it’s totally possible to revert later.

I’m looking forward to the 2020 edition of this event and may even prepare to come up with a good idea for the unconference. If you can, please join us for the next round.

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