Being a successful developer – rainy weather, good teamplay and sustainable communities at nz.js(con)

Nzjs con
nz.js(con) opening (photo by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner)

New Zealand is one of these countries that everybody wants to visit. It's a tiny island with excellent weather and beautiful nature right in the middle of nowhere.

At least that's what I thought of New Zealand before traveling there to speak at the kiwi JavaScript conference nz.js(con). The first shocking discovery was that the weather conditions could change day by day and on an unlucky day, it’s nowhere near to warm. New Zealand is also far from being a small island. My plans to stroll to beautiful places wearing shorts and sunglasses didn't work. I had to face long bus rides wearing jeans and a weatherproof jacket ready to combat the stormy local weather.

What is true, though, is that the Kiwis are an extremely welcoming and polite folk. It doesn't matter where I went it always felt like the people would care about each other and everybody was up for a friendly chat at any time. That felt very refreshing when you're hailing from a Teutonic land; you come to expect a much more reserved populace.

Even if the weather felt short of my expectations, I had an excellent time in Wellington. The main reason for that were all the people enjoying each other's company. I was happy when I saw that the conference program included not only technical talks. I like technical presentations as much as the next developer, but I also know myself well enough to know that a day filled with nothing but talks about code is way too much for me. So focusing on the social aspect of programming was a great diversion. Among other things, there were talks on topics like team collaboration, a tug of war with the programmer's ego, and a panel discussion on burnout prevention.

Favorite talks of nz.js(con)

I don't know if it was the wind or just the New Zealand mood but my most favorite talks of the conference were also non-technical.

"Behavior and your team" by Robert Pearce

Working together in a team is hard. One reason for that is that it's simply too easy to make another person feel uncomfortable. It can be something unconscious like passive aggressive communication, "funny" code shaming or nitpicking on coding style. The list of actions that may inadvertently ruin the day for a co-worker is long and wide-ranging.

Robert has shared a few compelling war stories from his experience. He got me to think about my behavior in particular situations. Teamwork is and always will be hard – but at the end, it's not about code but rather about people and their relationships with each other. We all want to succeed, and this means that the members of a team have to get on with each other. We all should ask ourselves what effect we want to have in our team and how we can “be excellent with each other”. Great talk!

"Technology for everyone" by Alex Gibson

New Zealand is not known to be a technology hotspot, but the government wants to change this. The goal is to make the IT economy stronger. This shift is a tricky thing to do, though. To become an attractive place for professional developers, a country needs way more than just a competitive salary and beautiful nature.

To be an attractive location for talents, New Zealand has to become a country that opens up for technology. A welcoming, inclusive community that shares knowledge has to evolve. People have to organize events for everybody to get to know each other. Everyone has to have equal access to learning material, and everybody has to feel safe. Technology has to be for everyone to be for everyone.

Alex' talk was very inspiring and can be applied not only to New Zealand but rather to all the communities we belong to and build.

"The beauty of bad code" by Raquel Vélez

Everybody judges bad code but here comes the fact. We're all guilty of writing bad code. Raquel showed several code smells and provided useful tips to help you recognize and avoid writing bad code.

The lasting insight of her keynote concerned a different theme, though. People writing code often feel married to their code. Criticism on code that you have written seems bad, but a critical code review is not about you, it's about the code you wrote. We all have to learn that.

We have to understand that it's about collaboration. It's about tooling and ways to build great products. It's about valuing other people's work. We all have to remember that code isn't a reflection of our beliefs, our upbringing, or our ability to be a good person. In the end, it's just code, and we have to accept that so that we could iterate on the bad code and achieve greatness one day!

Stormy nature trip in 2018? I hope so!

New Zealand is clearly the most far away place you can go when you come from Europe. Going there took me over 24 hours. I didn't get a tan and was not swimming in the ocean, but let me tell you something.

The conference organizers, attendees and the people I met in Wellington left me with such wonderful memories that I would come back again without blinking.

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