Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Lead Dev Live 2020

I heard of the Lead Dev conference series some time at the end of the last year. There are not many conferences that focus on engineering leaders, most of the technology conferences are focused on specific technologies, methodologies or the business side.

It was too late for the Berlin 2019 conference, so I set my eyes on either the London or Berlin 2020 conference. In the end I decided against London, because I wanted to avoid short plane trips as much as possible and staying longer in London also wasn’t an option.

Then the COVID-19 thing happened and Lead Dev organisers decided to cancel or postpone some of the 2020 conferences and also offer an online conference: Lead Dev Live 2020.
It was a two day conference on April 7 and 8, 2020. Not only was it streamed live, but also completely free. Each day had a single track happening in the afternoon and evening CEST. 

Streaming was via one long YouTube stream for each day, which was well produced except for some technical issues that were quickly resolved.
In parallel to this everybody had access to a Slack community for general chat, topic specific channels and networking.

In the end I didn’t watch all of the talks, but most of them. I am just going to list the ones I recommend to watch if you get the chance.

Overall I enjoyed the experience, they had some great speakers and some topics I can directly relate to.
I noticed that I found the panels more difficult to follow, you get a lot of whitespace between the speakers and there is no consistent story. This makes it easy to lose concentration, check your messages or fetch a new cup of tea. A normal talk with a story and possibly slides can really grab your attention and take you on a journey.
One thing that didn’t work at all for me were the Slack channels running in parallel to the talks. The main #leaddev-live channel was very noisy and just flooded with people just saying hello. Any announcements flew past so fast that it was pretty much unusable. Something like a channel only for announcements would have been more useful. You also run very quickly into the usual Slack problem of having too many channels and then too many notifications.

I definitely would join another conference by Lead Dev. I might even pay for it.

Would I go to a real Lead Dev conference? Yes, but only if it is close to me. I wouldn’t spend the time and money required to travel further than maybe a two hour flight. 

Day 1  

The first day was focused on the effects of COVID-19 on management and remote work.
YouTube stream day 1

Leading teams through times of uncertainty and upheaval [Panel]

Camille Fournier, Lara Hogan, Rachana Kumar and Christian McCarrick

Good insight into how different companies and engineering approach the crisis with some well known guests.  

Minimum Viable Business Continuity Management

Meri Williams

Talking about all kinds of aspects of continuity management. From risk assessment, testing, planning and communication.

Avoiding the pitfalls of rebuilding software [Panel]

Dan Berry, Jai Chakrabarti, Bryan Liles and Erica Stanley

Rebuild or refactor in many words.

Day 2

The second day was more of a mix of different topics.
YouTube stream day 2

Tradeoffs on the road to Observability

Liz Fong-Jones

Keep SRE and observability boring. Use the tools that you can easily obtain instead of reinventing the wheel.

Designing effective OKRs [Panel]

Aniela Crisan, Whitney O'Banner, Antonio Verardi and Heidi Waterhouse

Panel about OKRs in general and in tech teams. I really enjoyed Whitney’s take on this. Her talk from 2019 “Setting Objectives and Key Results in your team” is also worth a watch.
Another related talk watching from 2018, which was also played during one of the technical glitches in this conference is “Goal-Setting Workshops for Managers” by Melinda Seckington.

Apps, stacks, and frameworks: avoiding “Shiny Object” syndrome

Angel Rivera

This talk was quite random, but still interesting. He talked about his experience of using a new shiny technology (MongoDB) without having any expertise in this himself or in the team. 

Risky business: taking risks in production

Matthew Hawthorne and Leemay Nassery

How to manage risk by using a/b tests, metrics, testing, …

Building and conveying vision [Panel]

Neha Batra, Lawrence Bruhmuller, Kevin Goldsmith and Maria Gutierrez

How to create and convey a message to your team.

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