The new conference for technical leads
Last Friday we held the inaugural The Lead Developer – a new conference for technical leads. Sessions were curated to be a mix of practical advice on leading and motivating a team, and high-level sessions on new and disruptive technologies. The conference took place at the QEII Centre in Westminster, and was chaired by ChromeRose MD Meri Williams.
We launched this conference in response to the paradox facing technical managers: when you’re busy leading a team, coding and maintaining standards, how do you stay ahead of new technologies and develop yourself as a technical lead?
Cloning yourself is obviously not an option, and Rent the Runway CTO Camille Fournier, set the tone for the conference by emphasising this point during her keynote. She explained that by the time you’re a lead developer, your technical skills are no longer the bottleneck, and your focus should be on becoming a multiplier by enabling those around you to be more effective and productive. Pat Kua of ThoughtWorks elaborated on the paradoxes facing tech leads, including Staying Technical versus Enabling People; Delivering versus Innovating; and Business Needs versus Technical Needs. His suggestion is that we stop thinking of these choices in binary terms, and select “and” over “or” wherever possible.
Throughout the day, our audience listened to a selection of technical talks. This included lightning talks on Rust, Go, Docker, Angular, NativeScript and practical web security – sessions designed to give attendees a snapshot of technologies they may not currently be using. Una Kravets, of IBM Design, blew everyone’s minds with a 30-minute talk rich in practical tips for optimisation and performance, while Beccy Stafford and Preet Sandhu gave an in-depth overview of Adaptive Testing processes at JUST EAT, complete with recommendations for the audience.
These technical sessions were interspersed with talks focussing on people management. A recurring theme at the conference was empathy – from Cate Huston’s guide to being a kinder interviewer, to Sam Barnes’ humorous and poignant exploration of the differences between introverts and extraverts and how we can better understand each other. This aspect of the day struck a chord with our audience members, who fed back that they felt this was missing from many technical conferences. Another experience unique to The Lead Developer came courtesy of Russ Miles, co-author of Head First Software Development, who surprised the audience by beginning his talk on microservices with a guitar solo and ending it with a marriage proposal!
Technology and organisational consultant Dan North gave a dynamic presentation on the many roles and contexts of a technical manager: as a developer, leading a team, building a product, on a platform, in a department, within an organisation. If our audience were feeling a little overwhelmed by this, the central message in Trisha Gee’s talk was not to panic about learning every new framework that comes out. The Developer Advocate at JetBrains pointed out that technologies come and go, and a more sustainable strategy is to pursue and learn only the ones that interest and work for you.
Closing the conference was Oren Ellenbogen, curator of popular industry newsletter Software Lead Weekly. He offered practical strategies for managers to keep their engineers engaged and happy, starting on their first day at work. He warned that people quit when they feel their company has nothing to offer them, and advised preparing a growth plan for employees.
We were thrilled at the content and reception of The Lead Developer conference and we are pleased to confirm that we will be bringing it back in 2016. Join the mailing list to receive this year’s videos direct to your inbox on the day they’re released, and for updates about next year’s event. Whether you’re returning, or you’ll be joining us for the first time, we look forward to seeing you there!