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xDesign takes on NorDevCon 2022

WEB3, NETWORKING, IoTs, SWAG - just some of the offerings at this year’s NorDevCon which took place in Norwich on Thursday 16th June and Friday 17th June 2022.

Flying the xDesign flag (or in this case, a nearly-seven foot banner) was a new experience for me as this was the first time I had been in attendance as a sponsor, after being a regular attendee and supporter for many years. This time round, I was joined by Salina and Mitch from team xDesign.

Some of the highlights from the two-day event are:

  • Experiencing our first NorDevCon since pre-covid and the buzz within the main conference room.

  • Talking to passionate people who had travelled far and wide to be in attendance.

  • The number of individuals trying to break into the industry, ranging from graduates to career changers.

  • The range of engaging and thought-provoking talks.

But here's a bit more detail.

Day one

We were welcomed with open arms when we arrived at the King’s Centre, Norwich and had the pleasure of meeting Alex (event organiser) in person for the first time.

After getting set up at our stand, and as the attendees started flowing through the doors, the buzz around the main conference room was magical. This was the first NorDevCon for a couple of years and the first conference many attendees had experienced post-covid too.

At our sponsor table, we chatted to passionate people who had travelled far and wide to attend. Catching up with old friends from the tech world felt like a distant memory, but what really surprised me was the amount of new people trying to break into the industry. Self taught, university graduates, cross skilled - so many entry points into this ever expanding industry, and so much enthusiasm to talk about what each had learnt and what they were hoping to get out of the two-day conference. It was a real pleasure to see this passion for software engineering, design, product and leadership and for us to be able to share our stories, to talk about our own journeys and for us, our careers at xDesign. Being able to not only relate to those early days of our journeys but to also easily talk about how xDesign are helping to give back to our industry and giving people their early opportunity. This is through its graduate programme and a focus on hiring from a junior level upwards.

The conference talks kicked off with an introduction led by Dom Davis and was followed by a keynote from Paul Grenyer as he shared his story of breaking into the software business, starting up local community groups and ultimately leading to the inception of NorDevCon - the running of which has now been handed over to Alex. Paul’s talk was shadowed by a backdrop of photos showing their journey and it was a touching self tribute to their hard work and commitment, and how they’ve given this region and beyond a mutual place to visit and feel at home.

After another break and some more coffee, we separated into one of three tracks that were running throughout the two days. I chose a mixture of workplace and tech focused talks which kicked off with a talk on dismantling workplace inequality using technology from Mary-Jo Hill, followed by a much more tech focused talk on querying languages from Dani Papamaximou. I rounded off with an interesting talk about migrating the Great British toilet map to NextJS - something I never knew existed.

Day one concluded with a really insightful closing keynote entitled “Code your way out of a paper bag: A personal project that got out of hand” from Frances Buontempo which included some of her many ways she has coded out of a paper bag, alongside some great anecdotes from her own career journey. We continued discussions and networking at an after conference event which had a tech themed cocktail menu and entertainment (I know you want to know - yes, it was cool).

Day two

Our table display and banners had survived overnight so thankfully no early morning building was required. Presented by Jim Marshall, the keynote speech covered work of the future. Jim shared his personal career journey along the way too, filled with amusing anecdotes and presented in a truly engaging and upbeat manner.

The first talk selection of the day was Radical Video Game Preservation by Codie Stella. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one looking forward to this chat as the room was bursting at each end (and thankfully fully airconned as the outside temp was rising into the 30s). After learning how to resurrect the now dead Halo 3 and versions of Minecraft, I headed back to the main auditorium to learn about making the web accessible from Ryan Howard.

As lunch finished and the cake trolleys got rolled away, I began listening to David Legge and his talk simply titled “Should we just rewrite this?” - a question familiar to everyone in a software environment and often answered with a blind “yes,” which is most likely then followed by a “but let's do it in this new shiny tech.” David essentially confirmed my expectations - the answer is “maybe,” depending on the situation.

Being a Norfolk local, I was next drawn to a talk about the Norfolk & Suffolk innovation network from Alex Cliff & Ali Cubitt, where I learned not only about this network but got a lot more context around IoT and how its being used practically in the region. While I considered the different ways I could use this free network, we headed into our next break before the penultimate talk of the event, in which Floris van der Grinten gave an in depth technical talk on learning Rust with a background in Go. Last up was a panel discussion about starting up in web3, including James Adams, Henry Hoffman, James Bachini, Ben Donnellan-Boucher and Vatsavaye Priyatham Varma. It’s still relatively early days for web3, and talk of blockchains are usually paired with discussions of cryptocurrency, so this was a refreshing session focusing on the members of the panel and their business with web3 in mind.

NorDevCon came to an end with a new product demo from 1Password and a closing keynote from Ben Frost as he discussed talking with customers and incremental development.

And just like that, the two days were over. My head was filled with new information, ideas and questions. I got to meet so many new people, had countless fun and interesting chats and caught up with friends and old colleagues. I also finally, once again, experienced the buzz of a room in this setting for the first time in a few years. This was a triumphant return for NorDevCon and a hugely positive first event in the region for xDesign. Bring on the next NorDevCon in February 2023 - stay tuned to find out how we get on!