Little Rock Tech Fest 2017: Retrospective and Review

I just recently returned from beautiful Little Rock, Arkansas and Little Rock Tech Fest 2017. As I described recently, it’s a great regional conference that I was fortunate to speak at and I wanted to share a couple of high points for me and some encouragement for any potential speakers.

LRTF 2017
Little Rock Tech Fest 2017

#LRTF2017 in a Nutshell

LRTF is, as its name states, a technical conference. Many of the sessions were about new toolsets or technologies or design patterns. So my session about Lean-Agile Learning Through Games may seem a bit out of place, but I know that they’re trying to expand the offerings in the conference and include agile and lean methodologies in the mix.

High Points of Little Rock Tech Fest

Test-Driven Development

One of the sessions I attended not only showcased using technology to solve some difficult problems but during the live-coding session (which is really hit-and-miss) the presenter demonstrated test-driven development practices! I was so happy to see someone really “walking the walk” where that was concerned. In every case, he would create a test for something new and the run the web application. The test would fail – obviously – because he hadn’t written any code yet. Then he’d write the code to make the test pass, re-run the web app and – TA-DA! – test passed. Except when it didn’t (which wasn’t too often). It was definitely a high point for me to see someone tackling the TDD mindset and showcasing it to a room full of engineers.

Engaging High School Students

The second high point for me was that Little Rock Tech Fest 2017 brought in high school students from across the area. They provided low-cost tickets to several schools who brought in their computer science students. I met a couple of the teachers at the pre-conference mixer and had a great conversation with them, but seeing the students in the sessions – even mine! – was awesome. So good to see these kids finding out what being a professional engineer looks like, feels like, and – in some cases, smells like. (I’m kidding – mostly).

Social Activism at Lunch

Tacos4Life
Tacos4Life

The final high point for me was lunch on the first day. First, it was taco bar (yum!) but the big thing is that it involved social activism. The lunch the conference provided came from Tacos 4 Life, a company that donates a meal to someone in need for every meal purchased. The food was awesome and the cause – also awesome. I love the benefit that provided.

My Session

My session was on Lean-Agile Learning Through Games where I was trying to get across the need for smaller batches (via smaller WIP) and the need to stop multi-tasking. I also wanted to make sure that the session attendees understood how awkward and uncomfortable doing agile can be. I started with my Spirit Animal exercise and then did the Name Game with them. I incorporated Poll Everywhere into my presentation which I think the attendees appreciated; I thought it was pretty cool.

The main challenge, though, was the number of attendees and the supplies I had for the exercises. I ran a modified version of the modified scrum penny game (yes, I recognize how silly that sounds), but I only had supplies for 6 teams. Given how many people were participating and how little time we had (in retrospect, I should have skipped one of the exercises) I don’t think they got the level of learning I hoped they would. But they did leave with some talking points, at least, so I hope it wasn’t too confusing for them.

Check out my session here:

 

Closing Thoughts

I loved LRTF2017 this year. I thought it was a great regional conference with some good opportunities to showcase some of the latest in technology. But I loved that they’re thinking outside the box and incorporating non-technical – but technically impactful – talks, like mine. The staff was fabulous and really worked hard to make me feel appreciated and connected. While I haven’t developed code in a while, the technical sessions were still interesting. Especially when they did things around test-driven development!

If you’re thinking about speaking on a technical – or technical-adjacent – topic, I’d recommend checking out Little Rock Tech Fest. I really enjoyed my time there and hope you will too.

Feliz entrenamiento, mis amigos! (Happy coaching, my friends!)

Bill DeVoe