Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending CodeMash 2023. I served on the speaker selection committee, and my whole family were volunteers this year. Now that I have some time to reflect on everything, these are my thoughts.
The Family that Volunteers Together
I want to give a shoutout to Brian Prince for embracing my family as volunteers at CodeMash, including the kids. My husband spent most of his time volunteering in the KidzMash Makerspace – so supporting the CodeMash Minecraft server and helping with things in the room. There was a station for destroying old electronics. There was a table for Ozobots. There were some tables with Snap Circuits. New this year were Spintronics and Codey Rocky. There were also some tables for crafting things – with rubber bands and popsicle sticks. That room seemed to have quite a few parents and kiddos visiting throughout the week.
My kids were seen throughout the week. They helped us with getting the truck unloaded – carrying boxes off the truck and dropping off Raspberry Pis and power cables to various stations throughout the conference center. They helped order the scanner area while we set up the sponsor scanners. They even kicked me off of the station to go check in while they finished setting up the scanners. 😂 At the end of the event, they helped us tear down those Raspberry Pis and extension cables. They helped pack things back up. The younger one also was Brian’s helper at the staff closing.
I really appreciate Brian Prince, Scott Z., and the rest of the CodeMash team allowing me to include the kids as volunteers. The kids help with Stir Trek and have helped with International Space Apps Challenge at NASA Glenn Research Center, so they are very much aware of what it means to volunteer. (And no, they aren’t voluntold. They actually started tagging along with me and playing video games aside. Next thing I knew, they were sorting lanyards and stocking snack tables. They really enjoy volunteering!)
Building Blindly with LEGOs
Once again, I caught Thomas Haver’s session on LEGOs, this time in KidzMash. I worked with Michael, Julie, and one other person whose name escapes me at the moment. We were adults in the session as either our kids were in there as well or we were on volunteer duty. Julie had to describe a train to us for us to build.
In the first round, she could look at the picture and describe it to us. In the second round, she had user requirements, which got us a bit closer to where we were headed. In the third round, she was able to look at the instructions and run back and forth between the LEGOs and us as needed.
This was our output:
We weren’t close to what we were supposed to be building, but the experience showed a lot of what goes on with BAs/PMs/devs and how things can be better.
Enhance your career
Over the years of CodeMash, I had many CodeMashes where I would join JD (Jonathan Danylko) and Ricardo for breakfast before we ran off to our sessions. So when I looked at this year’s sessions, I was excited to see JD finally presenting at CodeMash! His presentation was “The Awesomeness Factor: Enhancing your Development Career”. He did a great job of talking about how to build yourself career-wise, including:
- As you work with a new language or want to sharpen your current skills, look into code katas! He mentioned Steve Smith’s Coding Kata Catalog.
- Create content. Build your website as a hub about you. Contribute to others’ blogs to help generate visibility and establish yourself.
- Create and/or contribute to open source. From documentation to QA to coding and everything in between, open source has all sorts of work out there.
- Do personal projects to try out technologies.
- Always know at least two skills to be marketable.
Measure the right thing
I was also excited to see Brad Nelson speaking at CodeMash. I met Brad last year at Stir Trek as one of our volunteers. I caught his talk on “The Velocity Trap”. Brad had some great slides with animals (on principle!) as well as with important visualizations.
Some of the things covered in his talk include:
- You need to choose the right things to measure in order to get the right results.
- Why are you measuring things like lines of code and utilization? What are you truly expecting to see from that? Do they show you what you think they’ll show you?
- Value is realized in production.
I really hope to see this talk through Agile conferences and other events. If teams realized what they should be measuring, it might lead to less friction and more success.
ARM, Bicep, Knees, and Toes
As a parent, I sang the name of Samuel Gomez’s “ARM, Bicep, knees, and toes” talk. The childhood song of “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes” immediately clicked.
I was really looking forward to this talk for many reasons. I’ve been talking with Sam for awhile now, and I’ve been keeping an eye on his community contributions. This was one of the last sessions of the conference, and I wasn’t on a volunteer shift. I also have been doing a lot of ARM template creation over the past year and figured I should see what Bicep is about.
Sam mentioned ARM, Bicep, and Terraform. However, I was more laser focused on ARM and Bicep.
I had to smile at Sam’s slide he shows before doing demos. He has a slide for The Prayer of the Demo Gods. Whether this works or not, as a speaker, I like appealing to the demo gremlins to behave and make it through the talk.
(Bonus Followup: This week, I actually got to work on a Bicep script for a client!)
Chocolate Chip Muffins
This wouldn’t be a conference recap without at least one reference to food, right? 🙂 My older son was up with me at breakfast every morning. As he was on staff, he was right by my side for the meals. Every morning, he managed to have a chocolate chip muffin. One of the volunteers – Chris – also managed to have a chocolate chip muffin. I love that these two were so set on the chocolate chip muffins and that it all worked out. 😊
Corey Haines came back to CodeMash this year and facilitated the Lightning Talks! Also shout-out to Christopher Sauer and the A/V crew for doing amazing things with the A/V this year.
You know… this post is long enough and I have a lot to say about the lightning talks – so check out the next post!
Outside of the things I’ve recapped, I also had one late night discussion with a bunch of friends. It was great to catch up with friends and meet new folks. I’ve missed getting out to conferences, learning new things, seeing folks, and having hallway track conversations. CodeMash 2023 has reinvigorated me and ready to serve the community again!
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