10 February 2014
This week I will be at the Strata conference. It's the place to be if you're a data scientist. I shall be there, blogging the whole time.
Register early. Get a hotel early. Book flights early.
I spent about 90 minutes looking at different options and found a price difference of $600+ between my first choice and the cheapest option.
Conferences are expensive and brief. My uber-goal is to be as effective as possible in a limited time. There isn't time to see everything or meet everyone. I must be selective with my time.
I have been to many technical conferences over the years, and developed tactics that work well.
Conferences last longer than adrenaline. Sleep, nutrition, and hydration are critically important. A brain needs fuel.
Great speakers are good teachers regardless of their session topic. Great topics are only sometimes presented well. I attend sessions based on speaker(s)' quality.
I learn from the brightest people I can find: engineers, scientists, and researchers. They are always practitioners of some kind.
I contact people before the conference. I say I want to chat, mention some topics we have in common, and ask if they'd like to meet or exchange contact info.
I follow most of the speakers on Twitter, and pay close attention to what sessions they recommend. Those are invariably good.
I prepare a list of questions. What do I want to learn? What are the most useful questions to ask? Which ones minimize my own bias?
I go to as many informal/collaborative events as I can. It's amazing what I can learn from someone when they let their hair down.
Strata has some good options for this:
I rarely learn anything useful from salespeople, marketers, recruiters, or PMs. I avoid them.
I automatically disqualify anyone who is sexist, racist, or otherwise mean. I try to call them on their behavior, and then avoid them. I have better things to do than deal with their crap.
Great technology sells itself, often by word of mouth. I wonder why companies even do technical marketing. Good engineers have finely honed bullsh*t filters.
A heavily-marketed product is often an inferior product. A company that spends $$$$ on marketing is choosing to not invest in R&D. I have an anti-marketing bias when making purchasing decisions for this reason.
The best positions often aren't advertised. Recruited positions are often terrible.
Technical people can spot talent. I network with technical folks. Again, I avoid recruiters.
Very few of my contacts stay in the same job for more than 5 years; 1-2 years is typical. I find it helpful to cultivate useful contacts, especially people who work in healthy companies or ethical industries.
I follow Wheaton's Law. I network to meet people, learn from them, and lay the groundwork for a potential next gig. The least I can do is return the favor, often. It's ethical and pays dividends.
If you're reading this, are going to Strata this week, and have any kind of technical skill, contact me (@DevNambi, firstname.lastname@example.org).
I will gladly buy you a drink or a cup of coffee. Let's chat.