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.
I will gladly buy you a drink or a cup of coffee. Let's chat.