Scott Hanselman

Suggestions and Tips for attending your first tech conference

May 17, '17 Comments [14] Posted in Musings | Open Source
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This last week Joseph Phillips tweeted that he was going to his first big tech conference and wanted some tips and suggestions. I have a TON of tips, but I know YOU have more, so I retweeted his request and prompted folks to reply. This was well timed as I had just gotten back from OSCON and BUILD, two great conferences.

The resulting thread was fantastic, so I've pulled some of the best recommendations out. As per usual, the Community has some great ideas and you should check them out!

  • @saraford - Whenever you get a biz card write down why you met them or what convo was about. It might seem obvious at time but you wont remember at home
  • @arcdigg - Meet people and speakers. Tech is part of your success, but growing your network matters too. Conf can give you both or not. Up to you!
  • @marypcbuk - if approaching people is hard for you, just ask 'what do you work on?'
  • @ohhoe - don't be afraid to introduce yrself to people! let them know its yr first conference, often people will introduce you to other people too :)
  • @IrishSQL - connect with a few attendees/speakers online prior to event, and bring plenty of business cards. When u get one, write details on back
  • @arcdigg - Backpack and sneakers beat cute laptop bag and heels (ed: dress comfortably)
  • @scribblingon - You might feel left out & think everyone knows everyone else. Don't be afraid to approach people & talk even if seems random sometimes :) If you liked someone's talk, strike a convo & tell them that!!
  • @arcdigg - Plan session attendance in advance, have a backup in case the session is full.
  • @jesslynnrose - Reach out to some other folks who are using the hashtag before you get there, events can be cliquey, say hi and make friends before you go!
  • @thelarkinn - Never feel afraid to say hi to maintainers, and speakers!!!! Especially if you want to help!
  • @everettharper - Pick 3 ppl you want to meet. Prep 1 Q for each. Go early, find person #1 in the 1st hr before crowds. 1/3 done = momentum for rest of day!
  • @jorriss - Meet people. Skip sessions. You'll get more from meeting and talking with people then sitting in the sessions. #hallwaytrack
  • @stabbycutyou - Leave room in your schedule, Meet people, Eavesdrop on hallway convos, Take notes, Present on them at your job
  • @patrickfoley - Don't forget to sleep. Evidence that long-term memories get "written" then
  • @david_t_macknet - Drinking will not help you remember it better or have a better time mingling. Most of us are just as introverted & the awkwardness fades.
  • @carlowahlstedt - Don't feel like you have to go to EVERY session.
  • @davidpine7 - Try your best to NOT be an introvert -- in our industry that can be challenging, but if you put yourself out there...you will not regret it!
  • @frontvu - Don't rely on the conference wifi
  • @shepherddad - Put snacks in your bag or pocket.
  • @sod1102 - Find out if there will be slides (and even better!) video available post conference, then don't worry about missing stuff and relax & enjoy
  • @rnelson0 - Take notes. Live tweet, carry a notebook, jot it all down at 1am before sleeping, whatever method helps you remember what you did.
  • @hoyto - Sit [at] meal tables with random people and introduce yourself.
  • @_s_hari - Ask speaker when *not* to use product/methodology that they're speaking on. If they cannot explain that, then it's just a marketing session
  • @EricFishor - Don't be afraid to discreetly leave or enter an on going session. It's up to you to seek out sessions that interest you.
  • @texmandie - If you get to meet and talk to your heroes, don't freak out - they're normal people who happen to do cool stuff
  • @wilbers_ke - Greatest connections happen in the hallways, coffee queue and places with animated humans. Minimize seated conference halls
  • @CJohnsonO365 - CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE. Don’t try to get “regular” work done during the conference— you’ll end up missing something important!
  • @g33konaut - Tweet with the conf hashtag to ask if people wanna meet and talk or hangout after the conference, also follow the hashtag tweets to find ppl. Don't sweat missing a talk, meeting people and talking to them is always better than than seeing a talk. Also the talks are often recorded
  • @foxdeploy - Who cares about swag, it's all about connections. Meet the people who've helped you over the years and say thanks.
  • @jfletch - Ask people which after parties they are attending. Great way to find out about smaller/more interesting events and get yourself invited!
  • @marxculture - The Law of Two Feet - if you aren't enjoying a session then leave. Go to at least one thing outside your normal sphere.
  • @joshkodroff - Bring work business cards if you're not looking for a job, personal business cards if you are.
  • @benjimawoo - Go to sessions that cover tehnologies you wouldn't otherwise encounter day to day. Techs you don't use in your day job.

Fantastic stuff. You'll get more out of a conference if you say hello, include the "hallway track" in your planning, stay off your phone and laptop, and check out sessions and tech you don't usually work on.

What are YOUR suggestions? Sound off in the comments.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Relationship Hacks - Mindfulness - Don't live your life by default

March 9, '17 Comments [15] Posted in Musings
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Setting the DefaultsI'm setting a goal for myself to finish my half-finished book relationshiphacks.com this year. In an attempt to make that happen (and because the recent podcast with my wife was wildly popular) I'm going to try to blog some guiding principles. Then I'll attempt to collect the feedback and comments, improve the posts, then move them into the book. Yesterday I posted about "An allowance system for adults."

In this post on I want to touch briefly on the concept of "mindfulness." When I was younger I didn't know this term so I said "don't live your life by default." Phrased alternatively, "don't let your life happen by default."

I mentioned it years ago on a podcast and Paul Apostolos did a very nice blog post where he paraphrased:

Teach your children to make life choices rather than just let life happen to them.

Now, to be clear, stuff happens and this isn't always possible. There's luck, there's planning, there's inherent privilege, but the root idea of mindfulness and awareness is crucial. As they say, "Luck Is what happens when preparation meets opportunity"

I met with a young mentee today who is considering not just leaving her job but also moving to a totally different career. What I appreciated about her perspective and questions was that she clearly was going into the future fully aware of the possibilities. She embraced both the potential good and bad possibilities with a conscious and mindful awareness that was inspiring.

She wasn't going to just "let whatever happen, happen." She wasn't going to just start the game and accept the defaults. She is opening up the options menu of life and trying to change the settings consciously.

I'm doing my best to teach my kids this, hopefully by example. Yes there are things they can't change about themselves, but the one thing they can change (or try) is how they think and how they act. I catch them saying things like "I'm not good at math." They have tapes that are already starting to run in their little heads that feed them negativity and inaction. The defaults are just doing nothing. Humans (myself included) can be very lazy. I want them to build up their reservoirs of self-esteem and "I can do it" so they don't accept the defaults.

Do you have any stories of where you "woke up" and realized you were coasting (perhaps for a week, perhaps for years) and were just accepting the defaults in your life? How did you break out of that thinking?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Relationship Hacks: An Allowance System for Adults

March 7, '17 Comments [63] Posted in Musings
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Nintendo Switch - YOU DESERVE ONEI'm setting a goal for myself to finish my half-finished book relationshiphacks.com this year. In an attempt to make that happen (and because the recent podcast with my wife was wildly popular) I'm going to try to blog some guiding principles. Then I'll attempt to collect the feedback and comments, improve the posts, then move them into the book.

I got a Nintendo Switch yesterday. Bought it with cash, brought it home, set it up, and - with neither shame nor regret - showed my non-gamer spouse.

"That's cool," she said. "Is that the new Nintendo 64 they were talking about on the radio?"

No judgment. Not a comment about the $300 price tag. Nothing was said like "do we really need another game?" or "what credit card did you buy that with?"

How is this possible? No fight (not even a lowercase F fight) and no tension.

My wife and I give each other an allowance. In cash.

Every two weeks when our paychecks are deposited, we each get an allowance. It's a $100 a week (yes, for some that's a lot, for others, it's not. It works for us.) and it's the same for each of us. We put all our money in one account, give ourselves the allowance, pay the bills, then if there is anything left over it goes it savings.

Let me back up. We used to a bicker and judge each other for our purchases. If you'd log into our bank you'd see something like:

  • Paycheck
  • Mortgage
  • Car Note
  • $5 Starbucks
  • $3 Subway
  • $8 Chipotle
  • $60 GameStop
  • $70 Nordstrom

HOLD UP. What is that GameStop? Well, what's this Nordstrom? Did you need to be getting that [widget?]

You get the idea. We needed to remove all that noise at the bottom of the ledger as it was distracting us from the larger goals.

Then my wife had the idea that we just needed to pay ourselves first. We can spend that money however we like - with promised zero judgment from the other spouse. That's crucial, otherwise the system doesn't work.

The allowance for anything that isn't "necessarily living stuff." So it's not for toothpaste, but it IS for eating out when we don't need to eat out.

I could have eaten at Chipotle each day this week, but that would come out of my allowance. Instead, I chose to eat at home all month and save my allowance for a Nintendo Switch.

This works - of course - both ways. My wife has hobbies and social stuff that she does, and she uses her allowance for that.

If you made it this far, perhaps you're thinking, "wow, you're a wimp" or "gee, he/she has you in their pocket." Wait.

Step back and absorb. We are grown-ass people. This system works because we designed it for us. All arguments around "frivolous" spending are gone.

This allows us the best of all worlds.

  • It keeps credit card spending to an absolute minimum. 
  • We are empowered and we empower each other with this system.
  • There's a certain sense of power in carrying cash. You know exactly how much you have and exactly when you have to stop spending.
  • We can decide if we want $200 shoes or a $100 meal or a $50 game. One spouse comes home excited about their purchase while the other greets them without resentment. The fixed allowance amount handles that.
    • Additional spending is discussed on a case-by-case basis. But we've picked an amount that is large enough that I could buy something crazy like a Vive - if I am willing to forgo movies, excessive eating out, etc.
  • It sets a good example for the kids as they watch us weigh the pros and cons of a purchase. Money is spent when it's in-hand and not on credit.

My wife and I are in a mixed marriage. It's not that I'm White and she's Black, is that I'm a techie/geek/nerd and she's fairly normal. ;) Of course, this kind of mix isn't gender or race specific. I know lots of couples of varying combos and flavors that bump up against issues in their relationships because of budding resentment, missed or poorly set expectations, divergent points of view around problem solving, and more.

I'd love to hear YOUR story of your partner and your "mix" and how you (mostly) solved it with a simple Relationship Hack like this. Sound off in the comments.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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NXTA - NexTech Africa Conference - Day 1 perspectives

February 4, '17 Comments [6] Posted in Africa | Musings
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imageI'm in Nairobi, Kenya this week attending a fantastic event called NexTech Africa. It is a free event that showcases the best of what Africa's Startup community has to offer. This event is mostly focused on East Africa's tech community but it included delegates from all over the continent. I'm told over 1000 people are here.

My wife is Zimbabwean and we have family all over in places like South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, and friends in a dozen other countries. I personally feel that access to technology and technical education is a fantastic way to help Africa's burgeoning middle class.

However, this trip was for listening. It's silly for me (or anyone who isn't living on the continent) to fly in and "drop the knowledge" and fly out. In fact, it's condescending. So I'm spending this week visiting startups, talking to engineers, university students, and tech entrepreneurs.

I spoke at length with the engineers at BRCK, a Kenya-based startup that has a "brick" that's a portable router, NAS, Compute Module, Captive Portal, and so much more. They can drop one of these a little outside of town and give wi-fi to an entire area. Even better, there could be hyper-local content on the devices. Folks with 30+Mbps Internet may be spoiled with HD content, but why not have a smart router download TV shows and Movies that can be served (much like movies stored on an airplane's hard drive that you can watch via wi-fi while you fly) to everyone in the local area. The possibilities are endless and they're doing all the work from hardware to firmware to software in-country with local talent.

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I also visited iHub's Technology Innovation Community and saw where they teach classes to local students, have maker- and hacker-spaces, support a UXLab and host local tech meetups. I'll be hopefully communicating more and more with the new friends I've met and perhaps bring a few of them to the podcast so you can hear their stories yourself.

image

These are uniquely African solutions to problems that Africans have identified they want to solve. I am learning a ton and have been thrilled to be involved. Since I focus on Open Source .NET and .NET Core, I think there's an opportunity for C# that could enable new mobile apps via Xamarin with backends written in ASP.NET Core and running on whatever operating system makes one happy.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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VIDEO: How to get started with technical public speaking!

January 26, '17 Comments [9] Posted in Musings
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On .NET is a weekly chat with team members from the .NET team at Microsoft. This week we put together something a little different, and honestly, I think it not only went really well, but I think it's an hour that provides a lot of value that goes well beyond .NET or any technology.

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We put together a panel of folks at different points in their technical careers. Some just starting to speak publicly and some who've been doing it for 20+ years. Some introverts, some extroverts. Some with speaking or theater experience, others with none. And we talked!

We chatted about how to get started, where you can learn to speak on technical topics, how to form a story arc, how to best utilize your gifts, when to be critical and when to breathe.

It was great fun and included myself, Kendra Havens, Maria Naggaga Nakanwagi, Kasey Uhlenhuth, and Donovan Brown. You can view or download it here on Channel 9, or you can watch it on YouTube embedded below.

Let us know if this kind of content is useful, and if you want to see more in the future.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.