Tips for Attending Conferences

Written by Leigh Slade

Recently I attended my first conference, RailsConf. It was inspirational and educational. It was plain old a.w.e.s.o.m.e. And I’m not even a developer - I’m a Product Manager here at UserTesting.

Why did I choose RailsConf? As a Product Manager, it’s valuable to me and my team if I can understand a little bit of what’s going on behind the scenes. Our communication is only going to continue to improve and I will better serve the needs of our users. When the opportunity to attend this conference arose, I jumped knowing that I’d help improve communication among my team.

It’s also important to me to continuously pursue learning. You know the feeling you get from “ah-ha!” moments? Or when you spend hours getting lost on Wikipedia, engrossed in topics far from anything you’ve ventured into before? The exhilaration of learning is undeniable. And often, when we learn the most, it’s because we’ve challenged ourselves to say “yes” to our curiosity and leap into unknown territory.

Here are some tips that I have for you for successful learning.

Find Your Nuggets

Even innocuous bits of knowledge can help you bond with your team. After attending the Coding: Art or Craft? session by Emily Xie, I was able to appreciate and laugh with the team when it was pointed out that a piece of our code looked like a Christmas tree. I took pieces of information about robotics, the Internet of Things, hiring and interviewing best practices, code reviews, common newbie mistakes, and many more. I now know more about gems and bundler than I ever thought I would. These nuggets are empowering in discussions with the team, and push me to learn and understand even more.

Embrace Your Team

Hands down, the best part of the conference was witnessing volumes of support & encouragement. And it wasn’t just the UserTesting team - experienced developers were coaching juniors, individuals from other companies were helping us solve complex problems, and my team was encouraging me to ask questions to help fill in the gaps. Your team, your community is available and wants you to succeed. Be an active member by asking questions, exercising patience, and jumping in to help. You’re only as strong as your weakest team member, so participate in supporting & encouraging each other!

UserTesting Engineering Team

UserTesting team at RailsConf. Chris Sloan, pictured front left with his daughter, exemplified Southern Hospitality at its finest by hosting a bbq at his home.