Amelia Bedelia Visits Eurucamp

Eurucamp at Universtat Potsdam

Speaking at Eurucamp was an eye-opening experience. I feel very much like a stereotypical American college student who visits Europe & returns to the U.S. “enlightened”. So, forgive me if I gush too much. Eurucamp this year was a single track conference with a good mix of non-technical and semi-technical talks. This was very nice because I was able to see all of the presentations. I could tell the organizers were extremely thoughtful in curating the selections and the order in which they were presented.

The conference was held at the University of Potsdam, located just outside of Berlin on the Griebnitzee. We stayed in the Avendi am Griebnitzsee and enjoyed beautiful views of the river from the hotel.

The Talks

As I mentioned before, all of the talks were truly great. There were a few that especially spoke to me though.

Will the Real Technical People Please Stand Up?

The first of these was Leslie Hawthorn’s talk “Will the Real Technical People Please Stand Up?” In this talk, Leslie addressed the idea of “Real Technical People” and what we really mean when we say that phrase.

I, at least, hear all the time from product managers, project managers, sales engineers and the like claim to be “not very technical” then reveal that they have a CS degree or explain to me a complex technical system. Just because you’re not writing code every day doesn’t mean that you aren’t a “technical” person. You probably are, and you should embrace it and give yourself the credit you deserve!

Orders of Magnitude

Davy Stephenson spoke about orders of magnitude and how our inability as humans to understand very large or very small values hinders our ability to mitigate risk.

Here was one of my favorite slides from this talk:

The Junior Jump

Rebecca Poulson presented “The Junior Jump” and gave us all ideas for what we can do to help jr. developers be successful. This was a very refreshing perspective for me because I hav always felt that organizational change must be supported by actions of those at the top or those with authority. Many people (myself included) often provide all the advice to jr. developers and none to those who manage and mentor them. I think that if you’re really interesting in fostering talented people you really need to hear this talk.

Ask vs. Guess Culture

Katherine Wu (you can call her kwu) presented on Ask vs. Guess culture. Chances are, if there is someone you have trouble communicating with, they are probably using the opposite communication style as you. Highlighting and understanding these differences can help very different people understand each other.

Speaking at Eurucamp

The best advice I believe I have ever been given about public speaking is this: “Believe that your audience has no knowledge about your subject but all of the capacity in the world to learn.”

When I presented this talk previously at RailsConf in Atlanta and at the Athens Developer User Group I was able to rely on the assumption that many of the audience knew who Amelia Bedelia is. At Eurucamp I found that she wasn’t as widely known and further, that I couldn’t expect everyone to know exactly what I meant when I said “idiom”. I did the thing I was afraid of, and swore I’d never do, I rewrote the introduction to my talk while at the conference! Too close for comfort for me, but if I wanted to get my point across I had to do it. Once I was presenting, I was really glad I decided to do this. Explaining a bit more at the beginning meant I didn’t have to worry if my audience had read enough Amelia Bedelia to find the talk engaging. They didn’t have experience with this particular book but given a little bit of information they had the ability to comprehend how the story worked and why I wrote it.

While I didn’t enjoy rewriting my talk the night before, I did enjoy the opportunity to get to know the audience better and create an experience that would be both enjoyable and instructional for them. This is a personal belief, but I feel that’s what I owe each audience I am presenting to, an enjoyable and instructional experience.

Here are the slides I used to accompany “Amelia Bedelia Learns to Code” at Eurucamp:

and here is the recording by ConFreaks (thanks to Eurucamp + sponsors for paying for this service!):

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