Denver Startup Week 2018 Review (Day 2)

Denver Startup Week is an aptly named week long convention about startups and technology in Denver, Colorado. Two of the coolest things about Denver Startup Week is that it’s free to attend and it takes place in different locations throughout downtown Denver. 2018 was the first year I was able to participate in Denver Startup Week. I have watched through social media in previous years but I was never able to go because I worked as a 911 dispatcher and never felt it was a good use of my limited vacation time since I wasn’t working in the tech or startup industry. But this year in working for a tech startup with unlimited vacation time and coworkers that are open to collaboration and new ideas so I was excited to see what I could bring back to my team from Denver Startup Week.

Colorado, and Denver specifically, is growing by leaps and bounds. One of the things that makes me proud about our tech and startup community is the inclusion that we practice and it was great to see that attitude explicitly called out during the opening keynote and supported by the actions of other participants and by the panel on Thursday. Because my fear is that we will move away from that attitude as we grow so it’s great to see that attitude reinforced during the biggest free startup conference in the world. (My Day 1 review can be found here)

Day 2

Day 2 started with at stop at the CapitalOne Cafe for a panel only for me to realize after getting some tasty coffee and danishes that I was at the wrong panel so when I finally got to the panel that I wanted to be at, it was packed the panelists didn’t have any microphones so it was difficult to hear them. On the plus side I did get to talk with one of my favorite people, Bryan Griess with FusionAuth, so that worked out!

It was neat being at an event that was good for networking without wanting to get a new job, but I went to a talk about getting your first junior developer job anyway and I realized that, despite the good intentions of such a talk, a talk about how others got our first development job is not that useful. I appreciate the intent and I’ll give advice to anyone who maybe asks for it but it just didn’t seem that useful. We all have our own paths and own strengths and weaknesses and as much as I hate hearing “It depends…” from any sort of panelist, the hardest part about getting into the tech industry is just getting your foot in the door and the only advice I’m willing to give unsolicited is to keep trying, be honest and listen to answers when you ask advice. I’m going to again divert myself from ranting about practicing.

As with getting your first tech job, most business advice is an opinion. There’s very few facts in business advice because there’s so much room to cover. However one of the comforting things about technology is that, like math, there are more facts than there are in business advice so I was happy there was a technical panel in the middle(ish) of the week. It was a talk about React Performance with Jeff Carbonella from Gusto. My company decided to go with React for one of our new apps and we’re looking to get all of our apps using React. Since I just recently watched most of a Pluralsight tutorial on React and I’ve modified a component that’s in production code I wanted to see what I could understand and learn and liked what I found out at the panel. It turns out all of your React performance problems can be solved by using pure components! Ok, I’m kidding but Jeff did show a bit of how cool pure components can be and I appreciate it.

After that I made my way to the swanky Slalom offices right between Union Station and Coors Field and I once again marvelled at the amount of fancy new buildings there are in the area. This time I went to learn about common tools from Matthew Boeckman and learned, quite unexpectedly, about the art of flint knapping which has nothing directly related to computer technology but still pretty damn cool and useful. Matt said that good tools should be accessible, ubiquitous, empowering and flexible and it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about tech tools today or stone tools a millenia ago which makes a bunch of sense. He also made a great point about the myth of separate responsibilities in pre-agricultural societies. There’s the myth that men were hunters and women were gatherers and that there was a split in these responsibilities that couldn’t be true because when you’re trying to survive you do what needs to be done regardless of your title. “If you’re a gatherer and you see a rabbit, you hunt. If you’re a hunter and you see berries, you gather.” This theory works just as well for pre-agricultural societies trying to survive and for modern tech startups! If you notice something that needs to be done there’s a good chance you’re the person who needs to make it happen. To bring this completely back into tech, one reference he mentioned is the Google Site Reliability Engineering which sounds like a resource more people should know about, especially since it’s free!

You’d think I’d be done after all this, but nope. There was still one more panel and it was the biggest panel of the day! The Developer Track Keynote was a panel of 4 smart people who are in charge of lots of smart people at their well respected companies. It was moderated by Kelly Shuster who is also a smart people in charge of other smart people at Ibotta. The theme of the panel was “Why Colorado?” and their answers mostly boiled down to our inclusive startup and tech culture and the Colorado lifestyle that shows that work is not our number one priority. It made me feel super proud to hear this because I’m proud of what we have in Colorado and it’s nice to see that being recognized from people. Micheal Lopp, the smart guy in charge of smart people at Slack said one of their mottos is “Work hard and go home” which I love! I also find it funny that, of all companies, this motto belongs to Slack because my company’s use of Slack makes it the most difficult for me to leave work when I leave work.

That’s it for Day 2, next week I’ll post my review about day 3!

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