Unconference: Setting Heapcon 2019 into Motion
Setting the stage for this year’s Heapcon, our unconference day was a smaller, more intimate gathering of IT enthusiasts looking to engage in some quality discussion on a variety of hot topics.
The event took place at Kombank dvorana on September 25, one day before the main event kicked off. The idea was simple - to hold three parallel sessions at a time, 9 in total and explore topics of interest for people in tech.
The thematic thread of the agenda was loose, while our four golden rules were as follows - whoever shows up is the right person, whatever happens is okay, whenever it starts is the right time and however long it takes is just fine with us.
Warming up our guests for Heapcon 2019 were Ted Neward (Neward & Associates, LLC), Zoran Ševarac, Vladimir Vajda (SmartCat), Jaša Niklanovič (Turtl), Heather VanCura (Oracle),Marko Kažić (Zamphyr), Alex Casalboni (Amazon Web Services), Vladimir Dejanović (PVH), and Mišel Tekinder (enjoy.ing), along with professionals working in the IT industry, mainly in Serbia.
As soon as visitors grabbed a coffee and got to chat with one another a bit, they gathered around our agenda board to vote for their favorite topic out of a batch of three per each speaker.
The first trio of talks spanned an interesting array of topics - What does your manager do lead by Ted Neward, Machine learning for Java developers by Zoran Ševarac and Specialization vs. Generalization as a career in IT? by Vladimir Vajda, a topic touched upon by Neward in his keynote on Day II of Heapcon later that week.
Participants took part in these up close and personal talks with the speakers for about 45 minutes, chatting over coffee with Neward, Sevarac and Vajda and sometimes branching out into related topics. The principle guiding all of the discussions was the sharing of experiences and different perspectives on the subjects at hand, all in a friendly and open manner.
The second round of discussions saw Mišel Tekinder take on Modern JS gotchas, while Jaša Niklanovič spoke to participants on How to effectively run internal hackathon sessions. Heather VanCura focused on Contributing to Java/Open Source for growing your career.
As is usually the case, the second time around people got more used to the idea of the loose unconference structure, making the most out of these chance encounters and raising other topics that would be tackled in more depth during Heapcon.
During the third and final session, Vladimir Dejanović kicked off a discussion on the Do’s and Don’ts of building microservices. Meanwhile, Marko Kažić opened up the issue of Public money - Public code as Alex Casalboni shared his views on Serverless computing with guests.
To wrap things up, participants and speakers were invited to a dinner in the Marshall’s Salon of Kombank dvorana. Over food and drinks, some of the discussions continued, while some took up conversing about tomorrow’s agenda, what to do and see in Belgrade or other conference experiences.
This unique opportunity to meet each other, network a bit and debate different relevant issues before the excitement of the main event turned out to be the highlight for some Heapcon attendees.
From behind the scenes, our primary focus was on creating an opportunity for peer-learning and connecting people. This was the first time we have organized an unconference (generally rare in Serbia), but we hope this experience might pave the way for similar events in the future.
Considering the major concerns behind organizing a gathering void of the classic conference structure, we were relieved and delighted that our doubts were set to rest very quickly. Giving participants the freedom and control to shape their own agenda and drive these sessions turned out to be a great experience we feel, for both us and our guests.