Tech Mids Conference – View from the volunteers

A group photo of a selection of TechMids volunteers

If you’re from Birmingham, in fact, even if you’ve ever been to Birmingham and are interested in Tech, you’ll know what a fantastic community there is here. If someone told you they wanted to run a conference, at a months’ notice, get over 300 people and make it FREE… you would say they were crazy. However, TechMids did exactly that and it was awesome!

Hosted at Millennium point, a truly amazing location for a conference, the team of 20 organisers & volunteers were busy running around and getting everything set up. From 7am stands were being set-up for the local community events, badges and registration desks all prepped and ready, and an unimaginable amount coffee was already consumed by the time the clock struck 8:30am and people started to arrive.

Over the next 30 minuets it appeared that near on every single registration was attending the conference. Having a free conference you’d expect a very high drop out rate but this really wasn’t the case, with 300+ people attending on the day when a little over 350 had registered for the event.

Whilst the attendees were arriving, having a chat over a coffee and some breakfast they had plenty of time to network with fellow techies and meet with some of the local meet-up organisers before the day got into full swing. It was my first time attending a conference at millennium point and I was genuinely shocked at how big the event stage was. Going up a dual staircase from the centre of the room into huge auditorium big enough to fit 350 people and one huge stage – kudos for the speakers as it would have definitely made me a little nervous!

A full venue of aroung 350 people

A brief introduction from the organisers and we were in full flow for the day. The first section of the day we had a great intro to cloud technology from the events main sponsors, Goldman Sachs, followed up by a very interesting talk from Ben Foxall – have you ever thought of connecting a web browser to a motorbike? Me neither… but if you ever meet Ben, ask him about it!

Ben Foxall talking about connecting a web browser to a motorbike

The day continued in the main space with regular breaks for networking and refreshments and everything is running smoothly and very much to time. Once coffees were finished we were heading back into the main stage for part 2 – which I must say, was my personal highlight of the day.

Networking with other attendees

Another two fantastic talks, the first by Nic Jackson who educated the room on how we manage infrastructure from a developers view and the second by Jess Rose, who gave some great insights around scaling teams, not just code and all the possibilities that are out there.

Then it was onto the ignite talks and this was a first for me! We had 6 speakers, who were given EXACTLY 5 minutes to speak and 20 slides that roll on a time basis - each slide only appearing on the screen for 15 seconds. When that first slide came up it was time to go, no time for mistakes so you can imagine the pressure! To my amazement (sorry for ever doubting any of you!) every speaker was truly fantastic, their topics were engaging and interesting, their delivery was on point and all in front of 300 people. I’m sure I was not the only person who was impressed by this and I would love to see it in action again in the future. Huge shoutout to Stuart Langridge, Ollie Stevenson, Jim Seconde, Kirsty Thomas-Brown, Steve Heyes & Ekip Kalir for getting up there and doing this.

Lunch break – a fantastic effort from the organisers and sponsors. Not only organising the event for free but making sure a full buffet lunch was also free for all attendees was amazing and much needed after a morning of running around. After a good break and plenty of time to network once again we set off for the afternoon talks where we had 6 more cracking speakers lined up. We head back in, giving out a pen and paper to all attendees and seeing lots of confused faces ready to see what Jen Lambourne had in store for us all.

A full buffet lunch

Delivering a talk on the importance of good documentation we started to see where this was going! Giving us very loose instructions on how to draw a chicken we saw some very interesting outcomes and the importance for good instructions was made incredibly clear! This was followed by a great talk from Kunal Kushwaha, who gave some brilliant insights into developer empathy and how this really can be your “super power” to a successful team.

Jen Lambourne giving a talk on the importance of good documentation

After a long day, plenty of food, creeping into the afternoon you need something to boost you energy. Come on down, Stuart Langridge! Full of energy, giving a cracking talk around utilising code effectively and really showing us that “you really don’t need all that JavaScript” to build great software.

We’re heading into the final 3 talks of the day and you’d expect the audience to be thinning out or peoples attention dropping off but this was not the case. The whole audience was gripped by the next talk and couldn’t wait to see and hear what was to come.

Max Wolf delivering a very insightful talk on switching mindsets away from “working from home” and starting to truly work asynchronously – a lesson we could all learn from I’m sure, whatever your field of work is.

Max Wolf giving a talk on switching mindsets away from 'working from home'

As someone who’s not a developer, the final two talks should have gone straight over my head from Becky Pauley and Rebekah Kulidzan as they were focused on moving to DevOps and integration patterns for microservices. I’ve grouped these two talks together as they were delivered in a way that opened my understanding into both of these fields, their delivery was fantastic! On speaking with other people after the talks, including software engineers, it was clear to see that whatever your technical level, you were able to have takeaways from both these talks and that for me is amazing and summarised what the TechMids conference set out to do – be a tech conference for the whole community.

With the event coming to a close, in the true spirit of the community everyone made their way to Luna Springs to continue networking and have some cracking street food dinner, maybe a beer or two was consumed as well… A great way to round off a truly fantastic day.

You’re still with me?

If you’ve read this far, you will have had just a tiny insight of what a huge success the first ever TechMids conference was, I’m sure I haven’t done it full justice. When you see the next one, make sure you get there and live it all first-hand as I promise you, you won’t be disappointed!

Helpers at the conference

Jack Capel, Spinks & TechMids volunteer