I’m Old, Part XXXIII: Oh Belgium!

I’m old. Like it says on the box. As such, I’ve shipped products written in Assembly language, C, C++, Java, C#, and F#. I know far more languages than this, but these are the ones for which product has made it into customer’s hands. As a software pro, it helps to be language agnostic, or at least to hate every language equally. I’ve also given presentations on things that I’ve done in most of those languages.

I enjoy giving presentations, which you might think is odd given that I’m fundamentally introverted, but I do like the performance aspect of it. I’ve also performed as an amateur and paid musician, so clearly the two qualities can co-exist.

A few years ago, when I was at Atalasoft, we had just been snapped up by Kofax and our corporate overlords decided that we needed to increase sales and the way to do that was to increase the breadth of our market share and sell to Java developers in addition to .NET developers. I spent the better part of 8 months porting a large subset of our code from C# to Java and a big chunk of that was the PDF toolkit I had created.

As part of the push, Eric Deutchman (our marketing guy) got a booth and a speaking slot at a Devoxx conference in Belgium. I put together a talk for that, grabbed my passport and met our Euro salesperson Marco Voegle in Frankfurt and he drove us to Belgium.  The talk has finally been let out of the paywall and is on YouTube:

Excuse the naked guy who looks like he just slammed his junk in his laptop. The slogan for the conference was “BORN TO BE” which I still don’t understand, but the naked guy was everywhere.

At any rate, I hadn’t seen the video in 3 years and in terms of quality of talk, it’s not bad. I went too fast – certainly faster than I did in practicing, but I don’t think it was too obvious.

It was tricky shilling a product that was still 4 months out from release and not letting on that it was a port from C#, but so be it.

What I remember from the conference was that the event was co-located in a multiplex cinema and that the WiFi they had set up was constantly overwhelmed with geeks trying to get a signal. There was also the unfortunate day when everything in lunch was served with corn, which I can’t eat without getting bad cramps, so I had to beg the caterer for something without corn. He got me some waffles and I was on a sugar rush the rest of the day.

I also met Steve Chaloner, a Java programmer, when one evening at the conference he walked by with two beers instead of the requisite one. As he walked within range, I thanked him for bringing Marco and I beer. He looked confused, but gave us the beer and turned around and got two more. I think we ended up talking for 45 minutes about geeky stuff.

Generally speaking, I think that communication skills are a very important aspect of being a well-rounded software engineer. There aren’t many areas where you can work entirely solo. Eventually, you have to collaborate and therein lies the opportunity for communication. At Atalasoft, we frequently did lunchtime tech talks as well as meeting presentations, which were opportunities to teach, to learn new material, to learn public speaking, and to see each other in greater depth. All of that makes for a stronger team and stronger individuals.

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