Hard Code and Soft Skills at 360iDev Conference in Denver
At the end of August, I took some time to attend the 360iDev conference here in Denver. 360iDev is the leading indie iOS/Mac developer conference in the U.S. and possibly the world. Over 4 days, iOS/Mac developers gather in Denver to share tips and techniques on everything topics like Xcode tricks, connecting iOS devices with Azure, and getting started with AudioKit.
Why go to the 360iDev iPhone Developer Conference?
To be honest, I’m not actually an iOS/Mac developer. I have a few projects that I’m working on, but I have a full-time day job that I took time off from to attend this conference. I love the tools and work with them when I can, but it’s not my primary thing.
So why would I want to attend a conference that doesn’t totally apply to me? The first reason is simple: I know the organizers from the Denver tech community. Denver Startup Week (happening right now), Denver Open Coffee Club, and multitudes of meet-ups, unconferences, co-working spaces, and happy hours introduced me to an amazing community of talent and experience. I’m always up for a chance to be around this group and learn more, and I want to support them in any way I can.
The second reason is the reputation of the conference. Friends have gone in past years, and it gave them a new perspective on the tech industry. They told me the speakers and sessions weren’t just about the code and optimization techniques – there was always something more about how what developers create can have a larger impact beyond just their applications.
What? I’ve been to many tech conferences, and they are always focused specifically on whatever the tech is. Mobile technology will change the world. Until this tool, we were living in the dark ages, BUT NOW we have SUPER TECH (insert tech fanfare and confetti here). What exactly would a conference talk about “beyond their application?”
There must be something out there, but are we allowed to talk about it? I soon found out.
The Atypical Keynote
The kickoff keynote for the first day was was Ashley Nelson-Hornstein (@ashleynh), an iOS engineer with a history of exceptional projects. The focus of her keynote was the intersection of the humanities and technology. Not the typical kick-off session for a developers conference. She spoke about how it is important for developers, designers, and anyone involved in the creation of a technology solution to understand that we are making a product that will eventually impact a human person. The challenges we solve are more than technological puzzles. They are solutions to issues human beings encounter and strive to overcome.
From my experience of creating workflows and user interfaces, this made perfect sense. Of course, the things we make are for a human problem. That’s the way I’ve learned to approach my work. As a person who has worked mostly on the user experience side of things, I enjoyed her perspective and how she associated the concepts of human experience and app development.
It was even more interesting for me to see how many developers around me seemed to new to this idea. In fact, some conversations in the hallway after the session were somewhat resistant stating confidently that the human element wasn’t their role or concern. Clearly, her message isn’t one that is a common focus at most developer-focused conferences.
Plethora of Sessions
Simply put, there were a ton of sessions to attend at 360iDev. During almost every time slot, three to four different sessions were going on. For four days straight. Some super code-heavy sessions that left my head hurting. Others focusing on more basic concepts of workflow techniques and basic business practices, concepts that are essential to master as an indie developer. There were sessions on how to be a mentor, team communication, asynchronous event-based neural network – wait, here, read the schedule for yourself.
The bottom line is there were a ton of sessions about a ton of topics, and all of them were interesting. Even the stuff that was way beyond my skillset was interesting to watch, and whenever I was lost, I could always find a different session that was a better fit. The range of sessions worked well for me.
Indie developers, like most freelancers or project-based talent, have a unique challenge. They need to excel at their main skill of coding and app creation, but they also need to be adept at many other skills like project management, business development, and self-promotion. 360iDev is a conference that gives attention to all of those aspects, providing sessions that cover the spectrum of challenges a developer faces whether they are independent or within a larger environment.
I’m already planning for next year and look forward to seeing and learning from the new people I met in the community until then. Maybe I’ll even have an app to share.