Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Other Life: Giving A Conference Talk On Software Development

In one life I'm Maya Posch: victim of severe discrimination and maltreatment due to having been born with an intersex condition. In that life I suffer from PTSD and continued harassment by worldwide medical systems.

In another life I'm Maya Posch: professional software engineer and highly knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects. In this life I'm highly sought after for my expertise and get asked for interviews, conference talks and praised for my useful technical blog posts.

It's that second 'me' who got asked to give a talk yesterday at the Google Developer Group Karlsruhe's DevFest 2014 [1]. Despite having heaps of media experiences and not shying away from doing a live interview on highly personal topics in front of millions of people, the thought of actually having to stand there in front of a much smaller group of people and pretend to be smart was in some ways more daunting.

The most important part was of course to get a proper presentation together after picking the general topic. After some brainstorming I figured that 'mobile game optimization strategies on Android' would be a nice topic. Then I'd be spending about three days slaving over the dozens of slides for the presentation. I knew I had about half an hour to fill, with another fifteen minutes for questions. I put something together which I figured would roughly fit in that timespan and off I went.

While my talk was in the afternoon, at 2 PM, I was there from the start, following a double talk on the Google Guava (Java) library which turned out to be super-detailed about a small sub-set of this library, i.e. kinda dull. After the decidedly tasty (vegetarian) lunch I followed another talk about wearable devices development which was quite interesting and talked some with the presenter for the talk after the wearables one.

I had the distinct honour of having the only talk at the conference in English. Despite this still about twenty people showed up (I didn't count, though. It could have been between 10 and 50 :) ), which was not too bad. Embarking on my presentation, I quickly found myself slipping into the usual rhythm I am so used to from doing TV recordings. In some ways it's not so dissimilar: in both cases you have to perform clearly and loudly in front of a sceptical audience.

A bit of minor shock occurred when one of the organizers sitting in the back of the room held up the '10 minutes' sign, indicating that I had to wrap up my presentation. Rushing through the last couple of slides I finished properly in time, without really skipping any of my prepared material, though I could easily have padded the presentation out to an hour or more. In total I got one question during the presentation, on whether one should just omit external dependencies completely and write everything oneself. This I answered by saying that one simply has to evaluate libraries to see what their dependencies, size and any other potential issues are.

There was another break after this talk, during which I had another bite and drink. I had received a bottle of wine after my talk as reward for my troubles. I'm sure I'll be saving it for a special occasion, like when I trip over someone who does drink red wine :)

I knew that the audience had filled in feedback forms after my performance and that I wasn't looking forward to knowing the results. I felt I had rushed through things and probably skipped about half of the jokes and gibs I had thought of beforehand. Then, as I was sitting there reading up on things on my mobile phone, a group of guys walk past me when one of them turns towards me and says to me (in English) how much he had enjoyed my presentation. After I thanked him they walked on, leaving me feeling noticeably happier.

I frequented two more talks after that break, one on Google Enterprise products and another one on Geolocation Information Services (GIS), something I had recent experience with thanks to a mapping project for a client at my job. It was still interesting to see some other applications in action, though.

Staying for another hour or so after the talks ended, I actually found one person I knew and met the other speaker I talked to before again as well. The three of us stayed there talking for a bit with a quiz and such going on in the background. I did this talking in German. Pretty much beyond my talk itself every other communication at the conference I managed to pull off in German without anyone so much as blinking at my pronunciation or horrendous grammar. Maybe I am getting better.

In the end it was a pretty okay day, even if it left me feeling completely exhausted by the time I got home. I do hope that this life of mine gets a lot more time in the spotlight compared to the other one. It was good to be the 'other' me for a day.




Nosnibor28 said...

I browsed your presentation slides--looks like interesting stuff. I've tinkered here and there with some game development but nothing serious and nothing on Android as of yet.

Anyway, it sounds like the conference went really well. Congratulations on your good work. :-)

Maya Posch said...

Thank you very much :) Good to hear that they finally put the slides (and I think photos too) online. Will take a gander at it myself :)