What I learned from going to 6 meetups in 6 days

This week we have a guest post from Michael Lambert, a Senior PHP Developer at MesssageMedia.
 
Michael is currently a Senior PHP Developer in The Hub team. He spends his days wrangling code and planning improvements, and his nights are a combination of re-learning Javascript, trying to improve his fitness and going to meetups. Michael is also a co-organiser of the Melbourne Code Mentoring meetup. 

Why 6 in 6?

Early last week I had no idea how busy my week was going to be. I had planned to attend the Infracoders, DevOps Melbourne, and Workshops, Learn and Hackathons in Computer Science meetups in Melbourne but my schedule quickly escalated to 6 meetups in 6 days.
 
Midweek, I noticed Melbourne Serverless Meetup Group had a presentation from Jeff Hollan. This meetup certainly grabbed my attention; I hadn’t had much exposure to Azure and part of my reason for re-learning Javascript was to  take advantage of AWS Lambda. So down went my name to attend. 
 
In the same search, I also discovered a presentation at Melbourne PHP Users Group on GitLab. I was curious about attending as it has been years since I last used GitLab and it was obvious my knowledge was very dated. 
 
Lastly, I was off to Melbourne Code Mentoring – Web Development and Design as I am a co-organiser and usually attend every second week. 
Without realising, I had decided to commit to a week of meetups. For an introvert like me it was going to be a big effort, but thoroughly worth it based on the topics and my interests.

The Meetups

Thankfully all the meetups were completely worth attending and I gained something from all them.

Melbourne Code Mentoring – Web Development and Design

At Code Mentoring, it was the founder’s last day and we were in the final stages of finding a new venue. It was a record attendance, with around 40 people turning up. During the meetup, we decided to establish a project for attendees to learn some coding skills similar to a commercial environment.

Workshops, Learn and Hackathons in Computer Science

Initially I didn’t know what to expect from this meetup. Few people had signed up and while I have a working knowledge of IoT, I hadn’t heard of LiveCode.
 
They began by sharing an overview of LiveCode which immediately piqued my interest. As a backend developer with minimal design skills, LiveCode looked like it could enable me to create proof of concept interfaces, rapidly and effectivelyIf I worked with a skilled front-end developer, this could extend to a production ready web, mobile or desktop app.
The IoT aspect of this meetup was aimed at junior techies and although I was actively involved in the discussion, it mainly just confirmed my understanding of some aspects of IoT.

Melbourne Serverless Meetup Group

The meetup was an AMA (Ask Me Anything), where Jeff collected questions and spent the remaining time answering as many as possible.
 
Through the AMA, I gained a great appreciation for how Microsoft has changed since my early days in the industry. I discovered more about the Azure service offering and their cloud differences compared to AWSThis meetup provided some unexpected surprises that can be broadly grouped into two.
 
The first was having a great discussion with a recruiter (this in itself was surprising).  My initial surprise was my ability to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Then, not feeling like the odd one out when someone else joined the conversation.  This conversation turned out to be so informative, that I asked for the recruiter’s details and passed them on to a friend.
 
The second surprise was Jeff Hollan. He spoke about competitors and gave them credit for their achievements, without detracting from Azure’s achievements. A lot of Australian companies could learn from this collaborative approach.

Infracoders

Infracoders was my least successful of the meetups. The combination of walking to work everyday, a lack of sleep and no time to rejuvenate, left me feeling anti-social and tired.
 
The first presentation was about securing secrets in CI/CD pipelines and applications.  Although this was interesting, I couldn’t see an application for the particular methods proposed for my work or personal projects. The second presentation was about NAB’s use of AWS technologies in the implementation of OpenBanking. Unfortunately, I had to leave early and missed the end of this presentation.

DevOps Melbourne

By leaving the previous meetup early, I had a small chance to regenerate some energy and felt much more positive about this meetup. The presentation by Ken Mugrage was full of information, both theoretical and practical.
There was some great discussion about the difference between “DevOps” and “DevOps Engineers”, both successful and unsuccessful implementations of DevOps, and the transformation process. If you have any interest in DevOps I highly recommend checking out the slides posted on the event page.

Melbourne PHP Users Group

The final meetup of my 6 in 6, was almost a relief.  As it was on Valentine’s day, the turn-out was quite low but the presentation was excellent. It contained helpful information about the free features of GitLab.
 
This meetup (unlike the others) seemed aimed at smaller businesses and hobbyists.  Some of the information I would have loved to hear about related to the paid GitLab plans. Even though that wasn’t covered, information about the free plans was enough of a taste to inspire a future investigation into GitLab and its built-in CI/CD functionality.

Key Learnings

Besides learning a huge amount about the various topics, I learnt a few things about attending meetups.

If you aren’t feeling sociable, don’t go

You may learn about a specific topic that’s being presented, but you won’t gain any of the networking benefits.

Be willing to make adjustments

As an introvert, I need time to regroup, rejuvenate and regenerate. If I were to undertake another 6 in 6, I’d allow time for myself.  An extrovert may experience the opposite and find they can go harder because they’re having so much social interaction.

Make sure it’s worth it

Make sure you do this for the right reasons.  If you aren’t interested in the meetup or the topics, you won’t enjoy it and it will detract from the next meetup.

Your cat will be confused

When I walked in the door after the 6th meetup, my cat looked over the arm of the couch with a look that said: “who are you and why are you in my apartment?”.  As I write this, she’s curled up on the couch arm next to me. She might have almost missed me this week.

Would I Do it Again?

I honestly can’t answer this question.  As I sit here recovering, I’m definitely thinking “never again”. However, if the right meetups came up next month – I’d probably do it again without a second thought. I look forward to seeing you at a future meetup, and if you see me around feel free to say hi.

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