Soft Skills – As Important If Not More Important Than Technical Skills At Conferences

A number of years ago, after speaking at user groups, companies, high schools, colleges, code camps and at large paid conferences for 20 years I decided to turn the topic of my sessions away from the latest version of a framework and somehow figure out a way to teach my “experience” of software engineering.  This is a lot harder said than done. In the end, I call these “soft skills” since the concepts can be used with any software language or framework. For example, I think how to properly implement object oriented programming (OOP) is a soft skill. Other people use the phrase “soft skills” for what I call “people skills”. The new mantra for all my sessions is:

Improving Code Quality… One Developer At A Time

Since I decided to go down this path, it’s been harder and harder to get my sessions accepted by conferences, especially the big paid ones like DEVTEACH, VSLive and DEVConnections just to name a few. In 2015, only one of these conferences accepted one of my sessions and in 2016, none of them did. This is too bad because I believe that conferences have a duty to help developers become better developers, not offer just the latest framework or version of a software language that they think will sell more tickets. Here are numbers from 2016 – 2017 on how many soft skill sessions these conferences and others had.

  • DevConnections: 1 – Cost $2,000
  • DEVIntersection : 0 – Cost $3,000
  • DEVTEACH: 0 – Cost $900
  • Indy.Code(): 3 (out of 100+) – Cost $500
  • Nebraska.Code(): 3 (out of 100+) – Cost $500
  • NDC {Sydney}: 0 – Cost $3,000
  • VSLive (Austin): 0 – Cost $2,200
  • VSLive (Orlando): 0 – Cost $2,200
  • VSLive (Washington): 0 – Cost $2,200

These conferences can range from $1,000 to $3,000 just for the ticket! Now let’s contrast this against the largest community driven conference called the Silicon Valley Code Camp that averages 2,500 attendees per day for FREE! In 2017 the Silicon Valley Code Camp had over 20 (17%) soft skill sessions (including some of mine). They are even letting me do a full day workshop at the Code Stars Summit on how to survive the technical interview (my most popular talk ever and there is no code in this session).

You can see from the numbers above that the more expensive the conference, the fewer sessions on code quality… actually most have NONE! Why, because the big conferences are run by a company interested in profit, not developers who know what developers want. The cheaper the conference the better chance that it is run by developers. Save your money if you are interested in code quality!

So if you feel that these skills are important, then please email the conferences that you like to go to and tell them.

Attendees are the only ones who can change this at conferences. If you don’t feel these types of skill are important… I guarantee you will later in your programming career. Please share your comments. To see where I will be speaking next, please visit this page: Rock The World Tour

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