Published 23rd May 2016
Now in its third year, the Belfast Technology Conference (BelTech) returned to Titanic Belfast on the 21st and 22nd April. Following on from the format of last year, Thursday’s session was split into two concurrent tracks; with one side hosting talks catering to local tech start-ups and entrepreneurs and the other side focused on talks geared towards technology professionals.
The morning sessions were themed around “Software Engineering, not Coding”. This approach definitely gave the impression of a more focused set of talks than previous years, with most of the sessions expanding upon or adding their own interpretation to this idea. David Anderson, Director of Technology at Liberty IT, introduced the session and highlighted the idea that as developers we should concentrate less on coding (i.e. writing impressive code for other coders) but instead focus on engineering software at all levels of the development process, to ensure the end result best serves its purpose. Following on from this, Doug Safford, Technology Leader at Allstate gave a short presentation. Doug discussed the efforts taken by Allstate to completely change their way of working, in order to adopt a new software development methodology based on Extreme Programming. This required a complete change to various areas of the company’s existing processes, including everything from updating the way new staff were trained to re-vamping existing office spaces. This understandably presented a challenge for a company as large as Allstate, but it appears to have been taken on with enthusiasm and determination.
The final session of the day was a keynote talk from Martin Woodward, Executive Director of the .NET Foundation. Martin spoke about Microsoft’s journey into open source technology and described some of the monumental challenges faced when trying to get a company whose CEO famously once referred to Linux as cancer, to fully embrace open source technology. In addition to some of the more obvious technical obstacles faced during Microsoft’s gradual movement towards open source, Martin also highlighted some of the more unexpected personal challenges. In particular, he discussed the difficult outlook changes for many Microsoft employees in fully embracing the open source mentality and in order to help promote community collaboration, treating their external contributors more like colleagues and less like outsiders. Martin also discussed the unexpected advantages that came about as a result of projects embracing open source, one being an improvement in the quality of code. Simply put, when our code is put out there for all to see, it seems we developers like to put a little more effort into ensuring it is our best work.
As this was my second year at BelTech, I was very impressed by how the event had stepped up in terms of topics, speakers and relevance. This is a must attend event for those interested in all aspects of technology as it is extremely inspiring and informative. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what next years’ event has to offer would definitely recommend that not only my colleagues but anyone with an interest go along for a visit!