Kalamazoo X in a Nutshell

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend my 3rd consecutive Kalamazoo X conference.  This event has gotten better every year thanks to the efforts of Mike, Mike, Matt, and Mark.  I’ve written about the conference recently so I won’t go into detail about what Kalamazoo X is.  Instead I’ll let a quote from the home page do the work for me:

The X Conference is the other half of your career; the half that makes you stand out.

Kalamazoo X has a rich history full of great speakers with interesting topics and this year was definitely no exception.  As with years past I took quite a few notes, the highlights of which I’d like to capture here and share for you to ponder.  As you read through them I think you’ll find some of the recurring themes begin to fall out naturally.

How to Learn
Jeff Blankenburg

If you spend 30 years not learning you forget how to learn.  You need to relearn learning.
  • Don’t stop learning
  • Commit to learning something new every year
  • Lack of time is not an excuse for not learning – you have plenty of time but don’t prioritize it
  • Reading != knowing
  • Need to practice
  • Learning comes from mistakes
  • Pick a simple project and build it in each language/platform you want to learn
  • Spend one evening every week learning something new

People: The Missing Ingredient
Joe O’Brien

The voices in your head: they don’t go away.

  • Never seen a project fail for technical reasons
  • Never seen a project succeed for technical reasons
  • Make 2012 the “Year of the Programmer”
    • Learn a new language
    • Learn about psychology
    • Learn how to deal with the person next to you
  • Start a “conversation Rolodex” – a variety of “go to” topics that you can discuss with virtually anyone
  • 3 Realities:
    • What you saw
    • What the other person saw
    • What really happened
  • Reveal bad news quickly
  • Listen for what is really being said
  • Don’t assume new relationships won’t work
  • Stay positive

The people you like the least…
…are the people you need the most…
(except for Charles Manson…definitely don’t need him!)
Laura Bergells

Once you fully accept that you really don’t like me… you actually start to like me!

  • Managing people isn’t about telling people what to do
  • Teams need different personality types to maximize creativity
  • Hire weirdos early and often

Intuition:  Your Own Superpower
Suzan Bond

It takes guts to say “It’s not the right decision for me”

  • Trust yourself
  • Use intuition as a starting point

Going Gonzo
Leon Gersing

Do not ask for permission.  You’re alive.  You’re drawing breath.  You have it.

  • Most people saying they’re doing Agile today are doing waterfall with Agile terms.  Agile is dead.
  • Innovation doesn’t come from the dominant culture – explore
  • We get so caught up being right that we forget to be wise
  • You are a graceful swan no matter what anyone else tells you
  • Time is an illusion – a relative concept
  • Use your tools to shape your reality and tell who you are

Your Career is Yours
Tim Wingfield

Coding katas are to programmers what scales are to musicians.

  • Your career is in you
  • You need to understand yourself to move forward
  • Learning is implicit in our industry
  • Most of the problems we solve are not technical
  • We need to practice
  • Be honest
  • Enjoy your career, don’t endure it
  • Read The Element by Ken Robinson (via Alan Stevens)

The Mythical Team-Month
Justin Searls

Minimizing failure is a poor optimization

  • Small teams go faster
  • Faster is taking less time to answer a question
  • Plenty of ideas ought to fail so they might as well fail quickly
  • Incentivizing everything to fail faster increases the chances of finding success
  • If you require a team to build something small you probably have bigger problems
  • Look for developers that can succeed independently
  • Communication isn’t free
    • A team of 25 people must maintain 300 relationships

Developers Can’t Design
…and other completely untrue design myths
Jen Myers

Design and development are part of the same process

  • Design is communication
  • Design Myth #1: Design is decoration
  • Design Myth #2: Design is subjective
  • Design Myth #3: Design is separate from development

Dealing with Difficult People
Elizabeth Naramore

We have a whole lot of shit and you’re right in the middle of it

  • Four motivations:
    • Get it done
    • Get it right
    • Get along
    • Get recognition
  • We need all four on a team and individually have all four
  • Problems arise when people are habitually operating at extremes
  • Listen to people – they want to be heard and understood
  • People problems are usually situation problems

Making a Difference
Alan Stevens

To transform the world, we must first transform ourselves

  • If you want to change your reality you have to take control and do it yourself
  • Your experience is your reality
  • All experience is subjective and the result of biochemical processes
  • Serotonin and dopamine are the only two things your brain enjoys
  • You will die – death is what makes life worth living
  • Death != failure
  • Equilibrium and stability are illusions – nature is changing all the time
  • Envisioning a rocky road to success forces us to act
  • Accept yourself
  • Don’t set goals – they make you a failure until you reach them.  Have a story and live it instead.
I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy this conference every year.  Next year’s event is already being planned so stay tuned and keep your calendar clear. 
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