Takeaways from DevTernity 2021

DevTernity is one of the top 3 international software development conferences in Europe and the largest in Latvia. I participated in the two-day event in December and I want to share my main takeaways in this article.

The conference was always held at the National Library of Latvia, but DevTernity 2021 was moved online because of the pandemic. The event was split into two days. The first day consisted of talks while the second was filled with workshops. Among the many interesting talks, I want to highlight two that I found most fascinating. I will also talk about the full-day workshop that I picked.

Talk #1: Decremental Development

The author emphasized that less is more. Then again, less is actually more effort to implement.

In our daily work, the main activity of any significant clean-up is decluttering and reducing. The less code you have, the less you will have to optimize, secure, debug, rework, etc.—and the more of a codebase you will be able to fit in your head and understand and work with. Things that can be removed or improved are dead code, speculative generalizations, and needless abstractions. By doing refactoring, you can remove or improve accidental complexity, verbosity, and first-draft thinking.

From a practical point of view, it could mean that after every circle of implementation, it is important to do a refactoring. Here’s what it looks like: Ticket was implemented; do a refactoring. Functionality/epic was implemented; do a refactoring. And so on. It’s essentially like washing the dishes right after cooking. Because you know that after some time, it will take more effort to clean all those dishes that have piled up.

Talk #2: Clean Code

This talk was presented by the legendary Robert Martin, aka “Uncle Bob,” author of the best-selling books Clean Code and The Clean Coder. Check his books out—they’re absolute must-haves for all devs.

Uncle Bob talked about the history of programming, its evolution, and the historical milestones it has reached. He remarked that the number of developers doubled every 5 years, putting the whole industry wanting in experienced developers.

An inexperienced industry could lead to catastrophic repercussions. And if this happens, the government could start regulating developers, like how medical doctors are regulated, for example. As for the health industry, what they did was to provide the government with their own rules so that the government did not have to create new rules on its own. And much like how doctors have their oath, Uncle Bob proposes that we, developers, should have our own oath, too. 

The Craftsman’s Oath

  1. I will not produce harmful code.
  2. The code that I produce will always be my best work. I will not knowingly allow code that is defective either in behavior or structure to accumulate.
  3. I will produce, with each release, a quick, sure, and repeatable proof that every element of the code works as it should.
  4. I will make frequent, small, releases so that I do not impede the progress of others.
  5. I will fearlessly and relentlessly improve my creations at every opportunity. I will never degrade them.
  6. I will do all that I can to keep the productivity of myself, and others, as high as possible. I will do nothing that decreases that productivity.
  7. I will continuously ensure that others can cover for me, and that I can cover for them.
  8. I will produce estimates that are honest both in magnitude and precision. I will not make promises without certainty.
  9. I will respect my fellow programmers.
  10. I will never stop learning and improving my craft.

Workshop: Leadership Guide for the Reluctant Leader

This workshop was about leadership, defining who a leader is and what it takes to be a leader.

How can one become a leader? There are several things that seem to be obvious hindrances to becoming a leader. Like you can’t be a leader if you’re not in a high position. Or that you can only be a leader if you have a lot of experience. Or that you need to have control over others. But these aren’t actual prerequisites to becoming a leader. Being a leader is more about one’s attitude, not the state or position in which one is at any moment.

Hence, it is better to talk about the qualities of a good leader instead of their position.

If people do not respect a leader, they will not follow that leader—a leader should gain their followers’ respect. A leader should work from their strength. A leader should understand when words are needed and when not. A leader should know how to set priorities and keep their focus. A leader must have a vision and the ability to analyze a situation. 

During the workshop, we did several exercises and answered some questions to help us have a better picture of what a leader is. I’m sharing them with you so you could try them yourself:

Questions

  • Who inspires me?
  • Why do I want to become a leader?
  • What are at least three ways that I can get better at leading myself?
  • What are some specific ways that I can start taking responsibility?

Activities

  • Think of at least two topics that you could turn into a presentation. Maybe it’s a technology you’re using, a tough problem you solved, or something you personally really enjoy. List some of the things you could share about each topic.
  • Write a note of encouragement for someone you currently work with. Be specific about something that they did and how it made a positive impact on you.
  • Write a note of encouragement for someone in your past. Be specific about what they did and how it made a positive impact on you.

In a nutshell

DevTernity 2021 was definitely worth it. With the quality of the talks and workshops, made possible by the speakers and facilitators expert in their fields, it is clear why DevTernity has become one of the most awaited conferences for developers and engineering leaders.

Some of the other topics covered in the event were test-driven development, agile, productivity, good architecture, and career development. Not all the talks are publicly available after the conference but here are two that you can watch right now:

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