The developer community conference is starting today in the US. Started by the Belgium Java User Group, Devoxx has come a long way, and now it is at the heart of Silicon Valley: San Jose.

On January 23rd, we spoke to Program Chair Stephan Janssen about talks to look out for and the rockstar speakers to expect. More recently, we spoke to some of the Program Committee members about what they think developers should focus on in 2017, and what’s coming up at Devoxx US.

What skills do you think developers should be focusing on in 2017?

Trisha: I think for me the big thing is, and has been for a few years now, looking up from just code-level skills and looking at architectural level stuff, because – it’s not just about the DevOps movement – it’s about the fact that as developers, we need to be looking at more than just which lines of code to write. We are responsible for maintaining that code more often than not. We know it’s going to go into the cloud, where the architecture is going to be different to how it used to be when we used to run it on our local machines with monoliths etc. We just need to be a bit more aware of architectural patterns and how that impacts how we’re going to develop solutions going forwards.

Roy: Last year, 2016, was a breakthrough year for AI and machine learning. Self-driving cars gained a lot of traction and are moving into the consumer market. AlphaGo was a major leap in game AI, becoming the first program to beat a professional Go player. This machine learning trend will continue and it’ll start to affect us ‘normal’ programmers. In my humble opinion it is going to be a valuable tool to have in our personal toolboxes.

What do you personally want to learn more about?

Trisha: For me, it’s going to be Java 9. One, as an advocate Java 9 is high on my list of the things I’d like to be talking about. Two, as a Java developer I really want to be seeing what’s coming around the corner. In particular because Java 9 – everyone talks about Jigsaw – but there are actually really interesting things that aren’t Jigsaw or the REPL. So I’m interested in uncovering those things and seeing how those impact developers.

Roy: I’d love to attend the talk Deep Learning in Production by Adam Gibson. He is the creator of DeepLearning4j, the most popular machine learning framework in Java. He’s going to share his experiences with successfully applying machine learning in production environments. If like me, you’re interested in AI and machine learning, check out his talk.

Are there any surprises in the submissions to Devoxx US?

Trisha: Diversity! An unpleasant surprise for me was that on the Java track, we only had submissions from three women, and I was one of them. So that was really disappointing. Especially as I did practice what I preach, and I personally reached out to about a dozen of women and asked them to submit talks to Devoxx US. In particular because it’s San Jose, and it’s Devoxx US, and I thought there’d be a much wider catchment area for professional people to speak. They don’t need to be professional speakers, they just doing something interesting and willing to speak about it. And Devoxx is a great platform for getting started if you haven’t done it before. So I was really disappointed to see that, despite reaching out to people, despite it being a good brand, despite people being excited about Devoxx US, there were only three women for the Java track.

However to counter that what also surprised me, pleasantly, was that for the Architecture track, there were lots of women speakers and diversity across the board. And that’s quite important, because in the past architecture was definitely, in my opinion, a white male more senior person (10-15 years experience under their belt, not age!). Which makes it a very narrow category of people who would be talking about architecture. What I’m seeing with Devoxx US, is not just with the submissions but also those who are selected, we have a nice range of experiences, a nice range of speakers, good diversity. So it’s very interesting to me that architecture, that is traditionally so very male and very white, has somehow attracted much more diversity of speakers – yet Java the language, that many of us are coding and doing day-to-day still doesn’t seem to be attracting CFPs from women speakers at a technical language level.

Roy: The most surprising fact about the Devoxx US submissions for me was the shear volume of proposals. Over 750 proposals have been submitted for a brand new conference. This says a lot! First, it says something about the Devoxx brand and Devoxx family. The open/friendly atmosphere combined with great content has already proven to be a huge success in Europe, and I’m sure it’ll also work in the US. The second thing it says is that there are a *lot* of developers that are willing to step out of their comfort zone and share their experiences and knowledge with us, which is great!

What are the common themes that stand out at Devoxx US?

Trisha: Microservices! It’s a theme that’s come up again and again but there are a bunch of talks specifically about Microservices, and also how it impacts design, tools and libraries that can help you. Basically it seems to me that Microservices has gone beyond the buzzword (‘Oh we should learn about this!’) to – we’re now practising Microservices, what’s all the other stuff around that. How does that impact us. What other things do we need to think about. Because Microservices aren’t just about small bits of code, it’s also about reliability. Responsiveness. Dealing with high availability. It’s a different way of thinking, so there are a lot of talks around it.
There’s also a bunch about Java 9 and serverless! But I’d say Microservices are now a pattern we’re following into production.

Roy: I’m repeating myself a little bit here, but again: AI and machine learning. These topics are getting a lot of extra attention at all the Devoxx conferences around the world this year, not just Devoxx US. Right now is the perfect moment to get involved in this new technology. Get onboard now and you’ll learn an important skill which will be highly sought after in the years to come.

Technology for Positive Change

Trisha is running a BOF, a ‘Birds of a Feather’ event at Devoxx US where anyone can attend and join in the discussion. The BOF is ‘Don’t just Embrace Change, Create Change‘.

Trisha: What I really want to do is try and address, in a positive way, some of the negative feelings around recent political events. I’m running a BOF about how we can try to create change from a technology perspective. How can we help the world to become a better place? Particularly given the impact of technology on world-wide elections. Technology has impacted people’s decision making processes. So what can we do, as technologists, to try and help create the change we’d like to see?

I’m running a BOF about that, to create a space where we can discuss what change means, what is positive change, what do we want to see, and come out with some actions about what we’d like to see.

 

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