Music City Code = Music to My Ears

So I went to conference last week called Music City Code. If you’re using context clues, you have guessed that the event took place in Nashville and was targeted toward developers. Right you are, my friend. Give yourself a gold star. But here’s the thing: I am not a developer. Nope. Haven’t written a line of code in my career. How in the heck did I find myself at a three-day (okay, I only attended two days) conference for developers? For one, the company that I work for was a platinum sponsor at the event and wanted a good presence of employees in attendance. Makes sense. When presented with the opportunity to go, I initially wrote off the conference and then asked to attend after reviewing the schedule and finding several sessions that addressed soft skills that could be useful in any line of work. I’ll have a white wine with my crow, thank you very much. I won’t go into a lot of details on the sessions themselves but there were a couple of personal takeaways that I feel are worthy of sharing.

1: Illustrative notes are the coolest thing EVER.

In select sessions, Melinda Walker from One Squiggly Line created illustrative notes as the speaker was delivering their message. The blend of artistry and listening is the best form of active listening I’ve ever witnessed. Bonus: it was so neat to see an art form as a primary component at a developer conference. Go check out her site, I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

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Nancy Gaines (left) and Melinda Walker (right)

2: Everyone had positive things to say about BAs!

Each time I introduced myself as a BA, it was met with “A great BA is critical to smooth projects.” or “That’s an important role!” These comments immediately put me at ease since I felt a little bit like an imposter being at the conference in the first place.

3: I develop software too!

This one kind of blew my mind, but when I think about it, it’s so true! Even though I do not write the code, or even know how to write code in the first place, it doesn’t mean that I am not contributing to the same goal of building workable and effective software to our customers. This one comment from Byron Sommardahl who led the “Event Storming” session was quite the revelation for me. No more will I explain my role as “interpreting what the business wants to the development team”. Yes, that does happen but the empowerment behind that phrase means I do more than create shared understanding between stakeholders and makes me feel fired up to do this work.

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Event Storming with Byron Sommardahl (he’s playing with the post-its)

4: My public speaking nervousness has been curbed. Somewhat.

I consider any speaking in front of groups of more than 5 to be public speaking. It just freaks me out to even lift my hand and ask a question in front of groups. However, I did so repeatedly at the conference and did not experience the typical queasiness. After all, you can’t find your voice if you don’t raise it. I wasn’t quite ready to rock out at the Geek Jam, but baby steps. I’ll get there one day.

5: The lines at the ladies room were way too short.

I’m probably the first woman to ever complain about that but it speaks to the small presence of women represented at the conference. Now, this isn’t a dig on the conference itself, I mean – the people who chose to attend are just that, but it is indicative that the presence of females in the tech industry are still smaller than the presence of men. With that said, I did see a fair number of women in attendance, and there were a couple of noteworthy female speakers, but the majority in attendance was men.

In the end, Music City Code was one of the better conferences that I’ve ever attended and it’s inspired me to put words to paper (or screen) again and talk about how being the oddball on a team doesn’t mean that I don’t add value to it. As David Neal, the Reverent Geek himself said in his keynote on Friday “You don’t need permission to be awesome”. No sir, I do not.

-Stephanie

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