PrimeConf – Best of British

I’ve only just got around to writing about this – which happened last Friday – but it was an incredible day so glad to have the time now!

PrimeConf was hosted to celebrate the best in British Technology, and championed Britain as a hot spot of technical innovation and talent. Held in the beautiful Royal Institution, and with (sorry, but there was..) incredible food(!) the whole day was impressively organised with an interesting and diverse line up.

I thought I’d pick out a couple of talks that got me thinking and discuss them, so here goes!

 

Mike Bracken and Russell Davies from Gov.uk

This was really quite amazing…

I hadn’t really thought about how awful the government websites were until I listened to this talk. This replaces DirectGov and Business Link, and essentially unifies all the separate departments and creates one interface which works and looks the same way.

In addition they’re working really hard to try and make processes digital which would previously have been paperless, so you can apply for permits/rights online, rather than having to complete reams of paperwork.

Design principles

One point they made which really made me think was that this kind of thing is not just a nice-to-have, it’s actually essential if you want to create a democracy people really trust. When it comes down to it, making legislative issues easier for people to access and understand is a fundamental part of providing a good government service. Long overdue I think but it’s looking fantastic!

 

Mazz Mosley – Technical Leadership 

Now this one was particularly interesting to me because it’s a problem I come across a lot in my work.

Essentially Mazz outlined the difficulties which come with the title ‘lead’ and the sense of ‘entitlement around the title’ that she’s come across in the industry, well supported by examples from her own experience.

When a developer reaches a certain level of experience in their career, Mazz posited that they start to assume the next natural step will be to a lead role – that the most experienced person in the team has a natural right to assume leadership, regardless of actual leadership skills. She went on to consider how difficult leadership actually is, and how it takes an entirely different set of skills to those needed to be a good developer. She highlighted how lonely it can be when you’re leading, and how actually other leaders might not want to cooperate with you due to internal politics…

I think we’ve probably all been in work environments where we’ve seen people in leadership positions clearly really resenting being so hands-off. When that person is your direct report, or worse, line manager/team manager, the consequences can be awful for the productivity of the whole team. A good leader has to be prepared to put the team’s welfare above their own code, and that’s no small ask.

 

Amy Mather – aka Mini Girl Geek!


This was really inspiring, particularly since I’m learning to code myself, and Amy got to a really high level in just (I think it was) 2 years!

I used to do a lot of public speaking when I was younger, and I was so impressed at the way she spoke – she’s very young and is addressing big audiences on a regular basis. She was really likeable and had the whole room laughing at her jokes, but she came across as somebody who was also really in command of what she was saying about technology and getting young people involved.

I heard on the radio this morning that schools are using MineCraft to help children learn, and there was general debate over whether or not this was real learning..

Amy’s reached a high level in programming because it’s something which really engaged her, and made her want to constantly practice until she got better. She found coding addictive – I reckon if teachers have found a way to make learning addictive by engaging children through the digital world in which they’re already immersed outside of school… then that surely can’t be a bad thing?!

Anyway, better get back to the business of recruitment… but it was a great day, and thanks to everyone who put it together. Would definitely recommend is there’s a follow up event.

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