Monday, May 20, 2024

NewCrafts Paris 2024 - A Memorable Conference to Rave About

There are some conferences out there that you hear people speak highly of. NewCrafts is one of them, and I've waited for years for my opportunity to experience it. It finally happened! Thank you Maxime Sanglan-Charlier for having me this year. NewCrafts celebrated their tenth edition, and I celebrated my first. It was a blast.


The Day Before

Travels went well and I had planned to use some of my time before evening activities to go sightseeing. After all, it's Paris! I quickly realized, however, that I just didn't have energy for it, so opted for preparing myself for the conference and taking a break instead. Sightseeing will have to wait for the next opportunity to get there.

The evening before the conference, the organizers invited all speakers to a dinner. They treated us to a fabulous place at Radio France - quite an experience! Great place, great food, even better company.

It's such an awesome feeling to see more and more amazing people come together for these occasions. There are usually some folks that I know already from past conferences which ends up in lots of hellos and how have you been and what have you been up to. There are always speakers I haven't met or not really talked with yet, which allows forming initial bonds. Very exiting, somewhat overwhelming, and still much appreciated.

This time was my chance to re-connect and connect with folks like Romeu Moura, Thierry de Pauw, Elizabeth Zagroba, Marit van Dijk, Zsófia Herendi, Sofia Katsaouni, Aki Salmi, Kenny Baas-Schwegler and Alberto Brandolini. Thanks for making this evening a great start into the conference!

Conference Day 1

It's quite a sight when you walk from the hotel to the conference venue and you're walking straight up to the Eiffel Tower. The venue itself turned out to be really nice, coffee and breakfast treats were served on arrival, and organizers provided a separate speaker room to get prepared. All ready to get started! The first day's program made our choice very difficult, all the sessions were intriguing - I'm glad I'll have a second chance for the talks I missed as all of them were recorded. Even though watching videos usually doesn't really work well for me, I have lots of incentive to do so this time.

  • Keynote: From Pilot to Transformation: Embracing the Reality of GenAI at Scale by Patrick Debois. I did not come with expectations for this talk and was pleasantly surprised that it provided more information about generative AI that I have not come across before, especially around the actual implementation, respective tooling and experience.
  • Team Transformation Tactics for Holistic Testing and Quality by me. I've done this talk a few times by now, and it constantly evolved further. According to people's feedback, this edition seemed to have resonated, and I'm glad it was recorded.
  • Human-centred system design by Trond Hjorteland. It was insightful to learn about the history of the Open Systems Theory, which experiments were run and how concepts evolved. The talk was packed full of insights and conclusions, there's a lot more to go deeper into.
  • Workshop: Architecture Modernization: Understanding your System's Current State using Service Blueprints by Indu Alagarsamy. I wanted to learn a new approach for my toolbox and see if it would help me with my challenges that often involve getting people across roles and teams on a shared page. And this workshop did just that! Service blueprints are diagrams that visualize the relationships between different components like people, systems, or processes that are directly tied to touchpoints in a specific customer journey. It's an approach originating from service design. It brings people together across roles as everyone can benefit from the shared understanding, and helps everyone making better decisions. Indu created a great space to try out creating a service blueprint hands-on, and reflect on the different variants we could use to adapt it to our needs.
  • Effective software design: The role of men in debugging patriarchy in IT by Kenny Baas-Schwegler. I loved seeing this session on such a crucial topic on the program and am really happy I could join it live. I very much appreciate that Kenny used his privilege to lead by example and address these difficult topics and convey very important messages that more people need to hear.
  •  Keynote: Don't Hit the Iceberg by Diana Montalion. I really appreciated the points made, along with the encouragement to do better and participate in creating a better environment together. The iceberg model helped convey the message of how things are connected and how systems drive different behaviors. A great reminder for all of us to look out for the invisible parts of the icebergs we encounter, every day.

A conference is not only the sessions you attend. All the informal times before, in between and after the program are invaluable to learn more. Lunch allowed insightful conversations, this time including Michael Plöd, Susanne Kaiser, Anja Kunkel, and Krisztina Hirth. Right after the conference, there were drinks and pizza served, and a meetup took place at the same venue. It sounded very interesting, yet I didn't make it there as I got caught up in lots of interesting conversations. Finally, as it usually happens at conferences, a dinner group formed for the evening. We all enjoyed some lovely quality time together along with nice food. For me a great chance to catch up with Joep Schuurkes, Kostas Stroggylos, and Markus Tacker


Conference Day 2

Time is flying if so many things are happening. The second and final conference day started, and had once again lots of good stuff prepared for us.

  • Keynote: Power Structures and their Impact on Software by Andrew Harmel-Law. I had high hopes for this keynote as I've seen the speaker with a brilliant talk before. This keynote even exceeded my hopes! Andrew not only presented what I've experienced myself in such poignant ways, they also used their privilege to call out systemic issues that we all must continue fighting to build a better world. My sincere, heartfelt thanks to Andrew for this absolutely wonderful keynote - it's been resonating with me more than I can express and I believe way more folks need to hear it! And on top of this, representation matters and we need to see more neurospicy folks on stage. Andrew included meta talk about themselves, and thus not only provided a role model but also helped normalize talking about the whole topic.
  • Workshop: Leveraging Team Topologies for software evolution by João Rosa. I hoped to learn more about team topologies, potentially uncover mismatches with my mental model about it, and also gain more practice to apply these concepts back at work. The workshop did all this and provided lots of hands-on opportunities to engage with the material. A few things really stuck with me. The core idea to reduce cognitive load and making it the base for our decision making. Shifting our thinking from problem solving to puzzle solving when it comes to designing teams and their interactions, and using the "yes, and" approach to find the next piece. Strategizing against the environment to change it, and intentionally re-shaping towards the future to have the organization aligned in business and tech. Really well structured, explained and facilitated workshop, with an impressive workbook to go with.
  • Shades of Conway's Law by Thierry de Pauw. I'm in awe of Thierry going through all this material on such a complex topic and condense the findings in such a concise manner. There's a lot to digest and think about, and this talk triggered just that. I'll need to keep on thinking about this and matching what I've heard and learned in the talk to what I experience at work, and then to see how I can apply the gained knowledge to help my organization (or at least a sub-part of it) to a better place. Really, so much food for thought in here.
  • My Team Is High Performing But Everyone Hates Us by Stephen Janaway. I hoped for an insightful story from the trenches - and I got one! Could relate with a lot of what had been shared, and loved the condensed playbook with sage advice for our own contexts. Really engaging presentation and great storytelling as well!
  • Bring meaning back to your retrospectives (no matter your role) by Sofia Katsaouni. At first, I didn't plan to come to this talk as I felt I had already engaged with the topic so much in the past, so what's there still to learn right now. After getting to know Sofia better, I decided to join nonetheless and give it a try, allowing myself to find serendipitous new insights. I was not disappointed! I really liked how the talk encouraged everyone to reflect on our own experiences and gain a deeper understanding on what likely happened in certain situations, and how we could approach similar ones differently in the future. Although nothing of what had been shared was completely new, the arrangement was unique and did inspire to take further steps and go deeper into the respective topics, once again.
  • Keynote: Technical Neglect by Kevlin Henney. I've heard Kevlin speak at a conference many years ago and had high hopes for this keynote, especially on the given topic of technical "debt" as it's often called. No disappointment here! It was an amazing and very insightful spotlight on what's so often happening, and also gave tangible advice on how to turn our ships around and get them back on course. This will be a talk I'll refer people to a lot in the future.

What about the rest of the day? During lunch time, I really enjoyed conversations with Vitaly Sharovatov, Minh-Tâm Tran, Elizabeth Zagroba and Joep Schuurkes.

When the conference was over, lots of people had to leave right away. Some people joined for another drink, and we once again found a wonderful dinner group to enjoy the rest of the evening with. Many thanks go out to Marit van Dijk, Mathias Verraes, Alberto Brandolini, Kevlin Henney, Michel Grootjans, and Stéfanie Loiseleur.

That not being enough, of course we ended up in the hotel bar before it was really over. So here's my shout-out to Indu Alagarsamy and Javiera Laso - thanks for the perfect closure of a memorable conference!



Would I recommend people to join NewCrafts? Yes, absolutely. Especially if you want to grow beyond your current position, role and expertise - if you are eager to learn more about the world and the socio-technical systems we're working in. You will not only hear about tech and culture topics that are relevant right now for your work, but also about all kinds of horizon-broadening topics to help you grow further as a human. Add to that a really smooth conference experience, and an inspiring crowd to learn with. People raved about this conference, hence I really wanted to go. Now I'm part of those people, and I really want to come back!

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