thinking in rules

THAT Experience

Elaine Cowen | 8/17/2016

This year, my company gave me the opportunity to attend That Conference and bring along my family! 

Most of the Engineering team has gone in years past, and I was very excited to be included in the fun this year.  I had never been to the Wisconsin Dells, nor had I ever attended a technical conference...and since I'm not an engineer and can best describe my technical knowledge as "enough to be very dangerous," I seized the opportunity to attend That Conference.

My 3 ½ year old son, Will, asks me every morning if he can come to work with me. This time, I finally got to say yes. I was really impressed by the way the conference got family members involved and interested in technical subjects. My kids are still a little young for some of it, but I was surprised and excited to discover multiple sessions geared toward pre-school-aged kids. How cool to get them involved so early! They are growing up in a world where everything is connected and software is ubiquitous. They need to get started this young just to be able to keep up!

Below is a picture of one of the family sessions we attended, "Circuits in Play-Doh".

One of the keynote speeches was about time management and it highlighted how we can so easily get distracted in our world with our ever-present devices and access to so much information. The speaker provided a stat – something like “the amount of information available on the internet grows by 50% each month.” If I got that wrong, I apologize, but 47% of stats are made up anyway.

I know I certainly struggle to keep up. Every day I Google at least one technical acronym or framework or new programming language or company or architecture or sometimes one of each. The way I feel and the speed at which we’re all expected to learn I liken to how fast I was hurled down the water slide at the Kalahari resort during the water park night at the conference. 3-2-1: the floor drops from underneath you and you’re free falling. All of a sudden, the slide catches you and you’re continuing to be hurled through a dark tube with flowing water. You’re questioning where you are and if the ride is over. You soon realize, yes, it’s been over for 5 seconds and all you had to do was sit up. Your nose is filled with water and you have an enormous wedgie. Wow – that was painful, but also exhilarating and fun, so let’s do it again!

I had a great time at That Conference. I felt a sense of community around me – people who are familiar with the struggles of trying to keep up, to continue learning and to solve problems every day. It’s nice to be around a bunch of people who “get it.” These people who go through the same pain but who continue to say “Hey – let’s do that again!”

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