Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Devoxx: The Problem with Women - A Technical Approach

As well as talking about, you know, actual work-type-stuff, I was encouraged to give my "Technical Approach to Women" presentation at Devoxx.  This went so well at JavaOne that I thought it would be difficult to top.  Also, I wasn't convinced it would work at Devoxx, because the theatres are not well suited to audience participation - the seats are warm and comfy, the room is dark, the speaker is on stage in front of a massive screen....

I was incredibly impressed with the audience.  There were literally hundreds of people, most of them men.  To me, it proved once again that the men in this industry are determined to "fix" this problem of gender imbalance.  And they're happy to extend that to improving diversity as a whole, once you highlight the bigger problem.  It says to me that this is not naturally a misogynistic industry, where you have to fight against the boys club to get anywhere.  It says to me that we are all in this together.  After all, in the "real" world the geeks are still outsiders, and different, so we're used to embracing our different-ness - whether that's because you're the only girl in the room, the only Java developer at a .NET conference, or the only techy at a dinner party.

Conferences are a self-selecting audience, I know - these are the people who are investing time and money in advancing their careers, or at least encouraging their employers to do.  But for the punchline of this session, these are exactly the right people.  We need to go out, tell everyone how much we enjoy our jobs; tell kids that programming is cool, and show them it's fun; mentor other people, and each other, and be a role model.  I don't care what gender you are or what colour you are or what your dark secret is - you are the role model to inspire someone.

Just do it.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Agile++: When Agile Goes Well

If you see anything about LMAX - the Disruptor, Continuous Delivery, or even the selection criteria for hiring developers, you'll see that LMAX is pretty keen on Agile.  However, no-one's documented the Agile process there, as far as I know.  Although I personally had it on my todo list, I never had the motivation, the hook to do it.  And I realised eventually that's because I'm not sure it's a process that would work very well for another team, in another company, working in another business.

The agile process followed at LMAX is one that works for the individuals and the organisation there.  And that's because they do one thing very well - they regularly examine the issues faced and adapt the process to try and combat them.  It's an agile process that's, well, very agile - it's constantly changing.  Documenting it would only represent a single snapshot in time that would be out of date almost as soon as the next retrospective comes along.

Any process can inspire Cargo Cultism, and the last thing I want to do is give people a process to without the tools to know whether it's the right thing for them or not.  It's more important to understand your goals, check progress and improve.

I was talking this through with a colleague, Israel, and he rightly pointed out the tool that LMAX can share with everyone else - thinking.  Examining the problems, visualising them, and trying out different ways to fix them.

So at Devoxx Israel and I presented a session on "Agile++", using LMAX as a use case of when agile methods work.  The session examines four specific issues encountered at LMAX and the steps taken to solve them, and it's available on Parleys.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Webinar: Processing High Volume Data Feeds with MongoDB

Hot on the heels of my very first MongoDB webinar, I was... encouraged... to do another.  Here at 10gen we've been running a series of webinars around using MongoDB in the financial services domain.  Yesterday was the last in the series, and was presented in association with C24 - John Davies, their CTO, did most of the talking, and demonstrated their product for automatically turning financial messages from one format into another.

(Slides and webinar available here - and you're not going deaf, the sound doesn't start until about 3:44 into the video)


It was a fun webinar to do, actually - I didn't know anything about C24's iO tool, so I learnt quite a lot as I watched John navigate the demo.  My background in trying to debug raw FIX messages probably skewed my questions, I was definitely more interested in how to use it as a developer and what it could give me if I were doing production support.  It's a dead interesting tool - I know for a fact that many organisations, banks in particular, spend a lot of time translating stuff from one format to another, before making some decision on on what to do with the contents.  This tool does all the heavy lifting so you can get on with the interesting stuff, the stuff your business actually needs you to do.

In addition, as someone with more of an FS background than a NoSQL background, I was very interested to hear how lots of the financial institutions are using MongoDB already - the combination of not having an enforced schema but supporting structured data, supported by fast execution, makes it a good fit for a lot of the problems they're trying to solve.  Yes, it's my job to say nice things about MongoDB, but when businesses are already using it because it makes their lives easier and meets their needs, it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling that the product must be doing something right.

I enjoyed giving this webinar, I think if I do any more I will suggest pairing on it (we all know two heads are better than one, right?) - it gives you some of the feedback and energy that's hard to get in a darkened room talking to a microphone.