“I learned something - try to explain it until you understand yourself”
What the conference looks like for the viewer, everyone understands, but what does it mean for the speaker? What makes well-known specialists distract from their main activity for the careful preparation of the report? Why is it that the format of a simple blog post is not enough? What kind of return do they get? What most often becomes the starting point for a report?
We already spoke with Vladimir Krasilshchik (Yandex) about his experience of speaking, and now four people who are well known to visitors to Java conferences answered our questions at once:
- Alexey @shipilev Shipilev (Red Hat);
- Tagir lany Valeev (JetBrains);
- Ruslan cheremin Cheremin (Deutsche Bank);
- Gleb gvsmirnov Smirnov (Plumbr).
Alexey Shipilev (Red Hat, ex-Oracle)
- How did you start performing? What brought this to life?
- Public speaking at technical conferences began with me in 2009 at Sun Tech Days, where together with Ivan Krylov we talked about optimizations in the JVM. This was a report made by our American colleagues (pulled, of course, with their permission), with which they went to JavaOne, and our task was only to translate the slides and tell them. As my colleague Valera Ushakov said after the speech, quite successful “comic couplets about the JIT compiler” turned out.
But, in principle, I had the skills of public speaking before this: thanks to scientific and practical conferences of schoolchildren and students, as well as my small experience in teaching in visiting summer / winter schools.
- There are many conferences at which marketers and sales speak. Their interest is understandable. And what is the profit of performances for the engineer?
- It seems to me that an engineer can have several profits at once.
Firstly, the profit is canalizing. Engineers, as a rule, are “bursting with experience”: anyone you look at has either XL or XXL ... Most engineers at least sometimes solve complex problems, gain experience in specific areas, study, compare, and make technical decisions. This knowledge is accumulated and, as in the problem of the pool and two pipes, is inevitably asked outside. Each one splashes them out in different ways and on different scales: someone writes profound phrases on Twitter, someone notes on LiveJournal, Facebook or his own blog, someone talks in podcasts, someone speaks at conferences, someone just quietly educates his wards.
Secondly, the profit is educational. Sometimes you want to delve into a specific place in a particular project or ecosystem and pull out some finished knowledge from there. Surprisingly, in our reality this is most conveniently done in the form of a report to a training or conference.
a) The format of the report forces you to think over the structure: introduction, statement of the problem, solution, climax, denouement. In the format of a blog / article, you can always fool yourself by saying "well, I’m writing for myself." A report "to the table" is in principle impossible, because the speech involves the public.
b) The format of the report makes it necessary to meet the time both from above and from below. Therefore, it doesn’t turn out to be free, as in a post, writing after a five-minute introduction “and continued in the next article ...”, which never appears. In the report, you have one chance per year to tell something correctly and fully (no pressure!), This disciplines. Also, it is not possible to dump everything in a post per kilometer, hoping that it will be useful.
This is not a new observation, many successful professionals in other fields have already discovered this trick: learned something - try to explain it to someone, study it again, explain it again, until you understand it yourself.
Thirdly, profit is time saving. As an engineer gains expertise in a specific field, he naturally finds himself in a situation where he is forced to explain the same thing three hundred times in different places. A finished report on a specific topic is a good reference to experience, which saves time :) Again, I constantly notice that few people want to read a long comment or article for an hour, but please see the recording of the hourly report! Maybe the fact is that it’s harder to ignore a video with tens of thousands of views than a comment with three pluses in some muffled blog.
- For a senior developer, there are not many career paths if you do not go into managing people. How do public appearances affect a career?
- I usually ask at this place: “And what is career growth?” When it comes to salary, the obvious growth point is to become a Colombian drug dealer. If we are talking about having a team of people working on your project, it’s not necessary to manage these people for this. In all the offices where I was lucky to work, the technical and managerial ladders are separated, and growth in the technical field is possible without going into management. (Moreover, most of my colleagues know about the trap “from excellent engineers to mediocre managers”). If it’s about just being behind you and letting you work on interesting projects for you, then the transition to management directly contradicts this goal in all respects.
On the one hand, I don’t know any examples when people were hired for high positions due to the fact that they spoke at conferences. Bearing in mind the post hoc ergo propter hoc, it is worth thinking that publicly known developers are hired more likely because of their technical skills, which they demonstrate outside of the reports. Because you want to hire developers who solve problems, and not just talk about them beautifully. There is a separate category of specialists who are called differently - “evangelists”, “developer lawyers” and so on - for whom public speaking and generally working with the external public are an essential part of job descriptions, but we are not talking about them.
In all my works, reports at conferences were perceived as part of my existence: to dine regularly, sleep regularly, and speak regularly at conferences. It is assumed that senior developers always share experiences, and sometimes this translates into participation in conferences.
On the other hand, after our first conferences with Kuksenko, our HR (Katya, hello!) Asked us to come to her as soon as possible due to signs of hunting from other companies, because the recent conference put us on the shortlist of hiring local companies . We must understand that in hiring staff we would really like the hiring people to look at each specific person, but in practice at least the initial screening is based on at least some metrics - the number of known projects, the number of stars on GitHub, the number of followers on Twitter, the number and the popularity of reports and articles, teaching experience and more.
Having reports in your track record has at least one reasonable role: if you hire a senior developer, you also hire a mentor for junior developers. Therefore, you would like to hire a person who has demonstrated the ability to explain, while continuing to listen to him.
- Where does the material for the reports come from? What gives more texture: work, own projects, something else?
- It’s hard for me to distinguish “work” from “my own projects” :) Rather, it’s worth dividing by what we are doing specifically and what others are doing.
I call the first class of reports “See what wealth we make”, and this is really talk about current projects, problems and solutions in them. On the one hand, they are advertising because they give the public an idea of the product, and on the other hand, they are technical because they give an idea of approaches to solve problems. It is potentially cheaper to make such a report, because you are already delving into the problems, but there is a danger of falling into a collection of jokes “we measured like this, and here is such data”, “we rearranged two calls here and it got better.” “And what?” The venerable public will ask, and he will be right. A good report from this class is a technical review of the product with an explanation of its fundamental and random advantages and disadvantages from the point of view of the target audience. In other words, this is the format of the technical report on the work done.
The second class is “See how rich I have found.” These are reports immersed in a specific project or issue that existed before us. I would like to make such reports even when your current project is still of interest to you, but you are already tired of talking about it. (Well, how many times can you talk about QuickSort in an interesting way? Three times maximum.) They are usually more digestible, because this is the view of an advanced amateur for laymans - it’s much easier to get into the same educational base. However, in such reports it is quite simple to review important aspects, therefore it is super important to have the opinion of real experts in them. In other words, they require a tough review of reports, unlike the first class, where tough personal discipline is required :)
I think that even in the absence of cool rich projects in which you personally participate, you can always talk about outsiders, only you need to look carefully so as not to carry nonsense about them. I would say that in my repertoire the ratio of reports of these two classes is 70:30.
- Surely you participated in conferences as an ordinary participant, and not just as a speaker. Can you compare what is the difference between these two formats?
- I explain from personal experience. As a presenter, you spend half of the conference in your thoughts “Eprst, how to tell it right”, and the second in your thoughts “Eprst, because you could tell more correctly like this, and now wait another year to fix it.” That is, it is exciting even for experienced speakers, because the report itself is a kind of knot in the universal memory that cannot be played back :)
In addition, it is assumed that after the report (and sometimes before it) you are met at the conference venue and
I’m introvert by nature. When I’m going to the conference as a participant, I think: “Now I’ll talk with people, because I’m going to the konf for this, and not watch reports on YouTube” - you come and different rationalizations come in, you need to eat, drink, sleep, just lie in a corner, and at the end you find that you have not really talked to anyone. Speakers are built into the mechanics of a good conference so that they are constantly exposed to contact. Of course, as a speaker, you will be exhausted at the end, but you will be glad that the mechanics of the process did not allow you to pupate :) I would start with this the preparation of speakers in principle: at the conference they are the key elements of a meaningful program, they do not need to be a speaker -room to hide, and stand in the crowd.
- After conferences, they collect audience feedback on reports - what are you getting, and how useful are they? Have there been any unexpected ones, for example, to ask for a job from you?
- I think that the goal of any report is to influence the brains of the public. Testimonials help you evaluate whether it worked out or not.
Unfortunately, many of them are more emotional than informative. It’s very pleasant to conceal anything, when they write to you that your report is cool, because you are you. But to improve the report, this is a meaningless comment because you want knowledge to remain even after you turn off the reality distortion field. However, a certain level of emotional feedback, both positive and negative, is still good. Because otherwise it means that you spoke in front of a hall full of zombies, and you can’t trust the rest of the responses!
Negative informative reviews for a verified, rehearsed and audited report are quite rare, and they are actionable insights - they are to be expected, but it is worth hoping for their absence. If you have illogical transitions, distortions and other demagogy in your report, then you will almost certainly be written about this. In addition, they will also be read by the program committee, to which questions arise about the failed report ...
There is almost no such thing as giving valuable advice and recommendations - it is customary to talk about this on the sidelines,
Tagir Valeev (JetBrains)
- How did you start performing?
- If we talk about Java-conferences, the first time I spoke at Joker in 2015. It all started with the fact that six months before that I rather spontaneously went to JPoint. Prior to that, I thought Java conferences were not particularly interesting and useful in the sense that reports can be viewed on YouTube (albeit with a delay), and much of what they talk about can be gleaned from articles, and much more deeply. However, after that JPoint I changed my mind. The most valuable thing at the conference is the degree of hardcore. There you can meet very interesting people who do very interesting things. Live communication with speakers and participants is something you can’t get by watching YouTube and reading articles.
A couple of months after JPoint, I spontaneously accumulated scattered material on the Stream API JIT compilation. I was curious that with speed there, I researched myself, read articles and pestering by mail Vladimir Ivanov from Oracle. At some point, the puzzle developed, and understanding came. Usually I fix this result by writing an article on Habré. Then I even sketched a draft, but somehow I didn’t like everything. It turned out too long and a little not in the Habr format, or what. I realized that an oral presentation would be better for this story, and I applied for Joker. It turned out pretty well, and I realized that I was interested in making reports.
- What is the profit for the engineer from performances?
- I will not speak for all the engineers, but for me it is more a hobby than a way to get some kind of benefit. It’s even more important for me to attend the conference, to listen to other reports than to make my own. But when you are reporting yourself, you rise to a new step. It’s easier to talk on equal terms with other speakers - for what I’m participating. It is clear that performances contribute to fame and some kind of rating, at least in the eyes of HR departments. Job offers immediately begin to pour in from all sides.
- Where does the material for the reports come from?
- Until now, these have been their own projects. Basically, the material was typed while communicating on Stack Overflow and while working on the StreamEx library. But now the material on the Stream API is already running out, so at the next JPoint I ’ll tellalready about work on inspections at IntelliJ IDEA.
- What is the difference between attending a conference as a participant and as a speaker?
- Actually, at each conference I am more a participant than a speaker. I am the speaker only at my talk, and the rest of the time I walk around strangers and listen to them on an equal footing with the participants. The difference is not very big, except for the need to tell your report. Well, there is an after party and you can have a cup of tea in the speaker room, it’s calmer there than in the common room. There is no need to stand in line in the wardrobe. On the other hand, different people constantly come up and ask something, make them take pictures against the background of a press wall or give some kind of interview.
- What reaction did your performances evoke? Were there any unexpected consequences or, for example, a sharply negative feedback?
- After the conferences, the number of stars at the StreamEx library on GitHub increased , new users came. I met with the debriefing podcast team, now I'm sitting in their chat . There was almost no negative feedback. Among the reviews of the reports came across critical, but where without them?
Ruslan Cheremin (Deutsche Bank)
- How did you start performing?
- It was a lucky accident. I wrote a series of posts about Disruptor - the first more or less consecutive series of posts about performance, benchmarks, and anatomical research on live JVMs. Alexey Shipilev appeared in some places in the comments, and he suggested that, on the basis of this series, I make a presentation in JavaOne Moscow. I remember that I was very tense: JavaOne - it was something inconceivably cool, just a year before I went to it for the first time as a participant, and did not feel like an expert ready to speak there. I can’t even imagine how I persuaded myself. :)
- Why do marketers want to speak at conferences, understandably, what’s the profit for the developer?
I do not think that there is any clear boundary between developers and marketers. Every time I speak - whether from the stage, from the blog - I explicitly or implicitly push people to think the way I think, to pay more attention to those things that I consider important. In a sense, I sell myself, my values and way of thinking — marketing and sales to myself :) And in a more literal sense, it is also present: even if I don’t mention Deutsche Bank inside my reports every minute (but I checked now, of course, it is signed on each slide), all the same, everyone knows where I come from. And in this sense, my profit is obvious.
A little less obvious, but for me, an equally important profit is the opportunity to put my thoughts in order. In the process of preparing for each of my reports, I am doing a bunch of clarifying studies, which for myself, honestly, I would be too lazy to do - because it seems to be “so clear”. But I do them because I expect possible questions - and sometimes it turns out that not everything is clear :) Each time it turns out that about 30 percent of my knowledge on the topic was unearthed a week and a half before the report, during the final licking of formulations. This is information that otherwise I probably would never have known.
In addition, the report is a good final point, the closure of gestalt for some topic. Like an exam in his young years :) I dug it up, piled it together, structured it, set it out and calmed down. Free space in the head for something new.
- For a senior developer, there are not many career paths if you do not go into managing people. How do public speaking affect professional development?
- Still, professional and career growth is a bit different :) Speaking about career - yes, I got my current job, largely due to the very first report on JavaOne: I turned out to be the person who needed this team . But this is my only such example so far, so you can’t draw a pattern here.
If we talk about professional development, then for me it echoes the previous topic. Speeches (more precisely, preparation for them) give motivation to deal with topics that are not necessarily needed in the current work - well, or are not needed so deeply. It often happens that some direction is interesting - but now it is not necessary to work. You can dig from the surface out of simple interest, but for a deeper study, you need some kind of independent motivation, usually you want to do something using this information. It’s good if the opportunity is taken up at the current job, or they successfully offer a new vacancy, but if not, a series of posts and / or presentation can serve as such a “finished product”, give motivation. In any case, it works for me :) - Where does the
material for the reports come from?
- Something catches on in everyday work - but, usually, then it takes me very far from the starting point. As a result, it turns out that it is not easy to explain to colleagues what specific work task a particular presentation has grown from. And it’s also not easy to answer the questions after the reports “what are you doing at your job, what do you need this for” - and I don’t do anything “like that,” interesting things are always there.
“Does a topic dive immediately with the thought of a subsequent report, or is the situation“ you first do it for yourself, and only then do you understand what you can tell other people as well ”?
- I would say that these are parallel things. I do something purely for myself, out of curiosity. Something at work - because you need to solve a specific problem. And in that, and in another case, the amount of work, the volume of my investments is noticeably limited. In the first case, the volume of curiosity, in the second budget. But in my head there is an “internal scientist” who, conditionally, evaluates in the background - is there anything to make an article from here? Does the current task resemble something that can be used to make an independent, interesting work of a more or less wide circle of colleagues? And if it’s similar, then I get an additional motivation bonus - you can not only explore it yourself, but also brag to others :) You can dig deeper on this bonus.
Something is far from always accumulating, and far from always enough to write at least a post - I have about a dozen unfinished posts in drafts, to which I simply exhausted my interest before I reached the end.
Demand / utility, I do not appreciate - here's how lucky. I don’t specifically analyze the knowledge either, but it is taken into account somehow intuitively: if the topic has already been well studied, then you can read a lot in it - and when you finish reading the available information, you look, your curiosity is satisfied, your enthusiasm has run out.
Gleb Smirnov (Plumbr)
- How did you start performing?
This is all Aleksey 23derevo Fedorov :) Previously, I was quite actively writing topics in the Java hub on Habrahabr, on a variety of topics. At some point, I finished writing that Alexey contacted me and offered to speak at one of the first “new” JUG.ru conferences. How can I refuse!
- What is the profit of appearances for the developer?
Firstly, it’s good from a moral point of view. If I spent a lot of resources understanding something, then from altruistic beliefs I should make it easier for those who go the same way. This is how progress is built. So win.
The second big-big profit is the wonderful people with whom they make speeches at conferences. Often you can hear phrases like “the most interesting thing was in the behind-the-scenes discussions”, but as for me, the most interesting was usually not even during the conference itself, but somewhere before, in the middle and after: starting from test runs of the report and feedback on them, continuing on speaker dinners, where you can discuss everything (at least cosmology, at least yoga, at least fresh memes), and ending at afterparty, which can drag on for days.
The latter leads to another profit: an unusual experience. Conference organizers often organize something interesting for speakers, be it a trip to the Arctic Circle or a traditional sauna. And the speakers themselves are having fun: they’ll go to Mexico after JavaOne, or something else :)
- For a senior developer, there are not many career paths if you do not go into managing people. How do public appearances affect career and professional development?
Positive, of course :) The statement about "not so much", for me, is not so fair. You just need to know where something interesting is. And communication with speakers helps a lot in this: it turns out that these guys are sawing this cool thing, but this company has an open position in a very cool team. In addition, dating often helps to avoid a dull screening, or even immediately get an offer in the forehead. Here, of course, one can argue about "nepotism": they say, to hire by acquaintance is already some kind of nepotism, a-ta-ta! But after all, after listening to a person’s report and talking with him on various topics in a relaxed atmosphere, you can learn more about him than at an interview.
Here is a concrete example: I got to Plumbr precisely because of my speeches at conferences. After three or four meetings at conferences, Nikita Salnikov-Tarnovsky casually mentioned that in Plumbr you need dudes who can get into the guts of the JVM and figure out what's going on. This, of course, is very tricky: to talk about serene Estonia, jostling in the Moscow metro :) And after some time I signed a contract. It was at JavaOne in San Francisco, almost exactly two years ago.
- Where does the material for the reports come from?
Differently. Most of the reports were built on their own research, not particularly related to work. But the next report will probably already be based on Plumbr. As a huge bonus, there are huge statistics on what happens in thousands of different client JVMs: from GC logs and profiles to SQL queries and hip dumps.
This question is a great place to pour a spoonful of tar into the barrel of the speaker's rainbow-unicorn life. Preparing new reports is a huge PITA. They need to be carefully verified, redone a hundred times, to understand exactly what you want to tell, and what is better to exclude, and so on. The report can then be used at various conferences and gradually polished, this greatly simplifies life, but still: preparing reports is a huge investment of time and effort. This is precisely the main reason why I have not been particularly active as a speaker for the past year and a half or two. Someone may object: they say that everyone says that Baruch Sadogursky always prepares reports on the day of the conference. But do not confuse slides and reports. The main thing in the report is primarily material, it is collected and usually prepared for months. But the slides can be prepared by the guys from Mad Skillz level Baruch and really can in a few hours. I cant :)
- Surely you attended the conference as an ordinary participant, and not just as a speaker - what is the difference for you?
It was a deal, yes. Before I began my speaker activity, for example, it was somewhat strange. I especially knew no one, went to listen to the reports, even asked some questions. But there wasn’t just one to enjoy the process. Somehow without a soul. After I began to report myself, I was only a couple of times a listener. But here, nothing really differed much: all the same, I spent almost all the time, tusya with the speakers. Watching from the audience how all the speakers take to the stage at the close of the conference is a strange feeling, yes. In general, when I'm not a speaker, for me it is more like the Unconference format.
- What feedback came after performances?
Oh, questions and feedback is one of the parts where a lot of fun. The most unusual case is that after a report on mutational analysis, one person said that he really liked it and asked what a unit test is. Once I was caught on the way from a report to the toilet and started asking questions. And now I’m standing over the urinal and listening about memory barriers and caches.
Several times I heard phrases essentially similar to “Dude, I didn’t understand anything from what you said, but you spoke and reached out to the heart”:
Some other conferences collect feedback from listeners. There are generally a lot of pearls. But the coolest thing is that there are a lot of conflicting reviews: one person says that it was too trivial and nothing interesting, and the other that the report is terribly complicated and needs to be warned in advance. But feedback is, in general, very important. It allows speakers to make presentations better. Believe me, we read each review several times. Leave feedback. Maybe you’ll even get on Twitter! :)
If after this text you feel that you would like to become a speaker yourself, JUG.ru Group is now open to receiving reports for several conferences at once:
- JBreak (Novosibirsk, Java Conference, April 4)
- JPoint (Moscow, Java Conference, April 7-8)
- Mobius (St. Petersburg, mobile development, April 21-22)
- DotNext (St. Petersburg, .NET Conference, May 19-20)
- Heisenbag (St. Petersburg, Testing Conference, June 4)
- Joker (St. Petersburg, Java Conference, October)