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A preview of nor(DEV):Con – The IJYI Way Podcast

Laura Hood

In a very special edition of The IJYI Way podcast we are delighted to be joined by the four keynote speakers from this year’s nor(DEV):Con conference. We chat about what’s coming up at the conference, a sneak preview of their keynote talks and insights from their own vast experience of the software development industry.

nor(DEV):Con is the biggest Developer Conference in the East of England running on 26-29th February and has a fantastic line-up of workshops and speakers.

nor(DEV)Con’s 4 keynote speakers are:
Jennifer Wadella – Lead Angular Developer at Bitovi based in Kansas City, USA
Karen Poulter – Head of IT Development and Architecture at Hutchinson Ports
Chris O’Dell – Backend Engineer at Monzo
Dr Gail Ollis – Researcher and Lecturer at Bournemouth University

IJYI will be podcasting live from the event so make sure you check out our Twitter and LinkedIn feeds on the day.

You can listen to our other podcasts here.

Podcast Transcript

Andrew
Hello and welcome back to The IJYI Way. Today’s podcast is slightly different for two reasons. Firstly, because we are taking a preview look at nor(DEV):Con, the huge developers conference that takes place in Norfolk. It’s running on the 26th-28th of February. It’s coming up in a couple of weeks, and it is going to be a corker. We’ve got over 31 speakers. There are five tracks. There are 40 sessions. Or more there’s a workshop day on the 26th of February, and then the keynotes. The tracks and sessions all kick off and run on the 27th and the 28th. And apparently there’s still a few tickets left, although they are going fast, so you’ll need to get those nor(DEV):Con this year is even bigger and better than before. And so we’ve decided to do something slightly different, which is to get all the speakers together remotely. Yes, no one is here in the studio with me today instead everyone is down the line, so I’m gonna warn you now to expect some pops, clicks, whistles, strange noises and very possibly things breaking because it’s live and we have never done this before. We’ve got people dialing in from all over the UK and also Jennifer Wadella who is dialing in from Missouri and yes, that’s Kansas City, which is in Missouri, not Kansas. No doubt you’ve been following the news. And of course, the subsequent tweets by the president of the USA. You will know how many people can get that wrong. I’m gonna hold my hands up and say that I did think that Kansas City was in Kansas myself. So I’ve learned something there too. So without further ado, I would like to say a big hello to Jennifer Wadella, who is the lead angular developer at Bitovi.

Jennifer
Hello. Thank you for having me

Andrew
No also dialling in we have Monzo Bank engineer, formerly from seven Digital. Chris Odell. I’d like to thank as well we have joining us one of the U. K’s first cyber psychologists, Dr Gail Ollis. I would also like to thank the head of IT Development and Architecture at three UK ports. That seaports before that, of course, she had a low pressure job of being head of ITat Stanstead airport and after that, an even lower pressure job off being the head of I T. Suffolk Police. Karen Poulter.

Karen
Hello, nice to meet you.

Andrew
Also joining us are Alex Scotton and Sean Church, who are two of the organiserands on co-founders of NorDev.

Alex
Hello

Andrew
And finally completing the lineup. Last, but definitely not least as we are sponsors this year of NorDev. It’s a great pleasure to introduce John Nicholson, who is the CTO and co founder of IJYI And I am Andrew Walker. I’m an old friend of IJYI’s and I’ll be there, live at NorDev roving around with a camera trying to get interviews with people on. We will be popping those out in our social media channels as it goes on. So do follow us on Twitter @ijyltd and check in on our LinkedIn page. There will be more coming life from NorDev. Okay, So before we dive in and meet our keynote speakers, I’d like to turn to Alex and Sean and just ask you tell us a little bit more about, NorDev and how it got started.

Alex
So all kind of came out of a kind of original meet up called Hot Source almost 10 years ago now where they were doing, kind of cross platform doing design and development and business etc. Actually, from their kind of broke out came kind of specialized meet-ups, there’s SyncNowrich. That does start-up in business angle Norfolk developers ourselves that do the development and tech business angle. Then you’ve got, um, hot sources are still around doing the graphics UX desinger thing. And then we’ve also got a new, um, meet-up on stage Search Norwich as well, who were taking over the kind of search and marketing our aspects of the local area as well.Oh, yeah, it’s a very vibrant, vibrant city for communities.

Andrew
Okay, so there are over 31 speakers that are going to be appearing at NorDev this year, and we’ve got the four keynotes with us, and what I want to do is just have a quick chat with you and find out a little bit more about what you’re talking about and what’s brought you to Norwich and I want to start that one with Jennifer in Kansas City, Missouri, because I’m guessing people in Kansas City, Missouri, don’t often think. Oh, you know what? I’m going to go the Norwich  to speak at a conference!

Jennifer
No, not necessarily. That being said, I did get the opportunity to attend NorDevCon last year, and it was delightful and I was super happy. And also, it’s the filming location of one of my favourite movies star dust.

Andrew
Okay, now I’m going to say there are a few squeaks coming down the line if you’re listening. In case you were wondering, No, we don’t actually have a duck in the studio. There’s some interference coming through in there just to say that we’ve got people dialling in so dialling in on the telephone lines. Plus, we’ve got stuff that it’s streaming in through the computers on That’s using different platforms, including Microsoft teams. So, yeah, we are going to get a little bit of weirdness there, so we’ll soldier on through it. Jennifer, Angular has got huge now. There was a massive conference in London called Angular Connect last year, and that’s I had some friends have come over from that one of the big ones in Europe. Um, tell us more about your work in angular, and I guess your work in Dev.

Jennifer
Um, well, in Kansas City, Missouri, we are a very dotnet heavy town and so I think that’s why we have a lot of Angular development here is it feels safe. And it felt familiar, especially for teams that are trying to do full stack development. So that’s been kind of my entryway. Like, I’ve been writing JavaScript for almost a decade and have touched almost every framework but Angular is a place that I fell into and ended up really, really enjoying. Um and ah have been pretty actively involved with the community for a year, and they’re just really, really great people. They’re great regular conferences all over the world if you get a chance to attend. So that’s what I do for my day job. I love helping clients figure out how to write better code, how to upgrade existing code bases. You know, there’s there’s always just a lot of great stuff to learn and explore and discover in the angular ecosystem, Um, but to your other note. So for about seven years and I’ve run a nonprofit that I found it called Kansas City Women of Technology to try to get more women into tech careers in Kansas City. And so we do run a lot of programming and educational coding workshops for women and as well as just general networking and tech events for for women of any level of technology.

Andrew
Okay, And now, turning to Chris Odell Chris, I’m going to disclose now I’m a huge fan of a big  Monzo customer myself. What’s your talk about at NorDev this year?

Chris
Thanks. Okay, so, my keynote talk is going to be about the developer experience. So as in taking all the kind of skills from UX and thinking of flow in terms of how development gets through your company, focusing into how the developers experience to build that. So what I mean is in Monzo, we have a team there called the Engineering Effectiveness Team and we kind of treat the engineering experience as a product and we work by putting metrics around how often we do things like deployments and how long PRs are open and just try and find the bottlenecks in the process. Possibly it’s, um tooling. Or maybe there are some metrics that are not easy to discover and we’ll do whatever we need to kind of like free up developers flow through there. So I’ve got some information on what we’ve discovered. What we changed and yeah hopefully it’s things that you can take and take to your own company and improve the flow of the development there, too.

Andrew
Karen, I know that you’re talking about change on managing change is DevOps and the sort of new ideas that, you know, we associate with fast moving, agile startups. The kind of thing that comes up in the IT work that you do in the ports Or do you face a a different set of challenges?

Karen
Oh, yeah. Different challenge I’m the person that’s always representing the old school.  A lot of the company’s I’ve worked in have been facing that challenge. You know, a lot of talk about agility and moving faster. Lots of CEOs desperate to make that happen. But the businesses and the maturity that’s required and the clarity of vision isn’t always there. So it’s that for me, it’s about trying to understand the best of what’s new and what’s going out there. But be realistic about the maturity of the the organization, you know, and temper the enthusiasm, too. Do some of these new things. The classic is is that, you know, is if we work in an Agile way, we never need to write anything down again, and we can just free flow everywhere without, you know, any sense of clarity about what we’re trying to achieve, which clearly isn’t isn’t the truth for anybody that’s ever delivered a project like that or in that way. But there’s a lot of confusion out there. Lots of businesses that are trying to, evolve quickly and and haven’t really understood the building blocks of of what makes a Google or an Apple or whomever they’ve bean to see work differently and do you know what, I think that that’s, um, that’s a large part of what I do.

Andrew
Dr Gail Ollis. You’re representing a whole new branch of research NorDev this year, which is really interesting because unlike many of the other disciplines we’ve been talking about in terms of developing and that kind of stuff, Cyber psychology didn’t exist 20 years ago. So what’s your speech?

Gail
Yeah. Okay, so I think mine actually complements Chris’s quite nicely where she’s looking at developer experience, from a tools and processes point of view. I am looking at the human side of that. So I was a software developer myself for a long time, went and studied psychology as a result of what I saw there. So I want to talk about a little bit about my research, but also about psychology and my experience a bit about compassion in development and maybe a bit about security. So understanding all the human aspect, but without calling it soft skills because that kind of puts across the wrong impression.

Andrew
Jennifer, your talk is about developing new approaches to development and being Agile. So what holds people back do you think when they’re working in tech and trying to get more Agile?

Jennifer
My keynote is about kind of fear of failure and why we’re scared to try things. And it’s actually inspired by not necessarily just technology, but my foray into fermentation particularly brewing kombucha, um, and so kind of talking about the parallels between trying something that is quote unquote low cost um, in the fear of just experimentation and how that could be a really limiting mindset when it comes to not only brewing, but learning and discovering and technology and how even our entire educational system is is set up to, uh, cause this this fear of failure, the fear of trying with us and what we could do to combat that.

Andrew
Karen, your keynote is all about managing change, right?

Karen
It’s a, you know, a lighthearted look with, hopefully, some things that will be relevant to everybody thats either trying to take a user group on a new on a new journey with software or trying to manage a team that’s struggling with the way things are or the big thing for me is that anyone that’s got a job in IT these days is probably a very likely changing the worlds of the people that surround them at an incredible pace and I think it is therefore hopefully will give people a little bit of something they can take away with them and use in their day to day…. to make their lives a bit easier.

Andrew
Okay, now I’d like to bring in John Nicholson IJYI CTO. Now you are speaking this year you’re not a keynote speaker. It’s not. It’s not a thing. I’m just saying. But what is your work?

John
Yeah, Yeah, I’m giving a workshop on something I’ve been researching and looking into a metamorphic testing and how we can test untestable systems, which is slightly scary because I’m still not fully sure how we do that. You know, we’ll we’ll work through it.

Andrew
Okay, Now I’ve got to ask it. How do you test an untestable system? Is there an easy answer?

John
In short, no. There is no easy answer. But I’m going to talk through one of the proposed methodologies people have been using, which allows us to try and create tests without a test oracle or a defined truth of if I give this input, that output is what I’m expecting.

Andrew
Now one thing that struck me is all the keynotes at NorDev this year are women. Is that a sign that finally we’re seeing that change in the IT industry that, you know, we’ve been working towards with most of diversity and inclusion initiatives, Chris tells about Monzo is that a diverse organization. Do you work in a diverse team?

Chris
Yes, well Monzo  is amazing at the diversity angle. It’s fantastic. I think it’s the only company I’ve worked in where I think the rate off women to men is in. The engineering department is over 20% and that sounds like a small number. But it’s huge. It’s absolutely huge. So I’m really enjoying it,  the ratio is quite different it’s fantastic.

Andrew
Jennifer. You design courses for women in technology and advise companies on diversity. So have you noticed a big change?

Jennifer
Um, we do not have enough time in this podcast for my thoughts, but in a nutshell. The biggest change I see or we still have stripes to go. I have really big fights with employers that don’t wanna hire quote unquote junior developers, but the problem is, we have to train people from somewhere. I can’t just, like snap my fingers and produce like senior level women engineers. Sorry, that’s not the way the world works, so we’re still fighting that battle. But the biggest change I’ve seen as a woman in the industry is I feel a little bit less like screaming into the void, meaning when we’re calling out problematic behavior in the industry, when we’re starting to like get men listening to us saying, Oh, I understand, I see there’s a problem How is my behavior affecting this? What can I do? I feel like we’ve made huge progress in that area versus just screaming, either being ignored or told that were unreasonable and things like that.

Andrew
Karen, with your experience in more traditional areas like the ports and police, have you noticed that there’s a shift in the diversity organizations? Or, you know, is it again, a different kind of challenge that you face?

Karen
Yeah, it’s very interesting. I think I can safely say every environment I’ve worked in has had a real desire to make a change in this area to increase diversity not just in terms of women but in terms of sexuality and religion and race and all of the different all of the different strands of diverse. I think there is a really acknowledgement these days that having a workforce which is representative of the people around you and, you know, is able to bring a diversity of opinion and challenges. That is a really rich and the right thing to do so happy with that. What I would say is I don’t think always lands very well. I think I, uh I will always have an inward to groan when somebody asks me how it feels to be a woman in management or woman in IT. And that happens because for me, I don’t personally perceive myself as different from the people around me, and I’m just here doing a job. So it’s slightly strange when you’re singled out for that kind of conversation, but at the same time, there isn’t still an issue in society. I think the point is, though, when where we are starting to turn around a little bit as a society and as employers is that I think I hope that people these days have got a little bit more confidence to speak out when those things happen. So I think it’s, um, all of our all of our responsibilities to create an environment where poor behaviour is challenged and that people are safe to speak up because, you know, it’s all very well having policies and good intentions, but it’s it’s it’s what people experience day today in their work life that really speaks of, of whether we get it or wrong.

Andrew
Gail, as a cyber psychologist, are we living in more diverse spaces? Are online world transforming things? Or is there still some way to go?

Gail
No, I do think we still have more to go. I think we’ve made some progress. One of my first job interviews when I was out of university, I was asked, You know, I’m not really allowed to ask you this, but are you going to run off and have babies on? I got invited by a professional institution to bring my wife to their annual dinner dance. So we’ve moved on a bit from that. But where I’m working now, there’s a gender pay gap of 15% if you are a BAME woman that goes up to over 20%. So there’s still an issue in the pay there. We are kind of still treated a bit as unicorns. So yeah, I’m with Karen on that. I don’t want to be a woman in tech. I just wanna be a geek like any other geek, so I will not talk in a full length session about being a woman in tech because I just want to be a person in Tech. I will do it lightening talks. I’ve done it a couple of times, but I don’t want to be defined by it. Yeah, we’ve got a way to go and we do need I think in some ways almost the fact that people recognise diversity as a thing means now they sometimes have a tendency to turn to us to kind of try and solve that and go and talk about it when we just want to get on with doing it. But I think it’s a bit of a responsibility for women be visible, at least in that and be available to talk to. I hadn’t realised that actually, I had a student couple of years ago who really enjoyed doing a presentation I’d asked them to do, they sent me an email afterwards, saying how much she enjoyed it, even though she didn’t feel she belonged there in front of a room of men and that made me go. Yeah, okay, I didn’t think there was much scope for doing stuff, especially for women, because it just it just is doing the unicorn thing and singling them out more. I’m flagging that they’re unusual, which is going to discourage them. But actually, they do need that bit of support. Just to, help them feel they belong when they’re so horribly outnumbered.

Andrew
All right, well, listen, that more or less wraps it up. That’s about all the time we’ve got. I’d like to thank speakers for joining us. And, um yeah, that’s Jennifer Wadella  who’s in Kansas City, Missouri!

Jennifer
Well done, sir. Thank you for having me.

Andrew
Okay. Chris Odell from Monzo. I’d like to say thanks very much, can’t wait to meet you at, NorDev.

Chris
Thank you very much for having me as well

Andrew
And Um, yeah. Just say I love the coral pink

Chris
Hot coral!

Andrew
HSBC sorry if you’re listening, but your card’s just aren’t even close! I’d like to give a big thank you as well to Dr Gayle Ollis who is a lecturer in cyber psychology at Bournemouth University.

Gail
Thanks very much, looking forward to NorDev

Andrew
A big thank you to Karen Poulter from three UK ports.

Karen
Thank you very much.

Andrew
And as always I’d like to thankJohn Nicholson, who’s the CTO and cofounder of IJYI And also Sean Church and Alex Scotton at NorDev.

Alex
Thanks for having us.

Andrew
OK, that’s all we’ve got time for now, join us on the 27th and 28th of February when we will be live as IJYI at NorDEVCon at the King’s Centre in Norwich. We’re going to be roving around the conference floor. We’re gonna be meeting our speakers we’re going to be popping public videos onto our twitter feed @IJYILtd And you’ll also find us on linked in and find it on the website www.ijyi.com