The APEX Connect 19 conference in Bonn is over for a week now – and I still feel a bit of what I call “After-Conference-Blues”: When you’ve been on high adrenaline for three days, one highlight chasing the other, meeting dozens of people and constantly out of your comfort zone, returning back to your normal day job feels somehow numb and gray.
It has been a great event, I perceived it as very well organized although I might not be the best person to judge for it was only my 2nd Oracle-related conference (and the 2nd for several years now).
The only thing I would really wish to see improvements are the badges (bigger, especially with bigger names so you don’t have to stare intensely at other people when you didn’t understand or forgot their name).
It was also a different experience for me: While I tried to attend a talk in every slot at DOAG last year, I intentionally skipped several slots to meet people, have a chat, give myself some breathing room and reduce the “being on a schedule”-feeling.
Everything has its ups and downs and while I didn’t get as much informational input, I met a lot of awesome people and therefore this review will be more about the people than the talks.
Communities are hard…
…at least for me.
It might not look like, but I have a very hard time meeting new people, introducing myself or getting in contact in general. I’m bad at small talk, often feel insecure and ask myself why exactly other people would want to even meet me at all.
It doesn’t help that people who already know each other and are happy to meet again tend to gather themselves in small circles – which is very natural, but creates a barrier for everyone not belonging to the circle.
So in order to get into the community, you got to break into those circles.
I did exactly that, tried to overcome the awkwardness and was rewarded by meeting some really awesome people, who were also all super kind and welcoming.
…but APEX community not so much.
This is one thing I want to point out: The German Oracle/APEX community is very welcoming and open-minded, given the fact hat I don’t have a clue about APEX myself and don’t use it at all.
There are also some incredibly awesome ice-breaker people who made it much easier for me to get involved. Besides many others, Anja and Jonas really stood out (honestly: you have no chance to not break into such a circle when Jonas spots you and immediately drags you in with genuine joy and excitement).
Thank you for making it so much easier for me!
Speaking of the community, it was very nice to see a lot more women than usual on a tech event and also many young developers – I guess the DOAGNextGen-Program has a huge positive impact here.
It was heartwarming to actually meet two “Fachinformatikerin”-trainees, two women who chose the same learning path into tech as I did, 18 years ago.
Steak with Erik
There are people that you meet for the first time and nearly immediately you feel comfortable in their presence. Erik van Roon has been such a person to me. He also first brought up that image of closed circles when we had our first chat and I shared the awkwardness I feel with introducing myself to people, especially well-known speakers.
So it happened that I joined him and a group of nice folks from Poland for a very tasty steak the first evening and also shared a table with him at the evening event the next day, which resulted in great discussions about all and sundry.
He also managed to explain a major limitation of my MINUS comparison solution in just two sentences – something several people already failed in the past (you’ll read about it soon ;))
Chats at the bar with Sabine
Honestly, if you want to get into the Oracle/DOAG community, Sabine is definitely your go-to person (she already helped me greatly to navigate through the oddities of DOAG conference last year). It always seems to me like she’s knowing everyone. Which also means she’s usually busy, always talking with someone, answering questions or looking after something.
Therefore I even more enjoyed the possibility in the evening to have time for longer chats at the bar with her.
This was also a new experience for me and definitely an advantage of the hotel location compared to the DOAG exhibition location, which is much less personal. I’m really looking forward to repeat that someday!
Live-Coding with Kris
There are some things I wouldn’t ever have dreamed of. One of them is Kris Rice saying “Hey Samuel, I just included utPLSQL into SQLcl, but something’s not working correctly, maybe we can have a look together?”
Definitely something I’ll remember – as much as the great conversation with him, Erik, Piotr and the other guy who’s name I can’t remember but who entertained us with great historical sightseeing anecdotes at the evening event.
So many awesome people
Even if I tried – I couldn’t list all the awesome people I met over these three days. And they all had some things in common: They were kind, smart and absolutely welcoming towards people breaking into their circles.
So if you find yourself in the same situation like me, somehow lost in a new community – screw up your courage and break into these circles! There’s little you can lose and so much you can win.
And the talks?
Of course there were talks. Of course I attended to talks. And some were really outstanding like Luiza‘s “How to Improve your Presentation skills” or Chris Saxon‘s “SQL Magic” – but I really got the most out of this conference from the people, from the atmosphere and the chats.
Even when preparing for my own talk about utPLSQL in the speaker’s lounge (which I found before the last day this time!) where I met Dan McGhan and learned about some pitfalls of presenting.
Anja described the APEX Connect as a holiday camp where you go to meet your friends and other awesome people.
I can understand that now and are looking forward to be part of it again.