Vancouver Polyglot Unconference 2016

4 minute read
Attendees at the keynote at UBC Robson Square

Last Saturday, I attended the 2016 edition of the Polyglot Unconference here in Vancouver, Canada.

It was the 5th time it’s been held. This was my 4th.

I always love Polyglot because it attracts a good cross-section of the development community in Vancouver, and it’s possible to “take the pulse” of what’s happening in an otherwise fragmented space.

It was held at UBC Robson Square which is located in downtown Vancouver, deep below Robson Street.

PolyglotConf is an “unconference” – apart from the keynote and closing remarks, none of the talks are scheduled. At the start, everybody gathered in a big lecture theatre, and the rules were presented.

Chris Nicola giving the opening keynote

Chris Nicola giving the opening keynote

After the keynote, people from the audience formed a line to pitch their ideas for sessions.

There must have been more than a hundred pitches.

I proposed a session titled “Small Big Data”, where I wanted to get people together that are using big data tools for really small personal problems. I think I pitched it as “Do you use hadoop to figure out who your best friend is?”

Then there was a break where everybody could vote for their favourite sessions, and the organizers assigned the sessions with the most votes to the available rooms.

As you can see, there were a lot of great sessions proposed.

The first session I went to was “Hiring Polyglots or Getting Hired”:

Hiring Polyglots or Getting Hired with Robert Zalaudek

Robert Zalaudek, a professional recruiter with the Pearl Fisher Group leading a session on “Hiring Polyglots or Getting Hired”

This session attracted a great mix of companies that were trying to hire talent, and developers that are in the market for a new job. Instead of focusing on just one issue, a wide range of issues were discussed. My overall takeaway was that companies seem to be having a lot of difficulty finding candidates with the exact qualifications they need, and people seeking employment are also having trouble finding matching positions. The compromise is to hire candidates that can learn quickly and have good problem solving abilities, and provide on-the-job training.

The next session was the session I proposed - “Small Big Data”. I think approximately 30 people attended. First, we went around the room, and everybody introduced themselves. I think about 13 of the room was using big data tools at their day jobs, and another 13 of the room were students doing big data as part of their studies. Only a handful of people had personal side projects using big data, so the discussion rambled a bit and we lost some of the audience.

The next session I attended was “Cross-Platform React”:


Unfortunately, the person that proposed the session couldn’t attend for some reason. Only a handful of people were using React, so we ended up talking about topics like Redux and optimistic updates. I found it interesting that some developers were only using Redux because it was the trendy thing to do, and not because they had a strong conviction that it was the right choice.

The final session I attended was about “Data Science”:

Data Science

The data science session led by Kiri Nichol

I found this session to be very interesting. I’m not a data scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I did take statistics in engineering school. A number of the attendees were extremely knowledgeable and authoritative – there are some super talented people doing some really hardcore data science work in Vancouver.

In summary, Polyglot was awesome this year, and I’m planning to be there again next year!

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