February 12, 2019

My Experience at DevFestMN 2019

My Experience at DevFestMN 2019

New year, new experiences. I was lucky enough to get invited to speak at DevFestMN 2019, Google Developer Experts (GDE) event, in Minneapolis, MN. The organizers asked me to present my talk about Modern Web Testing: Going Beyond Selenium. Since I was excited to meet GDEs and to visit Minneapolis, I gladly agreed to speak at the conference.

Day 1, January 31, 2019

I knew that Minnesota state was cold (thanks to one of the characters from How I Met Your Mother, Marshal), plus with the polar vortex on its way, I was waiting for my trip with anticipation. It might sound bizarre from someone who lives in a mildly warm city of Vancouver, but because I was born and raised in Siberia, I kind of missed snow and cold weather.

After getting from the plane, I was enjoying feeling somewhat chilling air and being able to see my breath. It was also great to see smiling faces of Minnesotans which was another stereotype I have learned from HIMYM.

Since my plane was a late flight, I had to take Lyft to my Airbnb in Saint Paul (one of the Twin Cities in Minnesota – Minneapolis being another one). You might be wondering why I was driving to Saint Paul – it is a story of its own.

My Airbnb/Poor Planning Faux Pas

I have to admit, Twin Cities definitely have lots of universities. One notable feature is that many of them are named after saints. This is where my poor planning comes in.

As you can see, the DevFestMN conference’s venue was marked as the University of St. Thomas. When googling for its location to rent Airbnb, I chose a wrong campus of the same university, so I stayed in St. Paul. Not a big deal, but shows you how important it is to confirm the venue address down to the street name.

Day 2, February 1, 2019:

I woke up to a nice Minnesota weather – not very cold, with a lot of snow on the streets. I decided to start my day by buying some groceries for myself.

The adventures started as soon as I left my AirBnB. On the very first intersection, as soon as I crossed the street, two large cars slammed into each other right at the spot where I was a few seconds ago. One of the guys in the traffic opened his window and told me that I am very lucky. In response, I simply said, “Thank you, I know, right?” You can see a few photos from the accident below:

Anyways, I bought groceries, had lunch, and decided to go for a walk. I usually run whenever I travel, but Minnesota’s weather changed my plans.

In the evening, I was supposed to have a speakers’ dinner in Minneapolis, so I figured it would be an excellent experience (and exercise) to walk from my place in St. Paul to Minneapolis.

Overall, I had a somewhat long walk where I had a chance to take some pictures, visit a few universities, and enjoy the Twin Cities.

I arrived at the speakers’ dinner right on time and enjoyed long chats (and open bar) with many local and visiting speakers. The most notable conversation I had was probably about major retail companies like Target (a major employer in Minnesota), and how their engineering department function. Their focus on mobile development (especially native Android and iOS) was surprising to me at first but made a total sense as we discussed the importance of high-performance of retail apps in modern America.

Day 3, February 2, 2019:

The day when DevFestMN took place. As I mentioned before, the conference was happening at the University of St. Thomas.

After registering as a speaker, I was offered a choice of the speaker’s gift: Google Home Mini, or a water bottle. I was kind of surprised by this choice and asked whether anyone ever chose the water bottle over Google Home. It is fairly obvious what gift I picked.

Also, the organizers gave us some sort of wooden board with DevFestMN marking which looked very cool – I always appreciate when I get to bring home something unique which will remind me of the event.

After registration, I wanted to walk around and chat with attendees a little bit. Everyone was very engaging, and I had a great time talking about what attendees were looking for in this event, who Google Developer Experts are, and what Minnesota’s engineering market is like.

As we approached lunch time, my talk was about to start. At DevFestMN, I was going to talk about Modern Web Testing and how testing tools beyond Selenium can improve the quality of the software products teams are working on.

The talk was going well as I was able to keep the audience engaged. I finished my speech on time and got some insightful questions which leave me with the hope that people found my session useful. After the session, I had a few great chats where we discussed how developers should prioritize lower levels of the test pyramid to get feedback faster, and only use End-to-End Tests for a minimal number of the tests.

The overall conference had been a great experience, and I sure learned a lot from speakers and attendees of the DevFestMN. The organizers did a fantastic job setting the conference up, arranging lunch (this is always hard to do well) and finished the day with a happy hour! I could tell that the developers’ community in the Twin Cities is very close, and I am looking forward to my next time in Minneapolis for NDC Minnesota in May.

Note: To see more photos from my travels, go to My Travel Photos page.