I have the pleasure of being a part of an incredible community. Yes, this is how I think most of us perceive X-Team. However, the issue with remote communities is that you do not see its members on daily basis. Opportunities to integrate are limited, despite using Slack or Hangouts. Nothing replaces a real-life hand-shake, right? It is cool to be able to talk to each other remotely, but I think this is not enough to create the much-needed social connection with people who are just Slack names and avatars — at some point, you just need to meet those incredible guys and gals in real life.
Our community is very focused on self-development. Each day, we are trying to learn or solve something new. We also have a dedicated program that boosts our growth and encourages us to share our successes with each other. It is called UNLEASH. It also provides us with a yearly budget — in case our (self-)development ideas require money — which we can use on almost anything, ranging from conferences to individual courses. Moreover, even if one wants to grow in other areas, like fitness or making things, they can use the budget for it. This, I think, is incredible.
at some point, we — the community members — realized that we might not be spending our allowance in the most efficient way. As most of us had wanted to meet with each other, we began going to conferences. Gaining new knowledge there, however, was secondary. What mattered most was time spent with our colleagues. And on top of that, the knowledge we gained at such events turned out to be insufficient to justify the cost. To be completely honest — conferences became mainly a meeting point to integrate with other X-Teamers. And we realized this needs to change.
An Incredible Idea Arises
We needed a solution, and we got it — and it turned out to be an incredible idea!
Why not host our own conference? And this is how UnleashConf was born.
Free Attendance with a Twist
If you wanted to attend, you had to comply with one and only one rule — you needed to give a talk. A ticket for a talk.
This encouraged all attendees to change their passive listener role to active involvement in the project.
When going to a conference, you usually do not know what to expect, what the level of the talks and how exciting the topics will be.
This time around, we did not have that fear. After working with each other for years, we knew what to expect from our comrades.
As it turned out, the level of our talks was incredibly high, at least by our relatively demanding standards. So, in my opinion, whatever the standard is in your company, such conference talks will suit you well.
The really amazing thing was that we did not talk exclusively about technical stuff. Anybody could prepare any kind of presentation that they wanted to share with the community, which was another incredible idea. We have learned so many interesting things about our friends and their interests. They kept inspiring us throughout the conference, revealing the diversity of the universe surrounding us with topics we may not have even known existed.
Both professionally and personally, it is always useful to know what kind of knowledge one’s friends have. Should you ever need guidance, knowing their area of expertise or interests will always help!
Conquer Your Fear!
This opportunity gave me the courage to speak in front of people, to give a public talk. Developers are not forced on a daily basis to stand at a lectern and talk to people. There can be many reasons for the fear of public speaking, but in most cases, the reason is the fear of failure, the fear of being judged by the audience.
But what happens if you host your own conference?
I was really surprised that a lot of UnleashConf attendees gave their first-ever public talk there. Apparently, they were able to overcome their fear much easier this time around; but why?
I think the reason was that they knew the environment. They felt safe, they knew we are all in the same boat. Also, the attitude of the audience was really helpful — patient, forgiving, open… Such an environment helps you break the barriers of fear. When you know you are surrounded by friends who are there for you and for each other, it empowers you to step out of your comfort zone.
Of course, while gaining and sharing knowledge is important, additional activities show people in many other lights. Do not forget about hanging out together after the conference itself, and include as many people as possible. Try to put something new and cool together.
We experienced a full two-days-worth of activities. First came the conference talks, then the extras!
We got a huge boost of adrenaline and endorphins. Such situations are what really connects people and reinforces relationships.
After several adrenaline-filled activities, however, I think it is important to organize a relaxing, perambulatory tour of the city you are visiting, but perhaps without any particular destination.
And after a long day, nothing beats a nice relaxed discussion with everyone's beverage of choice.
Let us be honest… socializing is really, really important when it comes to getting to know each other better.
And more socializing equals more bonding…
After two long conference-days and so many activities, people start to be more open on any topic. You can spend hours talking with them about their passions, about so many interesting things that you would have never even imagined exist. It is totally amazing how this can affect you and your team.
Is This for Everyone?
I hope so; I hope it is for you! If you are open-minded, motivated, and eager to do something meaningful, you should think about how to make such an event possible for you, for your community, for your company. It is all in your hands, go for it, it is worth trying!
I think this was the best initiative I was ever a part of. I hope this will inspire you and your company to follow in our footsteps, and I am sure you will not regret it. In my opinion, this is the best way to invest the money earmarked for team-building.
May the X be with you!
And to you, my friends, I hope we will see each other again, soon!