Willian Frantz is a Senior Software Engineer who's been with X-Team for a year and a half now. Late last year, he was one of the speakers at ElixirConf, one of the biggest Elixir conferences in the world. In this interview, we talk about his experience with Elixir, how he prepared for his talk, and what tips he would give first-time conference speakers.

Watch Willian's ElixirConf talk here

Can you tell us a little about your experience with Elixir?

So I started my career as a software developer in 2011. I used to work with Windows desktop apps and web apps. At the time, I was doing everything with C# .NET tech stacks. Today, I'm more focused on web development, backend specifically.

The first time I heard of Elixir was in 2015. I quickly learned that it was a Brazilian technology that I believed could become the future of web development. It's built on top of BEAM and Erlang, technologies that even at the time were already known for their great reliability, fault tolerance, distribution, and ability to satisfy people's functional programming requirements.

Still, at the time, I didn't feel comfortable enough yet to test it yet. But at least I knew something interesting was happening on top of Erlang.

My first professional contact with Elixir happened in 2017, when I was mostly working with Ruby on Rails. The company I worked for wanted some things migrated to Elixir and Phoenix (a web framework). I found myself really enjoying Elixir, and it quickly became the stack I felt most comfortable with.

Since then, I began working with the Elixir community. I began going to meetups, conferences, participated in discussions, wrote blog posts, did mentorships, and really embraced the Elixir community.

And then you got invited to ElixirConf 2022. How did that happen?

I applied to the call for papers and they selected my talk. It wasn't the first conference I spoke at. I've spoken at CodeBEAM BR 2020 and 2021, Elixir Brasil 2021, ElixirConf EU 2021, and CodeBEAM America 2021. So I had some experience going into it 😀.

Still, ElixirConf is one of the biggest Elixir conferences I'm aware of, so I wasn't sure I'd be selected. I submitted a talk proposal to discuss the basics of networking protocols through native Erlang code. The idea was to break down how concepts like HTTP, FTP, and SMTP work under the hood, because I truly believe that understanding these ideas enriches our understanding of the world, while also improving our problem-solving skills.

And the committee accepted my proposal!

Nice! How did you prepare for the talk?

Getting ready for a conference is challenging and intense. I had to practice speaking in front of an audience, understand which points would be most interesting to show, how I could keep the audience's attention, how to assemble the slides (always complicated), how to introduce Erlang or Elixir code without getting too technical, etc. There's a lot to it!

Essentially, preparing for a talk is like putting together pieces of LEGO. Once you've put together the pieces, it's a matter of practice. Lots of repetition in front of the mirror, writing blog posts to get more ideas of how to present something technical, etc.

How did it go?

It went well! People enjoyed it and I got some nice feedback after the talk. I was a little nervous, but thought it went by okay.

What was the rest of the conference like?

The conference itself was great. It was in the Gaylord Rockies Resort, which has lots of space and lots of pools to enjoy 😅. I attended other talks, spoke to many people in the hallways, and networked (the best part about the return of in-person conferences).

It was an incredible experience. It's so nice to be in a comfortable place surrounded by people who enjoy the same topics you do. It's a great way to get a lot of new ideas, as well as learn about things you don't know.

What tips would you give to a first-time conference speaker?

You can either write about something you're most experienced in or write about something you don't know yet but want to learn about. But what matters most is that you're a first-time speaker. That's great. You never know how far you can go on the speaking circuit unless you're willing to try.

And if you feel anxious, don't worry. Everyone does. If you've been accepted as a speaker, it's probably because the committee believed in your capabilities and skills. So you should, too. Prepare thoroughly and you'll nail it!

Do you want to join a company full of talented developers like Willian? You can! X-Team is always looking for experienced software engineers. Send through your application today.