As a developer, one of the things I love most is attending tech conferences, where I can find out new developments and meet other like-minded individuals. I’ve always had aspirations of speaking at one of these events, and this year that dream became a reality, as I was accepted to speak at AngularConnect, Europe’s largest Angular conference. So how did it all come about?
Getting into Angular
My journey to speaking at AngularConnect began in 2015, when I had just completed a framework evaluation at G-Research and recommended that my team use AngularJs. Not long after this I heard that there was going to be an Angular focused conference in London and so naturally my manger sent me off to go and find out as much as I could. I remember being so inspired by all the talks and returned to work encouraged and excited to get started.
AngularJs and subsequently Angular have proved a great success at G-Research and so my team have seen it as a no-brainer that I should continue to attend AngularConnect each year. Every year I leave inspired and empowered with new knowledge and tools to put to use at G-Research, so it’s definitely been a worthwhile investment.
Starting to present and getting inspired
Attending AngularConnect got me interested in a number of the topics, and after following each year’s speakers on Twitter I began to get access to a treasure trove of knowledge and articles that helped me learn an enormous amount.
With that learning came the confidence to share insights at G-Research. This started out with small presentations to my team where I introduced them to new tools or features that we could leverage. I then also had the opportunity to give a lightning talk to all of our development team about Angular Playground. Being in an environment where everyone is interested in learning and values your presentations has been really rewarding.
Finally, the spark of inspiration hit at AngularConnect 2018, when I got to hear Bo Vandersteene present on NestJs. Bo opened her talk by sharing that it was her goal, from the previous year, to be on the stage at AngularConnect where she was now standing. When I heard this I thought, “I would love to do that too!” and the seed was planted. But what topic could I talk about?
Stumbling across a topic
Around February 2019 I ran into issues with a custom select component that was getting out of hand. Our client wanted to be able to add meta data into the drop down but this was polluting the ‘shared’ component with very specific implementation details.
I knew that there had to be a better way but I was struggling to work out what it was! I knew that I needed something like ng-content to project into the component, but it also had to be aware of the component’s context. It was a really hard thing to search for… Finally I stumbled across ngTemplateOutlets in a blog post by Netanel Basal.
After using ngTemplateOutlets to re-write my select component and being absolutely amazed at their power, I knew I had to share this more widely. I wrote my first technical blog and posted it internally at G-Research, but didn’t consider at first how I could share it more widely.
Call For Papers
When the CFP email dropped into my inbox for AngularConnect 2019 I thought I could try and talk about ngTemplateOutlets. While I was worried that submissions would take enormous amounts of time (I naively assumed a full set of slides and a presentation script would be required), I was pleasantly surprised to find that the form was much shorter than expected.
All it required was a title, abstract, overview of speaking experience, and a quick note on why you wanted to present. I had a spare hour one morning and so I filled it in knowing that I really had nothing to lose by trying.
In the next few days, I got the chance to speak with Pete Bacon Darwin to further improve my CFP, and he was extremely encouraging. He helped me realise that my extensive internal presentations were crucial experience to make me a strong potential speaker for the conference.
A few weeks later an email came from White October Events saying they were excited to accept my talk! I couldn’t believe it! I was both incredibly excited and scared all at the same time.
In order to have a practice run and set a deadline to have the presentation ready, I booked a session to present at G-Research. About 20 developers came to learn about ngTemplateOutlets, and following the talk I asked for honest and candid feedback. Some of the points they suggested, while initially a little tough to hear, were really constructive.For example, a colleague told me I needed to come across more confidently. This was disappointing at first (as I thought I had been doing that!), but it was exactly the kind of feedback that I needed to improve, and justified the internal run-through.
Further Practice and Speaker Coaching
For further practice, I was put in touch with the conference speaker coach, Valerie Kittel, who had a lot of great advice for me. Additionally, I started working with the Talent Development team within G-Research who organised further presentation training, listening to and recording my talk multiple times to share insights on how I could improve.
As the organisers of AngularConnect also run the Angular London Meetup I volunteered to speak at the August event. This was the first time I had presented outside of G-Research and it was nerve racking, but it was a great experience, and helped me to further identify how I could improve.
Finally, I had a few run-throughs at G-Research, where my team happily came and listened to the talk again just to help me out.
The Conference: My First Talk!
On the day of my talk, I tried to enjoy the conference in the morning as much as possible and not spend it all worrying about my own session later in the day.
After months of preparation, it was my turn to take the stage and complete my goal from the previous year. Once I got through the first few sentences I felt I was on a roll, and the talk went super smoothly. One thing that I had been warned about was the bright lights. It’s true that you can only see the first few rows and have no idea what’s going on behind that! So it actually felt like a very small audience as opposed to the ~350 people that were there.
Once I had finished the talk and walked off the stage I was suddenly hit with a realisation of what I had accomplished, and I had a sudden rush of adrenaline and got the shakes! It was lovely to have people come up afterwards and say that they really enjoyed the talk and found it helpful. I definitely feel like I have accomplished what I set out in my CFP application; to enable others to know about ngTemplateOutlets and see how they could transform their code like they have for me.
I am also a bit overwhelmed by the fact the video of my talk at the time of writing is now up to 1.4k views!
AngularConnect 2019 was an amazing experience and I met so many great people. Being a speaker was an incredible privilege and hopefully I have helped others learn something new with my talk. I definitely would love to do this again and am now keeping a closer eye on CFPs for other conferences around the world.
I couldn’t have made it to where I am today without G-Research’s backing, including its investment in me since I joined as an intern 8 years ago. Many colleagues helped me to improve and polish my talk, so that I was at my absolute best as a presenter by the time I got on stage.
For more details on the technical side of my talk you can either watch the talk below, or check out the code on GitHub.