Things I learned from an Esri internal hackathon and the 2014 developer summit

The Esri International Developer Summit is our annual event at Palm Springs for our users who write code. A month earlier, on the first two days after the president's day weekend, Esri hosted its first internal hackathon. I had the privilege to participate in both, including some social events afterward. Wrote down some things I learned - not only as taking notes for these two events, but also as a summary of the first 1.75 years of my career life in software development.

  • It's all about connection, even inside a company. My supervisor is lately a rock star at Esri. He created and advanced ArcGIS Online, JavaScript API and REST API from the very beginning. These are probably our top three hit products in the past couple of years. How can a person with geography background get this place in a software company? Because he knows the right people. He is able to gather resources he needs in this legacy GIS corporate. For example, we worked with people from cartography team to come up with nice color representation for data visualization.
  • Grab some beer and join a conversation, even if you've no idea what they're talking about. This is an environment where everybody talks. Social events are not for social only. New ideas, information, products and thoughts are all flowing around in conversations. And indeed, this doesn't mean you have to drink bear, but having a cup in hand definitely helps you into the culture.
  • There are always tons of things to learn. Revisit after events. In the world of web programming, there are always multiple ways to do one thing. None of them is necessarily the best, but some of them are definitely more suitable in certain cases. That's why it's helpful to know as many as possible, even if you're using only a few of them. That will help to determine which way(s) to take and make good recommendation for customers. And of course, there's never enough time to absorb everything at an event. Revisit is often needed.
  • Working with colleagues can be very fun. Instead of cooking myself in a tiny air-tight office, the hackathon and conference gave me a chance to work with others in the same room. I got to know other colleagues more, talk to them more, and learned how to work with them more. Also it's been helpful to grab a co-worker sitting next to me when getting stuck by some technical issues or tricky customers.
  • Make presentations more entertaining. My supervisor and all my co-workers just like the joke I made in presentation, although it's somehow unintended... I did see some good presenters drawing people's attention with fun stories, hilarious pictures, and of course, cool products. Presentation is one form of art performance. We should always be sure what they get worth the price...