DAXKO Attends FOSDEM 2015 Conference

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Dan Florentin revised photo pic 1IMG_1544In my opinion, the best perk at Daxko is the Professional Development Allowance. This annual allowance can be used for any professional development activity of our choosing, including conferences, seminars, tuition, books, etc. This past February, a team member and I were lucky enough to attend the annual FOSDEM conference in Brussels. You know… as in Brussels, BELGIUM. That’s right folks; because my company is awesome, I took a trip to Europe to eat waffles and learn about software.

Since I know you are wrecked with curiosity, I’ll get it out of the way now. Yes, Belgium is amazing. The tourism districts in Brussels and Ghent are so majestic, so grand, so richly-detailed, they look like they must be illusions. From the grand squares to the intimate alleyways, I’m still not convinced that I wasn’t walking around some blockbuster movie set. During the days, I ate authentic Belgian waffles, chocolate, and French Fries (with mayonnaise, of course). During the nights, I drank Belgian beer, Belgian beer, and a little bit more Belgian beer (it’s that delicious). I stood guard along the parapets of a 12th century castle, slept in the quaint quarters of a 13th century monastery, and begrudgingly willed myself up the steps of a 300-foot, 14th century bell tower. But don’t let my fanny pack and general confusion about public transportation fool you. I wasn’t just there to be an awestruck tourist.

Ghent - Panorama 2 revFOSDEM stands for Free Open Source Developers European Meeting. It’s held annually at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Brussels and attended by thousands of passionate software developers. Finding the conference was easy enough; I just had to follow the sea of hoodies and laptop bags. I remember arriving at FOSDEM thinking it resembled some sort of high-tech carnival. We were lured from booth to booth, drawn to the “oooohs” and “hmmms” of an intrigued audience. But instead of marveling at exotic beasts or bearded ladies, we were captivated by the latest and greatest open source projects. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen!
• “This can open and close your blinds, even tell you which devices in your house use the most energy,” said one person at the OpenMotics table.
• “Behold… the Archivist!” announced DIYBookScanner, gesturing at an intimidating doomsday device, but really it just made digital copies of your physical books.
• “That’s not what its intended for, but yes, you could probably use it to buy and sell drugs,” answered a rep from OpenBazaar, a decentralized peer-to-peer marketplace.

Though Daxko’s software is neither free nor open source, internally we do utilize many open source tools that were represented at the conference (GitHub, Jenkins, PostreSQL, MySQL, ElasticSearch, and probably several others). And with all the keynotes speeches, lightning talks, and developer rooms available throughout the weekend, there was plenty of opportunity to learn and even offer contribution. It was immensely rewarding to be in an environment that promoted and celebrated collaboration as much as FOSDEM did. I had a blast in Belgium, and happily returned with a few tricks up my sleeve and a few extra inches on my waistline. Oh what, was I supposed to only eat a moderate amount of waffles?!? I shudder at such an insulting thought… I regret nothing.

Brussels - Grand Place Night 3

Delighting in Disney

By | Culture, Free Career Advice, Grow Your Career, Life at Daxko, Professional Development | One Comment

One thing I love about working at Daxko is our generous professional development budget. This year I set my sight on Disney Institute’s Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence after hearing glowing reviews from other Daxko Disney Institute alumni. It did not disappoint!

A few of the things that stuck with me from my course:

  • Overmanaging. Disney overmanages certain aspects of their business that other companies undermanage or ignore. It’s what distinguishes them from others and results in the exceptional experience for all of their guests. Read more about overmanaging vs. micromanaging.
  • Organizational values aren’t just a “nice to have” .  Instead, they are the guiding force of the organization and impact its long-term success. If a leader hasn’t proactively determined those values, the rest of the company will. And you make not like them.
  • You’re being watched. Not exactly in a stalker sort of way, but not too far off. As a leader, your behavior sends a crystal clear message to everyone about what you value and what you don’t. What message are you sending in what you say and what you do?

What do you agree with above? Any thoughts from other Disney Institute alumni?

Sharpening Your Axe

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Following the “Invest in Your Development” session held earlier today, Sri sent me a thoughtful anecdote that highlights our flawed thought process around professional development.  You may have heard it before, but it’s worth repeating…

A man was walking in a forest one day, and he met a woodcutter.  It was a hot day, and he sat down to rest.  He began talking with the woodcutter about the weather and such.  After a lengthy conversation, he asked, “Mr. Woodcutter, you’ve been making little progress on chopping down that tree the last half hour.  Perhaps your axe is too blunt.  Why don’t you sharpen it?”

“That’s the truth! This axe has not been sharpened for a long while now; I could make far better progress with a sharp axe,” said the woodcutter.

“Then why not take some time to sharpen it now?” asked the man.

“I don’t really have time for that, you know.  Do you see all these trees I’ve got to chop down?  I can’t stop to sharpen my axe now,” replied the woodcutter.

I’m sure each of us, to varying extents, can identify with the woodcutter.  We know that we need to invest in our professional development, but adding development activities on top of our current workload just seems impossible.

Often to outsiders, like the man, it is obvious that making time for development now will pay dividends in the future. The real challenge is convincing yourself that no matter many trees you need to chop down today, there is always value in taking time to invest in yourself. So make the time and go sharpen your axe.