In 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.
FOSDEM 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.