Visiting ElixirConf US 2017

Gerwin & Maarten | | Reading time: ± 3 min.

At Defacto, we greatly value development of our own employees. No surprise there: our motto is Developing People. However, at times it can be challenging to find the time and dedication to do exactly this: develop yourself.

In the ever-changing landscape of software development, learning opportunities present themselves often in the form of micro-learning, i.e. blogposts, (video) tutorials or even technical documentation. Sometimes, however, it is important to actually get physically involved in the learning process, interact with real people and actively participate in classes or workshops. Doing this together with your colleagues is even better, because you can reflect on the material presented and the challenges we face while we're developing our software.

We are in charge of our own education and development. We have the responsibility, but also the opportunity to find the best fitting education ourselves. Luckily, Defacto is keen to support our development and is offering to invest in our training purposes and expenses.​

We started working on a new project in Elixir and web-framework Phoenix just a few months ago. When it came to deciding on how we should spend our educational budget this year we naturally started looking at events aimed at improving our skills developing in Elixir. Elixir is a pretty hot topic currently, so we found some interesting ones. Because ElixirConf EU already took place in May, by far the most interesting one turned out to be ElixirConf US in Bellevue, WA. It focused on all the main topics we were working on, hosted 2-days of hands-on workshops and had all the name-speakers in its specific area. Specifically, it hosted keynotes by the founder of the Elixir language José Valim and the creator of the Phoenix web-framework Chris McCord. Chris McCord also hosted a day long workshop on Channels - websockets in Phoenix.

So, the choice was made and it took little effort to convince some co-workers to want to go there too and a bit of a drag to execute the plan, obtain ESTAs and book the trip. Roughly three weeks before the event date of 5-8 september, our group of 6 was all set to go.

While recovering from jetlag we had some spare time on our hands to explore the area. Bellevue itself is an interesting suburb of Seattle with towering office buildings where multiple tech companies like Microsoft and Expedia have offices. We were also able to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Seattle itself and had some nice food and drinks over there. Did you know this area is widely known for its density of microbreweries?

Onto the main act: ElixirConf. Tuesday and Wednesday our group attended a variety of workshops. The workshops overall had great content, awesome exercises and good trainers. Hell, if you get trained in stuff from Phoenix by the creator of Phoenix than we would say thats pretty good!
The workshops we attended talked about:

  • OTP Supervision Trees
  • Debugging Elixir
  • Phoenix Channels
  • Building GraphQL API's

After the two days of training the conference part started. There were loads of interesting talks, really too much to attend them all. Good thing there were with six of us, so we could divide our attention. We saw talks about future releases of Elixir and Phoenix by their creators, about Nerves (look into it!), applying Elixir and Phoenix in healthcare, best practices with Elixir and especially interesting to us: a talk about lessons learned after two years of development with Phoenix and Elixir. A plethora of interesting talks, all recorded and can be found here.

We'll be able to use the knowledge we got from ElixirConf in our daily job and during the development of the new version of our current product. This way we can also transfer this knowledge to our software development colleagues, on the job! A way of learning we believe in strongly.

Want to know more about the conference or Elixir and Phoenix? Give us a heads up!

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