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How FrOSCon Helped Me to Broaden My Horizons

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This year's FrOSCon (Free and Open Source Software Conference) took place at the end of August, where I shared my knowledge on the topic of "Writing less code with Serverless in AWS". Fortunately, one of the talks I submitted was accepted for the 6th time in a row. FrOSCon is a special conference for me. Not only because I live and work very close to the venue (Hochschule Bonn Rhein Sieg), but especially because I gave my first talk there in 2016. What has become (almost) routine today was a very special experience for me back then. In this blog post, I would like to go into more detail about my motivations for this step.


Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

After 9 years at ip.labs, I was promoted to Chief Software Architect in 2015. Suddenly, my tasks included working out certain aspects with colleagues and giving presentations to the whole team. For a rather introverted person like me, this was a big change and challenge. I had to leave my comfort zone. Nervousness sometimes made me lose my way, and I quickly realized that I wanted to change that. But how? I already knew the motto "when it hurts, do it more often". So it was clear to me where I had to pull the lever: I wanted and needed to present again! So far, many scenarios were buzzing in my head where I "failed" and I felt uncomfortable with the idea. What finally triggered me was my will and desire to be invited as a speaker, and also to be able to present in the way I often saw on YouTube. In 2016, the next FrOSCon was announced and ip.labs wanted to be present there as a sponsor. A colleague asked me if we would like to apply there with a presentation. I thought it was a great idea! First, I asked some colleagues if they would like to present. At that moment I caught myself and asked, "Stop, what am I doing? Why do I only ask others and don't try it myself? That's when I made the decision to take the plunge! The programming language Java was my great passion at the time, and I identified some (for me) interesting topics and used them to draft a few ideas for the lectures. I also managed to convince my colleague at the time, Rodion Alukhanov, to submit the talk together so that I wouldn't be confronted with the new situation alone.


How I Prepare for Presentation

One of the talks (on Java Memory Model) was actually accepted a short time later, so there was no turning back. The preparation was intense, of course. I had to think of too many eventualities. At some point, the lecture was ready, which I practiced for hours alone in front of the computer at home, including video and audio recordings, to see and hear how I came across. This, of course, displeased me. Two days before the conference, we practiced in front of some colleagues in the office and received valuable tips for improvement, which we incorporated on the last night before the presentation day.



Then it was time for the presentation day. My nervousness was clearly noticeable. However, as practice makes perfect, I was confident about the presentation content. There were other unknowns, of course, such as technology and the audience, but everything went well. Maybe even better than I thought. Proud that I had mastered it and wondering why I hadn't realized my dream before, I knew that was just the beginning. Developers would call it "reuse" because I put so much time and effort into this talk that I was eager to present it at other conferences and meetups. This resulted in invitations, for example to JavaLand 2017 with a special location, Phantasialand.  


My Biggest Supporter

At the last in-person FrOSCon in 2019, I experienced another highlight. My then 13-year-old son Dennis was there and listened to his dad and colleague Elmar Warken speak and was incredibly proud of his dad. Our joint photos before and after the lecture were immortalized in an annual photo book (of course created with our own software solution).  Although it is still far too early for Dennis to commit to a profession, perhaps this visit will give him the right impulse.

Vadym and Dennis at Froscon

Back then, 6 years ago, I didn't know how exactly I will proceed the lectures, where they will lead me, which topics I will share my knowledge on and what I will learn on the way. Thanks to the individual support of ip.labs on my personal development path, I can now look back on quite a few things after more than 50 presentations on 10+ topics at various renowned conferences, meetups and other events and numerous acquaintances and friends I have made. I would like to highlight the talk in Tel Aviv (Israel) as a rather special event, but this is perhaps a topic for another blog post. Stay tuned!

Written by Vadym Kazulkin

Vadym Kazulkin is Head of Development at ip.labs GmbH. Vadym has been involved with the Java ecosystem for over twenty years. His focus and interests currently include the design and implementation of highly scalable and available applications, Serverless and AWS Cloud. Vadym is the co-organizer of the Java User Group Bonn, and a frequent speaker at various Meetups and conferences.