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Attended the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal


Just last week during the first week of November, I found myself in the charismatic and vibrant capital of Portugal in Lisbon attending the world-class Web Summit. It was held along the Tagus river in the Iberian Peninsula in the renowned Altice Arena initially built for Expo ‘98. This amazing opportunity was enabled by my remote-first and fully autonomous company, Tackle.

The amount of words simply cannot describe the exhilarating energy I felt as an attendee there, the wealth of knowledge I gained through the insightful talks and workshops, and the connections I made. This was my first time in Lisbon and first time attending a tech conference that amassed 73, 000 attendees with representation from over 100 countries. Try to imagine that populous number of people descending into a city for a week, their undeniable hunger for knowledge, connections, and a shared vision to use technology to enable and innovate for a better and sustainable future, was most definitely felt in the atmosphere in those 4 days.

I knew going into a large-scaled event as such would require a proper tactical plan to ensure that I attain the benefit, value and experience in exchange for the energy and time spent there. It’s one thing having the thought of strategizing a plan, it’s another actually making one. The Web Summit days came at the tail-end of an already whirlwind remote working trip in Europe visiting ex-colleagues and friends. So the planning of the conference didn’t actually happen until I found myself standing in the middle of the exhibition floor, admittedly overwhelmed with the number of people and bustle, that only then did I start looking at relevant tracks and sessions to attend. Fellow new conference-goers, I do not recommend this!

Because of my obvious inexperience in attending a massive conference prior to this, I’d like to relay some of my learnings on how to make the most out of a large-scaled multi-track conference:

  • First define the purpose(s) of attending the chosen conference and scope out what value you would like to extract from the it ahead of time
  • Do prior research on the talks and speakers and make note of some questions you may have. This will also help in deciding what talks you’re interested in attending for each time slot.
  • Take notes - whether it be written, audio, or clacking away on your keyboard. You will be able to reference back at them for a more holistic understanding and retention and also have the opportunity to knowledge-share with your colleagues after.
  • Make connections and network - recognize that most attendees may be in the same boat with feeling out of place but eager to make connections. Be open, friendly and kind and you may find it quite effortless to strike up a conversation with someone standing in line for an espresso refill or one sitting beside you at a session.

As a technologist in the web space, I had hoped to come away with some exposure to new developer tools, best practices, and innovative methods to develop and contribute to the web ecosystem as a whole. With that in mind, I decided to hone in on the fullstack track which happened on Day 2 and immersed myself with talks across topics of interest such as Sustainability & Clean Tech, AI & Machine Learning, and B2B SaaS for the other summit days.

In between sessions, I free-flowed on caffeine and devoured finger foods in the Developer and Women in Tech lounges which were dedicated spaces hosting workshops, fireside chats, and panels. Throughout all the sessions, I made sure to take relevant notes as I knew no one in their right mind can effectively feed all that input in, process it, and store it in memory. That being so, read on for some high-level summaries I came away with on ideas and questions across the various tracks I attended.

Confessions of modern design: How design is changing, and how we need to change with it

Yuhki Yamashita, Chief Product Officer, Figma

Yuhki started the talk with a lead-in on how design in practice is different from design in theory and that solutions should always precede problems. We function in a world where changes are inevitable and everything is perpetually a work-in-progress. Yuhki says it is simply the chaotic reality of the modern product design and development process. But I don’t think of it as chaos. I believe it’s innate in human nature to keep moving, keep developing and iterating in the metaphysics of life or in the case of his talk, product design.

Some of the notes and thoughts I came away with will be written in points below:

  • During product research and design, when is it best to review work?
  • Review iteration needs to happen - be it a weekly cadence crit or daily
  • Not necessarily sharing only when there is a status update
  • Review should be done at a predictable cadence versus at the perfect moment
  • There is no perfect moment. It is better to get iterative immediate feedback then at the end of a task when your head finally pokes out of the cave

To be continued...