NE Code 2023

July 25, 2023    Conference Presentation

NE Code 2023

A few of us were able to go to NE Code 2023 this year in Lincoln, NE. I had a good time and learned a lot of things. My wife was able to come and spend time in Lincoln during the conference. We went to the speaker event at Mana Games Wednesday night for awhile as well. I wasn’t able to attend the Wednesday workshops, but maybe next year

We went to the Spring Creek Prarie Audobon Center west of town one evening. It was vast and a beautiful contrast to the Lincoln downtown, Haymarket and UNL campus.

There were many high quality speakers and I had the priviledge of presenting Clean Architecture and DDD and representing Omnitech and SD. Many speakers I talked to had come from across the nation.

Key Takeaways

There were some very good keynotes and 5 or 6 sessions going on in parallel throughout the 2 days.


  • AI is coming and we need to learn and employ AI for our businesses in a good/helpful way
  • Hudl has been in the AI/ML game for a long time (cameras that can track the action, identifying players and ball position in soccer, and more). Mr. Wurtz said “data is the new code”. 1) have people tag and organize data 2) experiment/iterate 3) measure

OSS Caitlin Cabrera

She shared her experience working on OS Query . OSS is very important and has some challenges she pointed out. You need to focus on community, collaboration, with core members that provide process and vision. She recognized that the lack of time, interest and competition are major reasons products fail.

Dona Sarkar

She worked on 5 versions of Windows, many other things and now AI inclusivity, told us we have “power” as developers and need to regain it and not be desparate. She had many experiments we could do such as “be the owner of your life”, start a business or non-profit, participate in hackathons and events, focus on things that move the business, etc.

She also thought AI will be more mainstream in 2024 (“the slope of enlightenment). “born in AI” may be coming in 2024, where companies will be able to build things that would have taken too much human time in the past. There was a sense that most businesses represented in the room are working with AI, but it’s hard to tell from a quick raise of hands after a question.

Steps to move toward AI: 1) Move to the Cloud 2) Organize your data 3) Use AI

She suggested these 3 learning resources and has had her staff go through them.

  1. Google Cloud Skills Boost requires a free account (Google account)
  2. Open AI training (I didn’t find a link)
  3. Microsoft Learn AI Skills Challenge

(I’ve also found the Brilliant Neural Network course to be helpful)

John Wirtz from Hudl - Designing a great product: Lessons from 15 years of successes and screw ups

It’s rare (besides DOES ) where I hear from someone who’s started a company and has been very successful. Hudl is an impressive company and has grown from 3 to over 600 in 10 countries. He shared a lot of interesting things they tried to organize and optimize the flow of work, some worked and others didn’t as well.

Hudl has been in the AI/ML game for a long time (cameras that can track the action, identifying players and ball position in soccer, and more). He said “data is the new code”. 1) have people tag and organize data 2) experiment/iterate 3) measure.

“What got us here won’t get us there” ~ I like it!

I’ve been interested in flow and organizations for several years and was intrigued by the different structures they have tried over the years. It seems that their best attempt so far lines up with the Flow Framework ideas (read Project to Product by Mik Kersten). We want “Aligned Autonomy” who know the themes, principles, purpose and values of the company.

for planning tasks can go in buckets of must do, likely and next up. Then for retrospectives hits, misses (learning opportunities) and pivots.

What makes a Senior Engineer/Architect?

We need to think big picture, understand the business, longer term , build relationships, strive for clean code and architecture, always keep learning and fight entropy.

Prototype (“show your math”)

Adam Barney - Software Engineering, the Good Parts

I’ve been able to see Adam Barney at several NE Codes and HDCs of the years. He shared a long list of technical and soft skills that he’s learned and help make one a “senior”/“experienced” developer. Technology changes, but the knowledge and core principles we attain can be transferable. I had been thinking about similar things when talking with interns and new developers. This is a great list for anyone who is looking to grow and mentor others.

We need a breadth and depth of knowledge (also known as T shaped, or PI shaped or Combed shaped skills by Jon Smart .

Core Skills: analytical, pragmatic thinking, know how to learn, Bingling/Googling for solutions, creatitvity.

Soft Skills are just as important to improve: leadership (know the why, ask questions), facilitate collaboration, take initiative. Build relationships, communicate. Have a good attitude.

Growth Mindset: We need to never stop learning, ask for help, help others, seize opportunities, pair program for live PRs.

AI will help with learning, less keystrokes, generating test, find answers and apply already known solutions, but it won’t replace big picture, pragmatic thinking or figuring out business requirements anytime soon.

I also talked to Duane at Don’t Panic Labs and he told me about their survey that helps identify your strengts and weaknesses.

Billy Hollis - Lies Developers tell themselves

I hope to grow in wisdom and be able to share as Billy Hollis obviously has over his career. He had many points, here are just a few.

  • Don’t give into arbitrary deadlines
  • You’re addicted to code, don’t give in. Not every problem needs to be solved with code
  • Watch out for “wouldn’t it be cool if”. Example of the touchscreens not working in F35s
  • I know better than management what to do. Maybe or maybe you don’t know the full picture. You need to communicate with humility.

“Clarity is key”. Build a stack of talents and skills. Learn to listen. Don’t deceive.

This could be a key to avoiding burnout of not being able to keep up in your 40s and 50s (sometimes I felt this, so it was nice to have it pointed out and some ideas for me).

You can watch his keynote from NDC Minnesota 2022 .

He recommeded Righting Software and we decided to read it at Omnitech as a group book study starting in October 5, 2023. I got the book, read the first chapter and recommended it to my friends at Omnitech. I’ll try to add a post about things I’ve learned from that. Here’s the time in the talk about the book .

Brandon Suponchick from Aventure on being an Architect that doesn’t stay in the tower

Brandon’s was the last session for me, but it was well worth staying for. He compared Saurmon to Gandalf in approaches to leading using Mid Journey to AI generate images of Gandalf in many situations. We should be like Gandalf, in the trenches, serving others, leading but letting them grow, building relationships and trusting others to be able to complete their tasks.

Here are some ways to stay hands on:

  • Prototyping to understand details, doing this together can lead to innovation
  • tacke some tech debt yourself
  • look for automation opportunities
  • Pairing with someone is a great way to mentor,

Invest in the long term

Data doesnt’ change behavior, emotions do. Remember the “Why”. Architects often think they need to hand down decisions from on high like Saurmon, but that doesn’t work.

JD Hillen: The Art of Technical Decisions

He had a lot of content that was helpful. Here’s a few highlights:

It depends, context is king. Prototype (“show your math”). There is always a tradeoff.

8 steps: investigate in detail, constructive and inclusive environment, generate good alternatives, explain options, select best, evaluate, communicate, take action

Other Sessions

Ben Ferguson - Advanced Typescript

Aaron Sayles - React Testing

Faker, Storybook, Jest, Jest Axe, Testing Library

MSW for integration testing.

I hadn’t heard of Faker and hadn’t thought of using Storybook for testing, but recently worked with unit testing in React and it was good to hear from someone with more experience.

Nikhil Barthwal - Knative

He condensed a full day workshop into an hour, but it was great. I definitely need to look into Knative.

His demo code . His website .

The build part of Knative was super popular so they split it out into Tekton which allows you to run your builds in containers.

There were so many more that I wish I had been able to go to. It was a great conference with high quality speakers and topics and ran very well. Writing this out helped me process what I learned better and now I don’t have to hold on to my paper notes :-). Thanks for reading

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