Mark Gilbert's Blog

Science and technology, served light and fluffy.

Kalamazoo X Conference

When I was in my fifth year in the Computer Science program at Western Michigan University (yes, my four-year degree required a five-year plan), I thought I had a good collegiate resume built up.  I was near the top of my class.  I was a better than average C hacker.  I was comfortable on SPARCs and PCs.  I was a great problem solver.

I had everything I needed to be a great software developer.  I was so sure of myself that instead of hiring on to a great company, I decided to start my own.  I didn’t want to work for a huge software shop, so why not go to the other extreme and strike out on my own?  I already had a lead for my first major customer.  Others would surely flock to me.

Ahem.  Reality has a way of setting in when you least expect it.

After two and a half years of operating as an independent contractor and being supported by my lovely wife’s salary, I decided that perhaps the independent gig wasn’t for me after all.  Having said that, I wouldn’t trade those two and a half years for anything.  That was one of the most intensive stretches of learning that I’ve done in my life.

What did I learn?  That knowing a programming language inside and out, knowing how to make Visual Studio sing, and being able to solve Millennium Problems for breakfast are necessary, but not sufficient, to make a great software developer.  (Ok, so solving Millennium Problems is probably NOT necessary, but you get the idea.)

What was missing?  What else did I do for that two and half years that I didn’t realize I was going to need?

  1. Learning to work with clients and other developers.
  2. Architecting a solution, not just writing the code for it.
  3. Being able to do a little self-promotion.

This is just a slice of the topics that we want to tackle in the first ever Kalamazoo X Conference*, taking place on Saturday, April 25 in downtown Kalamazoo.  Our goal with this conference is to complement the excellent technical conferences in the region (such as the Days of .NET and CodeMash) with sessions in human interaction, interface and graphic design, and system architecture.  We’re putting together a great lineup of speakers and are eager to get people together to talk about all of the other things needed to be a great software developer.

Hope to see you there.



* Full Disclosure: I am on the planning committee for the X Conference.

March 24, 2009 - Posted by | Agile, General

1 Comment

  1. Great blog…how about posting more often. 🙂

    Comment by Ann | March 27, 2009

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