From the lure of work that matters to building your own device lab, here are key talks from Velocity New York 2014.
Practitioners and experts from the web operations and performance worlds came together in New York City this week for Velocity New York 2014. Below you’ll find a handful of keynotes and interviews from the event that we found particularly notable.
Mikey Dickerson: From Google to HealthCare.gov to the U.S. Digital Service
“These problems are fixable, these problems are important, but they require you to choose to work on them” — Mikey Dickerson looks back on what it took to fix HealthCare.gov and he reveals his reasons for joining the U.S. Digital Service.
A new partnership between O’Reilly and Databricks offers certification and training in Apache Spark.
Editor’s note: full disclosure — Ben is an advisor to Databricks.
I am pleased to announce a joint program between O’Reilly and Databricks to certify Spark developers. O’Reilly has long been interested in certification, and with this inaugural program, we believe we have the right combination — an ascendant framework and a partnership with the team behind the technology. The founding team of Databricks comprises members of the UC Berkeley AMPLab team that created Spark.
The certification exam will be offered at Strata events, through Databricks’ Spark Summits, and at training workshops run by Databricks and its partner companies. A variety of O’Reilly resources will accompany the certification program, including books, training days, and videos targeted at developers and companies interested in the Apache Spark ecosystem. Read more…
Camille Fournier on becoming a “multiplier” — and why multipliers are more effective than managers.
There are times when we all wish we could clone ourselves so we could get more done at work. In a Velocity New York 2014 keynote, Camille Fournier, CTO at Rent the Runway, presented an alternative, practical solution, that she argued is far more effective (not to mention feasible): become a “multiplier” rather than a manager.
Technical skills are important, she said, but they’re not ultimately the bottlenecks you experience later in your career — eventually, time and focus become the main hurdles. To overcome these hurdles, Fournier argued that you need to take a step beyond managing and focusing on creating additive value, and focus on multiplying your value by increasing the effectiveness of the people working around you.
Mikey Dickerson on why he moved from Google to the West Wing, and where we need to be allocating our engineering resources.
In a keynote address at Velocity New York 2014, Mikey Dickerson described his journey from working for Google to working in the West Wing of the White House, leading the US Digital Services group. He told the story of how a three-day review turned into a nine-week “herculean effort” by a team working 17 hours per day, 7 days per week to get HealthCare.gov up and running. The challenges, he stressed, boiled down to a few big, though basic, things — building a monitoring system, creating a war room to provide development direction and organization, and establishing a sense of urgency to get the problems fixed. “This very formidable obstacle, when you pushed on it even a little bit, fell apart; it was made out of sand,” he said. “Nothing we did was that hard; it was labor intensive, but it was not hard.”
Charting the progress towards AngularJS 2.0
AngularJS, for me, was a revelation the first time I encountered it. I was coming from using GWT (Google Web Toolkit), and seeing our large application shrink in lines of code by 90% was close to a spiritual experience. I was a convert from day one, because I knew how bad things were otherwise. Ever since, I have been associated with AngularJS in one way or another, and have seen how it makes things absolutely simple with data binding, templating, routing, unit testing, and so much more. But the more I used it, some things didn’t make sense, from naming to concepts. I got the hang of it, but I never really got to like why directives needed to be so complex, or how the built-in routing was quite limiting. While AngularJS made it trivial to write applications, it also made it trivial to write slow, hard-to-maintain applications if you didn’t understand how it all worked together.
Natalie Kuldell on the hard work of bringing biocoding to the classroom.
Synthetic biology is poised to change everything from energy development to food production to medicine — but there’s a bottleneck looming. How fast things develop depends on the number of people developing things. Let’s face it: there aren’t that many biocoders. Not in the universities, not in industry, not in the DIY sector. Not enough to change the world, at any rate. We have to ramp up.
And that means we first must train teachers and define biocoding curricula. Not at the university level — try secondary, maybe even primary schools. That, of course, is a challenge. To get kids interested in synthetic biology, we have to do just that: get them interested. More to the point, get them jacked. Biocoding is incredibly exciting stuff, but that message isn’t getting across.
“Students think science and engineering is removed from daily life,” says Natalie Kuldell, an instructor of biological engineering at MIT. “We have to get them engaged, and connected to science and engineering — more specifically, bioengineering — in meaningful ways.”