Why You Should Go to an Agile Software Conference

It’s that time of year again and people are scrambling to put together conference proposals, with fingers crossed, for the annualĀ Agile Conference in August. This year it’s Agile2013 in Nashville and I, like the others, am scrambling.

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 8.58.39 PMI have 2 proposals in this year. Just like the last couple years, the open and interactive submission system has been great for tuning my proposals. Unlike the last couple years, there seems there’s nowhere for a hardware fella to hide. No Embedded Agile stage. No Emerging Applications of Agile stage. This year we’ve been thrown in with the big dogs and it’s getting a tad harder to appear relavent.

Case-in-point: I received a review on my hardware TDD talk… a very thoughtful and fair review I might add that I was expecting to see… and I wanted to share just a snippet of it here.

[...]

A much bigger issue, and this is an issue with the audience, not the speaker or talk, is that there seems to be low interest in embedded agile programming in general at the national agile conference. We realize this is sort of out of your control, but if we were convinced you would have a full room, it would bump this rating up a ton.

The reason I think this is such a fair review and this an especially fair comment is because the reviewers in this case are spot on. The hardware/embedded crowd the past 2 years has not been especially well represented. And because the conference gets so many high quality proposals from experts around the world, I can see how it’s difficult to squeeze in fringe topics knowing that the appetite for those topics at the conference is… uhh… less than spectacular.

That needs to change and I need your help to change it.

I’ve learned a lot at the 2 agile software conferences I’ve been to. The high point was seeing test-driven development demonstrated by James Grenning in Salt Lake City at Agile2011. Immediately after, I dedicated time to learning TDD and using it to improve the quality of testbench code I write. Now, I use it for almost every new testbench component I build. As much as I can, I also use TDD to add features to legacy code. TDD is easily the most important and most credible technique I’ve experienced at any conference I’ve ever been to, hardware conferences (specifically) included. Had I not been in Salt Lake City, I wouldn’t be doing TDD today and the quality of my code would be garbage, just as it was before.

But that’s just me. I know other hardware developers have attended Agile conferences and I know they’ve been impressed. I also know some of those people read this blog. In fact, if you’re one of those people I’m actually looking at you right now.

To those hardware folks that have had the opportunity to attend Agile software conferences: it’s time to play agile hardware advocate. I’m asking you to share your experience from Agile software conferences and the value you see in attending.

  • How has an Agile software conference made you think differently about hardware development?
  • What’s one thing you’ve seen that you wouldn’t have seen anywhere else?
  • Who have you met that you wouldn’t have met anywhere else?

Don’t spend a whole day on it. Five minutes and a paragraph or two is fine; even just a few bullet notes to get the point across. Paste your experience into the comments section and let people know what they’re missing.

The Agile conference every August and others like it around the world are tremendous opportunities for hardware developers to stock their minds with great new ideas; the kinds of ideas that aren’t created within hardware development. We all need to know that. I’d encourage hardware developers to attend an Agile software conference. Hopefully I can get a little help from a few others in convincing you it’s time well spent.

Yes… I’m still looking at you! Comments please :).

-neil

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About nosnhojn

I have been working in ASIC and FPGA development for more than 12 years at various IP and product development companies and now as a consultant with XtremeEDA Corp. My specialty for most of that time has been RTL functional verification where I have had a chance to work with some very experienced people and learn state of the art techniques. I really enjoy the challenges of being a verification engineer but as of late have come to wonder what lies beyond my verification bubble. That's lead me to agile software development and project management. There is a massive amount of material out there related to agile development. All of it is interesting and most of it should be applicable to hardware development in one form or another. So I'm here to find what agile concepts will work for hardware development and to help other developers use them successfully! You can find me at neil.johnson@agilesoc.com.
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One Response to Why You Should Go to an Agile Software Conference

  1. Tobias says:

    Neil, I can feel your eyes on me ;) so here we go.

    Dear embedded and hardware developers,

    There are more than 100 reasons why you should attend and maybe also speak at an Agile conference this year (good party, free food, few days away from the office, …), but here’s my Top3:
    - Learn: how others apply Agile, how they solved your challenges, how they struggle, …
    - Network: I’m still in contact with 2 persons I met there that introduced me to other embedded Agilists in my area
    - Help software folks understand the world of hardware and that we’re not that different at all ;)

    If you’re still not convinced, let me know and I’ll send you the other 97 good reasons…

    Cheers,
    Tobias

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