27 November Wrap Up

The YOW! 2016 Conference is sold out in Melbourne, but you can still get tickets for Sydney and Brisbane. There are also DepthFirst workshops in Sydney and Melbourne.

I was going to say it was a slow week… but I’ve just checked my calendar, and I still made it to FIVE different events!

The first on Monday was the final Sydney Scrum User Group meetup of the year, held at Industrie IT. The meetup was run as an Open Space. This is an “unconference” type of event, in which the participants come up with the topics for discussion. There were four different rooms and nearly ten topics on the night. As a former Iteration Manager, I was keen to jump in.

The first session I attended was on the importance of retrospectives, and it was facilitated by a great agile coach named Lai-Ling Su. We all shared our different approaches to retros and team-building events. Most of us seemed to be running them every week, and everyone confessed to occasionally substituting a casual rant session over beers.

The second session I attended was led by Stuart Mitchell on the topic of “Scrum + Devops = The Final Frontier?” We talked about the way Scrum teams often run into a WALL when delivering software (especially those working in highly regulated industries like finance), and we brainstormed a number of ways to get past it.

I also sat in on a third short session on daily standups. My contribution was that my favourite part of standup was that it really made me feel part of a team working on a common goal. We finished the Open Space with a “Newsroom” session where everyone recapped the various discussions that had taken place.

Tuesday morning I was back in the city at BlueChilli for the kickoff of SheStarts. The Top 20 Founders were all in attendance along with many of the partners and advisors. Nicola Hazell welcomed everyone and told us that they had received over 800 applications for SheStarts, which is twice they response to any previous BlueChilli program. (And it was only open to half the population!)

My favourite part of the event was that one of the founders had brought her six-month-old son along in his pram. She had originally told Nicola that she wouldn’t be able to participate, but the folks at BlueChilli told her not to worry. That’s pretty much the point of SheStarts – that it’s time to start supporting women entrepreneurs and overcoming the barriers that have traditionally held them back in the industry!

Tuesday evening I went along to the Sydney Artificial Intelligence Meetup at BCG Digital Ventures. This meetup was only founded a few months ago, but the room was packed with attendees.

The first speaker was Ian Heddle, Director of Exablaze, and he started by taking us all the way back to the Ancient Greeks for the birth of logic.

Ian then got stuck into his main topic – computational complexity. He talked about different types of problems, and which ones are best approached using machine learning. I was especially impressed when he showed off Zomojo‘s genetic algorithm rig! He also gave us some sage advice for getting into AI – “Step 1. Learn Python.” and “Make sure you have a way to halt your machine learning algorithms. Otherwise you’ll be up for a very big AWS bill. 😂”

The second speaker of the night was Alex Boudreau from Boomworks, talking about chatbots. (Alex recently gave a similar talk at the Sydney Bots meetup.)

Alex outlined the current state of AI chatbots and how Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) are utilised in bots. NLP involves parsing an input message and breaking it down into parts of speech – the subject, the object, any relevant modifiers – and NLU is where those fragments are actually interpreted by the computer. Alex mentioned many tools for doing this, including an open source English parser from Google known as Parsey McParseface. (I’m not even kidding.)

The Q&A section was pretty interesting. Someone asked if Alex thought an AI would ever replace a doctor. Alex considered it but said that intuition and the human element would always be needed, so he didn’t think it likely. (Lawyers, on the other hand…!)

On Wednesday I was back at BlueChilli for the SheStarts Mentoring Session. Claudia Barriga-Larriviere gave a short introductory talk about how to a good mentor or mentee. She explained there are three types of mentors: tactical, who help hone your craft on a day-to-day basis; strategic, who help you with longer term planning; and visionary, who can assist you with navigating your particular industry.

Claudia also gave us useful advice on what not to do in a mentoring session…

Afterwards we broke up for individual mentoring sessions. I had four sessions with different founders, all with very different business ideas. We talked a lot about content marketing (I pointed several of them to this blog post about Canva’s blog growth strategy), technical concerns (how to mitigate risks around 3rd party API reliance), and various potential revenue streams they might pursue. I can’t wait to see which of the founders make it through!

My final event of the week was a Women in Tech Panel held by MYOB and Startup Daily at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre at UNSW. The event was kicked off by Councillor Angela Vithoulkas and featured five speakers: Alla Keogh, Julia Harper, and John Sullivan from MYOB, Nicola Hazell from BlueChilli, and entrepreneur Nicole Kersh.

MYOB told us about the creation of their developHER paid internship program and how successful it has been. Weekend coding camps like RailsGirls and NodeGirls are great, but there is a need for support afterwards. That’s where developHER comes in.

Thanks MYOB and Startup Daily for putting on this great event!

For the next fortnight I won’t have any meetups to report… as it’s finally time for this year’s YOW Conference! Hope to see you all there…