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The Perl Conference: Reasons to go?

by Maestro_007 (Hermit)
on Jul 11, 2001 at 01:19 UTC ( #95485=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I can't convince my boss to give me the time off for the upcoming Perl conference. I've brought up a few of the many benefits of going, but I need a better argument. His primary question was: "What do you really expect to learn there?"

After reading the description of the conference, I think the question answers itself, but it didn't seem to make a difference.

I'm still crafting my Official answer, but so far, this is what I have:

  • Perl 6 is coming out and we need to stay with the changes in order to avoid getting blindsided
  • You can meet more important people in 3 days at something like this than you can in 3 years of just doing your job
  • Two words: Damian Conway
  • The Open Source conference is right next door, so we can find out about developments in all things OS, PHP, Apache, etc.
  • The various workshops and lightning talks are all but guaranteed to show us optimizations that will save us a clock cycle or two, or at lease keep us from writing the same thing that someone else has already written on CPAN
  • The very people who wrote so much of the code we're relying on right now will be there in person. They have an incredible amount of knowledge to share, and it would be great to be among so many talented resources in the same place
  • The next State of the Onion

I know this list isn't complete by far. I need help in putting together a list which will inspire. I need something that will translate directly into something the upper people can grasp. I'm trying to say "See what I can do now in 2 hours and 40 lines? This can teach me to do it [some amount sooner hours] in [some amount fewer lines]!"

I know I won't be able to quantify it in such concrete terms, but I believe I need something more than I have right now. If this doesn't work, hopefully someone else will be able to use it to convince their boss to let them go.

Any suggestions are appreciated

MM

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: The Perl Conference: Reasons to go?
by cforde (Monk) on Jul 11, 2001 at 03:08 UTC
    What you need to do is to show him that by attending the conference, which costs him your time (other things you could be doing) as well as money (other things he could be buying), that it will save him (your development) time or money over the next year or so. Socializing with a bunch of cool guys isn't going to cut it. The hard question he's asking is what are you going to find out/learn that you won't in the normal course of you doing your job over the next year or so. (and how much is it worth to know that now instead of later?)

    The answer is going to be highly dependent how your company is using Perl and his opinion of where you are in your professional development (not just as a savy Perl guy). It's very difficult to find specific items 'cause he can always ask "couldn't you learn that from a book?" Unfortunately, for you in your situation, the main value of these things is in the socialization. Smart people exchanging viewpoints and experiences about something in which they have a common interest.

    In my experience, the best way to get to attend an event like this is to do a presentation. One, this puts you on the schedule, barring disaster you'll be there. Two, guaranteed you'll get to know the organizers at least and probably some of the other presenters. Three, you'll learn more about your chosen topic than you otherwise would have. Four, conference attendees will want to talk to you as one who knows.

    So, how do you do that? Start by attending your local Perl, Linux or Apache users group. Find something that you or your company has done that you think will interest them. Failing that, find something that you've done that interests you. Put a presentation together and give it at one or more of the meetings. Repeat as necessary until you're comfortable with it and believe you have a solid presentation. Then approach your boss (who should be aware of your activity) and let him know that you'd like to do the presentation at the conference. At this point, you've demonstrated that you're part of the community and not just a spectator. You have something of interest to say and the company gets to bask in the glory as a place where cool people do cool things. The conference is now part of your professional development, not just a social event or perk 'cause there's extra money in the budget.

    Have fun,
    Carl Forde

Re: The Perl Conference: Reasons to go?
by Abigail (Deacon) on Jul 11, 2001 at 17:02 UTC
    Let's go over your arguments one by one. Please note that I don't find TPC worth the costs, so I'm partially the devils advocate.
    • Perl 6 is coming out and we need to stay with the changes in order to avoid getting blindsided

      Perl 6 won't be out by at least another year, and TPC is by far the only place where you can get that information. If your boss knows what's going on in the Perl world, this will backfire on you, because the boss will point out to you that you apparently haven't kept up with Perl 6.

    • You can meet more important people in 3 days at something like this than you can in 3 years of just doing your job

      Meeting people is, IMO, the most important reason to attend a conference. Perhaps the only reason.

    • Two words: Damian Conway

      Damian is fun and he tickles your mind to think differently, but I cannot find a business reason to meet him.

    • The Open Source conference is right next door, so we can find out about developments in all things OS, PHP, Apache, etc.

      Perhaps. Whether this is relevant depends a lot on the nature of your company.

    • The various workshops and lightning talks are all but guaranteed to show us optimizations that will save us a clock cycle or two, or at lease keep us from writing the same thing that someone else has already written on CPAN

      Well, you don't have to go to a conference to find out what's available on CPAN. You can find out what's available on CPAN in less time it takes to drive to the airport. And I think you are overestimating the optimizations you will be shown at the conference.

    • The very people who wrote so much of the code we're relying on right now will be there in person. They have an incredible amount of knowledge to share, and it would be great to be among so many talented resources in the same place

      This is more or less the same as your second point.

    • The next State of the Onion

      Likely to be on the web before you are back from the conference.

    If I were your boss, I would ask you, "what does TPC give you that YAPC didn't give you?". If you did go to YAPC, you would have a hard time to convince me I should spend the money to send you to TPC too. If you didn't ask to be send to YAPC, I'd asked you why you didn't and waited for TPC.

    Personally, I think that a conference that costs $1000 in fees, and then you still have to pay for the tutorials doesn't belong in the spirit of Perl and its community.(*) The most important feature of a conference is to meet people, and that's specially important for people new in the field. Which are often the people who don't have bosses that will pay.

    I doubt you will ever see me on TPC. Not even when O'Reilly or my boss is willing to pay all expenses. OTOH, I will try to attend any YAPC, be it in Europe, North-America or elsewhere - regardless whether my boss will pay or not.

    (*) Note that I am not suggesting that O'Reilly is making large amounts of money of TPC. They are not. Organizing TPC as it is costs a lot of money. But, as YAPC proves, there are other ways to organize a conference.

    -- Abigail

Re: The Perl Conference: Reasons to go?
by Albannach (Monsignor) on Jul 11, 2001 at 07:32 UTC
    As cforde notes, you have to justify the cost of the trip, and you might be able to do that by bringing back more than just a wiser self. You might try picking a few presentations from the schedule that you expect to be significant to your company's particular operation, and offer to do talks at your shop on these topics (e.g. "How Perl 6 will affect our work"). You can also circulate this list to others before you leave to see if they can suggest any burning relevant questions that they'd like to be addressed, for which you will try to bring back the answers. You can argue that even though you don't know what you will learn, the congregation of that many experts in one place is bound to give you valuable insight that you can bring back to the company's advantage. Giving informal summary talks and/or writing conference notes upon returning from a trip have been pretty standard practices at places I've worked, but I don't know if it will be effective for you.

    In my (non-IT) experience, the conference participation principle that cforde describes does seem to apply. Most companies I have worked for will pay for employees who have had papers and/or presentations accepted, presuming the conference is relevant to the business of course (and hence I won't be attending 8-().

    --
    I'd like to be able to assign to an luser

Re: The Perl Conference: Reasons to go?
by japhy (Canon) on Jul 11, 2001 at 03:35 UTC
    You've not got it as badly as you might think. I'm leaving my job the week after I get back from TPC. (I'm leaving because I'm going back to college.) I can't use the "think of how much a better programmer I'll be" approach, since I won't be a better programmer for them.

    japhy -- Perl and Regex Hacker
Re: The Perl Conference: Reasons to go?
by TeKk9 (Scribe) on Jul 11, 2001 at 08:45 UTC
    Is this going to be a Company sponsored trip? If you're going to take vacation to go to the conference and pay your own way then it shouldn't be hard to convince them. The time off would allow you to re-charge your batteries in a relaxed atmosphere and nothing enhances one's ability to learn than a relaxed atmosphere (especially if it's doing what you want). If your trying to convince management to pay your way then I have to agree with the others on this. In Manager speak how does this make him/her (your Manager) money? In some way you have to show that if they spend $xxx.xx sending you, they will save 2X number of dollars later in the year or they will make 2X number of dollars (use the latter, in Manager speak making money is better than saving it). Managers love options also, try to give him/her some options. Try to put it in terms like "it would cost $xxxx.xx to send me to XY school, it'll take ZZZ hours of reading books and doing the old test and see method, or it'll cost $xxx.xx for me to attend this conference which I'm absolutely sure I'll learn more stuff than you'll ever know about". Stay away from the social aspects and the ME factors. If all your Manager is hearing is "I want to go..." and "it'll do me so much good..." then you're not going to go. Try to show them that "it'll be great for the Dept...", remember they (management) simply want to look good and make money. If you put it in their terms it should be more convincing. HTH
Re: The Perl Conference: Reasons to go?
by coreolyn (Parson) on Jul 11, 2001 at 16:57 UTC

    What worked for me last year was convincing management that usage of Open Source Software meant involvement in Open Source. I pointed out that the convention afforded a rare opportunity to show that involvement. This year unfortunately that didn't cut it, as the focus is moving the company into the J2EE space. With only one talk scheduled on JBoss (Using JBoss.org: A Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based Container) and the fact that all travel expenses are drastically cut back this year I was unable to find a pitch that worked -- Still hoping for next year though :)

    coreolyn

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