My retrospective on DrupalCon 2019 in Amsterdam

Published 2019-11-04 by Jochen Lillich

Since I didn’t catch any bugs during my travel or at the conference, I enjoyed every part of DrupalCon Amsterdam. In this post, I’d like to share my impressions, fresh after returning from the conference.

Mental health has become an important issue for me. That’s why I am happy and honoured that the DrupalCon team included my talk titled “Under Pressure - How to build up resilience and keep burnout at bay” in the session schedule. Here’s the audio recording with slides. Mental health problems have become terribly prevalent in tech but still not talked about enough. In the last decade, I had to deal with burnout in some fashion almost every year. Since I’m learning (slowly but steadily), it’s become less often about my own state but that of people I know. No business is worth sacrificing your health for. Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma attached to this topic and one of the people who came to chat after my presentation told me: “I admire how openly you talk about this. I wouldn’t have the courage.” I intend to do my part to help people express and address the things that make their lives miserable. For that reason, I’m glad that my talk was received well:

Since I’m not a Drupal developer, I didn’t attend too many sessions. With each new conference I attend, I feel less guilty about it. Inspiration can be sparked by many things. For me, an important part of every community event besides the scheduled sessions is meeting friends and customers, also known as “attending the Hallway Track”. There were lots of smiles and hugs, but unfortunately, not always did we have the time for an extended chat. I’ll use this opportunity to invite everyone who’d like to talk in a calm setting to schedule a Zoom call with me. It doesn’t even have to be about business — every little conversation helps strengthen our community.

Speaking of which: The Local Associations Roundtable arranged by Rachel Lawson was a great place to discuss the needs of said associations. As a board member of the Drupal Ireland Association, I was curious how other groups did things. In a single hour, we were able to work out a number of issues where the (global) Drupal Association can offer useful support to local groups. We also identified topics where associations can cooperate with each other, for example Drupal France/Francophone and Drupal Burkina Faso. I’m grateful that Rachel organised this BoF (also that she didn’t bite my head off for accidentally sending an event cancelation message to everyone). It gave me new inspiration to help turn Drupal Ireland into a lively community.

Here are a few other keywords I took away from DrupalCon and am going to investigate further:

  • Holocracy
  • Responsive organisations
  • Multi-tiered customer relationships
  • Support revenue stream
  • Emotional intelligence

The downside of multi-day conferences abroad is the amount of energy I spend on getting and being there. As an introvert, places full of people drain me, even more so when I engage with them (which for me is the main purpose of attending an event). More often than not, I’m leaving a conference so low on energy that a single sneeze by my seat neighbour on the plane is enough to take me out of commission for days. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case this time. But still, after giving my talk on Wednesday and having a few bites for lunch, I actually fell asleep just sitting at a table in a quiet corner. I decided there and then to follow the advice I just had given my audience and get some immediate rest. I’m sorry that this made me miss Trivia Night as well as David’s talk about his experience with burnout, but pressuring myself into attending a talk about the adverse effects of pressure seemed a bit counterintuitive. Instead I went to bed at 4pm and hopped on my flight back home decently rested the next morning.

All in all, I had a great time at DrupalCon Amsterdam, and I’m proud to be a member of this great community for more than 11 years now!