From a diversity ticket to a speaker at Angular Connect

Ashnita Bali
Mar 18, 2019 · 8 min read

This is a story of my experience at being a speaker at AngularConnect 2018.

Why did I apply to speak at AngularConnect 2018?

I love Angular conferences. I learn a lot from the talk videos and am truly grateful that conferences make the talks available to watch online for those who cannot attend.

I had the good fortune to attend AngularConnect 2017 with a diversity ticket and then a couple of conferences in 2018. There is something incredibly inspiring about attending a conference and listening to talks live. Maybe it is the excitement of sitting in the audience, amongst so many developers, trying to find a seat as close and centered to the stage as possible, listening to the speakers, so knowledgeable and passionate explain a topic, learning so many new things. It left me feeling like I wanted to learn a topic really well and share what I learn with others, by doing something I would normally not imagine myself doing, giving a talk.

My hope was to have a go at speaking over the next year. In preparation for this, I thought I should learn how to write talk abstracts and bio. I googled how to write a talk abstract and found this really helpful video/webinar.

In the meanwhile, I saw lots of tweets inviting people to submit to AngularConnect. I thought oh great, I will start practicing submitting CFPs and find out what is involved. What better way to learn than to actually do it.

I thought I’d ask one of the speakers for advice first, so I wrote to Sani Yusuf who is an awesome speaker and one of my heroes! He told me that I should think of a topic first. I took some time to think about what I may propose. I submitted my CFP to AngularConnect a day before the closing date!

How did I choose my topic?

I have been learning Angular so I thought I could share from what I had learned so far. These are some of the topics I came up with but didn’t submit them, “All about components” and “10 things I love about Angular”.

I also thought of researching a topic I found confusing and sharing what I learn. At this time I had been going through Todd Motto’s course on Advanced Components, there I got introduced to ElementRef, ViewContainerRef, and TemplateRef. I found it difficult to remember when to use which type. I also wondered how I would know when to use dynamic components and when to use embedded views.

I wanted to understand what ElementRef, ViewContainerRef, and TemplateRef were exactly, how they were connected, what happened behind the scenes, how things, ie, views, view queries, etc, worked, so I could think of these classes more intuitively rather than just trying to remember what type to provide for example in a @ViewChild('myTmplRefVar', { read: ViewContainerRef })`. So I proposed the talk “The differences between ElementRef, TemplateRef, and ViewContainerRef”.

I was pretty sure this is a silly topic reflective of my lack of knowledge of Angular but it didn’t matter as I was just experimenting with submitting a CFP and there is no penalty for trying, nobody would laugh at me or anything.

What did I think when I got accepted for a lightning talk?

I was in disbelief when I got an email from AngularConnect saying they liked my topic and invite me to do a lightning talk!

A chance to speak at AngularConnect is such an honor and is simply too good to be true, so although I don’t have enough experience at public speaking to speak at such a big conference, I said yes!

I decided to share this opportunity with my friend Marcin Ryzycki who is very passionate about Angular and related technologies. We were both inexperienced at preparing talks and speaking at a conference but were up for the learning experience.

What was it like preparing for the talk?

It was hard to know when to stop researching, the more we experimented and looked into the Angular source, the more we wanted to dig deeper and draw connections between concepts. We tried to fit in a lot of content as it was hard to let go of things. One of the main lessons we learnt is to be decisive, finalize the content and leave plenty of time to practice.

What did I gain from being a speaker at AngularConnect 2018?

Learn a subject in depth. Learning a topic in depth is one of the best perks of preparing a talk. Concentrating on one topic, digging deeper, experimenting, looking into the source code of Angular, trying to look at things from different angles, forming connections between concepts, discovering things I didn’t know before, it was a lot of fun, very rewarding and raised my threshold for learning.

Be one of a panel. Closer to the conference I got an email from AngularConnect asking if I would contribute to other activities at the conference: Q&A panel session — Coding and Office Hours. Yikes, even the thought of this made me panic. I am just a learner, a beginner, how could I be part of a panel leave alone office hours, I wouldn’t know what to say to the attendees who would have a lot more knowledge and experience than me, so I didn’t reply!

Closer to the conference I saw that my name was in the Q&A panel for coding! Even though I was pretty scared I saw that there were other speakers, e.g Ana Cidre, and Sherry List doing office hours and panel, this inspired me to have more confidence, I thought ok, I am up for the experience.

When it came time for the Q&A panel I panicked and told Aaron Frost who was the MC for the panel that they made a mistake in asking me to be in the panel, I don’t actually belong there. Aaron encouraged me but to my relief didn’t push me.

I sat with my friends Craig Spence and Marcin Ryzycki in the audience. Both encouraged me to go and join the panel. Craig especially was quite affected to see that I was bailing out. I tried to explain that I am not experienced enough to take part, he said well you know how to code don’t you? A nice encouragement that this is all that’s required, but I wasn’t convinced. So he said if I don’t get on the stage with the other panel members he would leave the conference feeling very sad and he has a 40hr journey back to NZ. He told me, look, Kapunahele Wong is the only female in the panel. I could join her in representing female speakers and make my contribution to making the ratio better. We don’t know, it could be inspiring to someone in the audience.

His speech was plenty to encourage me. I felt encouraged once I saw that by taking part in the panel I would be contributing and it is not about how well qualified I am to answer questions.

I got up and sat with the panel and even answered a question!

When an attendee talked about some new technology, in response to his question, Uri Shaked acknowledged that he hadn’t heard about it and thanked the person for pointing it out. It made me think that confidence at being on a panel and confidence, in general, is not about knowing everything, it is more about sharing what you know, not being embarrassed about exposing your knowledge gap and being open to learning new things.

This was a long story, but being part of the panel was an amazing confidence building exercise for me! Thank you, Craig and Marcin, for making me do this. Peer pressure when with great people makes sure you don’t miss out from something amazing.

Connect with other speakers. It was great to hear from other speakers about how they prepare their talks and how much time they spend. Uri Shaked wrote an article about what it may look like preparing a talk behind the scenes.

As a learner, I appreciate hearing about other’s learning styles. I was inspired by Kapunahele Wong who told me she tries things out and experiments with it lots of times to learn a topic.

While preparing our talk we were worried about getting things wrong or misrepresent things. Max Koretskyi had really useful advice, that we could get feedback from colleagues in the Angular community about our talk content. Max also encouraged me to write articles, something I would like to do but I lose confidence when it comes to hitting that “Ready to publish?” button. So, this would be my first article after one year of writing things and not publishing them!

New opportunities. At the end of the conference, I met Carmen Popoviciu who had MC’d the panel with Angular core team members at the conclusion of the AngularConnect 2018.

As you do, when you meet new people you ask each other about their work and background. It is a bit hard for me to answer these simple questions, but I try and answer honestly. I’ve had rough experiences at the companies I have worked for as a frontend web developer. For a while, I had lost confidence in myself and had been too scared to apply for jobs again.

I often lose people after this conversation. I guess it is kind of like talking about the weather with strangers, there is a certain etiquette about giving an affirmative and short answer. I was very grateful and touched at Carmen’s kind words of encouragement in response. In a week I got this message from her.

I got to meet the wonderful NG-BE team, each member is extremely clever, amazing, kind, inspiring and do so much for the community. And I got another chance at improving my skills at preparing a talk and speaking at a conference.

So what about the diversity ticket part?

It turns out to be too long to include in this article so it is in another article. You can read it if you like. I talk about meeting Shai :-). That article also has a link to the third article, this is the inception.

Summary

If you’re wondering whether your topic is good enough, the chances are if you have found something confusing or exciting, it is likely to be useful and interesting to others too.

Speaking at a conference is an amazing learning experience. You meet so many brilliant people. Give it a go and see what new opportunities come your way!

Ashnita Bali

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