iOS Conf SG - The passion of my life

Subhransu Behera
Sep 21, 2017 · 7 min read

A friend I was having a chat with about iOS Conf SG asked me to write a blog highlighting why anyone should attend iOS Conf SG.

After thinking for a while, I felt the answer I was going to give is probably not too different from what a google search will give why you should attend a technical conference.

Getting better at your skills, expanding your professional network, job opportunities, learning from advanced speakers and a lot more. That’s what — a google search will give you!

Yes! iOS Conf SG has all of that, but something would be missing in all those articles … something essential (at least to me — not as an organizer but as a developer).

It’s my passion for the iOS community, my interest as a developer to know and share more, desire to meet other developers like me. This lead me to start iOS Dev Scout — the iOS developer meetup group in Singapore. And it’s the same passion which made me think about something more significant for the community.

So rather than writing about why you should attend iOS Conf SG, I thought I should share my story about this conference and how it became a big part of my life.

And how making it a success for me doesn’t mean getting any material or financial benefits but to touch lives of others. Help me and my fellow iOS developer friends (some 300+ friends every year) getting better at what we do — that is to build apps.

2015: Our 1st conference and the mistakes I made

2015 is when we had our first iOS conference in Singapore. We couldn’t make this happen in 2013 due to lack of sponsorship. But I was committed to making this conference happen.

… After speaking with few other organizer friends like Winston Teo, Thomas Gorissen, Michael Cheng — I figured out that the 1st step to start a conference is — just start it. It was Winston who suggested me to plan small for the first year.

So I took his advice and announced our 1st conference. Got few companies interested who were willing to sponsor, hand-picked speakers who I felt were good. And we had our 1st conference. It was a proud moment for me!

iOS Conf SG — 2015

But several things went wrong in 2015. Things that I could observe while standing among the audience. Few talks lived up to the expectations, but many didn’t have the quality I wanted as an organizer or that I wanted as a participant.

If anyone I need to blame for this then that would be me. I didn’t set a goal for the speakers — As a matter of a fact, there wasn’t a bigger goal for me in 2015 other than just making the conference happen! There was no specific agenda, no proper direction in the talks and at the end, it was only an average conference.

At the end of the conference — there were a lot of people who came to me and congratulated me for organizing the 1st conference. But I was not happy — I knew I had to do better, I knew I had to plan better, I needed to have a clear GOAL!

2016: Better planning, better speakers and setting a goal

I planned early … prepared immediately after the end of iOS Conf SG — 2015. I managed to secure our main sponsor and started looking for experienced speakers.

I contacted everyone I knew — speakers whom I follow on Twitter, whose videos I have watched online, whose libraries I use and whose books I have read.

I managed to get some excellent speakers for 2016. I knew that was just the beginning. I still needed to set a goal for them and myself.

I thought again — for whom I am really organizing this conference. Is it for beginners? Or is it for intermediate/advanced developers? Is it for designers or project managers or developers?

In the end, I narrowed it down — I want to make iOS Conf SG a conference where iOS developers can get an opportunity to be better at what they do! Something that participants (including me) can learn and use in their day-to-day coding.

So we no longer had design talks in 2016. Don’t get me wrong here – design is an essential part of building an app and developers should learn how to work and collaborate with designers. But these topics often require more dedicated discussions, and 1 or 2 sessions like what we had in 2015 were never going to help!

We didn’t have “What’s the next cool thing talk.” As an introductory talk without much context or practical usages were not my goal anymore.

I wanted the speakers to share their experience — what tools, features or technologies they use to build apps for the leading mobile development companies in the world. And why they think their approach is better! The why had become essential for me.

Participants and Speakers at iOS Conf SG — 2016

We had a huge success. I was happy overall. Few talks could have been better including my talk. And I retrospected my talk as well. I am not going to mention much about it that in this blog. I would just give one advice to my organizer friends – never speak in your own conference. There are too many things to handle.

I wanted everything to be better than 2015. The food, coffee, t-shirt, after-party …. everything! So I gave proper attention to each and everything! And we had a great conference.

But it was not easy. I drained all my energy. I spent a lot of time organizing and planning for the conference that I had too little time for my family. Especially for my little one! I decided to step down and passed it to my friends Aizat, Kale, and Melvin. They were my hidden forces.

With Aizat, Kale, and Melvin

I changed my mind 2 months later

I didn’t even attend the iOS meetups for next two months. It felt like I was in my retirement period. I indeed enjoyed it for a while, but I felt a big part of me was missing. My wife felt the same too as she had observed my passion for the community.

… I decided I will organize the conference again in 2017. But I knew I had to let few things off my head. One of those was to stop focusing on the monthly meetups.

Melvin, Aizat, and Kale had been putting a lot of effort with the meetup group. They did it differently than I used to so … brought new ideas — tried new things. So I was happy the community would not die.

But we had another conference to focus.

2017: What’s new this year

We started planning around Jan or Feb this year. Our goal for this year is to maintain the quality of the talks that we had last year.

So we needed to repeat the good things and try to improve in the areas where we have an opportunity.

There was a request from the community to have a call for proposals so that we can see some potential local speakers. And we had a lot of proposals.

We were very particular about the quality of the content and how it fits with the goal and audience of our conference. We considered that while we short-listed the proposals.

We also needed to have speakers of similar quality like last year. So we invited a lot of high-quality speakers to the conference this year as well.

We considered some new ideas and trying out few of them like introducing lightning talks this year.

Building the community is really important to us, so we opened up our Slack group to everyone this year. At this point, there isn’t a lot of daily activity, but we are hopeful that this will change closer to the date and give an opportunity to participants to interact and collaborate more.

…why should you attend iOS Conf SG

I want to be very careful while writing this part and as I don’t want our passion to be interpreted as a marketing trick.

This conference is all about our passion. It is not just limited to what I dreamt alone anymore. We four have embraced this conference as a platform to make this community better.

If you plan to attend this conference next month, then we can promise that you will leave the conference as a better iOS developer than you are now. We hope the same for ourselves too!

So you won’t hear any bullshit talk in our conference. You won’t hear anything about how to be rich (that topic might be useful but not for us and not for this conference), you definitely won’t find a Kotlin vs. Swift talk.

We have spent months deciding and finalizing the topics and speakers. And we hope you will enjoy knowing more about what these speakers have to share. We hope you will get to meet other excellent developers from this region and connect with them. We hope you will have loads of fun!

Because at the end we believe – this will help us all make better apps (together).

Subhransu Behera

Written by

Husband 💑 Father 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 Dreamer 🦄 Organiser of @iOSConfSG 👨‍💻

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