Make Your Next Conference A Mini

Why we chose to run our own engineering mini conference

Sean Handley
Stuart Tech
Published in
4 min readNov 22, 2018


Artchimboldi, a chic meeting space in central Barcelona, has a peaceful-yet-purposeful ambience. Narrow wooden writing desks sit in neat rows on a faded mosaic tile floor. Sounds of life from the courtyard drift in through the balcony doors as catering staff ferry trays of neatly arranged breakfast pastries.

Class is about to start.

This is the second time we’ve assembled the engineering team at Stuart for our two-day mini conference. The team trickles into the main space to a chorus of whirring and spluttering from the coffee machine. Frontend, QA, backend, data, devops, design, integrations, and product — everybody’s here.

As the room fills, an elephant presents itself. There’s a lot more of us this time around. We’re gonna need a bigger boat…

It’s an odd thing, working remotely. Mostly a blessing as I casually drift from bedroom, to kitchen, to office on the morning commute.

Traffic’s hell as I take a long detour around a pile-up of toys and laundry. Finally, and with relief, I settle into my chair and immerse myself: quietly cocooned in noise-canceled serenity. A modest cubbyhole in a sleepy end-terrace, and my own private fortress of solitude.

The engineering team at Stuart is distributed across France, Spain, Poland, and the UK. The majority of us are based in the offices in Paris, Barcelona, and London but a growing number of us perch on a wire and connect in remotely from various workspaces and our own homes.

Gathering us all together for a couple of days is always a lot of fun and very enriching as we renew old bonds and “devirtualize”.

Lunch on the balcony.

This year’s talks take in a wide range of topics, with some tech deep-dives, visions of the future, and a summary of the previous year. To my own personal delight, we have a really entertaining lightning talks session where the floor opens up for anybody to present for five minutes on absolutely any topic. We have lightning-fast presentations on topics ranging from Experimental JS through to Critical Thinking.

As day one draws to a close, I head out early joined by our Scrum Master Stefano and Yohan from the backend team in Paris. We have a special mission to tackle — setting up our pre-dinner entertainment. Back by popular demand, we’re holding a whisky tasting!

Glasses are carefully filled with whiskies from Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the USA. This time we’re experimenting with how the aromas and flavours change when a few drops of water are added. Armed with a detailed spec sheet, we analyse the make-up and flavour of each whisky in true engineering style — a blend of science and sensory mindfulness.

Smelling, tasting, and discussing.

Naturally, once the glasses are empty, it’s time to head out into Barcelona in search of food. We descend on a restaurant in the Eixample neighbourhood for a banquet of local cuisine. Course after course of Spanish specialities: Iberian steak, jamón, baked eggs, giant mussels, Galician octopus, fried padron peppers, and Crema Catalana (a beautiful variation on crème brûlée).

Day two starts in a much more gentle fashion as the evening’s indulgences hang over us.

Time to get comfortable.

We throw open discussions for how we could do things differently — new architectures, technologies and processes that will help us scale up as we continue to grow. We cover event-sourcing, growth frameworks, custom Stuart hardware, monolith vs microservices vs umbrella applications, immutable infrastructure, and plenty more.

As the last Q&A of the day winds down, we pack up and do the rounds saying our goodbyes. But before we head out for taxis, trains, and airports there’s a final announcement: In 2019 we’re greenlit to hold two engineering conferences!


And off we go into the Barcelona night: reconnected with our colleagues, reinvigorated with our craft, excited for the future, and we’re already buzzing with ideas for what we want to do with the next one.

Naturally, we’re not proposing that mini-conferences replace community conferences. There’s a ton of value and positives in attending those. But there’s an appeal to the simplicity and control of holding your own conference and letting your team take the reins. Not only has it been great fun, but the learning and team building we’ve experienced has helped align our objectives as a company.

So next time you’re wondering which conference to attend, maybe it should be your own mini conference 😁

Fancy joining us next time? We’re hiring! 🚀 Check out our open engineering positions.



Sean Handley
Stuart Tech

Engineer and leader specialising in open-source languages, particularly Ruby & Elixir.