Highlights from the By ThoughtWorks tech talk series in 2018

Taking place over the past year in three Australian cities, ‘By ThoughtWorks’ tech talk series was packed with insightful talks, discussions and networking. As always, hands-on technology was at the top of the agenda with ThoughtWorkers and guest speakers taking our community through a wide range of technology topics such as Evolutionary Architecture, Data Patterns and Building Socially Responsible Software. Here are our top five ‘By ThoughtWorks’ highlights from 2018

1. You can design software that is not only fun to use, but built on strong ethical principles that you and your users can genuinely feel good about.

Lilly Ryan based her talk on the Goldblum principle, highlighting that when we design software for a world where computing and storage resources are taken for granted, we forget that these invisible machines have an impact on both our environment and our human rights. She focused on how:
It’s easy to design large programs which require huge computing power without realising that the energy to power the “cloud” it runs on still probably comes from coal, and impacts the environment.
It’s easy to gather metadata on our customers as they browse, shop, and commute because we can store seemingly limitless amounts of it - but we consume further computing resources in doing so, and create very intimate and invasive pictures of these people which advertisers, hackers, and governments find valuable for many competing reasons, and not always for good.
It’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities of today’s technology without thinking about how your “killer app” may literally enable people to kill.

2. Design Thinking, Lean and Agile: which way is right? They all are!

In Jonny Schneider’s talk, he untangled what these movements, mindsets, and approaches mean, and how to help teams and leaders to choose the right techniques at the right times and bring it all together into a successful collaboration.
The way we do product development constantly evolves and every few years, there’s a new wave of thinking that promises to be the secret key to doing it better. The 90’s saw the rise of the Agile movement for building software better. A bit later, the lean mindset shifted the focus to value creation for the entire organisation. More recently, Design Thinking has democratised design and brought it to the boardroom. Leaders bamboozled by an unprecedented array of frameworks, methods and approaches – paralysing meaningful progress. Boots-on-ground practitioners are also confused about how to work with their colleagues from other camps too.

3. You can make small bets on evolutionary architecture to make this technique possible

We often think of software architecture as one of those things we just have to get right at the beginning of a project, often using complex tools. In his talk, James offered an alternative. He spoke about what decisions we would make differently if we had the ability to rapidly evolve our architecture.
He also pointed out that the tools and techniques we now have available allow a new type of architectural decision making possible; from Software Defined Networking, IaaS and Continuous Delivery to Real Options and Architecture Decision Records. He covered pre-requisites that allow us to make small bets on architecture and explore the strange world of evolutionary design that this technique makes possible.

4. The data heart of many businesses is monolithic legacy systems

To make the change is equivalent to open-heart surgery - how do we maintain the data pulse while we animate every part of the business with responsive data? The good news for the patient is that we have surgically precise techniques available.
In Andrew Jones’ talk, he shared a range of approaches to common scenarios when migrating incrementally from monolithic legacy systems and batch processes to modern streaming architectures and services bounded by business contexts. He also shared some general design principles for modern data architectures which provide a practical framework for thinly slicing data migrations that organisations can start using today.

5. We still need to encourage & celebrate women in Tech...and disrupt the status quo

We celebrated the achievements of women in STEM by hosting special edition ‘By ThoughtWorks’ events across all 3 cities on Ada Lovelace Day (9 October). We wanted to share experiences and create new role models to encourage more women to follow STEM careers. We featured both ThoughtWorks and guest speakers, who spoke on a variety of topics about how to attract, retain and celebrate women in STEM, including:
How we can get young women interested in tech careers
How we can retain great women technologists and close the gender pay gap
Experiences of successful women leaders in building great organisational cultures
Examining the impacts of motherhood in STEM careers and the importance of diversity in these industries

This blog post written by one of the attendees at the Melbourne event perfectly summarised 5 key takeaways and points to ponder on