I almost did not go to Intersect 2018! I struggled with why I should attend the Udacity event. I was very curious about the event but was not sure that the expense would provide any value. So after some internal debate weighing the pros and cons, I decided not to participate in the event. Overall it felt a bit too selfish for my family to pay for and for me to be gone again with an already busy travel schedule for work. However, my wife offered up the trip as my combo Birthday/Christmas gift. So I went....and I am very thankful for the present and that I took the opportunity experience something new and to check a few boxes lower down on my bucket list. I might have added them in preparation for the trip!
The Venue: The event was held at the Computer History Museum (CHM) which by itself is impressive enough for anyone interested in technology. The plethora of educational information on the history of computing is outstanding. The CHM is also organized in a fashion that seemed to host all of the activities and its occupants perfectly. The only downside might be that the facility has limited capacity; on the other hand, the number of participants seemed almost ideal for networking, a moderate level of intimacy and etc...
The Speakers: I really enjoyed the messages the keynote speakers shared with the group. My personal favorites were the inspirational message and story shared by @Shiza Shahid cofounder of the Malala Fund (also see Now Ventures), the practical learnings about how to approach tough projects and how to know when to “kill” projects by Obi Felten from Moonshots and hearing some practical wisdom shared by Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz. It would be great if the slide decks by the keynote speakers were made available to participants! I have a few slides in mind that I would love to share with my team and peers and anyone else chasing PRs!
I also enjoyed the panel and fireside chats formats used for the other guest speakers. I think this approach led to some good dialogue and brought out the various perspectives from the participants. I think the chats hosted by Sebastian Thurn (founder of Udacity) very much benefitted from his close relationships with the guest speakers. It was as if the need to break the proverbial ice was gone and we jumped immediately to a candid conversation.
The Extras: The professional headshots and 1:1 career guidance was an impressive bonus offering of the event. This, however, might have been my only real nit with the event. The logistics for these offerings appeared to have more demand than what was anticipated by Udacity and the mechanisms used to facilitate the logistics failed miserably for the headshots. In retrospect, I had time to complete maybe 2 of the 3 extra activities that I wanted to partake. In the future, I would prioritize 1 event over the other in case you can not do both in the allotted amount of time between speaker sessions. My experience in this regard might be one of the few times being patient and accommodating meant that I missed out. All things held constant in 2019 I would skip lunch and go directly to event #1 and then #2. I would then pick up lunch and eat it while in line for the self-driving car and do my networking while waiting in line for all of the offerings!
The Hiring Partners: The event hosted what I would call a pretty impressive lineup of companies in their Hiring Partner Showcase. I personally took the time to meet with a good number of companies to talk to them about the culture of their companies. Being an IT guy for an Oil and Gas company I presume is amazingly different than being an IT guy at a technology company. I had a blast meeting the recruiters and completely surprising them with my company culture questions. I could see “your talking to me and not looking for a job” written all over their faces if they did not just come right out and say it! I think an excellent build for this event would be a way to identify what specific nanodegree's (skillsets) the hiring partners are explicitly looking for at the event. However, I may have also just missed something that helped in this regard? Additionally, if you are in the market for a new job make sure you sign up for the well in advance and that your resume and Udacity profiles are ready to represent you well. These steps will give the hiring partners an opportunity to review your material with enough lead time to identify if they would like to set up an interview with you during the event.
In summary, I would love to attend this event again. I think the event aligns with my work and my interests enough that I walked away with information and experiences that benefitted me both personally and professionally. Silicon Valley is so amazingly different than the Midwest communities built by Oil & Gas that I live in (and am very thankful for!) Being in an environment that is driven by technology and the pursuit of the next big thing was electric. It was also in some regard humbling having discussions with companies and people that are breaking ground on the leading edge of technology and trying to harness tomorrow’s capabilities to tackle today’s problems.
Update: April 22, 2018 - Most of the presentations from this event are now available on the Udacity YouTube channel.