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HDC 2019 Mixes Business and Fun Sides of Technology…with Bigfoot

How is Sasquatch like the modern developer?  

They’re both brilliant, misunderstood minds seeking to get out of the woods, to redefine themselves, to learn new skills and innovate the Next Big Thing. And they’ll rub elbows next month at the 2019 AIM Institute Heartland Developers Conference, Sept. 4 – 6, at the Embassy Suites La Vista Conference Center.

HDC is a 3-day software development event for tech professionals, featuring hands-on workshops, breakout sessions, networking events, keynotes and other speakers. Attendees learn the latest knowledge and techniques from national industry experts and regional and local leaders.

The conference’s 44 breakout sessions cover everything from Azure governance, to writing Alexa skills, to human-centered design, to women breaking through the glass ceiling in technology. Workshops include exponentiating innovation, learning front-end game coding with Pixi, and Vue.js. 

This year’s HDC offers a double focus on the business side of tech and the fun side.

Several vintage gaming consoles will be on display in an exhibition room off the main conference strip. The Atari 2600, the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis, among others, will offer attendees an injection of nostalgia and excitement between specialized workshops and breakout sessions.  

“We want to help people hearken back to the passion they had when they were younger about technology, what really got them into it,” said Scott Rowe, Vice President of Tech Community Development for AIM Institute. 

Many people’s first foray into technology was through gaming, Rowe added. “It’s a cross-generational thing we can all go back to.”

Bringing the Data

Data science is more important now than ever to businesses. HDC includes multiple breakout sessions incorporating data science. 

For instance, Justin Trowbridge of Contemporary Analysis will cover practical business applications of data science beyond mere reporting and business intelligence, including predictive analytics, prescriptive data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, in his “Data Hierarchy” presentation.   

“We put this together to help people see over the horizon of what data can do for you if you structure it the right way,” Trowbridge said.

In a separate breakout session, “How to Predict Churn: a Fun Walkthrough Using Free Tools,” Preston Badeer of Buildertrend will offer a simple method of using data science to predict which customers are on the verge of severing ties with a business and how to win them back.

Badeer cited a simple experiment Buildertrend conducted. After using internal data to identify which customers had a higher probability of churn, Buildertrend sorted these customers into two lists. They sent check-in emails to one of the lists but did not reach out to the other list.

The results were striking. Buildertrend reengaged at-risk customers thanks to this straightforward application of data science.

“We started having customers respond to us with uncanny emails and messages saying things like, ‘It’s actually perfect timing, and I can’t believe you reached out just now, we’re actually struggling a lot,’” Badeer said. 

It’s Not Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away

HDC will also feature sessions that diverge from and complement the technical aspects of the conference. For instance, Kalvin Tuel’s “Rekindle Your Love: Avoiding Burnout in a Fast-Paced World” addresses the issue of burnout in the tech career field.

Tuel is a developer for Banyan Medical Systems who has encountered and observed toxic, appalling work environments over the years.

According to Tuel, a former employer said he’d rather have employees get the same amount done in a 60-hour week as they could in a 40-hour week, because the 20 extra junk hours somehow demonstrated more employee engagement (as opposed to incompetence and anxiety).  

“The tech industry is suffering from a lot of great talent who just get tired of working in it, tired of dealing with it, tired of the hours, so they leave and go do other things,” Tuel said. 

 Tuel said companies need to discourage overwork, and to hammer home the fact that a quality 8-hour workday is far more valuable to both the business and the employee than a sloppy 12- or 15-hour shift. Companies need to make meaningful culture changes to encourage work-life balance, not just pay lip service to the idea because it’s trendy.

“When I see someone working a 12-hour day, I don’t think, ‘Wow, what a dedicated employee,” Tuel said. “I think, ‘Get a life.’”

A Must-Attend for Developers in the Midwest

HDC has grown into the de rigeur event of the year for tech professionals in the Silicon Prairie. 

“It’s one of the only tech conferences in the area,” Badeer said. “My crowd tends to be developers, data scientists, entrepreneurs, and their attitude is, ‘Why would you not go?’ Why would you not want to connect with other developers and learn from them?”

Nate Watson, President of Contemporary Analysis, agreed.

Watson said: “From the very beginning, we’ve been big HDC proponents. There aren’t many places where developers get together on a larger scale than just a coffee-and-context type of meeting on a random Thursday morning. This is where you can go and get real education and insight into the bleeding edge of technology.”

Introducing…Tech Squatch

Unlike in previous conferences, this year’s HDC will feature a mascot: Tech Squatch.

Tech Squatch is an innovative, tech-savvy sasquatch that has moved out of the woods and into the big city to become a developer. After honing its coding skills at the AIM Code School, Tech Squatch is hitting the trail in search of a meaningful job in the area’s increasingly vibrant tech industry. Tech Squatch will be making appearances, posing for photos, and signing autographs throughout HDC. Watch the video below to get the full scoop on Tech Squatch’s backstory.

“We wanted something fun and different this year to make things even more enjoyable for participants,” said Christine McGuigan, Marketing Communications Manager for the AIM Institute. “Tech Squatch is the modern developer.”

Others remain skeptical about the creature. When alerted to the possibility of a real-life Sasquatch showing up to HDC, data scientist Badeer laughed. 

“Well,” he said. “I could tell you about the statistical improbability of that.”

Get Tickets

Visit the 2019 HDC Eventbrite page to purchase tickets to the conference.

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