Pokemon, Knitting, and Public Speaking: 2015 in Retrospect

At the beginning of this year, I made and actually kept several New Year's resolutions for probably the first time ever: knit a sweater, catch all the Pokémon, and submit to speak at a conference on a technical topic (and hopefully get accepted). I accomplished all these things and more, and as part of Technically Speaking's call-to-action to reflect on and set new goals for 2016, I present to you my year in review.

I got to work right away on the Pokémon: I owned six games and was already halfway through once I added them all up. By mid February, I had accomplished the once impossible-sounding goal of having owned 718 Pokémon (some event Pokémon were on loan from my friend Phil, and I never got my hands on an Arceus, but you don't actually need all event Pokémon to be rewarded for completing the Pokédex... but I digress).  2015 was off to great start!

On my Poké-journey, I used a lot of subpar Android apps to look up information (especially offline) about where and how I could catch a particular Pokémon. I had spent six months in 2014 developing Indiegogo for Android and was eager to keep my skills sharp since I had moved on to our web stack, so I decided to try my hand at building my own Pokédex app for Android. There exists a SQLite database of tons of Poké-data on Github, but working with the built-in Android SQL library proved less than awesome, especially after getting used to ActiveRecord in Rails. One of my Android teammates suggested I look into Realm as a data store alternative, and I fell in love: Realm was easy to use, fast, and cutting-edge, so I felt like I was really in the know.

It was around this time I started pondering what I wanted to submit to Droidcon Montreal, and after spending some time with Realm I thought it would be really cool to submit a talk about my experiences using it compared to SQLite. Wouldn't you know it, my talk was accepted!

Droidcon Montreal was a great first speaking experience. The organizers were super kind and enthusiastic, and I'm very grateful to them for taking a chance on me, a first-time speaker and dark horse in the Android community. Even though my talk was the very last one of the conference, it was well attended and followed by some great questions afterwards, something I had been quite nervous about getting through. I had presented the talk at work to mostly non-Android developers, so I was apprehensive about getting up in front of a crowd of professionals who would be able to scrutinize my talk more closely. But I was well prepared and felt awesome afterwards, and it opened up some great doors to me professionally.

The conference was in early April, and shortly after returning from Canada, I finished knitting my very first sweater:

I finished knitting my first sweater! #selfiestick #knitting

A photo posted by @sienatime_ on

I was on fire! It was around this same time that I was contacted by Chiu-Ki about formulating a plan for a "takeover"of Droidcon NYC 2015 by women speakers (see Chiu-Ki's blog post for more details on that endeavor). I had attended Droidcon NYC 2014 right as I was beginning to develop for Android and it had been an amazing firehose of information, so I was eager to go back and be on the other side of the podium. We had a couple group brainstorming sessions and a topic came up that people wanted to know more about: localization and internationalization. This happens to be a pet topic of mine, since I studied Japanese in college and have a lot of opinions on monolingual American culture. I had also shipped the Indiegogo Android app in English, Spanish, French, and German, and found the experience to be not quite as daunting as some might have thought it would be. I submitted my Realm talk and a new talk entitled "Fearless Internationalization and Localization Across the Nations" and my new talk was accepted!

I had been needlessly fretting about whether I should submit my Realm talk as well as my new talk but received some great advice from Chiu-Ki, which was to let the conference organizers decide for me. It seems so obvious in retrospect!

Droidcon NYC was so much fun, and it was so fantastic to share a stage with so many other awesome women Android developers (14 out of 64 speakers), as contrasted with Droidcon Montreal, where there were 5 (by my count) women speaking out of 40+ speakers. I don't know if I would have submitted a brand new talk if it weren't for these women's encouragement, so thank you, Android feminist illuminati ;)

After returning from New York in August, most of my spare time and brain space went towards planning my wedding, because oh yeah, I also got married in 2015.

Of course Stella was one of my bridesmaids. emoji party 4ever.

2016 Goals

So where does that leave us for 2016? I have some ideas.

  • Speak at at least one conference (preferably two, one international, one domestic)
  • Formulate a speaking strategy for some Ruby and/or Rails conferences and submit
  • Speak at a local Ruby meetup

It's been hard for me to figure out what I would want to speak about in a web context; I've felt intimidated by the depth/breadth/size of the Rails and JavaScript communities, whereas Android feels much more comfortable. Hopefully I can return to Android development at some time in the future, but for now I want to spend some time gaining in-depth knowledge of web technologies and figure out how to leverage that into some new conference arenas.

How are you going to challenge yourself in 2016?