I came back from Brussels this Sunday evening, after some visiting of the city. The conference has been a blast, especially networking with other participants. It has been great seeing again people that were there last year in London… and sometimes pick up the conversation where we had left it! I also talked with a few people that were at AgileOpen in the Netherlands last June. I can’t wait to see them all a third time in 2008.
Recruiting: One thing worth noting is that recruiting has been much more aggressive than last year. Douglas Squirrel from youDevise, said that he was really looking for people, just like last year. Then, there were the two guys from Google Switzerland, who introduced themselves at the initial round-up in pretty much this way: “hi, we’re from Google Zürich, and we’re here to recruit.” Apparently, at Google, you can justify almost any expense, such as going to a conference, as long as you say it’s for recruiting. They even organized a session dedicated to recruitment. Do we mere humans stand a chance against Google? Are we left with the leftovers?
Someone had the bright idea to set up a wall with sticky notes, in order to advertize opened positions. Many consultancies, including us, jumped on the occasion but, again, you couldn’t help but notice that all the business cards left by the Google people were gone in a couple of hours.
Networking: last year, I had left the premises at the end time planned in the original schedule, mostly because I had run out of conversations. It turned out there actually is a nightlife at CITCON which I had missed. This year, with all the people I already knew from the previous edition, with my 5 colleagues, with my wife playing along (thanks Cécile, I love you), with the fact that I helped with the organization, there were too many reasons not to skip the beer drinking sessions.
I cannot remember going to a conference and having as much laid back fun. Even better than AgileOpen! ;-) In many ways, CITCON is there to have fun, while AgileOpen is more serious (besides, you cannot really go beer drinking too much when you’re in the middle of the woods).
Brussels: I thought it was an ideal city for a conference. First, it is relatively affordable for participants (we paid 80 euros a night for 2 people, in the 4-star hotel where the conference took place; some people paid even less). It is good value for organizers (6000 euros for conference rooms and food, I think). Next, the night life is perfect: it is not a problem if you want a drink at 1am (not so easy in London), and it remains cheap (not so easy in Paris). Finally, it is strategically situated: the Agile scene in the Netherlands is thriving, so it is easy to attract them. And even though the Belgian participants were the most numerous (roughly a third), there was still an excellent showing from the UK. I gather that with the Eurostar, it is just as easy for Londoners to come, as it is for Parisians (less than 1 hour and 30 minutes by train).
Valtech: last year, I was the only one from my company to show up. This year, I was really pleased to be joined by 5 colleagues: 4 from Paris and 2 from Germany. Not only that, but I persuaded the director of Valtech Technology France to sponsor the event, specifically the reception, where the Valtech name appeared next to Google; Stelligent was another reception sponsor, but they didn’t make it in time to appear on the sign. Reception sponsorship is incredibly cheap (500$ / 350€), so there is no reason not to do it! I even advised increasing that amount by 50% for next year ;-)