As a manager of developers I have a goal of trying to provide at least one week of training per year at a bare minimum. For senior developers or even journeyman developers in transition the best available option is often a conference. The benefits far outweigh the costs:
- Exposure to software development outside of your small corporate IT shop. I know people read blogs and books about software, but talking to real people can bring the message home. I had been evangelizing things like TDD and continuous integration among my developers, but when I sent four of them off to a conference they all came back saying, “Wow, this TDD stuff, design patterns, and agile really are big deals. I had no idea.”
- Proving your company really is about the people in it by investing in them. There’s lots of talk at most companies about how much they value their employees, but when it comes down to it training requests are denied on a regular basis. And since so many companies pay lip service to training actually providing it can be a major recruiting advantage.
- One conference can pay dividends throughout the year. Your developers come back with lots of new ideas and continue to research and bring these ideas into their day to day development. Your code base will actually get better and your developers will be more productive. And that extra kick in their step around the office is the sign of a re-energized employee. Energized employees are a great asset.
Unfortunately this is the most common experience:
Nearly a year ago, I posted a question on Spring Forum entitled, “am I working for the wrong companies or is it just not that common to attend conferences?”. I’ve worked as a developer for over six years and as yet I’ve never had the opportunity to attend a single conference. I thought I might be alone in this, but I’ve spoken to a large number of developers who are in exactly the same position, some of whom have worked in the industry far longer than I have.