Why offline events are so important to us: a Devoxx Poland 2021 summary

Iza Rokita

08 Sep 2021.12 minutes read

Do you remember the excitement that the Epic Sax Guy presented during the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012? Ok, now double that, or even triple, and then maybe, just MAYBE, you will get the level of enthusiasm we felt before and during our very first offline conference in almost 2 YEARS (!!!). But what exactly did Devoxx Poland 2021 look like through our eyes? Check our recap below!

The big stage of Devoxx Poland 2021 taken by Andrzej and our Scala Times Newsletter

If you’re thinking that being a 100 % remote company for over 12 years already means we don’t attend offline events and conferences — think again! It’s actually the other way around as in 2019, we’ve visited 40 conferences, 56 meetups and gave 69 talks. Meeting other developers offline and contributing to the IT community (especially Java and Scala) runs in our blood, so on Tuesday, August 24th, 16 members of the SoftwareMill team rushed up to Cracow, Poland, where the conference took place.

Day 0 - our SoftwareMill People Evening Meetup

Devoxx is an annual technology conference organized by developers for developers around the world. We’re very lucky that besides the UK, France or Belgium, one of them took place in Poland this year! The event lasted for 3 days (Wednesday, 25th till Friday, 27th of August) and gathered the finest developers who live and breathe code.

We decided to become one of the conference main sponsors for several reasons:

Reason 1: To breathe life into the developers’ offline conference community once again!

The first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic were tough for everyone, and the fact that developers can’t meet offline wasn’t on top of anyone’s priorities list, which is completely understandable. But now as we see that the pandemic in its various intensity takes longer than anyone expected, we have to adjust.

Of course, the decision to take or not to take part in offline events is one that everyone has to take on their own. We chose to attend, taking all of the safety measures into consideration. And guess what — it was worth it, as nothing beats IRL energy you receive at offline events. Assuming from the crowds attending our stand, I’m guessing that not only our team members were missing that human interaction! ;)

The crowd around our SoftwareMill stand at Devoxx Poland 2021. We also had our own coffee stand to take care of everyone's energy levels.

Reason 2: To connect with real Java masterminds

What’s the best way to get developers’ attention? Simply speak their language, which we did! To distinguish our stand from others and demonstrate how deeply rooted we are in the software development community, our team invented our very own Wheel of Java Fortune™. 

Our Wheel of Java Fortune alongside some of our SoftwareMill swag

The rules were simple: you spin, give the right answer, and win our awesome prizes filled with #SoftwareMillVibes! The questions were pretty difficult and sometimes even tricky, so if you answered some of them correctly, you can consider yourself to be a real Java pro ;)

We’re not gonna hide that we’re constantly on the lookout for the finest Java, Scala, DevOps, and Frontend talents. So if you are looking for a career change, you should definitely check our career page here!

Reason 3: To share our development expertise with the IT community

Why do so many companies choose us as their trusted software development partner and lots of great programming talents are joining our team all the time? Because we not only know how to code but also how to share that knowledge with the world! Among SoftwareMillers, you will find lots of great speakers who can’t wait to go on stage and rock the audience with their tech presentations.

At DevoXX Poland 2021, we had 3 presentations in total:

  • The first one was given by our Senior Software Engineer, Jacek. Jacek performed a live coding session where he explained how to write better assertions in ScalaTest.

Jacek preparing for his livecoding session at our stand

You can find the slides from his presentation by clicking the photo below:

The presentation slides are available here

Andrzej just minutes before his big talk at DevoXX Poland 2021

Below, you can find a quote from Andrzej on what impression the whole conference made on him:

Finally, the first onsite conference, since… quite some time. Also my first time at Devoxx PL as a speaker. Based on the feedback from the audience, I'm pretty content with my speech. It was about Event Sourcing systems and the problems (with possible solutions) you might face when using this pattern. This topic is one of my main areas of expertise, so I was glad to share my 5+ years of experience with this matter. I hope the video will be available soon.

When it comes to the conference itself, it was nice to talk with people in the hallway and remind myself how non-verbal communication works :) Fortunately, SoftwareMill organized some company meetings right after the first vaccinations. Still, it's a different story to talk with completely new people. Besides the great atmosphere, it was hard to forget that we are still fighting the pandemic. I hope that next year, Devoxx will happen without this burden on our shoulders.

Find slides from Andrzej's presentation by clicking the photo below:

The whole presentation is available here. Make sure to share it if you liked it!

  • Last but not least, Jacek took the stage for the second time to explain the analogies between programming and emergency medicine. This presentation, full of funny anecdotes and practical knowledge, was definitely one of the highlights of the whole conference!

Our team cheered for Jacek from the audience ;)

We asked Jacek how he feels about coming back to performing offline after such a break — and this is what he said:

After 2020, when many communities were trying their best to run conferences online, it was a fantastic experience to attend an onsite conference and to be able to speak to real people sitting in front of me again! And it was even more exciting since it was my first time to give a soft talk (or maybe “softer”, because it was still a bit technical) that covered analogies between emergency medicine and software engineering. 

In my session, I spoke about a couple of areas related to software craftsmanship. The ideas shown there will be particularly useful for those who are at the beginning of their software developer’s journey — and who are already familiar with the technologies, but might still be missing a broader context of what (and how) they are actually doing.

What the online conferences were never truly able to provide was a way to engage the audience during the breaks. During an onsite event, this happens naturally around the booths, so take your chance and attend a real conference before yet another lockdown!

Reason 4: Because we simply missed each other!

Being a SoftwareMiller is a state of mind, that’s for sure! As our company culture is so important to us, we were very happy that we had a chance to combine business with pleasure and simply meet face to face. After months of being locked inside our homes, we needed that a lot. Some of our team members met offline for the first time (for example — I did ;) ) and it’s much easier to find a common ground and topics to talk about when you are focused on one goal, like attending a conference together.

It’s worth mentioning here that at SoftwareMill, we have a rule that we give a 50% refund (100% if you are a speaker) for conference/training tickets and paid days off when an event takes place. Not only in Poland but anywhere in the world! So if you always wanted to travel more and attend more conferences but your employer doesn’t support that as much as you wish — maybe that’s a good reason to get in touch with us ;)

Our awesome teammates’ photos taken throughout the whole event & integration party

Here are some flashbacks about Devoxx Poland 2021 coming from our SML teammates:

I decided to take part in Devoxx Poland this year mainly because I really missed conferences. Apart from that, Devoxx Poland was always the conference where one could see great talks and talk to professionals from all over the world!

This year, I was responsible for technical support at our SoftwareMill stand but still had time to see some talks. In my opinion, one of the most interesting ones were:

What I wish I knew when I started designing systems years ago. Kuba Nabrdalik talked about what mistakes he had made during his 18 years of designing software.

The second most interesting one was Event Sourcing - what could possibly go wrong? Andrzej gave this talk for the first time at Scalar 2019 but since then, he has developed a lot more systems using Event Sourcing in Scala.

Devoxx Poland 2021 was my first Devoxx ever. It's a great conference both for beginners and professionals in the JVM industry. You could learn a lot there, no matter if you're Java, Kotlin, or Scala Developer.

What will I remember the most from this conference? I think it would be the opportunity to talk to real people from the JVM community after almost two years of sitting at home and connecting online.

Michał, Senior Scala Developer at SoftwareMill

Devoxx is my favorite brand of IT conferences as of now. That is why I have held my ticket for over a year — I bought it for the 2020 edition of Devoxx Poland and I was waiting impatiently for it to take place. When I found out that almost 10 more developers from SoftwareMill will also be there, the whole event became even more promising. 

After almost two years without any meetup offline, taking part in the Devoxx Poland conference was a great experience. Even simply sitting in the audience and listening to the talks IRL seemed to be much more interesting than before! As usual, the Devoxx quality of talks was quite good; there were a few less interesting, but on average, the quality was really high!

If I had to pick my favorite, I would probably go for Akka Cluster and Akka Typed Deep Dive and a Bit of Eye Candy by Hugh Mckee or Bootiful Stream Processing with Spring and Kafka by Viktor Gamov. I want to sum up this short flashback with a recommendation. If you are looking for a conference to take part in, Devoxx Poland is just the right place to start!

Bartłomiej, Scala Developer at SoftwareMill

Devoxx is already a widely recognized brand at the Polish conference stage. Going to Cracow, you know what to expect — many paths of professional development, interesting presentations, and organization of the highest level! After several years in the industry, I'm no longer impressed by talks about new tools, frameworks, and libraries, but I appreciate the stories that treat our work in a more holistic way and include a broader context. The presentation given by Neal Ford was exactly like that and in my opinion, he was rightfully chosen as Friday's keynote speaker.

Last but not least, the conference venue is also very convenient — for an event of this scale, the choice of a suitable area definitely narrows. Devoxx Poland 2021 took place in a Cracow ICE Conference Centre that I believe could easily accommodate even twice as many attendees. At the same time, it's close to Kazimierz cultural center and the hotel base. Networking and meetings with other specialists are in my opinion a very important element of every conference, so the location matters! ;)

Paweł, Java/Scala Developer at SoftwareMill

I decided to participate in Devoxx because honestly, I don’t like online conferences very much. I was also glad that I’ll be able to meet with my SoftwareMill colleagues in person.

During the conference, I attended a great talk from Alexandra Tessari from HSBC about their low latency messaging system in Java. I also liked the talk given by Jacek, my coworker from SoftwareMill. It was basically about seeing analogies between real-life scenarios and developer everyday work, with some tips on how to improve it.

Overall, the conference was great. It was a pleasure to spend time with people and get inspired by the talks. The conference center was huge and seemed a bit empty at times, so I hope that the next edition will attract even more participants. We had a company meeting and a trip to the vineyard on Friday after Devoxx ended, so that was a really nice finish to the three intensive days at the conference!

Jakub, Backend Developer at SoftwareMill

Speaking about business & pleasure — we’ve finished our Devoxx adventure really strong! On the last day of the conference, Friday evening, we threw our monthly all-company integration party called Birr. Lots of our teammates who were not attending Devoxx joined us on that occasion, so our joy of spending time together offline grew even stronger!

SoftwareMill Cracow vineyard integration party

Our team is constantly growing and we want people who are joining our software development journey to feel welcomed and appreciated from Day 1. Who you are as a person (not only as a business professional) is important to us and is one of the factors that distinguishes us in the competitive IT market. At the same time, we respect your boundaries and the decision on how much you want to engage in building our company culture is totally up to you!

Want to read more about our hiring philosophy and why we hire beyond skills? Check out this article!


To sum up: the whole conference was a blast! We’ve met some fantastic people, tightened up our team relations, and got a break from working inside our homes. What can I say — we’re already looking for a next conference or meetup and a little bird told me that it may happen pretty soon. So stay tuned for the info on where our SoftwareMillers are heading up next!

Want to feel (almost) like someone who has just joined our team? We’ve prepared a Handbook for New Employees that might give you a taste of our company culture, history, and achievements. You can download it by clicking the button below the comment section. 👇

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