Tech, people, and ideas.

I spent over 50 hours travelling to Australia and back to speak at NDC Sydney. It was a few long and tiring plane rides, but it’s taught me one thing about flying — after this trip, any flight is going to be okay in comparison.

Touch down in Sydney. The weather resembled something similar to my home country, South Africa, but it had a sense of uncertainty. It was warm, it rained, it was cold, it was almost every possible season in just a few days. I missioned to the hotel in the central business district, where I was staying and the conference was being held. What a fantastic venue with exceptional service and facilities.

An awesome front-desk assistant was kind enough to arrange a room for me earlier that planned. Great! I settled in, freshened up, and…and passed out cold from the jet lag.

The second day in Sydney wasn’t much different, due to jet lag I only had a few hours of sleep and I didn’t really feel like venturing out. I met the organisers, had some interesting conversations, and even bumped into Troy Hunt in the elevator. I got some work done and enjoyed some comfort food to keep me sane.

Day three. This was the start of NDC Sydney and the day I was delivering my talk. From presenting a number of talks in the past, there was a lack of nerves and this let me attend a bunch of other talks on the opening day, including the keynote — Apps, Algorithms, and Abstractions.

It was an inspiring talk that was a little different to what I expected, but it was an entertaining and informing journey into all the technologies (low-level and abstracted) necessary to simply send someone a picture via a mobile phone. Quite interesting!

Here’s an overview of the talk by Troy Hunt, it was his typical chat about passwords, security, and breaches. It may seem standard, but the fundamentals of information security is almost always overlooked.

Next was my talk, Neural Networks: A Primer. I was assigned a big room on a different floor to the other rooms. I was somewhat afraid that I’d have poor attendance, but that wasn’t the case. After a few minutes, the room was plump and poised on my talk. I had a bunch of questions after which allowed me to meet some new interesting people and have some meaningful discussions.

After my talk was done, I was less anxious, ready to enjoy the conference, and make some new friends. Most speakers and attendees were delightful and welcoming. That evening I was invited to a glass boat cruise of the harbour where we had dinner. Yep, it sounds great, and it was. It ended up being a great evening with wonderful people seeing the iconic landmarks of Sydney.

I’ve been getting into drawing sketch notes to practice my illustration skills and represent some of the concepts visually. Here are some other great talks I attended.

On the second night of the conference, we had a party and listened to inspiring stories from some brave people who talked about the personal and professional challenges that they overcome to be who they are today.

On the last day of the conference, there was an optional additional conference that one could attend, PubConf. Intrigued and nudged by others, I decided to check it out with a friend from Sydney. It was a raw, almost unscripted, event where presenters spoke about controversial topics in tech — all the things you think about but never really say. It was also held at a pub so that helped get everyone in a “jovial” mood. I enjoyed it so much that I’m trying it in South Africa with some colleagues and friends. I call it FIGHT club.

I spent the next week touring Sydney, shopping, and seeing what the city has to offer. Sydney reminded me of South Africa in a number of ways. The weather was similar, the metric system is used, cars drive on the left, tax is included in the price of goods, and other small quirks that just seemed familiar. A big difference however, was that the public transportation systems work almost perfectly — trains and buses travel almost anywhere you need to go without having to wait very long.

I spent some time with an old friend from South Africa who showed me around the harbour, the harbour bridge, and Manly. It was a pretty chilled day with lots of walking around and exploring. We also spent some time checking out new and interesting bars, pubs, and restaurants.

The other notable place I visited was Bondi beach. It was a really relaxing place to be with great views!

Exploring Australia was an interesting and fun experience. The travel time was long, but I got to spend time with some amazing people at the conference, catch-up with some old friends, and see a new and beautiful city.

Every time I travel abroad, I contrast the experience with my experience in South Africa. And although the infrastructure is not as sophisticated, and safety is more of a concern. I see so much potential for technology and innovation in South Africa, and Africa at large. We have smart, pragmatic, and ambitious people tackling truly unique problems at a global standard.