Reflections on MCR DevCon, and meeting Kelsey Hightower

Posted on Jul 14, 2023

Sometimes in life you have days you will remember forever.1

The inaugural MCR DevCon, hosted at the Royal Northern College of Music on Oxford Road in Manchester, are two of those days for me. I really do believe that you can make your own luck by genuine, inquisitive, always helping people, and being ready for when opportunity presents itself - but fate always has a part to play in life. Fate just so has it that, thanks to the incredible hard work of the team behind it, Manchester’s first developer conference went off without a hitch.

Anjuan Simmons of GitHub taught us about burnout, and saying “no”.

Matt Squire of Fuzzy Labs taught us about the past, current, and future of MLOps.

Abidemi Ogunbowale-Thomas of Accenture taught us about how people and organizations behave when they feel pressure to survive, rather than learning to thrive.

…just to name a few things.

The star of the show however, was headline act Kelsey Hightower.

Kelsey is an interesting character - he has no university degree, no big internships or jobs early in his career - and yet, one of the most distinguished careers for an engineer in our industry, culminating in an L9 position at Google. People took a long pause when we told them MCR DevCon had booked him for his first trip to Manchester. Yet despite this “fortune and fame”, he’s incredibly down to earth. He spent many hours both days simply hanging out in the foyer and talking to people (a lot of that time partially or entirely to me), and listening intently to every minute of it. What was most impressive was the sharpness by which he responded and pried in to the questions people asked about their own businesses. People were given brand new perspectives on businesses they’ve been building for, in some cases, years.

All those conversations, and the rest of the conversations I had with Kelsey throughout the days and evenings, display a deep understanding of technology, business, and the intersection of the two. However, the most important thing he taught me is how you can be your authentic self, and nice to people by default, and still succeed incredibly. That is a lesson I will take with me for life.

My incredible thanks go out to Amy Newton, Amy Naylor, Kirsty Leigh, Anne-Marie O’Neill, Leigh Rathbone, Vernon Richards, and everyone else who contributed to the event going as well as it did.

A photo of my staff pass for MCR DevCon 2023

  1. This started as a LinkedIn post originally ↩︎