As the software development scene in Northern Ireland grows, the Belfast coder community has come together to create events for and by the developer audience. At the heart of these meet-ups is the desire to learn from one another. Old technologies and new ideas don’t clash at the Northern Ireland Development Conference (NIDC) — they come together to create the future of data science, software development and more. Belfast is a growing hub for tech, and NIDC is the place for anyone working in the tech field to learn from one another and celebrate the range of amazing work happening in the country.
Signifyd’s Tristan Smith and Kostas Anastasiou each presented their own 10 minute “lightning talks” at NIDC: “Do I have to choose between my team and my work?” and “From ENG to DS: An engineer’s path to data science.” They sat down with us to chat about their experiences presenting at the event, working in a new country and navigating an international tech community.
Q: Why you were interested in presenting at NIDC?
Tristan: I’m from the U.S. so attending events like this is a great way to get to know the community and see what’s out there. I saw this talk as a chance to get Signifyd out in front of an audience. For me, it was easy to get up and say something about my interests. I talked about context switching and how costly it is, with some ideas that people can try in their everyday work lives. It’s something that’s always on my mind when I manage people and teams.
Kostas: My teammates here at Signifyd suggested I speak at the event. I haven’t talked in front of that many people before, so it was a good opportunity for me to get out there and talk about something I know. I moved to Belfast for work, and NIDC gave me the opportunity to see what other people are doing here in tech. The event encouraged people to talk about their passions and interests. It was for the developers, by the developers. I talked about my progression and my career in data science, and the different areas I had to build up to practice this discipline.
Q: How do these events help you advance in your career and connect with other people in your field?
Tristan: A week before the event, NIDC invited the speakers to a training workshop on how to present, because they targeted people with limited public speaking experience. It was a cool idea and I think everyone learned something new. Myself included. Aside from learning how to speak better, we also got to hear about topics the other speakers had prepared. We saw a wide range of ideas.
Kostas: It was nice to see what other people are working on. In my work, I’m focused more on my day-to-day tasks, and I don’t get many opportunities to see what else is out there. We covered lots of topics quickly. I got to see how people are using other technologies and how excited they are about what they’re doing.
Q: How was the experience of presenting at the event?
Tristan: I haven’t done this type of public speaking in awhile. It was only a 10 minute talk, but I still spent a lot of time preparing and rehearsing.
Kostas: This was the first chance I’ve had to speak at an event like this. The short “Lighting Talks” format and the smaller attendance at the event helped reduce the stress of putting myself out there and speaking. Once I finished my talk, I saw what I could do better the next time.
Q: What events like this are coming up in Belfast? Any must-see conferences or hackathons?
Tristan: There seems to be a lot of good tech events here. Kostas and a few engineers went to the AI NI Hackathon a few months ago at Queen’s University. We’d like to host something like a hackathon or meetup here at Signifyd.
Q: How’s the tech culture in Belfast, in terms of people living and working there who are interested in technology and technology jobs?
Tristan: I’m a heads down person, typically working on my own stuff. I’ve never been super aware of what’s going on around me compared to my peers. That said, I see a lot going on here in Belfast. Just from the one day we spent at NIDC, we saw a lot happening in tech for a city this size, with the number of people who turned out and the wide variety of topics. There’s a lot of good energy here. I’m impressed with the skills and the people coming in to work with us at Signifyd.
Kostas: I like it here. I lived in Greece and then London before I moved to Belfast. Coming from a big city like London to Belfast, I find life here in a mid-sized city more manageable.
Q: How is the tech scene in Belfast different from the tech scene where you came from?
Tristan: I was working remotely for Signifyd in Seattle, so I wasn’t in Silicon Valley. Belfast is a small city, so there’s a lot of overlap with the people you’ll meet when you work in tech here. Someone in your office probably has worked with the new person, or knows someone who has worked with them. At Signifyd, most of the U.S. engineering team works remotely. Working here in Belfast is the first time in many years where I’ve had a team of engineers sitting at the same table together. We have a great culture for working remotely, but there’s something special about having a physical scrum board on the wall with post-its moving across the board. You miss things like that when you’re working remotely all the time.