November 24, 2016. The day I gave my first conference talk at CSSConf.Asia.
June 3, 2017. The day I spoke at a conference outside of Singapore for the first time at Webconf.asia.
Time doesn’t stand still. And dates are simply mental milestones we use to commemorate significant events in our lives. If you choose to take a rational view on this, it is simply our way of assigning meaning to a meaningless thing. But humans are not rational beings. And it is the most human thing, in my eyes, to remember the past.
I’ve been speaking internationally for 2 years now (2017 recap, 2018 recap), and it still feels surreal every time I stand in front of an audience. And I still feel immense gratitude to organisers who bring me out. I don’t think that will ever change, but if it does, someone please hit me with a mallet.
- DevRelCon Tokyo 2019 @ 🇯🇵 on 9 Mar
- CSSConf China 2019 @ 🇨🇳 on 30 Mar
- JSHeroes 2019 @ 🇷🇴 on 24 Apr
- ImageCon 2019 @ 🇺🇸 on 2 May
- YGLF Vilnius 2019 @ 🇱🇹 on 16 May
- CSSConf EU 2019 @ 🇩🇪 on 31 May
- Pixel Pioneers Bristol 2019 @ 🇬🇧 on 7 Jun
- JSConf.Asia 2019 @ 🇸🇬 on 14 Jun
- Mozilla Developer Roadshow Europe @ 🇩🇪🇦🇹 from 26–29 Aug
- CONNECT Asia 2019 @ 🇸🇬 on 31 Aug
- Connect Fest 2019 @ 🇵🇹 on 6 Sep
- Web Weekend Kathmandu 2019 @ 🇳🇵 on 21 Sep
- JekyllConf 2019 @ 🌐 on 22 Sep
- Finch Front-end 2019 @ 🏴 on 23 Sep
- CSSConf Budapest 2019 @ 🇭🇺 on 25 Sep
- View Source 2019 @ 🇳🇱 on 1 Oct
- Fronteers 2019 @ 🇳🇱 on 3 Oct
- Mozilla Developer Roadshow Asia @ 🇯🇵🇰🇷🇹🇼🇸🇬🇹🇭 from 11–20 Nov
- DevFest & BizFest Georgetown 2019 @ 🇲🇾 on 30 Nov
- DevFest Kuala Lumpur 2019 @ 🇲🇾 on 7 Dec
🇯🇵 @ DevRelCon Tokyo
I had joined Nexmo’s Developer Relations team last September and this was my first DevRelCon. My colleague, Myrsini, was giving a talk on hackathons as an internal advocacy tool and I was simply tagging along as an attendee.
She did ask if I wanted to submit a lightning talk, but at that point, I figured I didn’t know enough about DevRel to talk about anything useful. So I said, nope. But as fate would have it, I read the article, The deadly truth about a world built for men – from stab vests to car crashes, just before heading out to the venue.
The content in that article touched a nerve and by the time I made it to the venue, I had this compulsion to submit a lightning talk topic on the value of sharing our perspectives.
Given how last minute this was, I didn’t REALLY expect to have to give the talk. But during lunch, I found out that the submission was accepted, so it was game on from lunch until my slot at 5pm.
I pulled together 20 slides, and went through the talk in my head a couple times to get the timing down just right because you do get “samurai-ed” off the stage if you go overtime (I love this idea, by the way).
Thankfully, the feedback I received was positive and here’s the transcript plus extended recap of the whole endeavour, if you’re interested.
🇨🇳 @ CSSConf China
There were a surprising number of firsts with regards to conference speaking this year. And giving a talk at CSSConf China was one of them. Not only because it was my first time in China since 2002, but also because it was my first time delivering a technical talk in Chinese.
I consider myself a native Chinese speaker, but it’s one thing to converse about everyday things and quite another to stand on stage and talk about CSS and web technologies. Luckily for me, the fates blessed me by allowing me to cross paths with Wei.
You know how you meet someone and even though you’ve just met, you feel like you’ve known them forever? That’s how I felt (I don’t know how she feels about all this, go ask her yourself). I literally asked her the question “OMG, where have you been all my life?” multiple times.
Anyway, she’s originally from Beijing and kindly offered to vet my transcript for the talk, fixing all the ridiculous errors that arise from a person who clearly hasn’t used formal language in a long time.
CSSConf China was a great experience. It was a community-focused conference with more than 300 attendees. There was one English talk by Brian Birtles, while the rest were all in Chinese. Every single speaker was brilliant. What I found fascinating was how each of their unique personalities really shone through on stage.
I was totally chuffed for the opportunity to meet my long-time CSS idol, 袁川, in person, and his talk was one of the most mindblowing talks I’d ever seen. Not just the content, but the delivery of it. He is very soft-spoken, and fairly shy. But he epitomises how sometimes, the most quiet voices speak the loudest.
If you don’t understand Chinese, here’s my unprofessional attempt at translating the talk: https://generative-art-with-css.commons.host/.
It was really cool to meet a few of the most well-known names in the Chinese frontend community like 大漠, 赵锦江 (AKA 勾三股四), 张鑫旭, 程劭非 (AKA Winter) and 贺师俊 (AKA Hax). Fun fact, 锦江 has now relocated to Singapore and is having fun with us.
🇷🇴 @ JSHeroes
My Nexmo DevRel colleague and fellow Mozilla TechSpeaker, Alex Lakatos, is Romanian and happened to live in Cluj for a bit. I had never been to Romania before, but I already had friends there, largely because of TechSpeakers.
JSHeroes was a 2-day single track conference with 23 speakers, a number of whom were friends I had met previously at other conferences, so it was nice to catch up with them.
There was a lot of amazing content packed into 48 hours (less if you count the actual conference time). This Romania trip also marked the beginning of my sort-of-nuts summer conference schedule for 2019.
I was sort of jet-lagged when I got there and when Sarah Drasner introduced me to Simona Cotin, who is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, I FORGOT MY OWN NAME for about 3 seconds. One of many facepalm moments in my life.
My talk was near the end of the second day, which meant I couldn’t really enjoy the conference fully because of that nagging worry about my own talk at the back of my mind. I was doing my web typography talk, which has been remixed and built upon over the past 2 years, and remains one of my favourite talks to give.
Largely because this is a talk that allows me a lot of room for localisation, to make it more relevant to the audience I’m speaking to. The research into the language, culture and history of whichever country I’m doing the talk in is one of the greatest benefits of this particular topic.
I had a true Cluj local, Alex, on my side, and he taught me how to open my talk with specific words that only Cluj people use. So when I opened with “Mno servus oameni buni”, I received the most amazing response from the audience of 700. And I hadn’t even said anything of worth yet.
Another highlight was Madalina Tantareanu, who made live sketchnotes of every speaker’s talk. The entire process was projected on a side screen, which was really cool. JSHeroes was a really cool experience and I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s near the region to attend.
🇺🇸 @ ImageCon
Technically, this isn’t a talk about CSS. In fact, the talk I gave was the first full-length non-CSS talk I ever delivered on a conference stage. What happened was, I had tweeted out the year before about how awesome the 2018 line-up looked and unfortunately could only wait for the videos to be released.
Eric Portis reached out to me end of last year and asked if I’d like to speak at this year’s ImageCon, and I immediately agreed. It only dawned on me at a much later date that I wasn’t exactly an expert on images. But I always had a fascination with graphics rendering in general.
The talk I pitched was a deep dive into images on the web, because I wanted to answer all the questions I had in my head about this topic. The research process was fascinating, and I am so grateful to the experts I reached out to for advice and clarification.
This particular trip to San Francisco was also a chance for me to catch up with a number of friends who were normally have a planet away. Like Yiying Lu, who I met almost exactly a year ago, in San Francisco as well. And I finally got to meet Christian Nwamba in person! 🤗
Also went climbing with Jennifer Wong, hung out at the most creative space ever, and helped out a bit with the 5x5: Art Show. Call me slow but it was then I realised that a lot of people I know are based in the Bay Area.
As a Malaysian citizen, entry into the United States can sometimes by iffy, so I’m always appreciative for the opportunity to spend time with friends there when I can.
🇱🇹 @ YGLF Vilnius
Lithuania is a country that I’d known about since I was 13 years old, because of their basketball team. And it was a surprise to me, growing up, that most people hadn’t really heard of Lithuania before. We all have different priorities in life, I suppose.
I’ve had the good fortune of speaking at 2 prior YGLF conferences and both were really great experiences. So when Sergey Bolshchikov reached out and asked if I would like to give the opening keynote at YGLF Vilnius, there was no way I’d say no.
As luck would have it, Wei was looking for conferences to go to, and I pitched her the idea of coming with me to Lithuania, not expecting her to agree. Nobody had ever taken me up on such offers before, but she said yes. Conference travel buddy! For the first time in my life, might I add.
The venue was gorgeous and the lighting was great. I inadvertently matched my on-stage outfit to the conference theme colours, so that worked out nicely.
The content of the conference was amazing, and it was 2 days of awesome speakers covering topics from MIDI, to GraphQL, to Micro-controllers and much more. I’m probably biased because Charlie Gerard is one of the coolest people I ever met and I think the world of her, but she did the most boss move of the conference IMHO.
Vilnius is a beautiful city and we got the chance to explore a bit more after the conference with Tomas Miliauskas and Kyle Simpson. We even sussed out a potential location for the next YGLF. It might be called YGLF Trakai. Stay tuned for updates.
I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to go back to Lithuania, but I really hope it’s sooner than later.
Bonus adventure time:
Our flight home from Vilnius got delayed on the first leg resulting in Wei and I being stuck in Berlin for 24 hours. If this had happened a year ago, I would have been less chill than I was but this time, I knew I had people in Berlin. And we ended up having a pretty good time in Berlin. More on Berlin next…
🇩🇪 @ CSSconf EU
Ah, CSSconf EU. I can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful event not once, but twice. CSSconf EU 2018 was my first time in Berlin, and I have been there again a few times. This is a city where I honestly have the thought: “I could live here”.
This year is the last time CSSconf EU and JSConf EU will be happening in their current incarnation. Consider it the end of an era. I had a lot of feels about Berlin and the conference experience during the 3 days, and wrote them up in an earlier post.
Dear community, we have one of the bigger and tougher announcements to make. CSSconf EU 2019 will be the last edition of the event in its current form. We will not return in 2020. Read more: https://t.co/puu7rIIrJX #LastOfType #CSSconfEU pic.twitter.com/eZRGBVv7qD— CSSconf EU (@CSSconfeu) 6 May 2019
But talking CSS, right? So I’m typically a present-with-slides kind of speaker on a conference stage. (Meetups are a different matter) But some time last year, Alex (the same Alex from the JSHeroes section) convinced me that my no slides approach to explaining layout concepts with DevTools would make a great talk.
Fast forward half a year and I’m about to go on stage in front of 800 developers with a brand new talk that’s basically just me resizing the browser for 30 minutes. It’s no surprise that I would have a face that looked like this:
There were lots of friendly faces near the front of the stage and once I started talking, I got swept up in the actual CSS like the nerd that I am. The feedback from that talk was some of the kindest I’d ever received and I really appreciate the opportunity to give it on that stage.
I was captivated by all the talks from start to finish, and super chuffed to meet Manuel Rego, Jason Pamental and Estefany Aguilar in person! Estefany gave a great talk on one of my favourite CSS topics, logical properties, and her slides were gorgeous.
She also dropped big news at the end of her talk, that CSS Conf Columbia would be the newest addition to the CSSConf family and would be taking place in March 2020. 🎉
Berlin is a special place for me. And CSSconf EU is a community and an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. ❤️
🇬🇧 @ Pixel Pioneers Bristol
Next stop, Bristol. I didn’t know much about Bristol, other than the fact that Rachel Andrew lives there, and that it’s really quite pretty.
This was the same talk I gave in Berlin and the feedback from CSSconf EU made me feel slightly better because if I had bombed that, I would probably had to rethink my conference talks for the rest of the year. 🙈
Pixel Pioneers is a very locally-focused conference and a contrast from CSSconf EU, but boy, was it a great conference, both to attend and speak at. The only minor hitch was that I’d finally run out of conference luck, and my computer decided to freeze right in the middle of my talk.
Because I needed to reboot, and my work computer needs at least a good 5 minutes to start up, I really put our emcee, Phil Hawksworth, on the spot by asking him to tell jokes for at least 5 minutes. Phil was brilliant as an emcee, plus, he gave a talk of his own, so all the kudos to him.
After a lot of running around since April, it was finally time to head home for my last major event of the summer conference season. Lots of traveling does make coming home a more significant event, especially when you have people to come home to.
it's been a pretty eventful 2 weeks. saw familiar places and new ones, met and made many friends, had plenty of feels 😭🥰😁— HJ Chen (@hj_chen) 8 June 2019
now i'm heading home to cap off my summer conference season with @jsconfasia 🇸🇬
coming home ❤️
that does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
🇸🇬 @ JSConf.Asia
My first gig on a conference stage was emcee-ing for CSSConf.Asia 2015. Because I was too cheap to pay for a ticket. That’s the truth. I’ve always felt more relaxed being an emcee than being a speaker because I feel that nobody remembers the emcee.
The emcee’s job is to make the speakers look good, and entertain the audience just in case things go wrong on the technical side of things. As someone who has the useless ability of coming up with nonsense on a moment’s notice, I’m fairly comfortable with this role.
We traditionally run a gameshow before the start of JSConf.Asia as a warm-up, and this year the game was Loop of Fortune, a parody of Wheel of Fortune from the 90s. Also a chance for me to showcase some Singlish. It’s my city, and I’ll do what I like. 🤪
But this year, I was also a co-organiser with Thomas Gorissen, who had been shouldering the bulk of the workload for the past 7 years. Prior to the conference itself, I was mainly helping out with talk curation, reaching out to speakers, scholarships and wholy in charge of volunteer management.
I don’t really have a proper approach to running a team of people, because honestly, I never thought of myself as someone who’d lead the charge. I’m rubbish at delegating tasks, and there were so many things that I could have done better in terms of communication and scheduling. But I guess you live and learn.
Being part of the organising committee meant liaising with all the people behind the scenes who put in a lot of work to make the conference run smoothly, and I’m grateful for all of them, for their cooperation and understanding given how unpredictable things could be during the event itself.
Most of the feedback we received was very heartening, plus some suggestions for improvements. But it means a lot when people tell us that this is a world-class conference.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard locals say how the conferences in the United States or Europe are better than the ones we have here. But hopefully this mindset will start to change.
Waiting in this wonderful airport in Singapore (fastest checking ever!), ruminating on the wonderful last three days at #jsconfasia, I can't help but be thankful for the good talks, top-notch discussions and meetings with developers, and last but not least—the great food!— Gil Tayar (@giltayar) 16 June 2019
It was chaotic at time, things went wrong, and a lot of sprinting and lifting heavy objects took place. But overall, I think we can consider JSConf.Asia 2019 a successful conference. Go team! 🙆
🇩🇪🇦🇹 @ Mozilla Developer Roadshow EU
Going on the Mozilla Developer Asia Roadshow back in 2017 was a fairly significant milestone for my professional career. Not that it’s much of a career at this point, but it was the start of my relationship with Mozilla, and where I got to know 2 amazing women, Sandra Persing and Ali Spivak.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for them both and it has been a privilege to have another opportunity to go on the road once again with them for this year’s series of roadshows. The format is similar to what we did 2 years ago, but a bit tighter because travel between cities was relatively quick.
It was a 4-cities-in-4-days schedule, but because Sandra was so organised, it felt like everything was running like a well-oiled machine. The first stop was Nuremburg, I hadn’t been there before and it took 4 plane rides to get there, but I liked the city. It also happened to be the place we spent the most time (all of nearly 2 days).
I was giving the a version of the DevTools talk I did back in June, but had since added extra stuff for Grid and different examples. This is the most “Lego” talk I ever had, and I would be giving it a number of times later this year as well, so I had way more content than 30 minutes and could choose different pieces depending on the time constraints.
For Nuremburg, I went with content-based sizing, flexbox and grid. I thought it went fairly okay, except that we were supposed to do a screen recording for post-production purposes but guess what this idiot did? Or more specifically, not do?
You’re absolutely right. I DID NOT press the record button.
Oh well, 3 more stops to go…
Next was Munich. And it was a nice venue at the Microsoft offices with green walls, and we were joking around about the possibilities of that green background. A lot of photos came out from this stop, including my favourite shot of the whole Roadshow 👇.
Anyway, this time I DID manage to press the record button and redeem myself a little bit. I thought the talk went much smoother this time as well, so maybe it was meant to be that I didn’t record the first one.
Couldn’t hang around for long though because the next day we were headed off to Linz in Austria. But the train ride was absolutely lovely. I’m very much a fan of traveling within Europe on trains now. The Linz stop was mindblowing because more people showed up than RSVP-ed. I’ve honestly NEVER seen this at tech meetup before, so I was amazed.
However, I was again fairly incompetent with the button pressing and only remembered to hit record after 10 minutes, so that was a moot recording as well. Oh well, I guess we’ll always have Munich.
The last stop of the roadshow was Vienna. I was genuinely excited for Vienna because of the “Viennese mafia”, comprised of Eva Lettner, Andrey Okonetchnikov and Manuel Matuzovic, who had passionately insisted that Vienna was the best city in the world when I first met them in Saint Petersberg.
The city did not disappoint. It was beautiful. This stop was especially fun for me because instead of my talk, I had a fireside conversation with Max Böck about the CSS mindset. I share a lot of the same sentiments as he does about how we approach CSS so it was effortless to build off each other’s points throughout the conversation.
Fun fact. I managed to hit my not-so-secret secret agenda of going climbing (just bouldering, actually) at EVERY stop! Crowning achievement 💃
🇸🇬 @ CONNECT Asia 2019
Immediately after the Mozilla Developer Roadshow was CONNECT Asia, organised by Women Who Code. I had committed to this fairly early in the year and personally, it matters to me to speak at home. I could go on about all the reasons why, but let’s save that for another day.
The schedule was unfortunately such that I had to get to the venue straight from the airport, but Singapore is tiny enough for this not to be too much of an issue. I didn’t sleep that much on the 8-hour leg from Doha to Singapore though and ended up hiding in the library (it was at the venue) for a short nap.
I have mentioned this earlier in the JSConf.Asia section, but I generally have an accent, either American or British, when I go on conference stages. But this time, I decided to keep my local accent. I may not be Singaporean, but my Singlish is on point.
Because this was a multi-track event, there weren’t that many people in the audience either so I went for a much more informal tone of voice than I normally do at conferences (meet-ups are a completely different matter, check SingaporeCSS for videos). Little did I know that more people would stream in later. Oh well, too late to change it up half-way through.
I did have a good number of friends and people who knew me in the audience, so it was really very fun for me. I don’t know how much fun they had. Got some good meme-worthy photos out of them though.
The talk also happened to be on Malaysia’s national day, so how could I not centre my main demo around our national flag? My Malaysian dev friends were totally in on the idea and suspected I’d end up doing something like that. It was definitely 100% worth the effort to make it to this event.
Also, Wei gave her first conference workshop at the same event. I told her if I bombed my talk I’d just pop into her workshop instead. I was pretty happy I managed to catch the tail-end of it though.
🇵🇹 @ Connect Fest 2019
I had to fly to Porto for Connect Fest directly from JSConf Korea but I just have to mention how amazing the organisers did for their inaugural edition. I met Soeun Lee AKA Sona, for the first time in JSConf EU last year and had continued to keep in touch especially after I knew she was going to organise JSConf Korea.
The entire team was absolutely delightful and I felt extremely blessed to be able to be there to support them as part of the greater JSConf family. Also, Nexmo was a sponsor for the event, so I got to be there with my mates, Alex and Julia as well. Booth duty is more fun with friends.
But anyway, Connect Fest. This was a conference organised by Bosch, which to be honest, I associate the brand with automotive parts because that’s what they are known for in Malaysia and Singapore. Turns out they are trying to rebrand themselves as a tech company, which makes sense since they do a lot more than just car parts.
This was one conference where I didn’t know anybody in the line-up and it was a lot broader than the typical web conferences I attended so I didn’t know what to expect. Which was great, because I had the best time there.
At the speaker dinner, I got to know Anna Wszeborowska, who is one of the loveliest human beings I’ve ever met and we chatted long after dinner was over. Diana Birsan was also at the table among a few other speakers, and we were pretty much the last to leave.
It was a 2-track conference with one stage in an auditorium style and the other at the top floor of the venue. That second stage had a stunning view of Porto. At lunch, we naturally hovered together and were joined by some other speakers, including Roméo Farinacci. Somehow our band of 4 stuck together the rest of the time.
I soon realised that the audience was NOT majority web developers and wasn’t feeling particularly confident about resizing the browser a thousand times on stage talking about flexbox and grid. But my 3 new-found friends were so incredibly supportive that I felt much better about it. A couple of people who did do web development also said nice things to me after, so that was a relief.
A lot of people talked shop but not us. We had conversations about disturbingly large spiders, Eastern European parents, relationships, travel, anything and everything, really. And we ended off the event by having a nice dinner and wine. I genuinely hope we cross paths again sooner than later, but that time we spent together was golden.
🇳🇵 @ Web Weekend Kathmandu 2019
I kicked off a fairly crazy stupid September-October schedule by heading out to Nepal for Web Weekend Kathmandu. I had never been to Nepal before and was really looking forward to this. Even though I was thoroughly a foreigner in Kathmandu, there was a sense of familiarity to the streets of Kathmandu.
When asked, I described it as similar to small town Malaysia as I remember it maybe 20 plus years ago when I was a kid. A lot of the smells were very familiar, because even though the style of cooking is unique, we use a lot of the same spices as well.
The organisers were really thoughtful and gave every speaker personalised coffee mugs with a sketch of us on them, and the content curation was stunningly good. It was the type of conference that chose to go broad, so we had talks about DevOps, MIDI and hardware, testing, gender in tech, CSS.
I learned so much, not only from the talks though, but also from the attendees and organisers. I gave the DevTools talk here as well, but had to switch it up a bit to fit the 25 minute format. This audience was one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking in front of.
They were so engaged and attentive, and the people who came up to me afterwards would make references to the things I mentioned only in passsing and every question that I got was relevant to what I talked about.
A highlight of the conference was the hike which took place the day after the conference. I had to bail out halfway because I needed to catch a flight but I did manage to have a lot of good conversations with others who came along on the hike.
I was really glad to meet Kushma Thapa, who did a fantastic job as emcee. She also became the first Nepalese international conference speaker when she spoke at SeleniumConf last year. There were a lot of feels after the conference which I penned in my other site, DevRel Diaries, if you’re interested.
Before I left though, I had one final meal with the organisers as well as Karen Lowry, and we were throwing out ideas and discussing how to improve the conference, how to increase the participation rate for women, and I definitely want to pitch in to help out for future iterations.
🌐 @ JekyllConf 2019
JekyllConf is a virtual conference, completely free and online, on best practices, advanced case studies and the future of Jekyll (according to the website). I’d been using Jekyll for ages, and centred the talk around data files and how I used them for the SingaporeCSS website.
My first remote conference of the year! Unfortunately, due to scheduling, I ended up being in the air while the event was being live-streamed. But JekyllConf organiser, Mike Neumegen, had pre-empted this and asked if I could pre-record the talk. There were 260 people live-streaming the conference, which was kinda cool.
🏴 @ Finch Frontend
So the flight I was catching on the day of the hike was to Edinburgh for Finch Front-end. It was the inaugural edition organised by Patrick Griffiths and the line-up was absolutely stacked! There was Hakim El Hattab, Rachel Andrew, Harry Roberts, Sara Soueidan among all the other briliant speakers.
I was doing the DevTools talk once again, but this time I was given 45 minutes, so I managed to fit in all of my “Lego” blocks. I’ll be honest, I did not think it was my best performance, and the audience was fairly reserved, which did throw me off a little, especially since Kathmandu happened just 2 days before (I did the straight from the airport thing again).
But later, Harry Roberts also mentioned that he felt the crowd was a bit tough, so that sort of reassured me a little bit, though I still wasn’t all that happy with myself. Patrick did ask me if I wanted to emcee for the second day.
I’ve mentioned before that I find emcee-ing way less stressful than speaking, so I was definitely up for it, except that I had to leave at lunch to catch a flight (again). But Patrick was fine with it because Cassie Evans agreed to do the sessions after lunch, so impromptu emcee-ing on day 2!
I had a way better time being the emcee. We had some form of Q&A after the talk but all the questions ran through me first, and I could also come up with a couple of my own to get the ball rolling so that was nice. So I was taking notes by hand during everybody’s talk, which made me realise I hadn’t done that in a long time.
It was really nice to introduce Hakim, Cassie and Val Head, making it the second time I got to introduce Val. The first time being when I crashed the Webconf.asia stage last year. Patrick did an amazing job with his conference and I’m really chuffed he put me in his line-up.
🇭🇺 @ CSSConf Budapest
Budapest was not part of my original schedule. But multiple factors influenced my decision to go, one of which was that Wei was going to attend, then I looked at the line-up and realised how many of my friends would be speaking there as well.
There was Charlie Gerard, Shelley Vohr, Stephanie Nemeth, Ruth John, Rebecca Hill, Jake Archibald, Das Surma, this list is getting long. And of course, my tea-drinking, basketball-loving friend, Ben Gagyi.
As part of the greater JSConf family, I was in contact with the organisers as well and when they saw I was attending, they asked if I wanted to emcee for CSSConf Budpest. Of course I said yes. Like I mentioned before, I enjoy it quite a lot.
Every single speaker was stunningly good, and it was such a pleasure to introduce them. And my emcee karma was relatively good, given what I did to Phil Hawksworth in Bristol, I was half expecting someone’s laptop to catch fire or half the stage collapsing.
Luckily, the only minor hiccup was when 1 of the speakers slides didn’t come on and I spouted nonsense for a couple minutes longer than I normally did. We were also desperately off schedule in the morning, but due to some creative rescheduling of break time, we got everything back on track after lunch.
I thought the audience was extremely nice because they even applauded the emcee-ing, which was so kind of them. But Paul Verbeek-Mast hands-down stole the show and did an incredible job over the next 2 days for JSConf Budapest. Amazing suit on Day 1, then full-length skirt and killer boots on Day 2. I just put on a tie.
Wei gave a lovely presentation about React Knowledgeable at the Mozilla community lounge, which was a really nice place to just chill and watch the talks streamed live from the main stage. It was a very nice space and good idea to have it.
Finally getting to meet Eva Ferreira after years of following her online was definitely one of the highlights of this conference. I was really pleased I made the decision to come to Budapest on a whim.
A lot of us realised that we would all be going to Amsterdam next for either View Source, Fronteers or both, so basically the party just moved cities. It was a lot of fun hanging out with friends I generally only get to see once or twice a year. Practically all of them are at least 8 hours away.
Anyway, on to Amsterdam.
🇳🇱 @ View Source 2019
View Source is Sandra’s thing. And I think we’ve established that I would do anything for Sandra at this point if she says the word. She has looked out for me in so many ways and I will never stop saying how much I appreciate her.
A lot of Budapest ended up in Amsterdam, but 1 person who was missing from Budapest was the indomitable Anjana Vakil, who was in Amsterdam for the Mozilla Techspeakers meetup as well as Fronteers. Also, Mandy Michael was around for Fronteers as well. Did I mention how much I love seeing my awesome friends who I never get to see otherwise?
For View Source, however, I was kind of conferenced out at this point, so I pretty much skipped out most of Day 1. And I was also in 2 minds about the talk, which was the DevTools one yet again, but it would be the last time I was doing it.
I had talked to Wei after Edinburgh and mentioned I wasn’t happy with how that one went, and she replied that I would still have the chance to do better at View Source. In a way, that made me both reassured for a second chance, but also more nervous because it was like the “farewell” edition (if that makes any sense).
By now I had given this iterations of this talk (depending on time allocated) 8 times already and to me, it felt like people may have seen it before somewhere else. But I also realised that Charlie, Shelly, Anjana and Mandy hadn’t seen it before, so I figured I’d just be giving that talk to them.
Having friends in the front row is the best thing ever as a speaker. They were so incredibly supportive. I was going faster than I normally did (and I already speak fairly fast) because I had the hare-brained idea to fit in more content just for this “finale” edition. Apparently the captioner kept right up. I owe her a drink.
Immediately after my talk was a Conversation Corner thing with Rachel Andrew and Adam Argyle, who I met in person for the first time and he’s such a chill guy.
We weren’t given much guidance on how to do things so it ended up being a conversation between the 3 of us about CSS, the standards bodies, browsers and specifications. Things we would have chatted about even without an audience.
I genuinely appreciated having a lot of content centred around browser technologies and web standards, because it offers a perspective different from what day-to-day web developers encounter, and don’t we all need more perspective?
🇳🇱 @ Fronteers 2019
I’d known about Fronteers for years because it was the first international conference my brother from another mother, Zell Liew, spoke at back in 2016. He’s now off the circuit for at least 7 years or until his daughter starts school? Who knows?
Before Fronteers though, I spoke at QueerJS. Truth be told, I wasn’t all there because I was a bit sick that day, so maybe ask Charlie for details on what happened. But all the talks were fantastic. I requested for mine not to be recorded or streamed, because reasons.
It was one of the very few non-technical talks I ever gave, and I’m happy I did it albeit semi-sprawled on the podium to hold myself up. To the people who happened to hear it and told me nice things after, thank you. I wouldn’t have been able to give it anywhere else at this point, and so I am grateful.
So, Fronteers. What a stage it was. The venue was a legitimate theatre and had a really classy vibe. I was especially excited to see Lea Verou, Chris Lilley and their adorable baby daughter, Zoe. The last time I met them was in Athens in January, when Chris first had issues with his visa.
Off to Amsterdam for @FronteersConf! First conference to attend with Zoe, first conference talk I’m giving after she was born. I got the jitters like it’s 2010 again! (@svgeesus is here too, he took the photo) pic.twitter.com/KfjGucF7Mf— Lea Verou (@LeaVerou) October 2, 2019
It was a lot of tension as Chris’s visa barely came through before Zoe was due to be born, but all is well now, and I was delight to see my favourite first family of the web in person. Chatting with Chris is one of the most delightful things ever as he shared a lot of the developments in web fonts land with me. I’ll definitely have more to say on this subject moving forward.
I finally got to watch Charlie Owen live and oh my goodness, it was a spectacular opening (which did make me more nervous about mine because I was right after). Fronteers was another conference with an utterly stacked line-up, Lea Verou, Rachel Andrew, Ashi Krishnan, Anjana Vakil, Mandy Michael, and this list goes on.
the potential for creating better visual interfaces for users of assistive technologies by combining variable fonts with speech apis is a pretty exciting prospect#FronteersConf pic.twitter.com/Z1MRdeQnGw— HJ Chen (@hj_chen) October 4, 2019
Meeting Eva Lettner again after 2 years was definitely another high point of the conference. I was especially happy all the CSS talks this conference were the ones that got multiple rounds of applause during the talk. I know people typically say they will watch conference videos but don’t. Please do watch the Fronteers videos. They are all so good.
As for myself, I gave the talk I did back in April for ImageCon, because honestly, I spent a lot of time researching that one, and felt I should at least give it one more time. The accoustics of the theatre made it hard to gauge audience reaction, but again, my friends were right up the first row and amazingly supportive.
It was a 45 minute talk, which is honestly longer than I’m used to, so I sort of “lost it” a little around the 30 minute mark, but hopefully not too many people noticed. The feedback afterward was very kind, and I was pretty happy to have gotten through this rather packed schedule without falling off any of the stages.
But that’s generally it for me this conference season. It hit me I needed to reflect on my life choices when Ashi casually asked me how much speaking I did in the past 2 weeks and I had to count (the final tally was 10, or maybe 9.5 because I was only half-day emcee for Finch).
My remaining speaking engagements are all in Asia, and on a relatively more sane schedule. But I do need to deal with that gentle layer of dust that has collected over everything in my room at this point. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Intermission: 🇨🇳 @ JSConf China
If it hasn’t been obvious enough, Wei has clearly featured heavily in my life this year. She’s just special, okay? Anyway, I’ve told her that I would follow her anywhere she gives a talk at a conference. And she did at JSConf China.
Also, Nexmo was a sponsor at the conference, so I was going to be there either way. But let’s be honest, even if Nexmo wasn’t involved, I’d get myself there hell or high water. I wouldn’t have lived it down if I wasn’t there to watch her talk in person because it was the best talk of the conference IMHO.
Another fun thing that happened was, my friend Yong Jun gave a workshop there as well and between himself, me and another friend who was helping out, all 3 of us had the same birthday, what are the odds?
🇯🇵🇰🇷🇹🇼🇸🇬🇹🇭 @ Mozilla Developer Roadshow Asia
I went on the Mozilla Developer Roadshow again for the Asia leg, and although this was spaced out a bit more than the Europe one, because it was air travel, it felt more hectic. But I am always excited to speak at events in Asia.
This time around, I was still doing the talk with DevTools, but switched the focus to Grid and Subgrid instead, which I thought would tie in with Firefox’s upcoming release of subgrid in 71. And this time I did have a handful of slides before the DevTools bit.
Like the 2017 edition, we covered 5 cities but with more focus on the East Asian region this time. The first city which kicked off the entire thing was Tokyo, and we were joined by Brian Birtles, Daisuke Akatsuka and Karl Dubost.
The Japanese audience really appreciated that Brian and Daisuke did their talks in Japanese, but overall the attendees were engaged throughout the event, which made it a great way to start to the roadshow.
Our next stop was Seoul, and the weather wasn’t fantastic while we were there. It seemed like we were bringing rain where we went, because it also rained in Tokyo. Turnout was still good though, and I spent 2 hours trying to learn how to say 1 single Korean sentence. I think I butchered it anyway, but audience was very kind about it.
Taiwan was interesting because we were having the event right in the middle of the start-up expo, Meet Taipei, as opposed to having a dedicated meet-up style setup. We didn’t have Brian, Daisuke or Karl this time, but were joined by Max Liu and Stan Leong from the Mozilla Taiwan office.
There was a lot going on, but people showed up and stayed throughout all the talks. I made the impromptu decision to do my talk in Chinese, and flubbed a number of lines where I was trying to explain subgrid concepts.
The team felt I did a good job, but personally I felt it was because they didn’t understand Chinese and hence couldn’t tell either way. I guess I can take solace in the fact that I sold the body language part of things.
It may have been because I’ve been speaking overseas for quite a bit lately that I especially treasure the opportunities to speak in my home regions of Singapore and Malaysia. Our fourth stop was Singapore and I was exceptionally excited about it.
Because I wanted to deliver the whole talk in Singlish, and Sandra gave me the go-ahead to do it. It was great fun (for me, obviously), and there were a number of familiar faces in the audience, which I really appreciated.
Our last and final stop was Bangkok, which was a fairly last minute switch as our original final stop was Hong Kong. Unfortunately due to the upheavel there at the time, we had no choice but to cancel the Hong Kong stop.
Luckily, I was able to reach out to Thai Pangsakulyanont, who is not only a wonderful speaker, but also organises tech events around Thailand as well. He managed to help connect us to the relevant people and made the Bangkok stop a reality.
This has been my third Mozilla Developer Roadshow and each one has been a new and rewarding experience. Getting the opportunity to share about CSS with local developer communities in so many countries is a privilege that I will always treasure.
Fun fact. I once again managed to hit my not-so-secret secret agenda of going climbing (just bouldering, actually) at each stop. 💃
Intermission: 🇸🇬 @ DevRel Summit 2019
We had an “off” day during the Singapore stop. And what did we do? We held another event! Eventception, because why not? DevRel Summit this year was much smaller than previous iterations but because of that, every single attendee had ample chance to engage with each other and the speakers.
This was probably the best “hallway track” any event had ever seen IMO. The talk content was spectacular because the theme was DevRel in APAC and every speaker brought a perspective that represented their respective regions.
To me, it made a strong point that we are such a rich and diverse region that painting APAC with a single brush is doing a great disservice to every single developer who is from Asia. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to be the emcee for such an amazing event.
🇲🇾 @ DevFest & BizFest Georgetown 2019
My first homecoming of the year! I didn’t get the chance to go back to Penang at all this year before this event. The crew who organise DevFests in Malaysia are a dedicated and incredible group of people.
And I gave them my word that if they ever organise any event and need a speaker, I will come home for them even if there is no travel budget. Even though DevFests carry the Google brand name, they are actually completely community-run events.
Truth be told, I did not grow up in Penang. But because my household predominantly spoke Penang Hokkien, which is not spoken anywhere else outside the state, whenever I step onto Penang and hear this familiar accent all around me, it’s a pretty indescribable feeling.
I did a longer version of my subgrid talk for this event, tweaking it on the fly when I realised that a majority of the audience were not full-time web developers. No matter, it’s still a plus that I was able to show what the web is now capable of.
One of the best things about this event IMO was the local street food stalls that served our childhood favourites! Local flavour at its best. For those of you who have never been to Penang, it has undoubtedly the best food in the world. You can quote me on that.
🇲🇾 @ DevFest Kuala Lumpur 2019
This was the 10-year anniversary of DevFest KL, and so it was a pretty huge event with a turnout of 800. It was a multi-track event but every talk felt packed. The organisers had designed custom dinosaur stickers just for the event, and every speaker got a plushie!
I did a condensed version of my subgrid talk in the Foyer stage, which was quite fun, and also helped out with emcee-ing for the web edition of the Kazoo quiz. I was glad to have been able to meet so many cool people, both familiar and new.
Having my last two talks of the year being Malaysian events was quite a blessing. Even though Penang is my hometown, I think part of my heart never left Kuala Lumpur. For context, I had moved there in 2006 to join the national women’s basketball team, and I stayed there for 8 years.
Kuala Lumpur was where I chased a dream. It was the place where I shed the most blood, sweat and tears. It was even where my web development career started. So this place means something to me.
2019 has been a challenging year for me. As the year drew to a close, and with a number of things weighing on my mind, I think I needed to be there. To be meet up with people who were a big part of my life during those 8 years. To revisit the places I spent so much time in.
I don’t think anyone would have read through this whole thing but these speaking recap posts have been more for myself than anyone else. Spending more than 50% of this year not sleeping in my own bed has sort of broken my sense of time, so writing all this down helps.
I have no idea what 2020 will bring, but I do hope that I’ve made some positive contributions to the community this year.