About a month and a half ago, I met the incomparable Anjana Vakil at JSHeroes in Romania. I had just finished my onboarding into the Mozilla Tech Speakers program, of which she’s also a member, and had the privilege of spending time with her and many other incredible speakers. After the conference, we were spending one last evening together in the home of one of the organizers.
In the midst of all the talking and drinking and general merriment, Anjana shared that she was preparing a talk for !!Con that was really more of a musical theatre performance. Intrigued? So was I!! I’ve fantasized about writing a talk that somehow also involved me singing showtunes but had never put the time and effort into actually writing such a thing. And now here was this wonderful, brilliant, wildly entertaining woman taking the idea to the next level!
We joked about how awesome it would be to have a whole conference that was entirely made up of musical tech talks.
Though I’d planned to make the trip to New York to see Anjana’s performance, I missed the window to purchase tickets. Needless to say, I was devastated. Instead, while on a visit to see my boyfriend’s mother, I wrestled with the wifi so that I could be sure to catch the livestream. Imagine my absolute glee as I watched (and sang along with) this masterpiece live:
Seeing Tail Call Optimization: The Musical for the first time infused my soul with a taste of some of the electricity I feel when I’m about to go onstage myself. I was beyond excited and I knew I had to do something with that excitement.
I knew I had to make that conference we’d joked about in someone’s kitchen in Romania a reality.
This is definitely going to happen. I’m going to make sure of it. How could I not after bearing witness to that masterpiece?? @y3l2n is already on board (which, appropriately, just autocorrected to “bard”)!
— Aisha Blake (@AishaBlake) May 12, 2019
When I brought my half-baked plans to Amber Conville, who I organize self.conference alongside, her immediate reaction was to suggest trying it out at self.conference 2020. That way, I could use the systems we already have in place for self.conference as well as gauge interest in this new format.
Turns out, Amber had been plotting unbeknownst to the rest of us! She had already set the wheels in motion to start a brand new nonprofit called selfdot that would put on self.conference in the future in addition to a number of other programs. The goal is to provide computer literacy workshops and other technical support. Conferences and a coworking space (of course there had to be a coworking space) will contribute to the organization’s income.
So I’d like to introduce you to <title of conf>, named after one of my favorite musicals, [title of show]. <title of conf> will be an experiment in building up an event that teaches and challenges tech professionals in new ways. Talks will take the form of musical performances which may be parodies like Anjana’s or totally original works.
Attendees will reap the benefits of instruction from opera singer and voice teacher Christina Swanson. You’ll learn how to leverage the power of your own body and breath to enhance your stage presence and fuel your presentations (on or offstage)! My hope is to bring you something different and unapologetically fun that still teaches you valuable skills and tools that you can use to support your team, level up your skills, or make your life easier.
Interested in sponsoring a truly unique event in tech? Want to try your hand at a mix of conference speaking and musical performance? Have questions about this weirdness that this post hasn’t answered? You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!