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Coffee Catch Ups: Rob Crowley

Updated: Jan 29


Twitter : @robdcrowley


Speakerdeck : https://speakerdeck.com/robcrowley


For this edition of the Coffee Catch Ups series, I had the genuine privilege of interviewing DDD veteran Rob Crowley of Telstra Purple about his upcoming talk “GraphQL, gRPC or REST? Resolving the API Developer's Dilemma”.


Rob had valuable insights into the DDD conference series, gave fellow presenters tips on how to prepare for such a conference; and delved into his own experiences in the industry.


For those travelling to Perth in the near future, where are the best local coffee shops - and what are you drinking today?

The coffee scene in Perth has really developed over the past few years. We're not quite as hipster at Melbourne yet but we hold our own! I'm at Holmes & Co on Wolfe Lane drinking my usual mid morning long mac.


This is your 10th DDD conference presentation!

Yes, I've been lucky to have spoken at a few DDD conferences around Australia. Last year I fulfilled a personal goal and did the full DDD circuit by speaking at Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The events were universally excellent, and it was fantastic to meet members of the various technology communities around Australia. While each of the events has its own feel and character, the openness and friendliness of the attendees is a constant. This above anything else is what keeps me so interested in DDD events.


Firstly, can you tell me how you first got involved in DDD?

As an attendee! My first DDD was the inaugural Perth event in 2015. Tatham Oddie was the keynote speaker and from the very first minute I was hooked. I was in absolute awe of Tatham's ability to relay complex topics in a simple and engaging manner. That day I resolved to be learn how to do the same. Over the course of the next year, I spoke at several local Meetup groups and built up the confidence to submit to the following DDD Perth. When the talk got accepted — much to my surprise — I vacillated between excited and panic. Thankfully the talk went really well on the day and buoyed by that success I've never looked back since.


What should someone expect at DDD Adelaide?

The most obvious aspect may be the great sessions on a diverse range of topics but there is so much more to a DDD event. DDD conferences are events for the community created with love by the community. They represent wonderful opportunities to meet and share stories with fellow technologists. While it's not on the agenda, the hallway track can be one of the most valuable parts of an event like DDD Adelaide. From a personal perspective, I just need to stockpile my extrovert points beforehand.


What advice would you give to aspiring tech conference speakers?

Getting accepted to present at conferences — especially those with agenda committees — can be challenging without previous public speaking experience. Aspiring speakers should start by attending their local Meetup groups and getting to know the various organisers. These community events represent a great way to start one’s public speaking journey. Next, public speakers should learn to love feedback. This is the single best way to improve both one’s personal presentation technique but also to refine the content of talks. Finally, successful public speakers should collect their declines with pride. For every conference that I get accepted to speak at there are many more for which I don't. There are many reasons a talk may not be accepted to a conference. By all means refine and rework an abstract but try not to take the rejection personally.


This one is for the other presenters at DDD Adelaide - what do you do to ensure you are prepared and ready on the day for your talk?

I tend to be quite methodical in my preparation for a talk. I begin by sketching a rough outline. At this stage I am simply looking to arrange the flow. Once I have defined the major points, I then start adding detail iteratively. Only when I have completed an initial draft of the talk transcript do I shift focus to the slide deck. The initial deck is usually quite wordy. As I become more familiar with the content, I gradually replace slide text with images and add begin to finesse the slides. For a DDD length slot the process takes about 30 hours excluding practice runs. If there’s a demo involved, then this rises steeply. I clearly spend way too much time on demos!


On the day I always try to prepare a backup for any issues that may arise. I keep a copy of my presentation on an USB stick in case my laptop suffers a catastrophic failure. I also pre-record any demos and put them on the USB as well. I also bring a general speaker survival kit that includes a spare clicker, AV adapters, batteries, wi-fi hotspot, timer and other assorted pieces of kit that I’ve collected at conferences over the years.

Finally, when I get on stage I double check that I’ve increased the font size, closed all running applications and turned off notifications.


Let’s shift focus to you, can you tell me about your own career path into the tech industry?

My interest in technology was born when my parents bought an Amstrad 2086 — complete with 640KB ram and 20MB hard drive — with which I learned to program in BASIC. It wasn't long until I was set on a career as a developer. After graduating with a degree in Computer Science, I moved to London and worked on a system gathering telemetry data from all the ticketing machines and gates on the London underground. This was my first exposure to data intensive systems and integration. While I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in a wide variety of software related roles, low latency backend systems have really formed the spine of my career and are what I build my public speaking brand around.


What is your favourite thing about being a Consultant at Telstra Purple?

Without doubt it is people that are my favourite part of being a consultant for Telstra Purple. I work with incredibly talented colleagues from whom I have learned so much. The role of a consultant at Telstra Purple has a lot of variety. Particularly the Principal Consultant role which has many facets including being responsible for the delivery of multiple concurrent engagements, business development and pre-sales, mentoring and coaching as well as driving national initiatives. It's a highly dynamic role that involves delivering to tight timelines which I find very rewarding.


What are you most excited about when it comes to the future direction of your field?

Above all else, the continuous change and evolution in the technology landscape excites me. New techniques and technologies emerge that enable us to solve problems in more elegant and simpler ways that we could previously. I still remember the feeling of listening to Scott Hanselman speak just after Azure was released and he conjured first 10 then 100 virtual machines into existence using simple incantations in a command line. I left that conference feeling that I had just discovered a new superpower. I felt the same way when Erwin van der Koogh first taught me about serverless architectures with AWS Lambda and to this day whenever I get a YAML defined build pipeline to finally work.


How do you think tech jobs will change over the next decade?

I feel the current debate around containers and serverless will be resolved with serverless emerging as the victor. Kubernetes will still absolutely be present, but the orchestration services will become an implementation detail of the platform. As such, unless you work in specific teams at Amazon, Google et. al you'll unlikely encounter it. Unless you've inherited an in-house cluster in which case you have my sympathy 😃. In such a landscape, I feel integration will play a larger role than ever for developers as we compose solutions from many distributed components.


Can you tell us a little about your talk “GraphQL, gRPC or REST? Resolving the API Developer's Dilemma” at DDD?

There's a lot of debate in the API community of late regarding GraphQL and REST and a schism has formed between proponents of each style. Many of these conversations are not constructive as they descend into statements about the superiority of one approach over another being presented as universal truths. Such comments invariably earn emotive rebuttals that also lack sufficient nuance. The result of such exchanges is increased confusion and uncertainty. My aim for this talk is to give attendees a tour of these API styles where we will cut through this noise, demonstrate where each style shines (plus where they don't!) and ultimately resolve this dilemma of choice.


What are the key takeaways from your talk?

Attendees will leave with an increased awareness of the various API styles that are available. They will also learn how to determine the suitability of an API style for their application context rather than succumbing to technology hype. My aim is by the end of the session attendees will not only understand the concepts underpinning these various API styles but also have the knowledge to put them into practice.


Which talk (OTHER THAN YOUR OWN!) are you most looking forward to at DDD Adelaide?

There's quite a few. My general aim at a conference is to attend a variety of sessions covering core skills and technology topics. Form a technology perspective I'm looking forward to Dasith Wijesiriwardena's talk on Modern Authentication. I'm also a big fan of Liam McLennan and will definitely be in the front row for his talk on growing high performing teams in the afternoon. Besides that I’ve seen Amy Kapernick’s talk on CSS Grid before and she did convince me that it’s more than just a fancy tables 😉


Rob is presenting at DDD Adelaide is on 23 November 2019 at MOD. Tickets are available now at www.dddadelaide.com/tickets


Encode Talent (www.encodetalent.com.au) is proud to be the coffee cart sponsor of this event. 

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