#frontendconf: a summer 2014 adventure

ClemsonGC students attend FrontEndConf in Florida, Summer 2014

ClemsonGC students attend FrontEndConf in Florida, Summer 2014

This summer, I traveled with 4 @ClemsonGC students down to St. Petersburg, Florida for Front End Design Conference. #FrontEndConf is a unique and special event for front end web developers. Hosted by the amazing Denney family, this is one of my favorite conferences to attend with students each year.

One of the best parts of the event is that everyone is made to feel welcome from beginning coders and students up through the expert speakers, many of whom are the leaders pushing the web development industry forward day in and day out. There are plenty of opportunities to learn both in a large setting and one-on-one with a coder you just met who just happens to know javascript (or databases, or animations, or teaching) better than you do.

This was my second time attending #frontendconf with students. Last year I brought down two students for the event and we met up with a previous graduate of the program as well. This year, 4 students who have taken the intermediate web class (GC4510-Web) were chosen to attend- Alex Horne, Katherine Redmond, Mason Mccaskill, and Weatherly White. We were again joined by a previous Clemson GC student, Josh Boland, who after graduation began working on Clemson’s web properties with the Creative Services team.

We began the conference with a one day workshop on Front End Tooling with Neil Renicker and Rob Tarr of Sparkbox. This was definitely the most technical hands-on aspect of the conference. Mason says regarding the value of the topics presented “we were given the chance to be apart of the tooling workshop. The course introduced new tools that are professionally suggested for any web-based projects. From source control to workflow improvement tools, I can really apply more than half of the topics discussed in the tooling workshop.”

Weatherly continues in regards to the workshop, “I learned so much about productivity. The speakers gave demos on all kinds of command line functions, keyboard shortcuts, and cutting-edge applications. They stressed the importance of being swift when you’re working and never wasting time, effort, or (ultimately) money.” Since attending the workshop, personally I have already implemented several suggestions and the Advanced Web team (several members were in attendance) from Clemson GC is looking forward to finding ways to introduce the workflow solutions in our planned Spring course for Advanced web development.

The next two days were filled with conference presentations. Mason says “Every speaker presented an interesting topic, I don’t think there was a single speaker that did not interest me in some way. There was an essential balance of technical and non-technical presentations. Even if I am not interested in variable emails or WordPress implementations, there was still information that bled through that I can walk away with and utilize in some fashion.” And Katherine agreed that “there were a variety of speakers that spoke on all kinds of subjects, so there was something that everyone in the room could take away at the end of the day.”

Personally, I found the variety of speakers to be incredibly entertaining and inspiring. We have already followed up with several speakers and attendees to try to create an advising committee to help #GCWeb stay on track and relevant as we develop new courses and assignments. Alex has parlayed the conference into future opportunities and internships. He states that he “really enjoyed the time between speakers and sessions where I was able to network with different companies, setting up a tour of one (SparkBox), and receiving a few offers for internships to improve my abilities even farther.”

Alex Horne and Erica Walker presenting at #frontendconf

Alex Horne and Erica Walker presenting at #frontendconf. Photo credit to Patrick Peralta

On day 2, Alex and I presented a talk on the integration of formal and community learning within the web industry. It was an opportunity and honor to share the stage with the other speakers and I was blown away by the response to our presentation. Although it was the first time I had spoken at a conference, it certainly won’t be the last and I am not sure any other conference will make the experience as positive as Front End Conference did.

The event provided opportunities to be wowed and amazed at the opportunities and growth within the web development community. Several companies in attendance were seeking out motivated talent to join their team. Equally as important is hearing the value placed on community and continued learning.

Overall, I would say that #frontendconf is an amazing event to be a part of. As Mason summarizes “the architecture of this conference really made it an entertaining, engaging, and academic experience. A big thank you to the responsible faculty in Clemson University’s Graphic Communications Department.” I couldn’t of said it better myself!

Want to see what makes the conference great? Check out this video by Javier Fick below.

2014 Front-End Design Conference from Javier Fick on Vimeo.