Two weeks ago week, 15 Skookum employees ventured to Columbia, SC to make friends, eat fried food, and learn. The occasion? ConvergeSE, premier web conference of the Southeast.

Since ConvergeSE's inception 6 years ago, Skookumites have both attended and spoken alongside industry leaders about Design, Front-end Development, Back-end Development, and Business. Sales Director Pat Morrell represented the Space Volcano this year, delivering a talk about Profitable Innovation on the Business track (slides here).

2015 is the first year that ConvergeSE has had an open call for speakers, and that was definitely reflected in the conference's lineup, which featured more diversity than previous years—particularly in the development tracks. The overall quality of presentations has steadily improved as well; I didn't attend any sessions that were thinly-veiled marketing, and the speakers in general were more professional and prepared than years past.

Highlights

  • ConvergeSE this year was quite keynote-heavy, with 4 keynotes taking up the first half of each day at the Music Farm, a popular local music venue. While I have mixed feelings about motivational speaking at tech conferences, most of the keynotes I saw were top-notch and relevant to the industry, not just run-of-the-mill feel-good positive-thinking stuff. It was also nice for all of the attendees to spend some time in the same room, especially since the tracks took place in different buildings. My favorite keynote was Elyse Holladay's I Have No Idea What I'm Doing.
  • My absolute favorite technical talk was Matters in Motion: Or how Rob Lowe should animate the web by Rachel Smith, developer at Active Theory (she's also hilarious and Australian). While I've dabbled in front-end animation before, it was eye-opening to learn about more advanced topics like emulating physics in a way that was approachable.
  • Along the same lines, I greatly enjoyed former Skookumite Hunter Loftis' talk about applying game development principles to our apps. I'm really looking forward to finding some creative ways to apply motion interactions to future projects here at Skookum.
  • While I didn't personally attend (since I haven't mastered being in two places at once), Katie Kovalcin's "The Path to Performance" was a crowd favorite among Skookumites. How design influences and impacts performance is definitely not discussed enough and I love that Katie is driving the conversation about that by taking this presentation to so many conferences this year and hosting a podcast about it.

Conclusion

This was my third year attending, and it's been fun watching the event grow from local to regional in scope. It's clear that organizers Gene Crawford and Giovanni DiFeterici know how to balance fun, learning, and inspiration. My first ConvergeSE three years ago led to my employment at Skookum, which is a testament to the cool people you can meet there.

I highly recommend checking out Unmatched Style's future events.