Conference Report: IT Days 2018

I have been going to Cluj-Napoca for a dozen years as a consultant and as a speaker at a number of conferences. This week I had the pleasure of being there again and delivering a keynote presentation on “Managing Complexity and Chaos in the Workplace” at IT Days 2018.

Casa de Cultură a Studenţilor

There were apparently 800 people written in to the conference, but that includes people working at sponsor stands and some who don’t show – it is still a lot of attendants for a town that size. If you do not know Cluj, it is the capital of Transylvania and a town that is heavily dominated by the software industry (I know, Transylvania and pale, pasty people… the jokes are too easy to write). Because of the relatively recent impact of 40 years of communist dictatorship, the IT community here is young, vibrant and eager – eager to learn, eager to improve, eager to do, eager never to fall back into the levels of utter poverty in which their parents lived.

Of course, at a conference like this, most of the talks are either technology based or in Romanian, so I admit I did not understand everything. After so many years working in the software industry, I should know more, but as time goes by, I know less and less about programming and the languages used. However, it is important to participate in conferences like this, and to listen to what people are saying whenever possible. This is where the future is coming to life. I do know that all the speakers have strict instructions to explain how wonderful their company is and only show good things, in the hope of maybe picking up a client or a new employee. As a consequence, they are promoting new technologies, new solutions, practical ways of implementing old solutions, etc. The jargon filters through these conferences and becomes common speech. In my job, I listen to people, I try to understand what are their problems are and so it is important to understand that jargon.

While I will not create a list of the talks and topics, whether I attended them or not (as there were 4 parallel tracks, I could not listen to everything, and certainly did not understand many of them), I did want to give a salute to the introduction by the mayor of Cluj. It is not often that I hear a politician or a business leader giving such a clear vision for the future. There were some points on which I would have like to challenge him, of course, but in general he appears to have understood the key problems of the town and is tackling them, starting with the main pain-points through infrastructure, development and collaboration between the city, the people, the businesses and others.

Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca

My talk was an introduction to complexity and chaos, and the Cynefin framework. It was well received and I was answering questions for some two hours afterwards – more to do with my work in communication and culture than with the framework. The presentation was filmed and will be put online in the coming weeks or months.

I also got to hear a presentation given by Sir John Dermot Turing, the nephew of Alan Turing (yes, I live in Bletchley and went all the way to Romania to hear a talk about the luminary of Bletchley Park). A fascinating talk in which Sir John demonstrated his competence not only on his uncle’s life but also relater to the research he has done on artificial intelligence and the evolution of computing.

It is always a pleasure to be able to attend a well organised conference, and an honour to be asked to give a keynote talk. Add to this the pleasure of meeting a lot of intelligent people who are eager to learn and it was a very good couple of days, indeed.