My Bristech: Catching up with speakers past (Part 1)

by Bobby Marsh

Friday 30th August, Bristol, UK


In anticipation of this year’s conference, I recently spoke to two of our past speakers (see Bristech 2018) to garner their reflections of the day and to also hear about life “post-Bristech”.

The first of our speakers is Ben Byford (pictured, left). Ben has a lot to say when it comes to the ethics of AI - check out his Machine Ethics Podcast.

In his conference talk last year he dived head-first into the issues prevalent in the industry: the design, business, data and algorithms that make up a holistic view towards ethical AI.

James Strachan is the second of our interviewees (pictured, right). In 2018, James was focused on how cloud native strategies can help deliver business value quickly and continuously.

He spent the majority of the talk demonstrating how to get stuff done with JenkinsX, a Kubernetes-native Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery platform


I asked them both:

What are your favourite memories of the day?

For Ben, the sheer topic diversity was paramount, which has been echoed by other speakers, some drawing parallels with the Berlin Buzzwords conference in Germany. From ethics to the programming language Rust, from VR to Women-in-tech, Bristech goes “breadth first” and hosts a wide variety of technical as well as “softer” topics. 

James’ favourite memory was more of a feeling (than a specific memory) focused around Bristech’s people and venue.  He cited the “overflowing enthusiasm and interest” which Bristech is proud to create via a supportive community of tech lovers. A good venue helps this cause and Bristol's Watershed venue, a digital cinema, boasts an outstanding AV setup. And need we mention the ice cream and popcorn? 


What surprised you about Bristech 2018?

For Ben, Bristech’s popularity came as a complete surprise! The venue was at capacity on the day and the 500 delegates were clearly engaged and stimulated by the talks. Definitely not a “staid” conference in any sense and high production values were in evidence throughout the day, from the all-vegan lunch to the carefully curated speakers who were all chosen by Call for Papers (CFP) process over the summer months.

Other than Bristech’s popularity, James was also surprised with Kubernetes’ popularity. As a technical consultant he’s used to being the only person in the room who can “go deep”. It came as a shock to him that his deep technical interests were shared (and in some cases surpassed!) by the Bristech delegates.

What would you say to people considering sending in an idea for a talk for Bristech 2019?

“Don't sell the audience your product,” suggests Ben. “Give them something valuable, useful and interesting to think about - and hopefully entertaining to boot too.” 

Ben’s words of wisdom aligns well with Bristech’s core aim to inform, inspire and entertain the audience with valuable insights, knowledge and personal witness.

James’ advice riffed on a famous sportswear brand: “If you are considering submitting a talk, Just Do It!”

Speaking can be daunting the first time you try (and even the second and third time too!) but I would suggest that if you are unsure, try out your talk at a meetup event first. Certainly “just do it” but perhaps in a more “potted” way; public speaking is an art and you will definitely improve with each appearance.

James also felt that his experience at Bristech was “hugely personally rewarding” and a great way to meet new people in the locality with similar or overlapping interests. As a network of 2.5k technical professionals there are bound to be people outwith your own organisation who share your passion.


What’s life like post-Bristech?

It will soon be a year since Bristech 2018, and a fading memory despite the video recordings of all the talks - so what have our speakers been up to since that time?

Ben has been working on more talks and workshops since his presentation in 2018. He explained that he’s been continuing many interesting conversations leading-on from the event and hopes to come back to talk again in 2020 with the many fruits of his more recent labours.

James has connected with a bunch of contacts in the Kubernetes ecosystem whom he met at Bristech. With a broader network and unprecedented opportunities, speaking at Bristech has only resulted in positives for him. In fact, he loved it so much he will be attending again this year - but this time on the “other side” from a comfy cinema seat.

We are always on the lookout for authentic voices to speak at both our conference and meetup events.

For Bristech 2019, our Call For Speakers is currently open and accepting submissions until midday on Monday 2nd September.

Bristech Conference 2019 will be on Thursday 7th November 2019 at the Watershed, Bristol. Tickets are on sale.


About Bobby

With a background in social media and event marketing, Bobby Marsh is highly creative with a flair for fun impactful content. After working in Nottingham for a few years after graduating, Bobby felt the call of Bristol and returned back to his home city.