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How do you sell to the company management to send developers to user conferences? For now, lets just assume we'd opt for in-country conferences as a start.

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closed as not constructive by Walter, Yannis Rizos Mar 7 '12 at 17:15

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6 Answers

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If your boss does not understand how important these conferences are (and I think they are more important for keeping devs up-to-date than any tutorial or a book) and you need to "sell" the idea, maybe it's time to move on.

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@Jas: Pretty true. I realize that if I have to explain the obvious, then obviously something is wrong. Time to move on. –  Fanatic23 Dec 18 '10 at 13:17
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@Jas: world is not populated by people that have the same experiences, same values, same interests, same personality, same culture than you. You have to do some efforts to convince and interact with those people that are not you. Your life will be filled with such situation and you will have to learn how to defend your opinions, instead of escaping any unpleasant confrontation by quitting. Unless, of course, there is no hope your boss to consider your ideas. In that case, quitting is the only solution and must be encouraged. –  user2567 Dec 18 '10 at 16:33
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@Jas: oh yes, I have the same desire as you. It could change the world. But for some reasons I can't explain in a tiny comment, this is not going to happen anywhere soon. Our role as experts, is to help them understand the benefits we are talking about. Actually, it's what I'm expecting from my employees. To bring me visibility on their needs and how they think they can improve the organization. A manager alone will NEVER know everything. And as I said in introduction, it's not even possible to have many of them being even aware of how they should manage software teams. –  user2567 Dec 18 '10 at 16:50
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I have never found the argument, "I shouldn't have to persuade anyone -- they should just know", to be very persuasive. –  Marcie Dec 19 '10 at 13:57
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What if my boss isn't a Software manager? I'm the most senior Software person at the company, and my boss is the Managing Director who's training is as a Mining Engineer. Does that count as a real degree? I'm not saying he can't be convinced I'm just saying your answer is about as useful as slapping him in the face. –  Cameron MacFarland May 17 '11 at 6:43
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First thing to do is actually ask. There is a huge number of people just afraid to even ask something to their boss. In many case, if what you ask is reasonable, you will get it.

It works for salary increase, new computer, day off, etc. You have much more influence than you think.

Like I explain in this answer, your boss must see the value in it for him. If your boss wants you to be more productive, you will have to prove it will make your more productive. If your boss obsession is to make you happy in your work life, you will have to prove it it will be the case.

Important thing to consider: your boss will not allocate time to himself to calculate the benefits of your request himself. You have to come with a written document that supports it.

  1. So for your conference, calculate its total cost. It is entrance costs + travel costs. Add how much the company loose to have you out.

  2. Now calculate the benefits. For conference, my proposed strategy is to compare it to training. Most bosses know the importance of trainings. The big advantage of conference is that you will see many valuable speakers for far cheaper than training. It's also an opportunity to do networking.

I would like to go to [conference] this year. This year the conference content will be very valuable to our project. It only cost a third of what we would have spent in off site training.

As I said, the simple fact to ask is enough in most case.

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We used to send the whole development team to an annual conference. It cost a lot, but it was good for the team to get away and it was about the only annual training they got anyhow. Once upon a time it was fairly easy to justify. The GFC sort of stopped that though. It all depends on the management. Ask. The worst that can happen is for them to say NO. –  quickly_now Dec 18 '10 at 12:02
    
@quickly_now: yes sending the whole team has the advantage to reinforce it. They will create links between them as they experience something great together. That's a wonderful management act you did. –  user2567 Dec 18 '10 at 12:06
    
I wish I could say it was me that did it. I think I approved it one time... the managers before me were pretty good about spending training money. Sadly, I had a lot more constraints and pressure from above to stop spending. –  quickly_now Dec 19 '10 at 0:59
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Every developer should have a more experienced person as their daily mentor to inspire them and show them the way to become better. For senior developers this is frequently not possible, and then conferences come in as a cheap substitute, because the speakers ARE the senior developer mentors.

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The best development happens when the developer is the user. Being your own user is just about the best way to make sure you working on the things that matter and that you give priority to fixing even relatively minor annoyances.

That's not always possible, naturally. And so the next best thing is to educate the developer on the user's perspective. Conferences are one way of going this. If I were to pitch such an idea to my manager, I would definitely focus the above angle.

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When developing, i found out the hard way that generally when a client speacks about what he/she needs, it uses terms that generally are quite ambiguos. This could be because they are repeating something they sow or they cant express their ideas just because they dont really know what they need.

Keeping up with the latests tecnology and computer science progress opens up our minds and increase the toolkit when dealing with complex clients, and giving the best up to date response.

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There's a bigger picture here: there seems to be an idea firmly established in OOP and XP (and "agile" generally) that the more your design, coders and code itself uses the language of the problem domain (ie the language and concepts of your end users), the more chance of project success because of better communication and mutual understanding between developers and customers.

If your organization buys in to that fundamental principle, then going to user-domain conferences is a very natural corollary. As is sending developers to observe users using your (and competitors') products "in the field", getting basic and intermediate-level training courses in the problem domain run in-house for all developers and just generally giving learning in the problem domain field parity with "coder skills" learning.

Doesn't need to be the biggest and best user-sphere conference you go to (these are generally very expensive, and overwhelming as a first exposure to the user's world). Keep a look out for local symposium/workshop/seminar/lecture type events of your user's professional organizations and build some basic knowledge first.

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