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Next week a coworker and I are being sent to a local coding conference. This morning our manager sent us an email pretty much telling us we need to take our laptops and hinted at doing a google document so he can see us take notes in real time. This really rubbed me the wrong way and both of us emailed him back. These emails I have posted below. I'm wondering if you guys have encountered these types of expectations from your bosses. I've been a professional programmer for over 10 years and have never had this type of micro management about being sent to a conference. Just wondering if "coworker" and I are not seeing things clearly or if our boss is being a little weird about this.


From: Boss Sent: Friday, March 25, 2011 11:51 AM To: Coworker; Me Subject: Re: DevConnections next week

Really guys? Whatever works for you, I guess. But I'm expecting that you have detailed enough notes to adequately share sessions you attend, including any URLs for supporting information, etc. This is not a "would be nice" but a professional expectation for attendance at these type of events.

--Boss

On 3/25/11 10:08 AM, "Coworker" wrote:

The hotel where the conference is being held is huge. "Lugging around your laptop" is an accurate description he he.

I myself am not a classical learner. I learn by paying attention, participating in the class topic, and asking questions. If I try to take notes it's destructive to my learning process. A gifted teacher in community college, Dr. Phar, pointed this fact out to me and told me I was a "visual learner". After that I was able to excel in college and obtain my Master's Degree.

To meet Boss's requirements I generally take a half day after the conference to put together some presentation material for the team.

Coworker

-----Original Message----- From: Me Sent: Friday, March 25, 2011 9:48 AM To: Boss; Coworker Subject: RE: DevConnections next week

Thanks for the reminder. I was definitely planning to take a notebook to take notes and have no problem sharing information I come back with, but I would rather not lug around the laptop if I have the choice. Is that ok? Maybe we could take our laptops and keep them in the trunk in case of a work emergency? What do you think?

Me

-----Original Message----- From: Boss Sent: Friday, March 25, 2011 8:39 AM To: Me; Coworker Subject: DevConnections next week

Coworker / Me,

Don't forget to take your laptops next week and take notes to share with the team. As in the past, we can schedule a review session to share the highlights. Maybe use Google Docs and share your notes with me and . >Also, take some time to coordinate your session attendance to help hit all the good topics.

Have fun, Boss

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+1 - Funny, before I read your co-workers response of being a "visual learner" I imagined having the exact same problem. Cant learn and take notes...its one or the other for this dude. I certainly dont have a long winded answer for this. Its some nasty Micro. Agree 100% –  P.Brian.Mackey Mar 25 '11 at 21:19
    
Sounds like your boss has been sniffing twitter markers. –  Evan Plaice Mar 25 '11 at 21:29
    
Real nice of him to suck the fun out of it and turn it into a work assignment. –  kirk.burleson Mar 26 '11 at 1:23
    
I'm incredibly curious what city you live in, because a company I used to work at had a boss exactly like this. Well, almost exactly. This one even dictated that two or more developers shouldn't attend the same session, because it would be a waste. –  Kyralessa Mar 26 '11 at 1:52
    
Sunny Orlando FL! –  user21195 Mar 26 '11 at 2:58
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4 Answers

Are you reacting to the request or the way it was put over? I don't think it's unusual or unreasonable to say "in return for getting a day off for training, I'd appreciate it if you could share what you learned - either a blog post, wiki entry or a presentation is fine."

I can see why anyone would react to being asked to do live updates though. It feels a bit like saying "I want to be sure that you're actually there all day." That said, it's unlikely that this was what was going on in his head; he probably just failed to sell it well.

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Ya, I have no problem doing a presentation or a "mind share" or whatever based on what I got on the conference. We went to a local code camp last year and we all shared what we got from each of the sessions. That was just a one day code camp. This is a 3 day conference and he wants very detailed notes from every session we go to. –  user21195 Mar 25 '11 at 21:28
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I don't think it's unreasonable at all to ask that you provide some sort of recap of what was covered in the conference. It's pretty much expected of attendees to give some sort of presentation to your teammates (assuming not all went).

In a team environment, it shouldn't be about getting smarter than those around you; it should be about those attending these continuing education sessions making everyone else smarter and/or better at their jobs.

PS -- Anything real-time is unreasonable (and probably a little unethical since they didn't pay for themselves to attend remotely).

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At first it seemed like he just wanted to make sure you were paying attention at the conference. Being able to share the basics when you get back seems acceptable as it would give him insight on if this is a good use of company resources.

However, the last email gets oddly specific mentioning URLs and supporting data. This makes me think he might be trying to have you get as much information out of the conference as possible so he won't have to send anyone else ever again. You and your coworker will have already collected the information for the company and they will then be able to do training themselves.

Either way, I think pdr makes a good point of he probably did a bad job of explaining what he actually wants and did not give a why.

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It is not unreasonable to require a developer give a presentation of what was learned at a conference if the company is footing the bill. How you create the materials for your presentation (written or otherwise) I would say is your choice. Talk to your boss about what the actual intent is. My guess is he doesn't actually care if you take notes or not during the conference so long as you can put together the write up or presentation later.

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