This article originally appeared on the Node.js Medium page.

I was awarded the diversity scholarship to attend Node.js Interactive North America 2016 in Austin, Texas. I was excited to have an opportunity to commune with other Node.js developers at the conference. I registered early and met some of the attendees before the event started.

The first morning of the event, we had a discussion about how we can create more diversity in the community (more topics on the subject continued throughout the conference). I was thoroughly impressed by how this conversation didn’t get left as a ‘to-do,’ but more of a priority going forward.

Photo of the diversity breakfast taken by Troy

Photo of the diversity breakfast taken by Troy

The keynotes happened after breakfast — all were very well done. Announcements were made around the state of the Node.js Foundation and how the Node.js ecosystem could be improved.

Node.js is the fastest growing platform in the world. The fact the Node.js Foundation exists proves it wants to move Node.js in a positive direction. Mikeal Rogers mentioned in his keynote that Node.js will start to run on a stable native layer bringing Node.js to places that it doesn’t exist now. This is encouraging to Node.js developers (such as myself) to see that there is future growth in this platform and we can expect great things to come with the contributions from the community and the Foundation.

One of the many awesome sessions at Node.js Interactive

One of the many awesome sessions at Node.js Interactive

After the keynotes, the break led me to find the vendor room where sponsors had booths to showcase how they are using Node.js. From DevOps to security, the sponsors had a lot of things to demo as well as giveaways. I was impressed that all the sponsors were given one room away from the conference to not interfere with the traffic from room to room during breaks and transitioning from each session. This gave the attendees the opportunity to go in whenever they wanted.

From here, it was time for the breakout sessions. The overwhelming topics to choose from made me feel guilty if I didn’t chose the right talk to see. Each talk looked incredibly interesting and all seemed to provide great value to the attendees.

The talks and workshops that I did attend were awesome. Here are a few highlights for me:

Workshop: Node.js and Azure Web Apps by Rachel White and Rachel Weil from Microsoft.

We built a Node.js app using Microsoft’s cloud service Azure using Microsoft’s cognitive API to put sunglasses on faces of people in pictures. They explained and demonstrated the steps necessary to get all of the audience to the same point without leaving anyone behind. They also gave us credits to use with Microsoft Azure. This workshop was fun using the different APIs that Microsoft had to offer. Getting into Internet of things (IoT) for me demonstrated the power that Node.js has outside of traditional web apps.

Workshop: Deploying and Scaling Kubernetes with Ross Kukulinski (who is a native-container expert) and Nathan White of NodeSource

Kubernetes is fairly new to me. I am used to seeing talks with Node.js and Docker, but I wanted to see how using Kubernetes with Node.js can help scale web apps. The set up was a little long at first, but after the setup the commands used to replicate web apps to scale made it a lot easier to understand. It gave me a new tool to now use from a DevOps perspective.

Final Keynote: The Road Forward with Tracy Hinds

The last keynote was from Tracy Hinds of the Node.js Foundation. She told us about the nomination that is available to be an individual membership director and discussed the direction Node.js is striving to go regarding inclusivity and education.

Ultimate Favorite Part of the Conference: Code and Learn and the Collaboration Summit

This was the best part of the conference, in my opinion. I walked in there, never contributing to Node.js, and now I am a Node.js collaborator. There were a lot of Core members present to help with everything. I also received a Node.js pin that was specifically for those that attend the Code and Learn. The small touch made me feel like I was on starship enterprise.

The pin given to all of the Code and Learn participants 

The pin given to all of the Code and Learn participants 

The confidence in the level of skill in programming in Node.js for everyone shot up just in that one sitting. This confidence led to great conversations during the Collaboration Summit that followed Code and Learn.

I was apart of several summits, one being the diversity summit. During this summit, we talked about getting more people of color and women to keynote next year; finding ways to do more scholarships; and how we should influence everyone in the community to contribute to these efforts. The conversation was not only encouraging, but empowering to know that we want to fix it.

The last summit I attended was around Node.js version management. I was definitely intrigued to go to this one as I help maintain N, which is a Node.js version manager. I met with Myles Borins and the others to discuss how we could make Node.js development even better.

No one else that was present represents the tool N, so it was important for me to be there and a part of the conversation. All contributions based on this discussion makes me proud to have been a part of it. If you want to help with the development of N, you can see the repository on github at https://github.com/tj/n. All support is welcomed and it may be a tool that you can use to manage your Node.js versions in the future.

After the conference flying home was bittersweet. I missed home, but felt like I was leaving another family behind in Austin. I made some great friends; had an awesome time; and learned a lot from Node,js Interactive. To have this opportunity (a kid who did eight years in the Navy; went to school to get a degree in computer science; and end up in Austin at Node.js Interactive) is something I never would have thought possible.

Hopefully next year I can be back again, but this time as a speaker. If I was ever on the fence about this conference, there is no doubt in my mind that the answer for me now is ‘yes’.