“I love how DevCon brought engineers from across the company together,” says software engineer Fredrik Østrem. “I enjoyed learning from people I usually don't get to interact with much as they shared things they're passionate about.”
Cognite coders from every part of the company began the day with a stroll through an 8bit landscape built in gather.town just for the occasion. Their avatars passed fountains, ice cream trucks, Pride flags, and tiny versions of Boston Dynamics’ Spot before entering the virtual conference hall.
Taking the main stage via Google Meet was Senior Vice President of Engineering, Anette Beckstron Holtedahl, ready to kick off the day with an important message:
“Setting aside time to learn is hugely valuable. It’s also hard at Cognite because we are moving so fast. We are so solution-oriented. But the simple truth is that we need time to gather input—as individuals, teams, and as a product development organization—in order to create the best solutions.”
As Cognite grows, DevCon becomes an increasingly important cornerstone of engineering culture. After cancelling the annual event in 2020 due to COVID-19, Cognite CTO Geir Engdahl decided not to make the same mistake again.
“We can’t wait for the ‘right time’ to bring Engineering together for something this vital,” says Geir. “It was hard to plan while not knowing how we’d be affected by COVID restrictions, so we decided to make it an epic hybrid event.” Geir joined a crew of volunteer Cogniters to stuff and ship bags of swag—DevCon t-shirts, badges, lanyards, and stickers—to all attendees the week before the event.
The most important part of DevCon is the speaker line-up. Cogniters did deep dives and lightning talks on everything from Rust, to scaling industrial machine learning, to Lidar point clouds, to sustainable technologies.
Software Engineer Anna Gadacz was one of the 30+ Cognite speakers. “My topic was about the process in which our COVID registration app came to life,” says Anna.
Cognite has been committed to getting Cogniters back into the office safely as soon as possible in 2021. The solution involved a quick-COVID test program. Slots for the program were limited, and after spreadsheets proved less than ideal, Anna created a registration app to keep track of who was in the office at all times.
The app had a huge impact on Cognite, making Anna one of DevCon’s highlighted speakers. “It was a small task for me, but it taught me big lessons about product development,” says Anna.
She also attended the rest of DevCon. “My favorite talk was ‘X-Ray interpretation with Deep Learning,’” she says, referencing a talk by data scientist colleague, Liushifeng Chen. His session demonstrated the way machine learning could be used to help dentists locate cavities in dental x-rays.
“Medicine plus machine learning is my passion, and the presentation was really interesting!” Anna says.
The program closed with a global keynote from Åsmund Eldhuset, staff software engineer at Khan Academy and a legendary exam lecturer from the Norwegian Technical University (NTNU). He called in from California to talk about “Rearchitecting in the time of COVID,” and called out Cognite’s commitment to Togetherness as crucial to having a strong, healthy engineering culture.
“We’re committed to making sure DevCon brings value to all coders at Cognite,” says Anette. “Our message to everyone who came was, ‘Be here. Be present. Be open to learning and sharing.’ And it really seemed like they took the message to heart.”
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