Agile On the Beach 2024 Memories – Day 1

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Agile on the Beach conference (#AOTB2024) in the picturesque setting of Cornwall, UK. I was both excited and a bit nervous about participating in such a legendary community event. And oh god AOTB did not the disappointed – the enriching experience and warm community made it truly unforgettable. Here’s a reflection on the first day, which was filled with insightful talks, engaging discussions, and delightful moments.

Opening Keynote by Dr. Abeba Birhane

The day kicked off with a powerful keynote by Dr. Abeba Birhane, who addressed the crucial topic of “Hate Scaling and Racial Dehumanization: The Real Risks from Large Scale Datasets and Models.”

This topic was not new to me, as i read lot on AI and its use cases, and perspectives. Dr. Birhane’s talk was really interesting because of her academic perspectives and her very structured way to approach the problem – she is a researcher, highlighting the concrete harms of large datasets and AI models, including the amplification of hateful content and societal biases. She eloquently argued against the over-hyped narratives of AI-induced extinction, urging us instead to focus on the real and present dangers regarding minorities, gender and ethnic discrimination, but also on the increasing pollution of the available content on the web. Her recommendations on better dataset curation and policy development were both practical and essential. I left the session with a renewed understanding of the ethical responsibilities we bear as part of the tech community.

Dan Gibson on Funding Product Development

Next, I attended Dan Gibson’s talk, “Fund Products – Start an Evolution.” Dan’s insights into the flaws of traditional Annual Budgeting and Project Management were enlightening. He argued convincingly that these methods often clash with Agile values and fail to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced business environment. Dan introduced alternative funding approaches – like Beyond Budgeting, that supports agility and a product-centric mindset, providing a roadmap for keeping stakeholders and risk-averse departments like Finance on board. His approach using nudges towards a better funding model resonated with me, offering practical steps to enhance business agility.

I really appreciated to see this topic proposed, as it is not so common to listen speakers talking on Beyond Budgeting in agile conferences.

Maryse Meinen on Sustainable Product Development

Maryse Meinen’s session on “Modern Economics for Sustainable Product Development” was another highlight. She passionately discussed the urgent need for systemic change to address climate disaster and how we, as agilists, can contribute. Her crash course on 21st-century economics, circular design, and degrowth was really good. Maryse shared practical tips on integrating sustainability into product development, from modularity and microservices to the sharing principle. Her talk left me inspired to incorporate these principles into my work and reinforced my appreciation for Agile Principle 10: simplicity. Well done Maryse 🙂

After a morning of intense learning, I enjoyed a delicious lunch featuring a brisket and pickle burger and a refreshing salad. It was a perfect break, allowing to recharge and network with fellow attendees in a relaxed setting, and even sunny weather !! woot woot 🥳

Sophie Küster on Mental Health at Work

Post-lunch, Sophie Küster’s talk, “You Don’t Talk About That at Work,” tackled the sensitive topic of mental health in the workplace. Sophie shared her personal journey of opening up about her mental health history and the positive impact it had on her professional life. She discussed the challenges and benefits of breaking taboos around mental health, emphasizing the value of respect, courage, and openness in the Agile community. Sophie’s story is a powerful reminder of the importance of creating a supportive and open work environment.

It was the second time for me to listen to her talk – she gave it at FlowCon Paris, yet the emotion I felt was incredible : her courage and openness are truly inspiring 🥹🫶

Derek Zumsteg on Learning from Failure

In the Product track, Derek Zumsteg’s talk, “I Set Fire to Millions of Expedia’s Dollars and All I Got Was This Talk,” stood out. It was a blast !!!!

Derek’s candid discussion about a major project failure at Expedia was both humorous and enlightening. He walked us through the project’s journey, every step they made and decision they took (asking us “would you have moved forward? i did”) and the lessons learned from its failure. Derek’s emphasis on the value of doubt and the importance of learning from failures was particularly impactful. He encouraged us to embrace it as a learning opportunity and foster open conversations about our own professional missteps.

Neha Datt and Marcel Britsch on Dark Patterns in Product Management

The day continued with Neha Datt and Marcel Britsch’s engaging session on “Product Management Dark Patterns.” They challenged the definition of “good” product practices and highlighted how certain practices, like blitzscaling and hyper-personalization, lead to unsustainable businesses and systemic biases, and even to very problematic (read: unethical to illegal) activities . Their call to address these dark patterns and build sustainable, and inclusive products was a crucial reminder of our responsibility as product leaders.

The day concluded with the much-anticipated beach party at Gyllyngvase Beach. It was a perfect way to unwind and celebrate a day full of learning and growth. The beautiful setting, the amazing food and beer, lively music, and warm camaraderie made it a night to remember regardless of the grey rainy sky or the seagulls attacks 😉

Saty tuned for day 2 memories !