From learning about exciting developments in the tech industry to listening to industry experts sharing their experiences to networking with other developers and tech professionals, attending a conference is a brilliant way to expand your knowledge and boost your tech career. 

One such tech conference is DevConf, a community-driven software developer conference hosted annually in South Africa. 

CodeSpace’s Lead Instructor, Schalk Venter, recently attended the 2023 DevConf as a speaker and delegate. He is super passionate about Mental Health in the Tech Industry and shared more on this topic in one of the sessions. We asked Schalk to share a recap of his time at DevConf.

Here is what he had to say. 

Tell us a bit more about what DevConf is.

DevConf stands as one of the largest and most established conferences in South Africa, with a strong focus on the tech industry. Typically, this event spans a week and takes place in two prominent cities across South Africa. 

In 2023, the conference was hosted in Cape Town at the Cape Town Convention Centre (CTICC) and in Pretoria at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

What were your key takeaways from this year’s conference?

Initially, I expected conversations to be dominated by questions around AI and chatbots. However, it turned out that there seemed to be a much stronger focus on the rapidly changing industry itself. Many recurring speakers reflected on how much the industry has transformed since they last spoke at DevConf a year ago. 

This transformation can be attributed to the current recession, reduced investments in technology, and significant layoffs at major tech conglomerates. A considerable portion of the talks and panel discussions had an operational perspective, with a greater emphasis on the hiring market and the challenges of maintaining software in a more demanding landscape. 

This differs somewhat from previous years when there were more discussions on the practical applications of technologies and tools.

You were a speaker at DevConf this year — what topic did you speak on?

The state of mental health in the tech industry.

Why do you believe there needs to be more light on mental health in the tech industry?

Regrettably, current research and literature depict a rather bleak outlook regarding the overall mental health of individuals working in the tech industry. 

An extensive survey conducted by The Verge immediately after the pandemic revealed that nearly 60% of tech industry workers self-reported actively experiencing burnout. Considering that the industry was in a better state then than it is now, the actual figure in 2023 is likely to be even worse. However, when comparing the resources allocated to mitigating technical and operational risks within teams, it becomes apparent that disproportionately little attention and material resources are devoted to addressing company-wide risk factors associated with employee mental health. 

Even from a purely economic standpoint, the current approaches employed to tackle mental health in the workplace are highly inefficient.

What are your top 3 reasons someone should attend DevConf next year?

As Marc Andreessen, renowned for his early involvement with Netscape, aptly stated, “Software is eating the world.” Despite the recession and a comparative slowdown in growth, the software industry continues to outperform other fields of work by a large margin. However, this rapid growth implies that traditional wisdom and many established practices found in other industries are still being explored and developed. Being immersed in an environment where these conversations take place offers several advantages. 

Firstly, you have the opportunity to actively participate in these discussions and contribute your insights. 

Secondly, it provides a deeper understanding of an industry that is still largely undergoing significant transformations. 

Thirdly, it serves as an opportunity to (using a software engineering metaphor) “sanity check” your own understanding of topics either through questions during official presentations, or informally during a casual discussion over lunch or in hallways on the way to talks.

Attend a tech event in Cape Town

Inspired by Schalk’s experiences at DevConf 2023? You don’t have to wait until next year to enjoy the benefits of attending a tech conference. CodeSpace hosts monthly tech events called Code Conversations for software development students and tech professionals to learn, get inspired, and network. Follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook to find out when our next event is.