In today's episode, I talk with Ismael Burciaga, creator of Squares, about conferences and taking a first step into unfamiliar territory.
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Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I have a chance to speak with Ismael Burciaga. This is the last of the Squares Conference series. Ismael is actually the creator of the Squares Conference as well as lines and circles conferences. Each of these with their own focuses go and check out each of these conferences which will be in the show notes that the websites for these conferences will be in the show notes. Today's sponsor is Rollbar. With Rollbar you can detect, diagnose, and defeat errors. Go and check it out Rollbar.com slash Developer Tea and we'll talk about a special offer that Rollbar has for Developer Tealisteners later on in the episode. But first I want to get this interview started with Ismael Burciaga. I'm here at Squares Conference with the creator of Squares Conference and the creator of circles and lines conferences. Ismael Burciaga. Did I get that right? You got it. I always kind of fumble on these names if I've not pronounced them on the air before so I just want to make sure. I'd do that all the time too. I'll fill your paint. Ismael tell me about what these conferences are created for, who they're created for, and if Squares for example is created primarily for developers and for you to talk about it a little bit. So I'll spend a little bit on that. So circles was created first. It was created for actually I worked in the nonprofit world for almost eight years maybe and so I noticed I love going to conferences hanging out at future front end design or front end design conference like all these different conferences I'd love going to them. But I'm anyway the notice there was in the conference for people who worked in nonprofits or worked for nonprofits. So I got a few of my speaking buddies that I knew at the time like Dan Mall, Cameron Mall, Joshua from New Spring Church. I actually feel confident who's here this weekend. And anyways I just reached out to somebody and said hey I'm thinking about doing this conference for these creatives and they all pretty much said yes. So here we are like two months later I'm launching a website. I have no idea how it's going to go and we launched circles conference in 2011. The website of course and then the conference was September 2012. So it was fun. We had about 120 people show up all from different nonprofit organizations. The second one's I got a good turnout. I like everyone's saying hey we had a great time. I was like I'll give it in the shot didn't other year. And then we literally went from 120 to 420. So yeah so we more than doubled. Of course a lot of the work doubled as well. But you know we kind of at that point noticed that we were getting not just nonprofit designers but other creatives that we just wanted to get involved. So we kind of still mix in a little bit of nonprofit designers into the speaking mix. But you know because I want people to know that everyone can design is not just corporate not just startups. But you know nonprofit can do some really good design. So did that for three years and then I forgot who I was with and I was just kind of joking around. Oh should we do one more technical and call it squares. And I just kind of went home that week and I was like hey I actually sounds kind of cool. Yeah. So again I did the same thing I reached out to a few buddies before making any kind of announcements and if I could get a good number of friends to come speak. And in 2015 we launched the first squares which squares conference is again it's not I wouldn't say it's really dev heavy. It's more of just a technical side of what circles is all about. Circles is all about creativity inspiration whereas we come with squares and we talk more how to sessions. You're going to see code on the screens are going to see you know whatever it is it takes it to get you know code done. So it's a mixture of design UX, front end development, back end development. What else do we have business and product. So pretty much what we target is an actual agency. The agency could have a designer they could have a developer. And so we want to try to bring an entire agency to a conference. Not just web developers for not just you know sure. So that was the whole idea behind squares. And then when we did that and we had a great success at squares like well you know what I kind of want to do a blogging conference. Now that I don't any have any like I'm not a blogger. So I'm in that world. So it's a little different. Yeah. But last year we launched a website and we're going to have our first lines conference blogging conference in August. So that one scared more for bloggers writers social media. I don't even know what the titles are like experts I guess. Sure. But it's all about content strategy. And so we're looking forward. Yeah. Yeah. That's great. Great. So I guess you know that's kind of our mix. And then again last year with squares being our first you know second conference we actually threw in designer track which is a non conference more of a retreat. Unconference. Yes. Yeah. I mean I hate to say the word nonconference but I just like to say retreat or a vacation. Sure. I have to be I have to be very specific with certain words because you know they're like oh vacation we're not going to send it. So I would say it's more like a getaway. Okay. A retreat just a refresh. I guess summit. Yes. Exactly. So anyways that so we're having our second one this year. We're going to South Lake Tahoe for three or four days. And so looking forward to it. And you know I just my thing is I love bringing people together. And you know I learned a lot going to conferences. I think it's a big tool for people who want to learn or hungry to be better at what they do. Yeah. I totally agree. I you know the thing I love about this story about how you've kind of ramped these conferences up from nothing to you know really successful designs especially circles but the other ones now are growing into that same space is how approachable it is right. So the people who are speaking at these conferences many times as a developer if I go to a conference it feels like the people who are on the stage are so much further down the road. They know so much more than I do or you know somehow they've accomplished something that I haven't accomplished there on the in club. And I have not gotten that that sense at squares I've actually been able to approach every speaker very easily. And I think you know it's important that the people who are listening to this show and the people who are going to conferences whether it's squares or circles or other conferences around the country or around the world. Of course that they understand that you know these people are people. Yes. That you had this joke idea of starting squares and then it just became a reality because you decided to do it. Of course it wasn't like a mastermind group of people got together and decided you know through some long or a dueous process that squares was the next thing that was going to make the world better. It was you know an idea that you had that you just decided to act on really really incredible. That's pretty much yeah thank you appreciate it. It's just again like you don't know if you don't try something does that make sense like yeah you know we all have dreams we all have things that we want to do in life but if you don't like step out there you never enough what it could be you know I almost canceled the first circles just because I got scared that oh my gosh no one's going to come. Yeah or even doing the second one like you know we you know we weren't here trying to make money or anything we're just like okay I had just left my job of six years I just had a kid that year it's a lot going on in my personal life so financially probably wasn't the smartest time to do a conference but you know we made it through you know it's scary as always you know but we made it through and I say you know what let's give it one more chance you know one more shot and we more than doubled and you know ever since then we've sold out the third year and sold out the last year which was the fourth year and you know we are looking forward to this new fifth year anniversary we're a little bit about that we're going 80s so cool yeah so you know it's I've seen some of the designer on the conference thanks me appreciate it so yeah so our thing is you know my thing is you won't know unless you try and so that's what kind of pushes me you know it's scary it's you're taking a risk but I guess I don't I wouldn't really sell my risk taker but when it comes to conferences I am so yeah I think the first couple of episodes of Developer Teawere technically a risk you know sure anything that somebody steps out and does on their own that somebody is not directly telling them and handing them money to do yeah that that is some kind of risk of course it's incredibly important that we are willing to you know calculate those risks and and but also step out and take those risks right you know don't be don't be foolish but sure but also don't be timid yeah there's there's there's there's somewhere between foolish and timid that that is kind of that sweet spot of taking a daring step and doing something that you've never done before of course and it could be anything it doesn't have to be a podcast or conference it can be you know maybe trying to do side projects on your own of course building your own website and marketing something we're starting your own agency you know yeah sure I know people who been wanting to do it for years and finally after like three or four years they just finally did it and went out on their own yeah it was tough but now they're successful they're you know they're they have a small team you think two years ago they didn't have anything so it's cool to see people take risks you never know what's going to be like two or three years from now I don't know where line is going to be two three years from now I don't know where square is going to be two three years from now maybe squares is a part of circles in the future you know we don't know but right now we take it one step at a time and we'll do we're looking forward to a third year next year which we haven't announced so I should probably tell my guys that but yeah so we're you know we're excited and you know with everyone saying how much fun they've had and how much they've learned here that's stuff that excites me like man like people are coming you know we did when I did circles in 2013 I met with the creative director of the Houston Astros came out which is a major league baseball team and he sat with me one night at at a waffle house and we talked and he's like man I got this idea I want to I want to do something like this but for the creatives of the major league baseball for the teams out there so that's cool that sounds great man well you know we just chatted I gave him some tips and like what I learned and the mistakes I've made and how that has caused me to grow even further and what we do and so we just kind of planned about it and then like a few months later he's like I'm in let's do it now it's not my conference but I love helping my buddy out and we had our first major league it's called major league creatives or major league creatives conference wow that's cool so yeah so yeah we we geared just for the major league baseball and we had about 32 people now the crowd size is a little different it's not we're not appealing to every designer just people who work in a professional baseball team right you have a large coverage with 32 people right so even at that planning for that you know with no budget no sponsors and you know we made it happen we did it had a great year in the second year we opened it up to all major league teams sports so we had NFL network their last year we had we had the major league soccer and we had NBA there so it's again it's just something that my friend had an idea again he asked me a few ideas some questions you just want to know more about it and here we are two years later we're actually going on to our third year so you know it's it's fun because I grew up playing baseball you know some of these designers you they're not like you know they're not like you're going to see them speaking at conferences no one probably knows their names but I grew up playing baseball so hanging out with you know hanging out with these great is that work for the Houston Astros or the Chicago Cubs or a dream for you like now hanging out with these people that actually like work for a baseball team or a football team so yeah so it's cool to see those types of things bring up and then we also had another girl same year wanted to do some similar to that with circles and she we we talked for a couple months and then like literally four months later she launches a website called yellow conference and it scared more for women an entrepreneurial wanting to make a better change in the world and that you know they again they did great now they're going on to a third year and from what I've heard they sold out their second year so it's cool to see the the stuff that if I wouldn't done what I did maybe those conferences wouldn't be around as well right yeah I hope you're enjoying my interview with Ismael Bersiaga if you are go ahead and take a minute and talk to him on Twitter let him know that you appreciate him being on Developer Teahis Twitter handle is at Bersiaga that's B-U-R C-I-A-G-A of course that link will be in the show notes now while you're tweeting to Ismael I'm going to talk about today's sponsor roll bar with roll bar you get the context insights in control you need to find and fix bugs faster in a little bit. Let's face it dealing with errors really sucks it's very stressful and it can be difficult to rely on users to report errors you have to dig through all of your logs maybe you try to try to create your own notification system like I did where it emails you every time it hits an exception but that ends up being ignored or somehow doesn't work properly but roll bar does this right roll bar works with all major languages and frameworks you can start tracking production errors and deployments in eight minutes or less now the way I set it up is I integrate it with slack of course you can integrate it with hip chat or create issues in Jira Asana maybe pivotal tracker you can integrate roll bar with all these things some of the people using roll bar of course I said I use roll bar but also people like Heroku Twilio kayak Zendesk Insta Cart Twitch major major organizations are using roll bar and you can use it for free for 90 days that's 300,000 errors that you get to track for free by going to roll bar dot com slash Developer Teathat's roll bar dot com slash Developer Tea of course that link can be found in the show notes at spec dot FM thank you so much to roll bar for sponsoring Developer Teaso you're starting a conference consulting yes right you know I don't know if I like to help people out you know people have asked me so do you do consulting services like nah just if you're my friend we'll talk whatever you know I just love sharing you know my thing is I love the community I love people and it's cool to see things happen because of you started something you know yeah yeah so to me it's just a privilege to see that yeah absolutely I hear some similar feelings coming from you that I have at spec we have other podcasts that are running through the network now and if we hadn't started to spec they wouldn't be able to you know of course this content that people around the world are listening to it's really really cool so I want to switch gears to a totally different topic here regarding conferences let's say I'm a developer sure and I'm wanting to go and speak at a conference sure can you give maybe two or three kind of point out like lessons or tips to developers who are or even and developers does not really really who want to go and speak at a conference to maybe help them gain the confidence to put that out there yeah so I guess the few words I would have is you know something that we look at is I mean what we want to bring is someone who one knows their content so knowing what you're you want to talk about and being you don't want to preach something you're not doing because you can say you can speak about CSS 3 but if you're not a CSS 3 animator you know people are going to notice that you know yeah so you want you got to know your content too if you want to get in the speaking role I think starting at workshops or starting at panels that's what we do if we if you never really spoken out of conference before we'll work your way up in a way because you know it's I've been at conferences where the developers just you're like oh wow he's not prepared you know yeah and it makes the organ is a look bad sure but you know so we like to okay let's try a workshop let's do a workshop first how did the workshop go well this guy's great you know let's move him up to you know let's move up to speaker next year so we have a little process that we go through but you know just being being yourself don't be you know I know some people are are shy like I'm shy I don't like to speak in front of you so I'm more of the behind the scenes guy yeah I'd like to just put people together and let and let the MC's run the show so but even being up there and saying hi and you know I get I get nervous I don't know why but but yeah so it's like you got to learn how to overcome that and I think the more gigs that you can you can learn it and more workshop to do or even like doing a podcast I mean being yourself is always is always the key yeah yeah something that you said earlier while we were here at the at the conference is that you actually don't like to like you just mention you don't like to get up on station speak and I think that's another really important thing for really anybody in this field to know is you know learn what you're good at right learn what you're what you are not good at or what you don't really want it maybe you don't want to speak maybe you're feeling the pressure to speak because you're a developer maybe you just don't really have the the and don't use this as an excuse to just not speak right but maybe speaking isn't something that comes natural to you or maybe you just don't even want to you don't enjoy it and there's no reason to do it and instead you go and organize the conference right or you go do you know do something else of value I love putting people together that's my thing it's like I can I can find speakers I can find volunteers I can find a great team to support my idea yeah and because I worked at a church for about three or four years and we're talking about a mega church that runs events for like two three thousand people or even more you know you learn okay for this event any graphics any banter she need a you know video screen you need an MC so being around that for a long time when I did circles okay I had a list okay we need banners we need programs we need you know we need a website we need you had those details yeah I heard the details covered because I did it for so long so the thing to me that has been a breeze however it's managing sometimes the conference details like yeah so why should I do it so I've always hired an event coordinator throughout the years a couple years ago I brought in an event corner full-time circles has been at a spot where it's successful and it allows me to hire a full-time event corner to handle all the details awesome because now we have three conference just to put together so it's a full-time game yeah and there's literally so you know she's done a great job and you know her name's Joe and she's she's my backbone to everything I do that's great that's great well you smell I appreciate your time I appreciate you creating such a great environment for developers designers and all the people in the in the digital field I was blown away by the almost exact middle split of designers and developers in this audience so thank you so much for doing what you do thank you I appreciate thanks for having me absolutely thank you again to Ismael for coming on to Developer Tea for having me out to squares this year I look forward to a future conferences where I get to come and talk to Ismael again hopefully I'll get a chance to go to squares again next year and some of Ismael's other conferences thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea of course another huge thank you to today's sponsor roll bar with roll bar you can detect diagnose and defeat your errors and it takes just a few minutes to get it set up don't forget you get 90 days for free to use roll bar 90 days for free that's 300,000 errors just go to roll bar.com slash Developer Teanow if you are like roll bar and you want to reach out to a large group of developers for your product head over to spec.fm slash sponsors that's how you can get a sponsorship spot on Developer Tea and we have a few opening later on this year if you're enjoying Developer Tealet everyone know by going to iTunes and leaving us a review this is the best way to help other developers just like you find Developer Teanow I'm not just saying that think about how you found Developer Teaor how you find podcasts you go and read reviews this is the easiest way to help other people understand why they should check it out so go and leave a review in iTunes it's a huge help to the show and to other people who you think would benefit from listening to this show as always thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea today the show wouldn't exist without the incredible audience 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