8th Light’s annual learning and development budget affords colleagues some time and money to pursue learning in their own way, and many team members enjoy attending conferences as another way to pull new insights and fascinations into their daily work.
This article compiles the highlights from three team members’ recent conference experiences: talent acquisition specialist Juan Santana attended Collision Conference, designer Hani Kruger attended Config, and UK business development director John Burrans was one of several colleagues who attended London Tech Week. Each colleague shares their experiences, perspectives, and insights.
Discussing AI at Collision 2023
It was the experience of a lifetime representing 8th Light at this year's Collision Conference in Toronto. Whether AI was on the agenda or not, tech leaders were challenged to give their opinions on how AI might impact their industry and product.
The reality is that we will continue to see businesses leverage AI technology in their products at a rapid pace, and The Security and Privacy Behind AI was one talk that spoke to the ways we can ensure the security and privacy of data processed by AI systems. Legal and ethical considerations are a critical factor in building trust with customers and stakeholders.
I also enjoyed two talks that addressed the elephant in the room: Will AI replace my job as a designer or developer? Several leaders spoke at length on how designers and developers should see their roles evolve now that AI tools are gaining prominence. In AI: The Designer’s CoPilot, Hovhannes Avoyan explained AI has the power to analyze large datasets, identify patterns, and provide insights to aid designers in making informed decisions about user experience, interface design, and functionality.
We see AI as not a replacement for human creativity. We see AI as a copilot, an assistant — Somebody helping you to be more productive to create and have fun.
Similarly, Is the engineer dead? explored how AI provides opportunities for engineers to focus on higher-level tasks that require creativity and problem solving, while routine and repetitive coding tasks can be automated. This allows teams to invest more time in innovation, architectural design, and optimizing algorithms. Not to mention the value-add for developer experience.
And finally, I enjoyed a few talks about the future of our new digital world. AI & Web3 and Will Generative AI Contribute to the Rise or Demise of SaaS? both showcased the many opportunities that await us if we’re able to make the most of these new tools. As AI continues to advance, we can expect SaaS products to become even more intelligent, empowering businesses with innovative capabilities that drive growth and success in the digital era.
Designing For the Future at Config 2023
Config is the annual conference held by Figma, the design tool of choice for our team. One of the big releases this year is Dev Mode, which will make it easier for developers to work with Figma and collaborate with designers using their tool of choice. I’ll also highlight three more presentations that left an impression on me.
“Generative AI and the creative arms race.” presented by Ovetta, director of UX machine learning at Google, was really inspiring. She spoke about how there’s been a lot of discourse about what creativity means now that we’ve seen AI models “write” Shakespearean poems in the style of Gen Z, or “paint” an animal in the place of the Mona Lisa. She reminded us that “we have advantages as humans that lead us to be more creative than machines could ever be.” She emphasized that we as humans take risks, and that having an adventurous spirit fosters creativity. We break rules, which leads to innovation. We daydream, which facilitates our problem-solving capabilities. And our life experiences, those that include pain and suffering, often inspire us creatively.
In “Transparency Always Wins,” a designer who used to work at Blinkist tells the story of redesigning their seven-day trial system by implementing a fifth day reminder to alert users that their trial is running out. Users had been reporting that they felt as though they were being cheated out of their money when getting auto-enrolled in the year-long subscription after the trial, which is a problem seen in many apps. She spoke about finding the right balance between business goals and user needs and finding that sweet spot — and how there shouldn’t be a dichotomy of ethics or conversion. You can do both together.
Finally, in “The Future of Responsive Design,” two engineers at Google discussed how responsive design is changing with component-based responsive capabilities and more function theming systems, which means responsive design is no longer limited to the size of the user’s screen. They talked about how the “new responsive” is all about the component, as it owns more responsibility, and form fits to the users and capabilities of the device.
Tracking the Latest Innovations at London Tech Week
I was joined by a number of colleagues at London Tech Week, an annual event that unites the global tech community with the goal of driving sustainable innovation.
There was a lot of competition at the event and the majority of this was nearshore and offshore development firms. This included representatives from Dubai, Pakistan, Poland, and many from Ukraine.
On the product side, there were big organizations like IBM in attendance, taking up a lot of floor space, and whole countries selling themselves as a tech provider. Over the various floors there were alot of startups at smaller stages selling their ideas, and sharing what they do. This was a truly global event that showcased every aspect of the tech industry.
Overall, it was fascinating to see just how buoyant the market is as a whole, and to understand how complex that market is with regards to its competitive landscape. There was also a buzz in the air, and this was really apparent as I navigated the event. As a showcase for the technology industry as a whole, I think it was an excellent advertisement that showed the diversity and adaptability in the industry where new ideas are continuously being developed. Many of the attendees I spoke with were not buyers themselves, but enthusiastic collaborators like us, which made for a lively and rewarding time.
Meet Us At sparkConf!
This summer we have our very own conference and we’d love to see you there! The first annual sparkConf is built around sharing insights from our work, so that other teams in other contexts can spark new improvements in their own work. Learn more and RSVP here.