sparkConf 2023

July 14, 2023

8:00 AM CST through 3:00 PM CST

Spark new ideas, conversations, and connections at this one-day hybrid event for leaders who inspire, challenge, and support change across teams.

Curated by 8th Light, sparkConf features a range of topics from working professionals who've found new ways of engaging with software, and new ways of getting software to work for you.

This conference is a must-attend event for anyone looking to spark meaningful change for your business. You’ll leave the conference with new tools, resources, and perspectives that will spark a new future in your own work.

Join us for sparkConf 2023 →

Don't miss an opportunity to spark new ideas, conversations, and connections. Learn more about our amazing lineup of speakers, and register to secure your (virtual) seat.

What You Can Expect

Whether you’re working with a large legacy system or just bringing a product to life, this conference features insights that you can apply back to your context.

We cover the full spectrum of modern software delivery — from design to implementation, and the formal and informal systems that align your team, product, and business toward your goals.

8th Light’s tradition of continual learning has been rooted in sharing sparks across projects, analogizing and re-applying across contexts, and collectively discovering better ways of building software together.

Gain Insights From Our Experts

The new normal is high-touch and hybrid, and it requires dynamic tools that unlock users’ potential. The single-track lineup of speakers reflects the intersectional approach that’s required for modern software systems to engage users.

Connect With Thought Leaders

We’re bringing together the best minds and mentors who are pushing the envelope for how software can work for users, redefining their industry landscape, and building the systems that can spark a better digital future.

Network With Fellow Colleagues

Hear how other businesses are balancing the tradeoffs in their digital solutions, with examples of the outsized impact that a single team can have.



8:15 AM CT

Opening Remarks

A short introduction to the conference by 8th Light's CEO Jenny Farver.

Jenny Farver Headshot

Jenny Farver

Chief Executive Officer

8:30 AM CT

8th Light Insights for Technology Leaders

Leadership is a lonely place. We are often expected to be ultimately accountable for all of the day to day and it can be easy to forget to come up for air and see what is going on in the industry around us. Much less, we are the ones who are expected to have the answers to all of the questions about how industry innovations will affect our software development and our business's bottom line. In this session, we will share some of the things that are keeping other technology leaders up at night and how we are working with our customers to find a path through the noise so they can focus on strategic initiatives and business goals.

Amanda Graham Headshot

Amanda Graham

Senior Director, Strategic Solutions

9:00 AM CT

Hypothesis-driven Development: Outcomes are Everyone’s Responsibility

Often, product development teams are at the mercy of an unwieldy backlog that a manager defined for them, stuck in a never-ending loop of moving tickets from left to right. In this output-oriented mode, teams are done when the work is shipped, then on to the next thing. Rinse and repeat. This talk introduces an alternative approach to product development that shifts the focus away from the outputs (the what) to the outcomes (the why). We will explore what is unlocked when thinking in terms of hypotheses to test and validate instead of backlogs to complete, and the impact such a framing has on individuals, organizations, and users.

Damon Kelley Headshot

Damon Kelley

Principal Crafter

9:30 AM CT

Unlocking Organizational Impact with Design Thinking

In today's evolving business landscape, organizations thrive by anticipating and adapting to new conditions. Design Thinking and Human Centered Design can model and unlock opportunities to these challenges through data, empathy, and understanding. These insights drive an organization’s knowledge of their customers and employees, new opportunities for products and services, and workflow optimization. This presentation explores design principles and methodologies geared to address complex challenges that foster technically feasible, and financially viable, innovation.

Agustin Sanchez Headshot

Agustin Sanchez

Principal Designer

10:15 AM CT

Greenfield, Minefield? Rooting Out Unforeseen Requirements and Dealing With Unexpected Constraints In New Projects

A greenfield project is supposed to be a developer’s dream, theoretically one that has no existing infrastructure or legacy systems to contend with. In reality, unless you’re starting completely from scratch with no ties to anything external, what looks like a wide open playing field actually has lots of lines and rules you may not be aware of. We’ll look in depth at two recent projects that at first glance appeared to be empty, fertile ground but actually contained several surprises. Connections to external APIs, future-proofing and consistency with existing related data are all potential holes you might find yourself falling into. We’ll look at some general strategies for sussing out such hidden pitfalls and how they might best be avoided.

Kaitlyn Concilio Headshot

Kaitlyn Concilio

Lead Crafter

10:45 AM CT

Making Machine Learning Work for You: Approaches That Deliver Practical Business Value

Machine Learning has become an increasingly popular field that businesses are turning to for valuable insights that can help them stay competitive. However, there is a common misconception that Machine Learning requires highly specialized skills and resources, which can discourage businesses from investing in this field. This talk aims to dispel this myth by demonstrating how experienced software engineers can integrate Machine Learning models into their existing codebase and deliver real business value.

Emmanuel Byrd Headshot

Emmanuel Byrd

Senior Crafter

11:15 AM CT

Building Resilient ML Services

Half the battle in software development lies in finding the right tools and processes to manage change: whether that change comes from changing requirements, fixing errors, or developing new features. Machine learning (ML) services are no different in this regard but pose some unique challenges because the natural lifecycle of a machine learning model requires experimentation and exploration. To take that model, often created on a ML engineer's local machine, and integrate it into a production software service with end users with expectations of preexisting behavior requires designing systems that can balance the dual needs for flexibility and stability. This talk will draw upon experiences building infrastructure and tooling for multiple ML products to identify common themes and patterns for building resilient ML services.

Hana Lee Headshot

Hana Lee

Senior Software Engineer III at Audere

1:00 PM CT

How To Become a Staff Software Engineer

The path to becoming a Staff Engineer isn’t always clear and obvious. And because of this issue, it’s become difficult for mid and senior level engineers to identify what responsibilities they need to own in order to develop their career further and ultimately, become a Staff Engineer. In this talk, I will walk you through the story of how I became a Staff Engineer (also known as Lead Developer). I will share some of my pitfalls, successes and advice for those who are looking to attain the Staff Engineer title at some point in their career.

Byron Woodfork Headshot

Byron Woodfork

Senior Software Engineer at Segovia Technology

1:30 PM CT

Unlocking the Power of Design Tokens to Scale Enterprise Design Systems

Design tokens serve as the fundamental building blocks of any design system. They capture essential attributes such as colors, typography, spacing, and more. Design tokens offer the benefits of consistency, reusability, scalability, collaboration, and maintainability, enabling teams to create cohesive and scalable design systems. But creating, managing, and maintaining a library of design tokens can be daunting, particularly in a larger enterprise organization. This talk will discuss strategies for creating a robust, enterprise-ready set of design tokens. We’ll discuss patterns for token hierarchy, naming, and organization. We’ll look at strategies for auditing existing products to identify where design tokens are needed. Finally, we’ll look at options for technical tooling to ensure that tokens are easily consumable by both designers and engineers across different platforms and applications.

Kevin Zolkiewicz Headshot

Kevin Zolkiewicz

Senior Principal Designer

2:00 PM CT

Closing Remarks

Look forward to more opportunities for networking after our conference concludes.

Camille Shrouder-Henry Headshot

Camille Shrouder-Henry

Former Director of Talent Acquisition