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Niamh McCooey
Niamh McCooey

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My Experience at Modern Frontends Live

I’ve spoken at a good few meet-ups and a couple of conferences, but I’m no pro. To be totally honest I’ve no idea what I’m doing, but that’s ok. I’ve a feeling we’re all just figuring it out as we go along, and I know that might sound kind of casual but let’s be honest, it can be pretty exhausting.

Working in tech is often rewarding, but coding can be difficult. Debugging is frustrating. Constant learning? Exasperating. Being the only woman in a team day-in-day-out: draining. Tech is hard.

This is why I leant into the community so much when I started, and why I love it still. I go to meet-ups and conferences to meet others like me, who are excited by learning and who share many of the same challenges. I go to meet people from different backgrounds, who are at different levels in their careers, to share experiences and find comfort in the fact that other people go through the same stuff.

Coding (whether remote or not) can be a lonely endeavour, and I really believe the community is essential to encouraging beginners and minorities to stick with it and comfort each other when it all feels a bit much. It really feels like Modern Frontends stole from that.

From the outset, I (along with all other speakers as far as I can tell) was told that all travel and accommodation would be reimbursed. And after some chasing I did have my travel expenses paid. Sadly however, it seems I’m one of the lucky ones.

Since the conference kicked off, other speakers were allegedly informed they’re not getting reimbursed at all. People traveled from all around the world for this. Some reportedly had to fork out thousands of pounds for travel and accommodation. What about those people? Will they ever get their money back?

Others like Jo, Cassie, JD, Hidde, Todd, Chris and Mike have written honestly and eloquently about their experiences of the event, from having no tech set-up support at all (same here), to the huge exaggeration of attendance numbers, the grim reality of the venue compared to false promotion images, the overpriced tickets, the cheapskate refreshments (even lack thereof), the selling of livestream tickets without a camera in sight (the conference’s twitter account eventually claimed “technical issues” before sending refunds), and the alleged bullying and intimidation some speakers and attendees have experienced from the very well-connected organiser. Her name is Gen Ashley.

What really disappoints me is that for as long as I’ve known of her, Gen’s shtick has always been about helping women in tech. She speaks publicly and consistently about her efforts to diversify the industry, and runs Tech(k)now Day, a conference for women.

I actually applied to speak at that conference earlier this year and was approved almost immediately. After some back and forth, realising I’d have to be ready to speak in less than 2 weeks, I pulled out and received a scolding email in response. At the time I just shrugged it off as a disgruntled organiser (I get it, organising conferences must be a nightmare). But sadly after experiencing Modern Frontends, this looks to be a pattern — one that damages and undermines all the continuous work done by the community, for the community.

People working in tech are already trying so hard. Especially underrepresented people. They all (we all!) deserve better.

Everyone I met and spoke to at the conference — between speakers, attendees and sponsors — were unsurprisingly warm, friendly, kind and talented. I loved getting to know my internet friends in real life. The talks were inspiring, and I learned a lot. But sadly, this privilege didn't apply to everyone.

Take for instance those who bought live stream tickets. What about their time? Their expectations? Their opportunities to learn? To connect? People could have booked time off work for that. Instead they had access denied and the headache of having to chase people for refunds.

The whole thing left me feeling tired and sad. It’s so disappointing. I sincerely hope we can all meet again at an event that truly celebrates everyone’s hard work.

And with that, if you know of any upcoming events that are genuinely for the community, please let me know. Maybe I’ll see you there. 💜

Top comments (2)

owensheehan profile image
Owen Sheehan

I think your session on Storyboard was excellent.
While I've only been to 2 conferences so far, I do agree that this one was a massive disappointment. It took over half an hour to find where it was since there was nothing to tell us and 2 of the sessions I attended were cancelled while we were in the room.

alvinb profile image
Alvin Bryan

Thank you so much for writing this! More people need to know about this