Facebook knows that I am a developer and it showed me an ad for ReactiveConf. I was sold but then I saw the ticket price. Ouch. Still the idea stayed in my mind and a few weeks later I saw a banner on their site asking for volunteers. All my previous volunteering experiences had been in the countryside and I have never volunteered at a conference before.I wrote to the organizers and I was excited to get a response a few hours later. I was accepted.

By accident, I arrived an hour early to the volunteer meeting before the conference. Not wanting to stand around, I offered to help and I was gradually drawn into the task of handing out the badges to the other volunteers that arrived. I did this with the help of a fellow volunteer but we were still overwhelmed after handing out 30 badges. And then we were told that we will do the same for the 1200+ attendees of the conference tomorrow.

To achieve this, we were split into pairs and assigned an alphabetical range of surnames to register. Lukas and I had J to L and we quickly discovered that our badges were not sorted like they were supposed to be. Hurrying to sort the stack right, the clock struck 8 and the crowd started pouring in. We would greet someone, ask them for their name, cross the name off the attendee list, ask them to sign a GDPR consent form, find their badge in the stack, attach the lanyard, grab a gift voucher and transport ticket, hand them the badge and explain how the gift voucher and transport ticket worked. For the first time I felt what it was like to be the man behind the counter and how much the upbeat attitude of the attendees helped to keep us going.

After the rush of registration, the pace slowed down to the speed that stuck for the rest of the conference. With that I got the chance to chat more with the other volunteers. They were an incredibly diverse group who were really fun to be around. With not much left to do, we talked about life and about where the best food, drinks and talks were in the conference. We were our own little community.

Of course all of us were given time off to attend some of the talks. The speakers were all prominent programmers and I managed to pick up a whole flurry of new technologies and techniques. I also discovered the habit of the speakers to release new versions of their tools on stage. Eventually when I felt like I couldn’t absorb any more, I snuck upstairs to the bean bag chairs or to the Xbox corner.

Usually I don’t get the chance to talk much about my work. Even if I met a developer, it was very likely that he/she was in a different field. But this entire conference was filled with people who were in the same field as me. It felt incredible to have deep debates about the past, present and future of React and its companions.

In the end, I was very glad that I decided to this. Volunteering at ReactiveConf 2018 was an awesome experience and I will definitely be doing the same for more tech conferences in the future.

The volunteers for ReactiveConf 2018
I wish they warned me about this stunt

Prabashwara Seneviratne

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Prabashwara Seneviratne