Last week I've returned from Montevideo after having attended Rust LATAM, the first conference in Latin America focused on the Rust programming language.
I have been involved in this conference as an organizer by a very fortuitous and unlikely series of events, which in the end led me to be in Montevideo unloading taxi cabs full of carton boxes and going around an auditorium handing a microphone to attendees. And not sleeping very much for a week.
All in all, it was a humbling experience, where I've learned a lot about things and about people. I came back home with a debt of unslept hours but with some new friends in my contact list.
§ The technical experience
Being there on the first line grants you some privileges that, alone, make it worth the effort. I had the chance to talk with some really nice people from the Rust community; I've asked questions, exchanged opinions and ideas and everything happened in the nicest and most constructive way I could imagine, far from the (sometime) toxic social media places.
§ The organizational experience
Organizing a conference is always a burden and in the last two months basically everything is finalized, therefore it's when things become hectic. Nothing will ever be perfect, but attention to detail can be key to a better experience for attendees and speakers. Previous experiences in helping conferences allowed me to bring a concrete contribution to the teamwork.
I've observed and really appreciated the multilingual content of the conference. It added a richness and a trait of inclusiveness uncommon to many conferences. In an international conference, English is always the "lingua franca": on the other hand it is important to involve and actively support people not familiar with a foreign language, because it's their contribution that matters, and the language should not be a barrier that may shy them away. Therefore I welcome conferences that takes steps in order to improve in this area (f.e. through a live translation service or subtitles).
Also, having a lot of students turned out to be a winning choice and - again - a big plus sign on the inclusiveness. Thanks to an intuition Santiago (the mastermind behind the conference), the student scolarship program opened the gates to people that could have been excluded because of the conference price tag.
We hope that this seed will help flourishing a generation of new developers that will ... complain about Rust compile-time checks :-) but eventually overcome them and support their local communities.
Finally, working shoulder-to-shoulder with people and sharing every waking hour, sometimes creates a kind of bonding experience; which leads us to ...
§ The human experience
It was my first time in Latin America.
The first thing I felt is the profound discomfort at customs (they take pictures and fingerprints at any major checkpoint, you have no right to know how your data will be handled and for how long).
And then you find yourself in a new world where countries are ten times bigger than your country, where some cities are as big as entire countries. You'll learn about people and their stories (sometimes their pains) and it's a profoundly humbling experience, always enriching to get a wider perspective on the world and things that really matter.
In the end you feel like you have survived such an experience, and even though on the flight back the luggage was unfortunately lighter than expected, my bag of experiences was overflowing with feelings, colors and awe. I don't read often about this: I hope this privilege is not underestimated.