New to the broader tech conference scene is BBD’s esc@pe, a gem of a conference that’s grown over the last eight years from an internal-only event to be open to the public. The best part? The conference is simultaneously held across four countries and is both face-to-face and fully online to boot.
“esc@pe is fundamentally different because it has repositioned itself to focus on enriching the dev community on a global scale” explains BBD’s Lucky Nkosi, one of the event organisers and part of this year’s dynamic opening keynote. What makes it extra special, he goes on to say, is that it also welcomes those who would like to start speaking on the conference scene. “We’re very beginner-friendly, so even if you’ve never spoken at a conference, we have an incredible team of highly skilled and experienced people who help you through all stages of your talk development.”
Vutlhari Rikhotso, better known as VT on the South African tech scene, is a Principal Consultant at Daemon and host of two podcasts: Daemon Drumbeat and ZA Tech Radio. As one of esc@pe 2023’s speakers, he adds that “My first ever conference talk was at esc@pe 2019, so this is a real full-circle moment to be back speaking here”. esc@pe is proudly for technologists, by technologists and seeks to create an opportunity for the community to delve into cutting-edge innovations, uncover emerging trends and network with the best in the industry. The conference features five tracks with speakers presenting from various locations including the UK, Netherlands, Joburg and Cape Town in South Africa, and India. Topics this year ranged from Why we should all build robots, to Making an AI-generated sitcom, Storytelling vs coding, application security, the evolving microservice architecture, Performance, scalability and the ugly stepsister: stability, and AI and accessibility.
In addition to the five tracks, various other selected talks are pre-recorded and uploaded to the conference platform – giving further opportunity for speakers to grow their skillset, and the audience a heap more topics to dive into.
Principal cloud advocate at Microsoft Rory Preddy, a regular on the international conference scene, commented that “esc@pe blew me away! Everything was incredible, from the venue to the speakers, food, administration and logistics, it’s been on an elite level that surpasses many other large-scale conferences I’ve been a part of”.
An interesting add-on to the event, BBD staff have the option to partake in a company-wide Game Jam in the run-up to esc@pe. After opening submissions to staff and public for rating, the top teams then run stands throughout the day where conference attendees get the opportunity to play and rate the games themselves, learning about the vision and process from the creators. This all culminates in a final ranking, with the top three teams announced and awarded. Claris Richter, a gaming enthusiast, esc@pe speaker and Game Jam judge commented that “the standard of games this year was incredibly high, with some very impressive interpretations of the ‘Time Loop’ theme”.
BBD Group CEO, Kevin Staples, says of the conference that “esc@pe is just awesome! It really is so cool to get together as technologists and with our colleagues, friends and industry experts and talk and learn about new things that are coming up in the industry and new ways to achieve things. esc@pe gets better and better every year and if it was this awesome this year, I can’t wait to see what next year brings”.
While comfortably munching popcorn in theatre seats, attendees learnt as pianos were coded using electric paint, experts dove into all things AI, digital twin technology was demystified, and Stafford Masie shared endless wisdom in his closing keynote.
The other half of the mentioned dynamic keynote, BBD’s CIO and esc@pe organiser, Tony van der Linden, says that “We were very proud to open esc@pe to the public this year, knowing the impact conferences like this can have on the software engineering community, and the future of technology conferences around the world”. He concludes saying that there are very few tech conferences, especially for South Africans, that attendees can get great value from as many are excluded by the cost of the tickets. “Our goal in opening esc@pe to the public is to create a hybrid international conference that gives those people the same value as those who can afford to pay.”
Oskar uit de Bos, Senior Specialist Lead at Deloitte, spoke from the Netherlands and mentioned how this was his first hybrid conference with multiple locations all streaming in simultaneously. Echoing the sentiment behind the event as a whole, he said, “I really believe conferences like this are a great way to share knowledge and experiences with the bigger engineering community and see what’s happening out there on real projects”.