1 September 2023

#DevDiary: All Go at GopherCon 2023

We caught up with Product Team Lead, Shaun Whalen Smith after #TeamPMC headed to London for the UK’s yearly Go programming bonanza.

Tom Bradshaw-Smith
The PM Connect dev team at GopherCon 2023

PMC devs in the big smoke

As sure as night follows day, the UK’s bonkers festival season and shops putting up their Christmas decorations far too early… August means one thing, Gophercon UK, and #TeamPMC devs heading to London town.

For those that don’t know, GopherCon is the UK’s only conference dedicated to all things Go programming, showcasing the latest developments for the Go language and related technologies.

This year, Shaun attended – leading a PMC crew alongside DevOps Engineer Mark Rathbone, Core Services Developer Tarique Rahman and Fullstack Performance Engineer, Peter Colquhoun – with the guys staying for two nights in Shoreditch, a stone’s throw away from the event at The Brewery events centre in the City of London.

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What is Go?

Although it’s been around for over a decade now – before we hear from Shaun – what is Go itself? 

Put simply, it’s a programming language that in relative terms is still quite new – with its first full launch in 2012 after it initially surfaced as an open source in 2009.

Designed by Google, it is super efficient and looks to take the best bits of other languages used for back-end development such as Python and C, and has been deployed by some of the biggest companies in the world including Google itself, Microsoft and Meta.

At PM Connect, we use it for much of our core systems, with its scalability and efficiency a real plus. 

But enough about Go itself… let’s hear from Shaun about his time at GopherCon!

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A holistic learning experience

As someone who works in product with a mix of front and back-end, where I predominantly use PHP and Javascript, I’m basically a Go rookie! With that in mind, I was super excited to head to GopherCon and learn more about the language.

“Go is what a lot of our team uses for our core tech stack, so upskilling my understanding of it will have a big impact on how I coordinate with the teams who specialise in back-end development. I’m pleased to say GopherCon didn’t disappoint! I gained a huge amount at the conference and had a lot of fun. 

“Many of the sessions were perfect for me as an entry-level Go developer – learning more about its range of applications – the language itself, how it works – which enabled me to explore the language a lot more, too. Hearing from experienced people gave you a lot more understanding and the ability to ask questions at the end of each session made it a good environment to learn, as well as being engaging. 

“Particular highlights were ‘The 7 Deadly Sins for Gophers” by John Gregory, ‘The Hacker’s Guide to JWT Security’, by Patrycja Wegrzynowicz and ‘Boosting Test Coverage for Micro-services’, by Laura Vuorenoja. The talks were only 45 minutes, including 10-15 minutes of questions – so it kept you on your toes, rather than being too long where concentration can start wavering!”

A bit of table football from the PM Connect team!

Building team relationships

“Another key element to the conference was getting to know Mark, Tariq and Peter better – as although we all work within the dev team here at PM Connect, we specialise in different areas.

“GopherCon was awesome for this, with breakout areas where we could play Mario Kart, and a warning to all colleagues… Mark Rathbone is amazing at Mario Kart! He thrashed all of us. There was also coffee on tap, amazing food for lunch and an incredible array of doughnuts, which certainly helped keep the energy up for the day. 

“Following the conference, the evenings were a lot of fun, with GopherCon laying on table football, table tennis and drinks after the speaking finished – which provided some additional healthy competition for us! Tariq and I also headed out for a meal at the Bengal Tiger restaurant one evening, which was delicious and great to hang out.”

Chill time between sessions for PM Connect

Valuable mission

“Overall, I had a brilliant time at GopherCon. It was a really valuable trip for me, with a good balance for stuff a new developer could learn – which wasn’t over my head, but still in-depth and informative with lots for me to take away and upskill further. 

“Most importantly, I had fun doing it and spending some quality time with my teammates – and it’s great that PM Connect invests in us being able to expand our knowledge, which ultimately helps the company in the long run.  

“All that being said, the highlight of the whole trip has to be my complementary Gopher toy! Here’s to next year.”

Shaun Whalen-Smith, Product Team Lead

Thanks for your time and thoughts Shaun… keep a lookout for another #DevDiary soon.

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