The First International Conference Experience

Hello! I attended Balkan Ruby 2024. I had never attended any conferences abroad. This was my first abroad conference, and I was very excited. I chose to attend Balkan Ruby as it was held in Sofia, and Bulgaria is very close to Turkey - just an hour’s flight away. I also appreciate their culture as it closely resembles ours in terms of history. Additionally, I had never been to Sofia before.

I purchased my conference ticket even though the speakers hadn’t been announced yet. The speakers was’t my main concern; I was more interested in the experience. Generally, traveling isn’t my favorite activity, but as a remote worker, I aim to meet up with my colleagues at least 2-3 times a year. After getting my conference ticket, I encouraged others to join the conference in Turkey. I hoped to travel with 5-6 friends or at least meet them at the conference. I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn new things, meet new Ruby enthusiasts, and explore the city. As a Turkish citizen, I would normally need a Bulgarian or Schengen visa to enter Bulgaria, but luckily, I already had a one-year Schengen Visa. My colleagues and I met in Sofia, where we worked together during the week and attended the Balkan Ruby conference together. We had a group of 10 people from Turkey who attended the Balkan Ruby.

It was excited for the first day as a local community leader in Turkey, given the chance to observe an international conference. Who knows, maybe in the future, we could organize one. The conference location changed twice, although I’m not sure why. It wasn’t a big issue, as Sofia isn’t a large city and it has a good metro public transportation system. My friend and I could easily reach the conference venue from our home.

Finding the conference venue was straightforward because the organizers made a video guiding us there. Additionally, in the large building, there were many signs directing us to the conference rooms. The registration process was smooth, which I hadn’t anticipated. We received our Ruby Balkan t-shirts, which were simple yet high-quality.

Coffee is crucial to us. It’s our fuel. While coffee may not always be fantastic, at least it’s free. We also have the option to drink fruit tea, black tea, and water. The food is good and tasty as well. One of the highlights is the opportunity to taste a fresh local pastry called Banitsa. As a Turk, it reminded me of our own pastry (börek), but I must say, the Banitsa was quite good.

Day 1

It was Friday and I had to work. I had wanted to join the conference and I worked while conference. I couldn’t be focus as I expected. I had to join a meeting as-well, so I missed some talks. It is not problem. All talks will be uploaded, and I can watch them online.

The first talk was engaging, given by Irina Nazarova, the CEO of Evil Martians. This company has long been making valuable contributions to the community. In her talk, Irina provided some insights into how Evil Martians operates its consultancy.

The second talk I attended was by Adrian Marin, who has been building Avo. He discussed how he transformed an open-source project into a business. I found this very interesting and even had a conversation with Adrian about it afterwards. Nearly a year ago, I closed my open-source side project, Podiscover, after two years of work. I learned a lot from this experience and shared my knowledge with Adrian. During our conversation, I suggested that I might invite him to the Uretim Bandi:Teknik podcast one day.

“Sustainable OSS Development” by Bozhidar Batsov was the third talk I attended. Batsov contributes to Rubocop, the most well-known Ruby gem for the Ruby style guide. The talk focused on the main challenges of developing and maintaining an OSS project. As I’m curious about long-term open source project management, I appreciated gaining insights from Batsov’s experiences and ideas.

We went to a nearby place for lunch. It was a good restaurant, very popular in Sofia. The menu was extensive, covering almost all global cuisine. I don’t remember what I ate, but it was good 🙂

In the afternoon, I was able to attend only one talk, presented by Aitor Garcia Rey about their fintech tool developed in Ruby. Unfortunately, I was distracted by an issue that I had to address at the same time, so I wasn’t able to fully concentrate on the talk. However, from what I could gather, it was an engaging presentation. I plan to revisit this talk once it’s uploaded. Observing the use of Ruby in real-world fintech cases is genuinely exciting.

The final topic I want to tell is the after-party. Conference attendees, identifiable by a red bracelet, had access to free beer. The party was hosted in a cozy place, under favorable weather conditions—unlike Turkey, it wasn’t cold. We enjoyed our beers and mingled with new people.

Day 2

After a good night’s sleep, I was prepared for the second day of Balkan Ruby. Since it was Saturday and I didn’t have to work, I expected to focus more on the conference than I did the first day. However, that didn’t happen. For some reason, I couldn’t join the afternoon talks. Instead, I preferred to engage in discussions on various topics with new friends and explore Sofia in the daylight, as it was my last day in the city.

The first talk of the day was given by Xavier Noria, the author of Zeitwerk. I was thrilled to hear about his 14 years of freelancing experiences. The title of his talk was intriguing, and his speech was equally engaging. I’m typically not one to focus heavily on deadlines, and I generally avoid giving exact completion dates for the projects I work on. From what I understood, this approach isn’t necessarily negative. At least, it works for me.

Thoughtbot is a company that significantly contributes to the Ruby ecosystem. I’ve followed them for many years and appreciate their valuable Ruby gems, blog posts, podcasts, and more. Dimiter Petron detailed their processes and motivations in his talk. I greatly admire their efforts.

The final presentation I attended at Balkan Ruby 2024 was “One Engineer Company with Ruby on Rails” by Radoslav Stankov. I admire Ruby on Rails and believe it empowers individuals to develop anything they desire. It’s a perfect framework for a solo developer. As indicated by the title, Radoslav shared his experiences using it. I found the talk enlightening as I advocate for the solo developer framework in product development.


In short, it was a good conference. While there’s always room for improvement, I enjoyed my time there and gained some personal insights that I’ll keep in mind for future events. I understand that organizing such events can be challenging, so I’m truly grateful to the Balkan Ruby team for making it happen. I’m looking forward to an equally amazing experience next time.


This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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