• Britt Barak

My Journey to Keynote @ DroidconSF

A loving thank you to an incredible community for an amazing experience 💗 Could it be your turn to speak?


Not that long ago, I gave my first keynote talk! And not just at any event, but at droidcon SF, one of my favorite events!!


Apparently, it’s been a couple of months already. But it’s never too late to be grateful, right? 😇



Droidcon has become more than just a series of events, but a sub-community in the global Android dev community.


It’s a place to hang out with friends from all over the world; A place to engage with experienced developers and speakers; a place that encourages new speakers; that gives a voice and a stage to share knowledge, experiences, and passion with the entire global Android community.


[shout out to the great team Natalie Krivenko, Greg Fawson, Tanya O Karsou 😍]


Tech communities have been close to my heart, as they are a display of how we all can evolve and grow, by supporting one another, rather than by competing and elbowing. The Android community is such a marvelous display of that! Conferences, such as DroidconSF, give a home to that display.


Contrast is powerful.

The week before DroidconSF was quite challenging for me on a few aspects. I spent a few weeks already on the other side of the world. Some uneasy encounters made it very easy for me to feel alone and unsupported and insecure.


And then, DroidconSF started with the speakers’ party. Oh, those people, that community… my “alone” feeling became “together” in just one second. suddenly I’m together with so many people that love and that I want the best for them, as much as they want the best for me.


That contrast emphasised even more how powerful it is to have that surrounding, that community. Even if we don’t see each other every day, and often we chat online more than we see each other in real life. Just like with family or best friends, when you need them, wherever you are in the world- they are there.


Keynote? Me?!

A few years ago, when I started going to conferences, I thought of keynotes as one of two kinds:


Either a technical talk by a superstar speaker, so that attendees don’t need to choose a track. Obviously, I liked those, but have never thought of myself in that slot.


Or, which was quite common, some kind of an inspirational or a very high-level talk. Often, since I came to the conference very “technically focused”, I felt like I don’t learn much from them. To be honest, the talks were often good, it’s just that I wasn’t in the right mindset.


For quite a while I thought those keynotes are not really my thing.




I think that one of the keynotes that made a difference for me was Kelly Shuster’s. I met Kelly when we were speaking together at Android Summit 2017. She’s a wonderful person and it was so easy to connect to her! so when I came to her keynote, my starting point was already different. Kelly talked about the interfaces between design, development, and testing, which was something that I was (and still am) wondering and discussing a lot about.


That talk had both high-level thoughts and practical tips. But most interesting for me was when I noticed throughout the conference, that some other talks clicked for me with some lines from the keynote. That keynote shed some different light on the conference for me.


Another memorable point was a keynote given by Dan Kim, at Chicago Roboto 2018 (and later at Droidcon NYC 2018). Dan talked about the contribution to the Android Dev Community. I loved how open he is with sharing his own personal experiences. Also, many times he mentioned specific people from the community and conversations we had on related topics. Even a conversation he and I had the evening before. Thanks to that, I noticed that it made things easier for attendees to approach some of the people mentioned, and say “Hi Britt, Dan mentioned you said…”. That started some very interesting conversations. After all, that is one of the main reasons I come to conferences, to engage with the community!


The queen on keynotes, for me, is Corey Latislaw. A part of being an incredible person and a friend, her keynotes are very special. I love how she talks about creativity and how it helps us every day. In Droidcon UK 2018 she even did a live- sketch noted!!! Which was so cool, and for me, an inspiring example for bringing yourself and the things you love to the stage.


There are so many more great speakers and keynote speakers I got to meet at the Android community and out! With all of those in mind, somehow, after years of not liking keynotes, something changed. When DroidconSF idea came along, I had this quiet thought, that almost sneaked away, saying: “maybe I should give it a shot?🤔”. Indeed it was a quiet one, but luckily I hear the quiet ones as well! so… YOLO! let’s do it!


What should I submit? How is it different from other talks?

As I mentioned, one of the things I love in conferences is the diversity of attendees. However, this also means that all those different types of people need to find themselves in your talk. It’s a challenging task. If you nail it, however, you have the precious opportunity to make people feel included, engaged and connected.


When I turned to choose a topic, I breathed in the inspiration from my keynote friends. I wanted it to be interesting and relatable to everyone, as much as possible. I wanted it to maybe shed a different light on something that will be discussed through the conference. I wanted it to be personal, with my own experiences and perspective. I wanted it to connect people and create a ground for personal conversations, and not just technical ones, that will happen anyway.


Since I joined Nexmo I work a lot on communication products. I currently work at the Developer Experience & Relations team, on a new SDK. That gives me the opportunity to engage with many app developers that will use our SDK, plus some devs that already use our other APIs. Therefore, communication apps are all around me as a professional.


Also, outside of work, I’ve always been very sensitive to the fact that people around me nowadays look at screens more than they look at people. Personally, it drives me crazy! I love human beings. I’m excited when the story behind a person’s gaze is revealed. What’s more fascinating than that?!


Speaking to someone, who is looking at a device and not at you is something that, unfortunately, every person experiences nowadays. While us, mobile devs, are even more invested and can influence this reality. This might be a great opportunity to share my thoughts on that topic.


Let’s prepare that talk!

I wanted to start from the very beginning.


I talked about: how was mobile phone created? how much did the first cellphone cost? what was the first mobile phone call?


How did phones become such an inseparable part of our lives?

I talked about my personal experience of Yom Kippur in Israel, my home country, which is some kind of a peak of the JOMO mountain, in my opinion.


What’s the connection between brushing teeth and FOMO, and the connection between slot machines and phone.

Lastly, I talked about how we, all of us in the room, app developers, are reshaping communication and influencing people’s attention every single day.




Submitting a talk might be scary, I know.

Being a non-native English speaker can be even scarier. Even more on English speaking countries. I get asked about it a lot: “how do you have the courage?”


To be honest.. many times I don’t. But I do it anyway.


Having such a supportive and encouraging community and organizers is a huge help to do scary things nevertheless.


Having said that, I do know it’s a set back to many, so I will share some more about that topic in the near future.


With the overwhelming support and trust of Ty Smith, Joaquim Verges and the organising team — I got in! 🎉


I was extremely happy and worked really really hard.


Gave the talk.


IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!


I got off the stage.

And then, such an interesting thing happen:


throughout the conference, so many developers approached me. Each shared a different part from the talk that resonates with them the most, and their own interpretation to some of what I mentioned. They told me about how they feel about getting “addicted” to phones. Some shared that it made them think about a few parts of the app they work on, some were overwhelmed by my Yom Kippur story (how interesting is to get to know different cultures?!), and more…


Have I mentioned how much I love the doors to personal conversations??


Going public


I recently shared some words about that moment of insecurity when a speaker finished a talk. That moment is one of the reasons I don’t tend to post too many stuff publically. I’m embarrassed! I, too, am my worst critic, believe me… But when I’m so thankful to people, they deserve my post. Still, it’s sometimes a little scary to share your post with so many people.


Even in those scary public moments, it takes a minute to remember again that at this community you’re together with amazing souls. To name a few in this context:


Dan, was the first to congratulate me. He always has a funny gif to support and make me and everyone around, smile. Small things make a huge difference!


Huyen Tue Dao, who is, hands down, one of the most empowering and humble human beings I’ve met. Even when I’m down, she has this talent to say just the right thing, that will make me feel like I can do everything.


Thanks to Chiu-Ki, (and of course Florina, Rebecca Franks, Zarah Dominguez, and so many others) we always have that source of women power to turn to. 💪


Shem Magnezi, would more than once sent me a “congrats” message that makes my day. 😻


It is those but soooooooooo many more who I feel so blessed to be inspired and supported by!


Every single day I feel so privileged and grateful to be a part of this Android community.





Final note,

You’ll be always growing and evolving. There will be always ones who will put you down and ground you. Fortunately, there will always be the ones who will lift you up. Focus on the latter. 😊


If you’ve thought of giving a talk but haven’t yet; If you’ve thought of giving a keynote but haven’t yet; If you’ve wanted to contribute or support the community in your own way → just do it!


It’s the best gift you can give yourself. 💖


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Want to record an episode with me? Want to invite me to speak at your conference? let me know!