TTP APAC - A Visit to the Ice Cream Factory

When we were children, every class seemed to have one kid whose dad worked at the ice cream factory and got to bring home a few gallons as part of his salary. Or the brother of a friend somewhere  worked for one of the big toy companies. And who can forget the famed Uncle Who Works For Nintendo that can spill all kinds of secrets about unreleased games? But then of course we grew up and we discovered that there are no secret Nintendo games, that it's better to be paid in cash than in ice cream, and that the process of bringing a toy to market is long and dull with endless meetings about supply chains and regulatory oversight.

And yet. And yet. What if it were possible to visit Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? What if there were a place in some far exotic land where all the wonderous things were created? Well there is. Santa Claus is real, and he's giving tours of the workshop. Welcome to the Micro Focus Development Centre in Bangalore, India (IDC).

The TTP hosts three primary conferences each year: The Americas Conference in Provo, the EMEA conference at a rotating set of universities in Europe, and the Asia/Pacific Conference (APAC). For the first few years of its life the APAC conference was conducted remotely in the U.S. with some satellite events happening in Australia. The APAC region is vast, covering about half the earth's surface. Figuring out where to hold a comprehensive conference for best attendance was a bit tricky. Three years ago it came to the very heart of Micro Focus Development at the IDC. And there, to everyone's delight, it has stayed.

Like every TTP Conference, there are some roadmap sessions and quite a bit of information sharing amongst different academic sites (we also call these "war stories" or perhaps "gossip"). What makes the APAC Conference special is the conversation between the academic sites and the engineers who are writing the products used by these sites. These conversations happen not only with the senior engineers and product managers but even with the junior members of the team who may never have actually met one of the customers who use their code every day. No stack of e-mails can compete with the depth and speed of a face-to-face meeting with all of its many shortcuts, nuances, and immediate clarifications. 

Even though we use many of the same products, the ways that we use them can be very different. The needs and methods of a university in Bavaria are very different from a large primary school district in Florida which in turn differ from a single private school in New Zealand. If we have such a breadth of experience to discuss even amongst ourselves, how can a new engineer in Bangalore (whose job is programming and not international education) hope to keep up? Clearly a bit of a natter is required.

In my environment we have the need to easily set up new file storage through Filr for many different sites at once. The current Filr administrative interface is not scalabale in this way. At TTP APAC I was able to reduce our need to a very simple and straightforward scenario that could be immediately illustrated to all the engineers in the room. I now have confidence that my needs will be met. Maybe not tomorrow and maybe not exactly as I would like, but soon and in a way that is true to the product and benefits all who use it. I was able to speak directly to multiple engineers without a filter. No matter what ultimately comes out of the encounter I know that I was heard and everyone in the room had a chance to ask followup.

I admit that despite the magic happening in the conference rooms, they do remain conference rooms. The IDC is a business office with cubicles and whiteboards and security passes as all such places are worldwide. The tea is another story, it really is different. It is the tea equivalent of Turkish coffee and needs a great deal of dilution until it resembles that brown/grey mixture that the English refer to as a "cuppa". This concentration gives all the participants the opportunity to experiment with all manner of variation: straight (not for the jittery), heavy milk (very Starbucks), and even homeopathic (one drop tea and one cup hot water). 

Beyond the tea and the corporate tower, Bangalore is a fascinating and alive city. Our day trip this year took us throughout its environs to the diverse and teaming interests within. Although it is famed for its tech parks (and indeed that is what brought us), it is also a major center for the Indian military including various rocket laboratories. My own home town of Pensacola is a Navy town known for being the Cradle of Naval Aviation and so Bangalore felt familiar within the differences. Everywhere there are throngs of people going on about their lives: Visiting temples, repairing radiators on a street corner, wrangling lines of uniformed schoolchildren, and rushing to work. 

You too can join us on this magical adventure. You you too can tour the factory and see its wonders. You too can explain once and for all what you need and why you need it. All you have to do is wish. And fill out some visa paperwork. 

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