The value of real-life connections: LabWeek2022
In October I had the opportunity to visit Lisbon for LabWeek2022, a decentralized conference hosted by Protocol Labs (PL). It was a chance for folks across the Protocol Labs Network to come together and learn from a wide array of presentations, meet each other (perhaps for the first time), and talk about the future of various PL projects. I had only been working with PL for two weeks leading up to the conference, so I was excited to use the event to jump-start my work with them.
Both Little Bear Labs and Protocol Labs are fully remote companies, which means in-person interactions with coworkers and clients are few and far between. As I reflect on the time at LabWeek, it’s these face-to-face conversations that were the most valuable part of the week. As I looked for my seat before the first day’s opening talks, I realized that I was sitting behind my primary contact at PL, and got to meet him for the first time. Throughout the week I had a chance to talk with several other folks from PL working on projects adjacent to my own. In a world where all of my professional collaborations are virtual and the work itself sometimes feels intangible, these in-person meetings provided a sense of substance and realness to my upcoming project with PL.
I was also very fortunate to have my coworker Jared Cole join for several days of the conference, and we spent time debriefing our conversations while also exploring different parts of Lisbon. The flexibility of taking video calls from home is great, but it’s hard to overestimate the value of occasional long-form conversations in person. Our discussions over dinners and hilly walks helped us both better understand the people we’d been talking with and how our own work interacts with the new technologies being built around us. It was interesting to hear his perspective on the conference from the POV of a design strategist (you can read his reflections here) versus my experience as an engineer.
I hope the future holds more opportunities for in-person meetups with clients and fellow coworkers. There’s something special about the thinking and ideas that come from these spontaneous conversations, which can be lost in our more focused and discrete virtual meetings. As I’m immersed in my work with PL now, the connections I made with the team in Lisbon have made the work even more interesting and meaningful.