TL,DR; I was in Manchester for MageTitans. It was great.

Last Friday, I flew to Manchester to attend MageTitans Manchester. MageTitans is a yearly event organised for developers. The people behind this event belong to the Manchester based company Space 48 and the independent trade association Manchester Digital.

MageTitans has been around for a few years now. The event is well known for offering excellent input during the talks. So I was really happy when I was able to follow my teammates’ footsteps and be part of the MageTitans lineup.

Lineup of MageTitans 2018

  • Matt Asay (Adobe) – Open Source Community and Reverse Mergers
  • Karen Baker (Shipper HQ) – Re-Engineering Magento 2 extensions for PWA/GraphQL
  • Vinai Kopp –  Becoming Certified – Slides
  • me, Sonja Riesterer (integer_net) – Terms and Conditions Apply – Slides
  • Andreas Mautz (Webvisum) – How to create a slideshow of your shop – collateral usage of CI tools
  • Douglas Radburn (Pinpoint Designs) – The Declarative Approach for Database Schema Upgrades in Magento 2
  • John Hughes (Fisheye Webdesign) – Level up your Layout – Slides
  • Jisse Reitsma (Yireo) – Adding React to the current Knockout frontend
  • Matthew Haworth – The State of Data Persistence
  • Ignacio Riesco (interactiv4) – How to Build a Magento Dream Team – Slides
  • Simon Frost (Magium) – Coroutines, Promises and Event Loops, Oh My! Following the Asynchronous Brick Road with PHP
  • Valentin Boyanov (Onestic) – The True Purpose of Testing
  • Tadhg Bowe (Screenpages) – My Journey to Becoming a Magento Community Engineering Contributor

You can watch all talks via Periscope.

Keynote by Phillip Jackson

The event was hosted by Phillip Jackson. He got the audience into the right frame of mind by starting the day with a short keynote and ending the day with closing remarks. Ever since I heard Phil’s talk at Meet Magento Spain in 2017, I make sure not to miss his sessions. There’s a lot of reflection in it, packaged for you in questions that have the potential to change your life. Also, he is good at influencing people to buy self-improvement books.

My own talk

I got to do a lightning talk of 15 minutes before a tea & biscuits break. In this talk, I provided background information on how our perception of the world is influenced by our language.
Because of the massive, often subconscious impact language has on us, I asked the audience to reflect more on their own language. There are so many small changes we can do to help others feel more welcome, included and appreciated in our (IT) world.

I ended with an explanation why speakers in a second language swear more which turned into a running joke during the course of the event. After my talk, the audience as well as the speakers had a raised awareness of obscenity and thus noticed how it happened on stage at MageTitans. Mission accomplished.

As expected, my advice to use different terms instead of master & slave in development led to a few people asking me whether I ever got a complaint from someone. I had expected this and also the fear that at one point in time, we are not allowed to say anything without being called a racist, misogynist, sexist or homophobic.
Let’s tackle the problematic parts of our language one step at a time. Awareness is the first step. The next is to use better words in new projects. And the third step is to change existing projects.
Let’s try to use words that create a friendlier environment – and ask different people for feedback. That’s the best way to improve.

I also got a lot of positive feedback on the talk, especially from expats who felt understood when navigating the difficult seas of “tone” in a second language.

Speakers area

The venue, the Comedy Store, has a separate area for speakers, artists, whoever is there to perform.
This area was used by speakers to leave their stuff, get drinks, do last minute adjustments to slides and for taking a deep breath before the talk.
I also went there during some very technical talks that are of little interest to a marketing manager to close my eyes for a second without the risk of upsetting a speaker.

However, retreating like that actually goes against my aims to be approachable for others. Separating speakers from the audience can increase the perceived division between the two groups. I don’t want to encourage that. On the contrary.
On the other hand, conferences are tough, especially when you are a speaker. So in the name of my mental health (MageMH), I took that break from people because I needed it.

Rebecca Brocton not only offered an OSMI booth at MageTitans, she also was on stage for a few minutes to remind people of doing what they need to do in order to feel better. You can watch her here on Periscope.

Time to talk

I don’t easily introduce myself to people I don’t know. So thank you to everyone who introduced themselves to me! Among all the conferences I have attended in the last couple of years, there were few where I met so many new people as I did in Manchester between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening. I even made a list in order to remember as many of the names as possible.

This was the first time I really got to talk with Karen Baker. After her blogpost about MageUnconference 2018, it was about time. She is different in person than she might come across on Twitter. It was lovely finally really meeting you, Karen! 

Conversation starters

My talk’s last slide included three topics that I am interested in (or that included the letter sequence PWA – another running joke of the conference, everything has to include PWA these days). They worked extremely well as conversation starters.
I have learned a lot about your dogs, dear MageTitans audience. Stories of dachshunds, huskies, labradors, plus a few photos of your pups. It takes the stress off conference smalltalk when I can talk to you about your favourite four legged friends.
And now I also know who of you enjoyed the dancing lessons for your wedding dances, who is into Salsa or Tango and who likes Westcoast Swing. Too bad I didn’t stay long enough in Manchester to attend the recommended Salsa party on Sunday though.


All of these conversations started on Friday with a DevExchange at the office of Space 48. Fuelled with plenty of drinks and pizza, people had 2 x 45 minutes to discuss a number of programming topics.
I didn’t join the discussions as I was too busy talking about non-dev stuff to the other few non-dev people around. I still enjoyed it.

Ladies, where are you?

What I noticed at DevExchange was the low number of women around. There were more women attending on the official conference day on Saturday. But still… DevExchange was free for MageTitans ticket holders but had limited capacity.
I talked to Jon and Tony from Space 48 about it. Dear ladies, you are definitely welcome here. However it seems like this message hasn’t reached you yet or wasn’t perceived as it was intended.
If you are a female developer from the UK and didn’t attend the DevExchange, please help me understand why and if there are ways to change it. I think the discussions would benefit from different perspectives. Since I pointed it out to Jon and Tony, I may have signed up to help them change it.

The spirit of MageTitans

MageTitans is a non-profit event. Any profit that is made is donated to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Bemeir, a Magento solution integrator from New York, couldn’t make it to Manchester, but their tweet showed they were there in spirit.

MageTitans has been an excellent event with interesting content even for non-devs, friendly people and a great organisation behind the scenes. If you get the chance to go, I’d definitely recommend to do so.

It’s a great place to learn and connect with others. A big thank you to Space48, Manchester Digital and all sponsors who made this event possible.

Sonja Franz

Author: Sonja Franz

Sonja Franz is the Head of Communications at integer_net. She especially enjoys organising events. Sonja is a Magento Certified Solution Specialist for Magento 1 and Magento 2 and has been awarded as a Magento Master in the category “Maker” in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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