Looking Back at GopherCon Europe 2023

Wow! What an event GopherCon EU 2023 was. We returned to sponsor for a second year, and I’m so glad we did.

Official GopherCon EU 2023 Logo

Last year’s GopherCon EU was a triumphant return with the spectre of a pandemic and lockdowns still fresh in our minds. This year’s GopherCon EU spread its wings with more speakers and more attendees. Enough attendees that it was necessary to set up an outdoor viewing area where people who couldn’t find a seat in the hall could watch the main stage live-streamed to a video screen. There was even a parallel track running in the Trödelhalle, just around the corner from the Festsaal where the main event happens.

In many ways, GopherCon EU is growing up in a similar way to Upvest itself. Last year we were introducing ourselves to the Go World. This year we showed how we’ve delivered on all the promise we had. Next time I’d love it if people know our name before we talk to them. High ambitions are nothing new to us! In that sense, GopherCon and other smaller, local tech meetups are very important to us. Building a world class engineering organisation is not just about finding people, but also helping them to develop their own skills. Sharing experience and knowledge, in this very public matter is a huge driver for that kind of development. Likewise, if we want to improve diversity in our industry, we have to provide paths for under represented groups to enter and develop in our community and workplaces. That goal is very dear to us, and reflected in our decison to invest not just in GopherCon EU sponsorship, but in the diversity program at GopherCon EU.

Upvest, Diversity Sponsor of GopherCon EU 2023. A logo featuring our very own Upvest version of the Go Gopher.

For me, the event started on Tuesday afternoon when Allison, Dylan, Eve, Sophie, and I brought everything required for our stand, including a large TV screen and stand, 450 metres from our offices. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to wheel a large-screen TV through Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, I’d assume it’s one of those rights of passage that everyone goes through, right? If you have, you’ll know that, faced with Kreuzberg’s cobbled streets, a TV doesn’t so much “roll” as “plummet”. Thus it was that we ended up carrying that TV and stand to the venue. 3 days later, Allison, Berkay and Dmitriy did the same in reverse.

Even before we got our booth fully set up, we had GopherCon attendees visiting us, so I ended up “working” the booth during that afternoon, and after the days workshops ended I transitioned seamlessly into attending the pre-GopherCon edition of Berlin’s “Women Who Go” workshop (thanks to Ronna Steinberg for inviting me!).

At this point, I’d like to give a first special mention to a speaker. Yarden Laifenfeld is someone I’ve seen speak 3 times now. Once at GopherCon EU last year, once at the “Women Who Go” meetup last week, and then again at the main GopherCon EU event. Yarden picks quite technical topics (Go’s stack memory, and advanced concurrency topics this time around). She is extremely good at explaining the basics and relevance of those topics for less experienced audiences, without shying away from the deep insights. If you’re ever in a position to see her talk you shouldn’t pass up that opportunity.


Other speakers that Upvengers who attended GopherCon EU have pointed out to me as especially worth while include Xe Iaso, who talked quite deeply about WebAssembly as a mechanism to embody the purest form of the Unix philosophy of software design, and Roman Khavronenko, who gave us some performance optimisation lessons based on implementing a Time Series Database from scratch.

There were so many good speakers and topics, and honestly, working on the booth meant that I didn’t get to see as many of them as I would have liked, but I’ll be sure to catch up as soon as the videos are available.

The other important aspect of GopherCon is the opportunity to interact with the community and engage in the “Hallway track”. I had many, many great discussions with old friends and new alike. A special shout out goes to Benjamin Bryant from JetBrains. We’d never met before, but we shared some pretty interesting and challenging conversations on a whole range of subjects over the course of the two conference days. He did me the very great honour of a mention in his own write-up of the event.

Likewise, reconnecting with Ron Evans, Robert Burke, Donia Chaiehloudj, Mat Ryer, Bill Kennedy and a whole raft of others was a huge pleasure for me. Finding new inspiration to explore TinyGo, or surprising shared interest in matters beyond Go (Ron and I turn out to have a common love of parenthesis) are all part and parcel of the GopherCon EU magic.


Huge thanks are due to Natalie Pistunovich, Donna (whose surname nobody knows, but who will always be “Donna GopherCon” to me), Ronna Steinberg, all of the other sponsors, the venue and everyone else who played a role in making this possible. We look forward to seeing your ideas for 2024!

Finally, the very specific joy of watching Mat Ryer and Ron Evans making music together is something I had neither envisaged nor will leave me any time soon. Congratulations gentlemen, a triumph.