Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I normally don't consider myself much of a tech conference person. I love the work I do, but it's not my whole life, and I can get overwhelmed if I'm expected to spend full days talking tech without direct tie-ins to the products I work on. (I like learning new things as it applies to something I'm excited to make, not just for the sake of learning the cool framework of the week).

However! ModCloth sponsored MagmaConf in Manzanillo, Mexico this past week, and I was able to go along. I was a little nervous/homesick at first (I've had some lonely experiences traveling without close friends/boyfriend), but by the end of the trip, I was literally crying at the thought of leaving Mexico. Not that sleep deprivation didn't play into it a bit. But honestly, it was that good. An insanely fun, educational, cultural experience unlike anything I've ever done before.

The conference talks were great, but what really did it for me was the people, the culture, and even learning more about some of the foundations of ModCloth (ModCloth has always had really close ties with Crowd Interactive, the organizers of the conference).

I've left the country before, but not often, only to Canada and western Europe, and I've never gotten to truly make friends or spend time with locals anywhere outside of the US. I felt so welcome and taken care of from the moment I stepped foot in Manzanillo, despite only speaking a little Spanish (side note: I WILL learn more before I go back). The food was amazing - fresh, filling, delicious, and local. The city was completely gorgeous with perfect beach weather, which obviously didn't hurt. And I got to spend time with super smart people (engineers and not) from Mexico, the US, and all over the world. 

It was great to be able to put more faces to the people I know of from ModCloth's work with Crowd, and everyone from the company was so great to be around. It's hard to put my finger on why, but I just can't imagine a San Francisco tech conference having that level of friendliness, welcoming, and lack of pretention. Successful investors, founders, and keynote speakers were happy to hang out with everyone down to the most junior developers or people more on the sidelines of the tech industry. Non-native English speakers were happy to switch over when one of us wasn't able to keep up with the conversation. Delicious food was had (like REALLY delicious), drinks were always flowing, and the hospitality was just on a level I've never seen before.


I think the best example of this was when my coworker Mariana told her friend Mercy that I was hoping to try some chicken mole, which is hard to come by in Manzanillo (where the specialty is fantastic seafood). Mercy got ahold of her mom in another city, who made from-scratch mole (served alongside the best ever tortillas and mexican-style rice). This meal. I can't even describe it. The chickens were slaughtered that morning, and the mole was so delicious, rich, and perfectly balanced between sweet and savory. Before I left, I thanked Mercy again for everything, and she told me to give her a heads up before I come back so that her mom can make more mole.

I stayed up late, woke up early. I hung out with former coworkers and met some that were before my time. I ate super fresh seafood under umbrellas on the beach. I really enjoyed light Mexican beers - usually not my thing, but perfect in that weather, especially with local Colima limes and salt. I can now say that I have friends in Mexico, and I really hope that I can visit more often than once a year. I came out knowing more Spanish than I went in with. I got to know my (US) coworkers even better. I jumped from the second floor of a boat into the ocean without a life jacket. I ate at some hole-in-the-wall, outdoor taquerias that put the Mission to shame. I danced at a club where a crab walked across the dance floor (and everyone stepped aside to save it). I somehow became an extrovert for about 5 days and survived with next to zero alone time and about half my usual sleep. I learned things that will make me better at my job, and I came back inspired to work better. I had one of the best, most memorable weeks of my life.