Talks

We would like to give a huge thank you to our speakers, the talks they deliver are the reason we have this conference.

Scale Fail Scale: A start-up's story of surviving death

Dale Humby
Cofounder and CTO
Nomanini

By 2015 Nomanini was growing nicely with thousands of merchants spread across Africa. But when our largest client went bankrupt we lost 80% of our transaction volume, almost sinking us with them. This is a story of suddenly not being at scale, of layoffs and pivots, rewrites, and finally growth.

Dale is a cofounder and CTO of Nomanini, a Cape Town based fintech whose mission is to provide safe, secure payment and banking services to communities in Africa's most remote villages. He's passionate about product development and the various agile methodologies that enables teams to perform at their peak.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

A Sky Full of Stars

Simon Ratcliffe
Barefoot Astronomer
SARAO

Hundreds of billions of galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars; how do you create a machine to help make sense of it all? This is the story of building MeerKAT - the most powerful radio telescope in the world. This is a follow on Simon's ScaleConf 2013 talk which set out the plans for delivering MeerKAT, and how they planned to address the scale challenges.

Simon started out life as an astronomer, used to be an engineer, and is now trying to avoid managerial tasks. Currently in charge of scientific computing for the MeerKAT radio telescope (ska.ac.za), he spends a significant amount of his coding time trying to avoid writing C, and the rest of the time trying to use sys._getframe() in ways that annoy his colleagues.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Kick-Ass Tools and Processes for Scalable Data Science

Helge Reikeras
Data Scientist
OfferZen

Follow @helger

This talk is about how we can enable data science teams to focus all their time and effort at what they’re good at — namely data science. We’ll discuss tools and processes for scaling the data science workflow in a cost-effective manner with tools such as Docker, Kubernetes, Spark and Luigi.

Helge Reikerås is an experienced data scientist with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. He sees data science and machine learning becoming significant components to making great software products in the years ahead. He's currently a data scientist at Offerzen working on improving core features of the platform such as candidate recommendations for companies with machine learning and AI.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Mobile connectivity at scale, on Prepaid

Kees Snijders
Managing Director
Flickswitch

Flickswitch started in 2007, we have built our business around prepaid mobile connectivity in South Africa and now Africa. We saw an opportunity to build services aimed at the mushrooming IoT world on top of Telco prepaid infrastructure. We pioneered structured prepaid at scale and effectively uncovered a new niche. The initial stack was built on LAMP and catered to SA customers on one network only. We got to product-market-fit somewhere in 2009, with gradual linear growth from 2009-2015. Then we decided to expand into Africa… In the last 3 years we have come a long way and want to share some learnings of scaling.

Kees was born to Dutch immigrants in Johannesburg in 1972, completed his schooling and university (UJ) in SA. Left SA to join a post-grad program in the US in 1995, completed an MSc at Syracuse University. He started working as a programmer at Cambridge Technology Partners based in Boston in 1997, he transferred to their UK operation in 1998. He left to join Deutsche Bank in 1999. Returned to SA and got into Telco in 2002, he spent 5 years working for a Vodacom Service Provider and left to found Flickswitch in 2007. He got married, fathered 4 kids and survived cancer along the way. He is currently living in Cape Town, South Africa. In his spare time he enjoys playing chess, running and drinking wine.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Mobile connectivity at scale, on Prepaid

Wayne Pringle-Wood
Head of Engineering
Flickswitch

Flickswitch started in 2007, we have built our business around prepaid mobile connectivity in South Africa and now Africa. We saw an opportunity to build services aimed at the mushrooming IoT world on top of Telco prepaid infrastructure. We pioneered structured prepaid at scale and effectively uncovered a new niche. The initial stack was built on LAMP and catered to SA customers on one network only. We got to product-market-fit somewhere in 2009, with gradual linear growth from 2009-2015. Then we decided to expand into Africa… In the last 3 years we have come a long way and want to share some learnings of scaling.

Wayne grew up in Zim, completed his schooling in SA, completed a BCom Infotech at Curtin University, Australia. His career has included stints at Lufthansa, Direct Axis, Mxit and Kagiso Media. He is a multifaceted person, who can write code, manage projects and people. He has a passion for building digital products that provide value. He has been helping organisations build better software on the foundations of agile and lean principles. He is married and currently living in Cape Town. In his spare time, he enjoys snowboarding, motorbiking and fishing.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Debug like a pro on Kubernetes

Gianluca Arbezzano
Site Reliability Engineer
InfluxData

Golang applications are perfect to be run inside a container. You can build a single binary, a tiny Docker image and you can ship them on your Kubernetes cluster. A successful production environment requires stability and simplicity, it needs to be easy to troubleshoot and operators need to be able to get all the information developers will need to fix a bug. During this talk, Gianluca will share what influxData is doing to allow developers and system administrator to work together, understanding problems running live at scale on Kubernetes and how to escalate them down to Software Engineer using logs, delve, gdb, core dumps, and traces to replicate and fix issues. Gianluca has written a number of blog posts related to his talk: Infrastructure as (real) code, You need an high cardinality database, Chaos Engineering, OpenMetrics and the future of the prometheus exposition format, FAQ: Distributed tracing and Logs, metrics and traces are equally useless.

Gianluca Arbezzano is an SRE at InfluxData. He is a big Open Source contributor for several projects including and not limited to OpenTracing, Docker, and InfluxDB. He is also a Docker Captain and a CNCF Ambassador. He is passionate about troubleshooting applications at scale, observability, and distributed systems. He is familiar with several programming languages, such as Javascript and Golang and is an active speaker and writer, sharing his experiences and knowledge on projects that he is contributing to.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Reaching Millions of Girls with Girl Effect

Jamie Hewland
Site Reliability Engineer
Praekelt.org

How do you reach 25 million girls globally who don’t share a common language or background? To scale Girl Effect’s platform and achieve this, we tailored many copies of our site. In 3 years we reworked our CMS and pulled parts into microservices as our infrastructure evolved to support the platform.

Jamie is a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) at Praekelt.org and works a lot with containers, CI/CD processes, and cloud infrastructure. Jamie is also Praekelt.org’s Tech Ambassador and has spoken at several tech conferences including ScaleConf and KubeCon. He writes and edits technical content for the company’s MobileForGood blog. His blog posts have been read by thousands of people and explore topics around container technologies as well as tech issues relevant to the ICT4D community.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Reaching Millions of Girls with Girl Effect

Codie Roelf
Software Engineer
Praekelt.org

How do you reach 25 million girls globally who don’t share a common language or background? To scale Girl Effect’s platform and achieve this, we tailored many copies of our site. In 3 years we reworked our CMS and pulled parts into microservices as our infrastructure evolved to support the platform.

JCodie is a software engineer at Praekelt.org. She is passionate about Bollywood movies, Celine Dion and uplifting the lives of womxn through tech. She is a co-founder of Django Girls Cape Town and Code Like Her. You’re most likely to see her wearing some form of Fedora.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Scaling live transactional data at the Tour de France

Tim Wade
Senior Director of Technology and Architecture Consulting
Dimension Data

How do you receive, aggregate and process thousands of live data points gathered from 22 teams of racers taking part in a 3500km bicycle race over 23 days? And then present that data live to an audience of over 7 million people as it happens? Enter the digitization of the Tour de France race data.

Tim Wade, a technologist who has a passion for cloud engineering and architecture, working at great companies like Nokia and Dimension Data; now the Senior Director of Technology and Architecture Consulting at Dimension Data Group, based in the UK office. Tim was one of the great minds behind the Dimension Data - Tour de France partnership to digitize a 100+ year old bicycle race, bringing cloud, big data and analytics to a live digital fan experience.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Programming for Accessibility

Rory Preddy
Audience Developer
Microsoft

Have you ever heard “You have to be this tall to operate a mobile phone?”. Programming for diversity serves as an unquestionable indicator that your software embraces and cares about your users’ safety and comfort. Join me on a thought-provoking look at how you can program for accessibility.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Rory worked for a number of South Africa’s large companies as an Integration Architect. Rory’s focus for the last 7 years has been on research and development (R&D) with a focus on cloud research, consulting and training. Working in research has allowed him unparalleled insights into industry movements, trends, and news. Rory is extremely passionate about the programming community and has been critical helping them create a South African flavoured digital disruption strategy. Rory is an organiser of the Kotlin and Java developer user groups and has led the Johannesburg AWS user group for 2 years. When not captivating the crowd with his presentations as a technical speaker, he can be found in the front row with a distinguished laugh, infectious enough to break the awkward silence in any audience. His expertise includes PaaS and Java, and he holds an honours degree in Computer Science. Married with two children, Rory tries to spend most of his free time with his family and two hyperactive Schnauzers.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Scaling Silos: Distributing Knowledge

Grace Chang
Senior Engineer

In a distributed cloud world, we are frequently talking about how to scale our systems so that they are reliable, resilient, and fault-tolerant. But these concepts don't just apply to the computational aspect. A somewhat unconventional experiment of trying to work for a month without using StackOverflow showed that we can actually reuse the concepts we are already familiar with and apply them to the way we share knowledge within our teams.

Senior Engineer in London, with a past life as an on-call tech lead. Paints with code by day, paints for real by night. Enthusiast of fun coding and coding puns. Lover of lagomorphs, gifs, and gifs of lagomorphs.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Natural Language Understanding at Scale

Bernardt Duvenhage
Feersum Engine NLP & Machine Learning Lead
Praekelt Consulting

From data science to scalable cloud instance, the talk will show how (and why) we’ve built our own natural language understanding service. The service is containerised and built on Python, PyTorch and C++, OpenAPI with Connexion (Flask) to simplify development, and gunicorn plus nginx for scale.

Bernardt Duvenhage received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Pretoria, South Africa in 2015. Bernardt is also a Google Cloud Certified Professional Data Engineer. In 2017 he joined Praekelt’s Feersum Engine Team as the lead developer of the natural language processing and understanding (NLP & NLU) capability. Before Praekelt he was a principal researcher and a research group leader of image processing at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria. His research interests include natural language understanding, computer vision and field robotics.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Web Application Security: Winning When The Odds Are Against You

Ben Dechrai
Developer Evangelist
Auth0

We’ve heard of cross-site scripting attacks, SQL injection, and CSRFs, but we rely on frameworks to abstract them away. Yet, understanding them can help our perspective on security. Come along and watch some of the OWASP top ten vulnerabilities in action, and ways to defend against them!

Ben Dechrai is a technologist, presenter, community builder, and hard-core privacy advocate. When he’s not on stage, or sharing his ideas and views on security, identity, and privacy, he loves to hear about other people’s passions and interests, technology related and otherwise. It’s because of this that he has been known to run a number of community events, from conferences and meetups, to end-of-year parties and comedy shows. He now works for Auth0 to support developers in making the web a safer place.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

Tinkertoys, microservices, and feature management: How to build for the future

Heidi Waterhouse
Developer Advocate
LaunchDarkly

Lots of us aren’t developing tidy, discrete features that are easy to manage. How do you plan to move from a tangle of interconnected features to something that you can test and deploy each part of? Join us for an overview on the conceptual basis of designing for feature management.

Heidi is a developer advocate with LaunchDarkly. She delights in working at the intersection of usability, risk reduction, and cutting-edge technology. One of her favourite hobbies is talking to developers about things they already knew but had never thought of that way before. She sews all her conference dresses so that she’s sure there is a pocket for the mic.

The video for this talk is available on youtube

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