Lessons Learned from the GraphQL Summit: A Student’s Perspective

Kelsey Yim

Kelsey Yim

Full Stack Developer @ Novvum • 4 min read

Lessons Learned from the GraphQL Summit: A Student’s Perspective

How much does college prepare you for the real world?

As a current undergraduate studying Computer Science, I think about this question constantly. While I studied programming languages such as C++ and Python in school, I learned about up and coming tech such as React.js and GraphQL at my work, Novvum. Here, through many hours on Stack Overflow and steady guidance from my mentors, I worked towards understanding the basics of React.js by applying what I’ve learned about Javascript from school. It was a lot to take in at first, especially since Novvum is my first real job in my field. However, over many months, I began to feel more comfortable with immersing myself in the latest technology. I was even given the opportunity to attend a technical conference that changed my perspective on what it means to be a beginner.

On Nov 7th-8th, the GraphQL Summit hosted a diverse community of technologists all eager to learn, teach, or share knowledge on the growing query language, GraphQL. As someone who wasn’t too familiar with the language, it was comforting to see that everyone was open-minded and understood that there was a wide range of skill levels at the event. It was a great opportunity to network and be surrounded by a community of like-minded people while the summit held workshops and discussions.

For anyone who is hesitant to attend a technical conference, don’t be. As a student, I understand what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by quickly advancing technology and be embarrassed to admit how much I don’t know. In order to help anyone in a similar situation, I’ve compiled a list of the key lessons I’ve learned from exploring opportunities outside of school:

1. I don’t know what I don’t know, and that’s okay.

It ultimately boils down to having the right mindset. The willingness to learn unfamiliar concepts and ask questions already places you one step ahead of the curve. Accept that you won’t always know everything. Stop worrying about how people will judge you and start focusing on growing your own skill set. You’ll notice a major difference in how much information you retain once you accept that technology is constantly advancing, and it’s okay that you don’t know what you don’t know.

2. Technology doesn’t have to be intimidating

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the new tech, but don’t stress about learning the latest languages or libraries. There’s no need to spread yourself too thin and try to learn it all. Sometimes, taking small steps to master one concept is better than vaguely knowing everything.

3. Network in a community that you value

Tech conferences like the GraphQL Summit are great opportunities to network and connect with people who also value your interests. There, you can meet others that are still learning and ask for advice from the leading experts themselves. Everyone is a resource, and networking helps bring technical and nontechnical people together. At first, I felt insignificant because I was still a beginner trying to understand GraphQL. Then, I realized that everyone I spoke to was interested in what I had to say because my youthful perspective matters, especially in new tech. So get outside of your comfort zone! All it takes is a simple hello.

Overall, my experience working for the first time in a fast-paced company and attending a technical conference changed my perception of how prepared I am for the “real” world. Spoiler alert! I’m not, and I still won’t be prepared because it’s a continual effort to bridge the gap between didactic lecture and real-life application. In the end, you’ll always be a beginner at something and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. So own it.