Krzysztof Witczak

Beyond Code conference and it's unique approach

November 03, 2023

Before COVID I used to visit many IT conferences every year - from small meetups up to one of the largest in Poland, holding speakers from entire Europe and US. The small ones were usually focused more on allowing members of the community to make their first steps as speakers and keep networking as casual as possible, usually talking next to the pizza or beer. The big ones were paid and offered high-quality talks mixed with opportunities to speak with companies who sponsored the events and were usually looking for new hires.

Unique approach: opinion exchange

However, the thing that made Beyond Code unique in my eyes the most was their focus on opinion exchange. After a day full of talks, there were so-called Discussion Tables. It was more of a room, and each of them had a theme, usually an extension of topics discussed on that day. People entered a room and sat in a circle, usually, it was between 10 and 30 people. The facilitator spend first couple of minutes establishing rules of conversation - it was not always the same:

  • Sometimes very organized with X amount of minutes to spend on a given topic;
  • Sometimes people were quickly voting using their hands 👍👎 to give the facilitator a sign if they wanted to continue or not;
  • Sometimes people were just speaking freely exchanging opinions without any governance;

I was surprised by how great it was to hear the exchange of opinions - it turned out that many people had their own stories which related somehow to the facilitator’s talk during the day and they could suggest improvements or challenge the facilitator’s opinions. I was also amazed how many people came mostly from software houses or huge corporations - companies like mine (small/medium product company) were in the minority. I quickly realized that process-wise we don’t experience most of the problems engineers seemed to have - like struggling with Scrum being overimplemented or badly implemented, pressure on accurate estimates and so on. It was refreshing. I exchanged many contacts afterwards with people who turned out to have mindsets or ideas I appreciated. And you know what? Now on LinkedIn, I see they publish even more good ideas! Fantastic.

Unique approach: networking near the mountain fire

The conference is located in Zakopane, which means high mountains in Poland. Views are amazing and the conference is built in a way that you can enjoy trekking together with other attendees either before/after conference day or on a weekend which happens after Beyond Code finishes on Friday. I went with another member to see a sunset in the mountains, and it was a great feeling to connect both learning experiences with astonishing views…


Additionally, after the first day, there is a planned networking event. As I have seen it in the past, it used to be some kind of a party, with music and beer, usually too loud for my taste. This one was different. We’ve been sitting around a fireplace during the night, surrounded by mountains and stars. As my friend Adam once shared with me, for some people it’s difficult to speak up to a stranger during networking, but with this setting, it was easier.


Unique approach: themes outside code

Most presentations were concentrated on soft skills and non-typical themes but still related to IT. Those weird topics that many Tech Leads or Managers encounter every week, but they may not be obvious to classify and they are not so sexy topics at other IT conferences, focused usually on trending technologies, techniques, tools and approaches. Here it was different. I’d say that many talks touched on different angles of two bigger topics:

  • Problem of burnout and depression in IT is a common phenomenon and a problem for Polish people to admit such problems both to themselves and others, which makes things even more extreme. How to detect problems with mental health in your reports? How to address them? How to protect your people from them before it happens? And finally, how to help yourself?
  • Importance of DevEx in IT, how to figure out where the problems are, what to measure and how to act on them.

But there was a lot more as well on the topics of motivation (both how to inspire it and how to keep it high for yourself), effective communication, different types of people in our teams (differences of generations, neurodiversity), aspects of seniority and good advice for first-time managers.


There were three main aspects that in my eyes made Beyond Code a different conference than others:

  • Room for opinion exchange through so-called discussion tables;
  • Amazing landscape of conference and activities together;
  • Networking approach more suitable for my introverted nature;

I wish more meetups to adopt a similar approach, especially around discussion tables. All in all, it was an amazing experience and I’m going to be there next year, or maybe even give there a talk! 💪