Mani Sarkar – a passionate freelance software developer mainly in the Java / JVM space based in the United Kingdom. He is a Java Champion, Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador, and a leader in the software development community. Mani Sarkar sees himself working in areas related to Java, Hotspot, GraalVM, Truffle, VMs, Performance Tuning, Data, and AI / ML / DL / NLP. Follow him on Twitter at @theNeomatrix369 and LinkedIn.

You are a passionate developer mainly in the Java and JVM space, can you briefly explain why you chose this topic for your lectures? What were your aims and expectations?

So, that’s a long story, I did not choose it. It automatically unfolded before me in the past so many years. Particularly for this event, it’s a Java-based event, so I had to speak about Java. I decided to come this year and contribute not just to Java, but also to be part of discussions. I was thinking of doing a talk but in a discussion as you know it’s an open field, you have all kinds of questions, and you can give all kinds of answers to those questions and many others will give different answers to the same questions. Collectively it’s a very useful forum. Every year I’m used to giving a talk on a specific topic, it’s just this year Java2Days was organised so quickly at such short notice. I did tell one of your colleagues that may be developers and speakers may not have a ready talk to present, in my case I would like to come out with a new talk. I am ok to do an “old talk” but then I would also want to present new things. I don’t do “repeat talks” that often. I have already done this a couple of times this year and it does not feel natural to me to do a repeat talk. If I do a talk it will be a new flavour of it and more advanced. I hope this answered your question.

And how do you feel during these virtual conversations? Did you get used to this? Do you miss the face-to-face interaction with the audience? What are the challenges and how are you coping with this pandemic situation? 

Good question. I work as a freelancer, and I work from home and almost all of my interactions with my clients in the last three years have been online. Because my clients are remote, they are based everywhere. Even if some of them are based in the UK or London they don’t have an office. The others are based outside of the UK and we don’t meet in person because you know it’s more practical to have a conference call and because of the changes that are happening since the beginning of this year for me it’s just a natural thing. I didn’t have to adjust much or change to anything new. The thing that has changed was that I used to go to the city to do meet-ups and events like conferences and things like what we are doing just now, and that has stopped massively in the last 9 months. That’s a big change. I like to meet new people, talk with them and interact with them because there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation. We can still have a few virtual conversations for practical reasons, but at the end of the day we will still want to meet people, have a coffee, have lunch or dinner or share something. Those are the things that we are missing, but maybe if virtual conferences and events are transformed we can bring in something like VR technology, where we can feel like the person we are talking with is next to us. I don’t know what are the possibilities and what are the good and not so good things about such technology but for now this feels different because I am used to meeting people at conferences. In the beginning conferences for me were more to go and attend the talk and learn. Eventually it became more networking and talking with people and that’s just gone away because I learn now by going online, I don’t have to go to an event, conference or meeting. But I don’t get to meet and interact with people – as soon as the webinar finishes everyone has logged off and off to do something else because everybody has other things and their agenda is so packed with work and there is no free time. So yes, it has changed quite a bit. I didn’t have to adjust to it but I noticed that I am missing these things and there are no replacements.

Yes, I totally agree.  And the most important thing is it seems that most of the people are actually ready to commit this and are accepting the “new virtual reality” as normal. What advice can you give to the audience how to cope with this? 

I am in a similar situation as everybody else, not in any special situation. The key part is to keep on doing what you are doing and do not get distracted, because there are so many distractions. Yes, it takes time and effort to get used to it. Yes, we want to meet other people but now the restrictions are a fact and we need to just work with them, not against them. Stay focused! This is a great time to do things that we couldn’t do before like reading a book. Stay away from the computer, because we are spending a lot of time with it. I am not doing myself this, as much as I am suggesting this to others but for everybody else who is not used to this I would say be more offline than online. Be online only if it’s necessary. There are a lot of offline activities that can disconnect you from the world even for a while. Thinking about the restrictions and the problems and what we are missing and what we do not have – all of these things are not making us feel good. Try to stay away from this. I keep myself very busy. I am involved in many things that I would like to achieve and get done for myself. In a way, this is a great situation for me because I am less bothered and distracted by the outside world, even though I still have to interact with it. But I have my own agenda, I maintain a “to-do list” both on paper and digital form. Keep yourself busy, keep yourself in check. For example my “to-do” list is like a check for me to see how well am I doing, how far am I with some of the things that I want to do. I am not thinking about the things that are happening around me that much even though I know they are there and when I go outside to do shopping or for a walk I see what is around me but when I finish the task and get back home I know that I am back to my routine and sometimes I am just resting. Have enough sleep! That is very important!

I know some of the Java2Days people don’t understand that. In the last few weeks you have probably not slept enough, very long hours. One of your colleagues said that she slept only between 4 am and 7 am. You are about to get out of this cycle soon, when the conference finishes. Don’t sleep for 3 hours, sleep for like 6-7 hours straight.

Yes, and eat healthily, stay calm, don’t panic, and try to stay undistracted by the things that are happening around us. If there is nothing to do, pick up a book to read, that’s the best I can recommend!

I truly thank you for your participation at the conference these three days. I hope we will be able to meet and discuss further topics in 2021 as well!

Yes, very much looking forward to it, please organise more conferences like this next year as well, because we still don’t know when we are going to be back to meeting face-to-face. So, if you want to keep yourself busy and organise another event like this in the next few months I will be more than happy to attend. Now you have all these different channels like Brella, Inevent, Zoom, etc so all of that is in place and you know how they work. The community is forming again, you can interact with them again as you have got like 2000 attendees this year! Normally, I used to come to Sofia and there were like 500-600 visitors per session*. I don’t know if you have ever had 1000 people.

Yes, the virtual world is helping us to unite so we are becoming more and more. 

Yes, and in a very short period of time, you have done very impressive work!

* Mani’s last conference was in 2014 

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