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Insights from SXSW 2024: Reflections of a G-Research Platform Engineer

Insights from SXSW 2024: Reflections of a G-Research Platform Engineer

22 March 2024
  • News

We work at the cutting-edge of our industry, which is why learning and development is a cornerstone of our employee experience. That’s also why we encourage our people to attend conferences and events, like South By Southwest (SXSW). We want our people to hear from other experts within the industry, interrogate their research and think about how we can learn from their experiences.

Here, Robin L, a Big Data Platform engineer in our Dallas engineering and infrastructure hub, provides an overview of what he took away from his time at SXSW 2024.

I’ve lived in the Austin area for a decade, so I’ve been vaguely aware of the hubbub and traffic snarls that accompany the festival, but this was the first time I got to experience the spectacle in person.

Robin L Big Data Platform Engineer

Last week, I had the exciting opportunity to attend South by Southwest (SXSW). Despite being an honorary Austinite for the last 10 years, it was my first time experiencing this behemoth of a festival, which blends tech, music, film and comedy all into one.

And what an experience it was. Touring the Creative Industries Expo alone, I saw futuristic robots, dazzling artistic displays, and plenty of vendors eager to show how their product of tomorrow is ready to change my today.

Yet still, these were but entertaining sideshows to the numerous talks I had scheduled from experts in the industry – focusing on cybersecurity, AI, and broader technology trends.

AI in the Limelight

Unsurprisingly AI was a dominant theme throughout the festival, with plenty of people fully aware of how much LLM is shifting the technology landscape.

Given how bullish the tech industry has been on AI, you could be forgiven for thinking that the forecasts for AI would be all sunshine and rainbows. Instead, most prognosticators seemed fully cognizant of the limitations and concerns that come with AI.

In one particularly memorable talk, Marek Kowalkiewicz provided some humorous anecdotes about algorithms gone awry, and compared them to minions eager to help, but wreak havoc the moment we turn away. His guidance of taking advantage of automation but on a careful, gradual scale seemed prudent for any technology.

The talks weren’t limited to the purely digital realm, either – hearing from OpenAI’s General Counsel, Che Chang, about balancing legal risks and potentially nefarious users against the potential features gave some great insight into the business processes happening within one of the most talked-about companies on the planet.

Check out everything we got up to at SXSW via our social media.


Gamifying Incident Response

For me, the highlight experience was a workshop entitled Dungeons & Dragons & Cybersecurity, where we were split into small groups to play a variant of the iconic role-playing game, co-opting it to simulate a cybersecurity incident.

After the evil cybercriminals had wrecked our imaginary infrastructure, we were given the opportunity to undertake an insightful post-mortem – without the damage. This allowed us to identify weak areas of our response and the kinds of things that might have prevented the chaos befalling our imaginary company.

Taking this back to G-Research, I’m already thinking about how we can use our actual policies and procedures against such potential disasters to “red team” our systems in an entertaining, gamified way.

I only attended a few days, but I had an incredibly memorable experience. Next time, I’ll definitely go for more days, definitely visit the grilled cheese truck more often, and definitely spend more time in the exhibit hall.

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