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Dōmo Arigatō, Chicago Roboto

Evan Dwyer | Android Developer III

Expedia Group attendees (left to right): Zhou Chen (San Francisco), Opeyemi Abass (Seattle), Dalin Yang (Chicago), Levi Sitters (Austin), Ritesh Bhamy Shenoy (Chicago), Evan Dwyer (Seattle), Ben Lewis (Chicago)

Hello everyone, I’m Evan. I’m an Android Developer within the Flights Org, specifically on our “Flights Native Hub” team. Our team charter is to serve as a center of excellence for flights so that whenever we want to deliver a new feature in either of our native apps, we can do so by following best practices. In this pursuit, attending Chicago Roboto, an Android conference in the Windy City, was a great learning opportunity. Likewise, it was wonderful to meet other Android devs both in Expedia Group (EG) and externally. With seven representatives from EG, we were one of the largest groups in attendance at this ~100 attendee event. We all gained some valuable insight into the modern best practices for Android, and I’m excited to disseminate that knowledge to the rest of our community.

I was working on the backend side of flights until April of this year when I made the switch to pursue my old love of Android programming. Having originally interned with our Hotwire team in San Francisco 5 years ago, I was excited when EG announced its intention to start heavily investing in native mobile development, as exemplified by our “Year of App” initiative. I was given the opportunity to brush up and re-learn a lot in the realm of Android while making the transition of teams, but after attending this conference, I’m evermore grateful to EG for investing in my continued growth.

I was having lunch one day with my manager (Brendan Hannemann) when he casually asked if I wanted to attend an Android conference coming up at the beginning of August. I had seen that Mia Clapham was looking for attendees in some of our slack channels, but I had thought that we had enough interest already. I also had not ever been on a business trip before, so I was unaware of what all it involved. But I can confidently say now that it was so engaging and so fun to be a part of! I agreed to go at that lunch and started planning mentally for the trip. Fortunately, booking airfare and lodging was stress-free and straightforward using both our Barter system for the flights and Egencia for the hotel, which happened to be only blocks away from the conference center and also within the heart of downtown Chicago.

I arrived at O’Hare airport on Sunday and immediately made my way downtown. (Sidenote: Would highly recommend using Chicago’s robust train system, called the ‘L’, to navigate around the city! There’s a line that directly connects the airport to downtown, and plenty of lines to get wherever you want to go, without having to worry about parking, and at a cheap rate.) Luckily, the conference didn’t start until the following morning, so I had the evening to explore a little. I hadn’t realized what weekend of summer it was, but upon seeing the crowds of people in all sorts of outfits and colors, I immediately knew that the music festival Lollapalooza was on its last day. While I didn’t get myself a last-minute ticket, it was fun to see the city so vibrant and lively. Being in the Theatre District also helped here. I was excited for the conference the following day.

Chicago Roboto is a relatively small conference, but it sure does pack in a LOT in just 2 days! I attended sessions on Developer Relations, animation, APIs, Gradle with kotlin DSL, data indemnity, kotlin coroutines, kotlin multiplatform, MVI architecture, Dependency Injection, SDUI, Design Systems, Lifecycles and Flows, Flutter, annotation via KSP, and plenty of jetpack compose. And that’s only half of all the sessions offered! The keynote speech really set the stage well for the entire conference, harping on what an exciting time this is for Android development and how supportive the Android community is. Truly, over the relatively short lifespan of the platform, there has always been a sense of community full of passionate devs willing to help each other understand it better and build cooler and more impressive things each year. I’m glad to be a part of that community, and glad to see that the same sentimentality is present with our Android devs here at EG. Getting to meet other Android devs from EG was a blast, and it was nice to chat after each session about how we were thinking about incorporating what we had just learned into our own tech stack. There were multiple times where I would see someone from our group go up to presenters to ask EG-specific questions, and I was glad that I could follow along and see the value in what each presenter had to answer.

One of the presenters was Bill Phillips from Cash App, who gave a talk about how to test kotlin coroutines. He also happens to be the author of the 1st edition of the Big Nerd Ranch Guide to Android Programming, a book that saved me during my senior year project in college. It was great to be able to meet him and express my gratitude for his work in person, in addition to receiving some really practical tips for testing coroutines! Speaking of books, both Levi Sitters and I won a raffle for some books the conference was holding. Levi chose to get the 5th edition of the Big Nerd Ranch Guide to Android Programming (which I prompted him to get signed by the original author), and I received a Ray Wenderlich book about kotlin multiplatform that I am very much looking forward to diving into. These are just a couple of the things we’ll be taking back with us from the conference.

While I took plenty of notes during each of the sessions, I made sure that the trip wasn’t all work and no play. There was a happy hour at the end of the first day where we got to mingle with the presenters as well as with developers from other companies such as YUM brands and plenty of consultants. It was nice to seamlessly go back and forth between talking shop and just chatting about personal hobbies outside of coding. While at happy hour, Levi and I saw a TV in the corner indicating that the White Sox were playing across town, so we decided to hop on the ‘L’ to go watch. While we weren’t able to see a win for the hometown team, we did realize on the way back to the hotel that we would be passing through Chinatown, so we jumped off and had some great Chinese food to round off the night. The next day, we decided to check out the Chicago EG office during lunch, and we were able to meet up with some of our colleagues, some of whom we’d never met in person! The Chicago office was very inviting and had lots of fun decorations to really give it some character.

Chicago office

Overall, I had a wonderful time meeting other Expedians and learning with them. I’m sure we’re all eager to apply what we’ve learned to our Android app to help make it the World’s Go-to Travel App. It’s an exciting time to be an app developer, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I’m extremely grateful to EG for sponsoring us to attend Chicago Roboto, and special shoutout to Mia Clapham for organizing! Cheers!

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