John K Sawers

Speaker / Entrepreneur / Engineering Manager


I began speaking in 2016. Since then I've spoken all over the US and in Australia as well. My main talk, and the one I've given the most, is Hacking your Emotional API. I also presented Everything Is Broken, and It's OK in 2018.

Along with Aaron Aldrich, I have created a workshop based on the emotional API concept. You can find more information about that on the Workshops Page.

Hacking Your Emotional API

Abstract: Feelings are messy and uncomfortable, so why can't we just ignore them? Because emotional skills are critical for working well on a team, and for the quality of our work.

In this talk you’ll learn how emotions are affecting you by modeling them as an API and looking at the code.

I cover how poor handling of emotions impacts cognition, memory, and communication.

Then I dive into my toolkit for handling emotions, full of practical advice and new ways of thinking.

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NERD Summit

March 20, 2020 - Online

The mission of NERD (New England Regional Developers) is to collaborate with the regional community to ensure that the annual Summit and events throughout the year offer everyone, regardless of background or finances, a diverse curriculum for relevant skill building and valuable networking opportunities. This supports our vision of creating positive and supportive learning opportunities for people who work or want to work in web and related technology. Too many smart, passionate people have been traditionally excluded from tech careers, and we're changing that.

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August 23, 2019 - New York, NY

A conference about advocating for mental health at work, how technology can be better designed to support mental health, what technologies are already working to help those who suffer with mental illnesses, and how companies can be leaders in this field.

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Southeast Ruby

August 2nd, 2019 - Nashville, TN

Celebrating Ruby in the south(east).

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RubyConf Australia

February 2019 - Melbourne, VIC Australia

A conference to share Ruby knowledge amongst like-minded Rubyists.

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DevOpsDays Hartford

October 16, 2018 - Hartford, CT

Devopsdays is a worldwide series of technical conferences covering topics of software development, IT infrastructure operations, and the intersection between them. Each event is run by volunteers from the local area.

This version of the talk introduces the concept of emotional debt as an analog of technical debt.

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OSCON - The O'Reilly Open Source Conference

July 19th, 2018 - Portland, OR

Conference attendees (thousands of software developers, programmers, architects, engineers, CxOs, hackers, geeks, and analysts) join up to explore the latest open source tools and technologies; get expert in-depth training in crucial languages, frameworks, and best practices; and gain exposure to the open source stack in all its possible configurations.

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April 21, 2017 - Pittsburgh, PA

An intimate discussion of mental health, community building, and other things software professionals need to talk about more.

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Rhode Island Ruby Users Group

April 3rd, 2018 - Providence, RI

The RIRUG was started in August of 2008 with the goal of providing a solid user group for the citizens of Rhode Island.

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DevOpsDays Boston

Sept 19th, 2017 - Boston, MA

Devopsdays is a worldwide series of technical conferences covering topics of software development, IT infrastructure operations, and the intersection between them. Each event is run by volunteers from the local area.

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Self Conference

May 19th 2017 - Detroit, MI

Self.conference is a mix of fantastic tech presentations and insightful soft talks in fabulous downtown Detroit. We're filling two whole days with languages, tools, diversity, empathy, process, and team talks to help you expand your knowledge, meet other technically-minded folk, and immerse yourself in Detroit's tech renaissance.

This version of the talk is where I introduce the 4-level breakdown of tools in my toolbox.

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Boston Ruby Meetup

January 10th, 2017 - Boston, MA

The Boston Ruby Group is a community of Ruby language enthusiasts. We hold monthly meetups on the second Tuesday of the month with two long-form talks.

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August 19th, 2016 - Pittsburgh, PA

Abstractions is a multi-disciplinary conference that brings together everyone involved in modern software development to teach, learn, and connect. With three full days of amazing content from a huge list of diverse speakers, we hope you’ll join us and designers, developers, DevOps, managers, quality assurance, support, and community leaders from around the world.

This was the debut of the full version of the talk.

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RailsConf -- Lightning Talk

May 5th, 2016 - Kansas City, MO

For every year since 2006, RailsConf has been the largest gathering of Rails developers in the world, not to mention the largest gathering of Rubyists. The 2016 edition runs from May 4-6.

This lightning talk was my first exploration of the idea. The audience response motivated me to keep going and developer the fill talk.

Everything Is Broken, and It's OK

Abstract: It can be discouraging to look at broken code all day, but that's what we do. It's tempting to think that once we get more experience this won't happen any more. But it does, no matter our level of experience.

The reason for this is the almost invisible process of learning. As we learn more we make the hard problems easy and find new hard problems. This process continues our entire career; things are always broken, and it's always hard to fix it.

But it's OK. If we take the time to notice the things we're learning and to celebrate the times we've leveled up, we can actually relax and enjoy this process.

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NERD Summmit

March 18th, 2018 - Amherst, MA

We are the New England Regional Developers! Each year we hold our annual NERD Summit. Building up to the summit we collaborate with the local community, creating a diverse curriculum for relevant skill building.