Two Babbel Engineers Reflect On Droidcon Berlin

Two of Babbel’s engineers share their perspectives on finally returning to an in-person conference in 2021 — droidcon Berlin.
image of stage sign that says #DCBLN21 for droidcon berlin 2021

Ben’s Perspective On droidcon Berlin

Finally, a real in-person event again after the long, exhausting dark times, where we all had to sit behind a screen to attend anything and constantly ask, “Can you see my screen?” This event was a shining beacon for me, fading in from the shadows to illuminate our world and let us again feel a long-forgotten joy that we thought we had left behind us – in-person conferences!

Droidcon Berlin was an exciting way for us to reconnect with the wider Android Dev community, network and meet new people, attend lots of brilliant talks and workshops, learn a whole bunch of interesting new things and of course, fill our bags with large piles of delicious swag and stickers. But this would also be my first opportunity, since the pandemic, to present in front of an actual live audience. I could not wait!

Finally, Wednesday had come around. Excitement filled my heart, as today would be the day that I got to check an important item off of my bucket list: presenting at the world-renowned droidcon. Me and my colleague, Ahmed, would get to share our knowledge and learnings around the fantastic work that we had been doing the past six months. This work and the topic of our talk was Integrating Jetpack Compose into the Babbel Production App, and it is very safe to say that “Compose” was the hot topic of this year’s event. Every other talk had Compose in the title, so ours would not only need to “bring it,” but would also be on the main stage, and the audience was likely to be entirely full of interested faces.

My day started early so that I could make the hour-long journey to reach the venue, CityCube Berlin. The event was designated as a 2G event, meaning that all attendees needed to be either vaccinated or recovered in order to come in. After signing in, grabbing a bunch of gorgeous droidcon stickers, my wonderful speaker gift (thank you droidcon by the way!) and one of the stylish branded T-shirts, I took the escalator to the underground layer of CityCube, where the event was taking place. Filled with excitement, I strode into the central forum room where all the booths from the various companies were set up, and even though it was crazy early (before the opening ceremony), the place was already electric and bustling full of real people! I’ll never forget how it felt to see that ocean of life for the first time again after so long. I remember feeling like this was a slice of paradise that we had been all unable to reach, and finally, it was in our grasp once again. It felt good!

droidcon Berlin 2021 — real people mingling.

After mingling a little bit and chugging plenty of coffee, the introduction session took place, followed swiftly by the opening keynote by the wonderful Chet Haase (one of my heroes, whom I actually got to meet). Both of these took place on the main stage that was given the nickname “Lovelace” (after Ada Lovelace, a.k.a “the first computer programmer”). This was to be our stage in just under an hour, so Ahmed and I dipped into the speaker’s lounge to prepare ourselves for our moment in the spotlight.

11:30 arrived; we would be on in just 10 minutes. We made our way to the back of Lovelace where the cameras, screens and audio equipment were faithfully being manned by the brilliant droidcon crew. They attached microphones to our faces and wired the accompanying transmitter boxes through our clothes. While the room began to slowly fill up for our talk, the final piece of the puzzle was to plug my laptop into the absolutely massive double screens and hit “go” on our presentation. This was it, this was the moment. I remember standing on the stage in front of a room that could easily seat maybe 300 to 400 people as the crowds were slowly filing in right before we were given the green light. I remember quite vividly smiling like a complete idiot, as this place, the stage, is where I feel alive, I feel at home. Then we got “The Nod.”

Ahmed and I (Ben) during our talk with an ocean of audience in front of us. 
Action shot of me (Ben) on the main stage.

After 45 full minutes of pure bliss and happiness for me and (hopefully) lots of useful information, fun and lighthearted entertainment for the audience, it was done! We rocked it! It went fantastically and I genuinely could not be happier with the feeling and outcome. I am so grateful and honoured that I got to go in front of all of those people and share our story. I cannot wait for the next opportunity to get back on stage again to do this many more times!

Watch our full presentation here!

Jharna’s Impression Of droidcon Berlin 

This was my second time attending droidcon. The first time was droidcon 2020, which was an online-only event owing to the unique situation we found ourselves in due to the pandemic. But this year it was an in-person event. Say what!? 😮

Babbel, being one of the sponsors, had a booth in the conference area. Conveniently, we were placed right next to the air hockey, giant Jenga and table tennis area, ensuring that there were no dull moments to be had! 🎮 🎯  

What’s more,  Babbel also hosted the opening VIP party for the droidcon speakers and VIPs at our very own office premises this year. It was great to meet and mingle with the VIPs and speakers even before the conference was in full swing. 🎉

Babbel at the VIP opening party for droidcon Berlin.

The actual conference began the next day. Among the first sessions was the talk by our very own Ben and Ahmed. The talk about the Jetpack Compose journey of the Babbel app was very well-received by the audience. We had a lot of people come by the Babbel booth later, and even until the very last day of droidcon, to to meet and discuss with our speakers.

Due to the exciting line-up of talks, it was tough to decide which ones to attend. I had a whole plan set up weeks before the event. And for the most part, I was able to attend the sessions I had planned to. A few sessions got moved around, but it’s great that these talks are accessible any time as VODs 🎥. 


A few takeaways from some of the sessions that I’d like to mention are:

  1. The Journey of Adopting Jetpack Compose in Babbel’s App was very engaging and interspersed with lots of nifty hints related to development and testing. I appreciated the part about utilizing the MDC Theme Adapter to enable usage of the themes and styles from our existing app (read XML layout files) for Compose views. I expect it would be beneficial to other teams that plan to gradually phase in Compose views into their existing apps.
  2. Quick Apps: Martin Alvarez-Espinar spoke of the advantages of these light apps that need no installation. Within the light apps ecosystem, we could have PWAs in web browsers or lighter apps within super apps. Examples of quick apps include WeChat, UberEats within the parent Uber app, Facebook Instant Games and many more.
  3. Scaling App Development at Zalando” was another talk that I found very interesting. The advantages of decoupling the monolith app they had into modules based on specific principles are manifold. For example, knowing what module changed helps to narrow down to a subset of tests that need to be run, reducing the release time further. This is over and above: a codebase that’s easy to contribute to and faster build times.
  4. Márton Braun shared a ton of shortcuts and handy tips on using Android Studio more efficiently. I especially liked the bit on navigation and searching. For newbies to Android development, I’d definitely recommend checking the talk titled “Become a Pro in Android Studio.” 

Upskilling ++

Gaining perspective through the various talks was just part of the fun at the conference. I networked during those three days and had some amazing chats with folks — Android-related and otherwise.

The team at the Babbel booth.

We Babbelonians also had a chance to hang out with each other (in-person and not just with our pixelated versions) while at the Babbel booth at droidcon Berlin. 

Some of us were meeting IRL for the first time, but we connected so well, it certainly didn’t seem like that. 🙌

I was equally stoked to meet up with other Women in Tech 👩  and those working in the Android space. We had some great conversations on the importance of increasing the diversity in the Android community, including initiatives that support this like our Femgineering CoP (Community of Practice). 

All in all, it was so much fun meeting people, talking shop and skilling-up, and I cannot wait for the next droidcon!

Here’s hoping that things stabilize further and that this format of the event is the norm! 🤞