Skip to content

React Finland - Your Chance to Learn React Up North - Interview with Juho Vepsäläinen


There are a lot of React conferences these days. React has become one of the most popular web technologies during the past few years so this is understandable.

Given I, Juho Vepsäläinen, am one of the organizers of React Finland (24-26.4.2018, Helsinki), I thought it would be a good idea to provide an inside view on the event.

Can you tell a bit about yourself?

Juho Vepsäläinen

I maintain this site as my business. I consider myself as a consultant these days although I do development every once in a while. My perspective has changed completely over the past few years as I have had to move into business. It hasn’t been easy, but on the plus side, this process has been changing my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined before. And I have a feeling it continues to do so.

These days I consult companies ranging from small startups to big enterprises like eBay or Kapsch. I can provide perspective on how to improve their current workflow, especially on the technical side. I train people as needed. This process, in turn, helps me to develop the book offerings you can find on this site. The writing brings in the consulting clients and so far it has been working fine.

How would you describe React Finland to someone who has never heard of it?

React Finland brings together developers from both east and west. It is held late April (24-26.4) 2018 and contains a wide range of topics related to React. It is perhaps the northernmost React conference in the world and a perfect excuse to visit Finland, the most boring country in the world.

What does React Finland offer?

We settled on a three-day program early on. To keep the difficulty manageable, we decided to go with one day for workshops and then two days for presentations in a single track format. The schedule has ample amount of time per presenter and allows flexibility so we can have panels and lightning talks as a part of the days.

We have a wide range of speakers on topics related to React. Most of the topics are technical, and we cover ideas from state management, styling, testing, React Native, React VR, and also upcoming technologies such as Reason. I feel we have a good program that can serve people with various amounts of React experience.

Especially the workshop day should be exciting. The state management workshop by Michel Weststrate is a real masterclass as it takes the whole day. Rest of the sessions are up to four hours, and you will have time to participate in two sessions depending on your interest. We split the workshop profit with the speakers as we know organizing and coming up with the material is hard work.

How does React Finland differ from other events?

Given the conference is held in late April, the weather isn’t our selling point. It’s still Spring and chilly, but that’s not the point. Finland is one of those countries most people know but have never visited. The idea is to provide an excellent excuse to visit this boring country in the north so you have stories to tell and can confirm the country indeed exists. You will learn something about sauna, sisu, and salmiakki.

I am happy with the program and the speakers we managed to attract. I feel both the local and international audience will be able to get a lot out of the event. It can become a meeting point between the east and the west thanks to the location that’s relatively easy to reach from both directions. Finland has always been between the east and the west given it’s a buffer country by its past.

Why did you decide to arrange React Finland?

It was around August of this year (2017) that we joked about organizing a React conference in Finland at Koodiklinikka, the most popular development Slack of Finland. As it happens, the joke is becoming a reality. It didn’t take long for me to realize that a conference would be feasible especially given there hasn’t been an international React conference in Finland, and there’s definite demand for one.

As a result, we set up an association (harder than it sounds), set up a team, used our contacts to reach out to speakers, and developed website and technology required. It has taken a lot of effort so far, and the fact that this is volunteer based makes it a notch harder. Finding the time and motivation to do even boring tasks is the hardest part, but it’s required as, without a certain amount of work, there can be no conference.

React Conference is a conference from developers to developers. Organizing a conference this way comes with different pressures than a commercial one. There are always particular struggles you have to go through, but so far we’ve managed well.

For me, this was a chance to learn from conferences I had been to and try to avoid the mistakes they have made. I feel the most significant thing we can do better is to serve our speakers better by connecting them with the local community and generating business to them. It’s only fair to reward them as they are one of the critical parts that make the event work.

What next?

We recently announced that ticket sales will go live on 27th of December. That is your chance to get an early bird ticket at an affordable price (250€ for two days, 150€ for a half-day workshop). Our goal is to sell close 300 tickets. Most likely a majority of them will be sold to local developers, but we welcome international audience as well.

What advice would you give to programmers getting into web development?

Be prepared to learn and change your mind a lot. Keep an eye on the hype. You don’t have to be the first always. Focus on delivering value to your business, and the rest will follow.

Who should I interview next?

I know who I’m going to interview next, but I’ll keep that as a secret.

Any last remarks?

A lot of technical development has gone into the conference. Check out the site repository, the content repository, the GraphQL API, and the mobile app for example. Organizing this conference taught me how to develop small conference sites effectively, and I found a nice model for doing this. That might be worth a blog post of its own.


I have a feeling React Finland will be a good conference. That said, it’s important we’ll attract the right people there, and this is where you come in! Going to the event might be one of the better excuses to visit Finland.

You can learn more about the event at its site. Subscribe to the mailing list or follow @ReactFinland on Twitter to stay in the loop.