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  • April 25, 2019

My First DevOpsDays: DevOpsDays Seattle 2019

Kaslin Fields
Solutions Architect

My Experience at DevOpsDays Seattle

If you're familiar with the tech conference circuit, you've probably at least heard of DevOpsDays. With over 50 conferences all across the world, local organizers bring the conference to their communities.  Each DevOpsDays has several traits in common regardless of location: a focus on the technical DevOps community, a strong code of conduct and promotion of inclusion, and a combination of technical talks and "open spaces" talks which are led by the attendees at the conference.

Despite hearing and seeing consistent praise for the DevOpsDays conferences, I had not attended one until now. After attending DevOpsDays Seattle (April 23rd & 24th, 2019), I have now joined the ranks of DevOpsDays advocates.

So what makes DevOpsDays so special?

DevOpsDays Seattle Attendees gather around the Open Spaces topic area.

DevOpsDays Seattle Attendees gather around the Open Spaces topic area.

Compared to some of the other conferences I attend regularly, the local Seattle DevOpsDays is still quite small, with about 600 attendees this year. With only one main talk track (aside from the open spaces break out discussions, which I'll talk about more later) and one big sponsor room, the conference really drives a feeling of community. 

From the responses to questions asked by the speakers on the main stage, it was clear to see that the majority of attendees were technical DevOps professionals trying to improve their day-to-day lives.  I found that the audience could easily relate to the stories being told on stage. This meant it was also easy for attendees to strike up conversations with other attendees, offering an excellent opportunity for networking.

Focus on Community

Attendees mingle at the DevOpsDays 2019 reception.

Attendees mingle at the DevOpsDays 2019 reception.

The DevOpsDays conferences emphasize their community focus even more with their Open Spaces discussion format. During the first half of the day (more like 3/4), the attendees can attend talks on the main track, check out the sponsor showcase, and come up with ideas for the Open Spaces tracks that begin around 3pm.  In Seattle, there was a large wall in the sponsor area where people could put up post-it notes with concepts they would like to discuss. Each attendee was asked to put a dot on the 2 topics they like most. Then around 2pm, each person who proposed a discussion topic was asked to come up on the main stage and give a brief overview of their discussion proposal. After that, votes were tallied and the post-its of topics were distributed on a calendar of locations and times right next to where they were for voting.

From around 3pm-5pm, attendees could go to the main track, or participate in any of these open discussions by picking a topic and just going to the room during the designated time. Attendees were encouraged to treat these as casual discussions, encouraging people to come in and out at their leisure. Overall, this is a very low-stress, potentially high-reward (if the discussion is interesting) way for community members to engage with each other over topics that interest them!

Talk Formats

Heidi Waterhouse speaks to the audience at her Ignite talk "The Devil's DevOps" at DevOpsDays Seattle 2019.

Heidi Waterhouse speaks to the audience at her Ignite talk "The Devil's DevOps" at DevOpsDays Seattle 2019.

Open Spaces aren't the only way DevOpsDays incorporates talk formats aside from the usual X-minute presentation.  They also have a section set aside for "Ignite" talks. The interesting thing about Ignite talks is that they have a set requirement for slide advancement. The DevOpsDays site describes Ignite talks as "5 minute talks with 20 slides which auto-advance." This format means you have to consider your content carefully, and that there may be some talks that this is particularly well suited for.  For a great utilization of this format, you should definitely check out Heidi Waterhouse's talk, "The Devil's DevOps." (Slides here, but do check out the recording when it's up!)

Before the Open Spaces discussions on the second day, they also had something called "Ignite Karaoke" though, in practice, it's really more like "Ignite Improv". Volunteers from the audience come up on the main stage to speak to an auto-advancing deck of slides that they've never seen before. It's a very fun and amusing way to refresh the audience before the Open Spaces begin!

There were also Fishbowl Q&A sessions with the speakers and a hallway track during the Open Spaces, though sadly, I didn't get a chance to attend either. That just means there's more for me to explore at my next DevOpsDays!

The Main Stage at DevOpsDays Seattle

Karthik Gaekwad gives his talk on burnout to the audience at the DevOpsDays Seattle 2019 main stage.

Karthik Gaekwad gives his talk on burnout to the audience at the DevOpsDays Seattle 2019 main stage.

If you're reading about this conference, you probably didn't just come here to hear about the conference's format, you probably also want to hear about the content! So here are a few of the talks from the main stage that I particularly enjoyed and which you might want to check out for yourself once the videos become available!

Peter Chestna - The 3 Ways of DevSecOps – Making Shift Happen

I hadn't heard Peter Chestna speak before, but it was clear from the smooth quality of his talk that he's been doing it for a while. Since he recently transitioned away from a role involving large amounts of speaking, this talk will be one of his last for a while. But even so, he made it a killer talk by relating it directly with what he'll be doing in his new role: Making Shift Happen.

This talk focused on the importance of introducing Security to your DevOps workflows. In his new role, Peter will be leading a team developing processes that will incorporate security more closely into product and feature work. He uses this talk to bring his audience into his thought process as he tackles this challenge - a challenge which many companies are facing right now.

Karthik Gaekwad - Mental Health Studies in Devops

Karthik is one of my teammates here on the Oracle Cloud Native Labs team, but I'm not including him just because of that. His talk on burnout was easily one of the most talked about sessions of the conference. It seemed to keep coming up again and again in discussions with attendees, Open Space topic submissions, and even in the Ignite Karaoke!

Burnout is a situation that can affect anyone, so it's natural that the topic resonated well with the DevOpsDays audience.  In his talk, Karthik highlighted research and statistics to show the real effects of burnout. Then he used that evidence to recommend ways for his audience to address and try to prevent burnout in themselves and others. Regardless of your job title or interests, this is definitely one to check out!

Kris Nova - The beauty of virtual infrastructure with Kubernetes and containers

Kris is one of the forefront leaders in the Kubernetes community, making frequent appearances at conferences including KubeCon and on Heptio (now part of VMware)'s weekly live youtube stream "TGI Kubernetes".

This was one of the most technically deep talks that I saw at DevOpsDays, but that doesn't mean it should be scary for those with little experience with Kubernetes and virtualization technology! Kris is a great speaker who highlights the details of how virtualization relates to Kubernetes for her audience.

Brendan Burns, Bridget Kromhout - Kubernetes Operability Tooling

You can't go wrong with a talk given by this power duo from Microsoft. Brendan Burns- one of the 3 creators of Kubernetes, works with Principal Cloud Advocate and ops veteran Bridget Kromhout, to share some great tools for working with Kubernetes. And of course, they include some live demos as well!

So should you go to DevOpsDays?

Yes!! With so many conferences around the world, there's a good chance that there's a DevOpsDays conference near you. And if there isn't, you are encouraged to work with your local community to start one!  Few conferences I know have gotten such consistently good reviews while having such a distributed presence.

I hope you've learned some interesting things about DevOpsDays Seattle - I know I certainly have. And I hope you can use some of that newfound knowledge to do a cool project or get involved with your local community.

Happy DevOps-ing!

Oracle Cloud Native Labs team members (left to right) Karthik Gaekwad, Jesse Butler, Kaslin Fields, and Mickey Boxell stand in front of the Oracle Cloud Native Labs banner a the DevOpsDays Seattle 2019 reception.

Oracle Cloud Native Labs team members (left to right) Karthik Gaekwad, Jesse Butler, Kaslin Fields, and Mickey Boxell stand in front of the Oracle Cloud Native Labs banner a the DevOpsDays Seattle 2019 reception.

Stay in Touch!

Want to learn more about Kubernetes and other DevOps-y technologies? Check out the tutorials available from the Oracle Cloud Native Labs team at cloudnative.oracle.com!

If you missed the Cloud Native Labs team at DevOpsDays Seattle, you'll have another chance to catch us at DevOpsDays Austin! Learn more here.

And don't forget to keep in touch with the goings-on of the Cloud Native Labs team by signing up for our Mailing List!

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