Last week I attended You.CONECT’s Delivery of Things World 2016 DevOps conference in San Diego.
I'll talk more on that in a minute, but for starters - who the heck is You.CONECT? (UPDATE: Since this blog post, I've learned they have changed their name to We.Conect.)
They are a Berlin based company founded in 2014 whose goal is connecting people around innovations, ideas, technical trends, latest products, leaders, trend-setters and visionaries etc.
Haven't been around for long, but an interesting area of focus.
They hold 4 conferences annually around the Globe, including:
- Delivery of Things (DevOps)
- Industry of Things (IoT)
- Security of Things (Enterprise Governance)
- Autonomous Systems (Artificial Intelligence)
Hmmm, sounds cool, right?
Well. I have to say. They did a really good job at this conference.
Recent DevOps conferences I’ve been to had a heavy focus on evangelism, technology and toolsets. That's great, and all are much needed components of DevOps, but I’ve been disappointed there wasn’t more focus on people transformation, culture, innovation and especially security (aka DevSecOps - a topic I'll write more about later).
There also hasn't been a wealth of speakers talking through real world scenarios of their company's DevOps transformations - lessons learned, what worked what didn't etc. The REAL stuff that helps, rather than a bunch of theoretical DevOps jargon and hoopla.
It turns out that the very topics I was thirsty for were the focus at Delivery of Things World 2016. Bravo You.CONECT!!
The speaker sessions were nearly all fantastic. All real world discussions in segments no more than 30 mins each (to ensure you get a break before bladder explosions, extreme hunger or snoring takeovers) withreal world companies that went through real life DevOps transformations. They had awesome speakers in key technology leadership roles from "unicorn" companies like Netflix, Spotify, Microsoft (yes even Microsoft has joined the bandwagon and done some pretty compelling things recently in DevOps).
And my favorite was, without a doubt, the founder of Atari: Nolan Bushnell. He was an absolute riot - one of my new favorite people in the biz tech world.
For one thing, speakers are always interesting who have absolutely nothing to lose. Nolan Bushnell has no one left on the planet he needs to impress after his accomplishments. These speakers just have a different kind of attitude. They say what's on their mind and speak their truth. He was REALLY funny and interesting.
Some things I didn't necessary know about Nolan:
- He also founded Chuck E. Cheese
- He worked with Steve Jobs before he started Apple
- He's dyslexic - can't write. His wife helped correct his emails.
- He has a crazy idea about what the future of automated cars and what Amazon Prime looks like (next time you talk to me - ask about this one!!)
The focus of his talk was "innovation", and he convinced me that perhaps there is no one better in the world to speak to this than him. Some questions he posed that I absolutely loved were:
- "What are you doing to not only allow, but encourage your employees to be weird?"
- "What are you actually doing to ensure you are hiring weird people?"
His point was that more diversity (and moreover "weird people") tend to have the wackiest ideas that lead to the most innovative and profitable breakthroughs. To that extent, he has hired several people he met while out and about in the world - including waiters & waitresses - simply because of the "oddity and passion" he saw in them. They knew nothing of his Atari business or technology, but many of them became some of the most successful leaders in his company.
"Hire someone with passion and potential over knowledge & experience" he said (interestingly enough - the polar opposite of Netflix's model! 😉)
• • •
OK - so back to the conference. The other thing You.CONECT did well was scheduling special topic “cafe” sessions between speakers.
There were 8 different simultaneous 30 min sessions, and each had a leader from a relevant industry / profession (including Director levels of technology / security at companies like Etsy, Chef, Adobe, GoDaddy, etc. They had a prescribed order of rotation, but you could attend anything that interested you most.
It was an awesome way to not only quickly make great connections, but unpack the speaker talks and gain different perspectives. A cool side effect also was the incremental notes on a bulletin board made with each discussion - so in effect, each group was building on "continuous learning" from the previous discussion. I could tell even the session leaders were gaining much benefit from this exercise.
The overall size of the conference was a very digestible size to get to really know most folks before it was done (I did not hear the final headcount).
At first I was concerned about the size - after all, larger attendance must mean higher quality, right? Opposite. I actually felt a sense of community and was sad to say goodbye to many of the people I met as they headed back to their respective homes around the globe.
Being hosted at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego’s downtown infamous Gas Lamp district (where Comic-Con and other famous conventions are held) was of course awesome. The venue, meals and atmosphere were excellent.
They held an ice-breaking happy hour the night before day 1 of the conference (unfortunately I had to miss this) as well as a Networking Dinner first day of the conference. This was held on the beautiful 3rd floor outdoor terrace next to the pool. - and of course being in San Diego, the evening was perfect for warming up with a beverage next to the gas lit heaters.
Time flew as we ate, drank and conversed with the unicorn companies' bigwigs. I particularly enjoyed conversing with the VP of Engineering at Spotify, Kinshuk Mishra, whom I respect immensely for their well made video describing Spotify's breakthrough cultural and organizational innovations.
Another thing I thought was smart was the "community wall". They snapped an individual photo each participant upon first checkin and asked for a business card. With that, they created a large bulletin board of photos of all the attendees w/ biz cards attached so you could refer to it during the conference to put a face with a name + contact info, etc. This was a helpful reference for when I missed the name or biz on an ID badge, or simply forgot it after meeting a hundred new people 😉
Here’s my photo as an example (yes - had to have a little fun):
They'll also be providing a private, high def version of the contact board to all the attendees so we get get in touch with each other later.
• • •
All in all, it was a great DevOps conference - perhaps even the best one I’ve been to so far. The focus on relevant topics, size, breakout sessions, venue and diverse global crowd they drew were all big positives.
Sure there are a couple suggestions for improvements I’ll be giving them in their survey for next time, but that’s one thing DevOps is all about. Continuous Improvements. The journey is never over.
The last thing I'll leave you with is my favorite graphic CapitalOne's CISO put up on a slide while speaking about DevSecOps. If you get it, you get it. If you don't - ask me and I'll walk you through it ;)
Until next time - stay classy You.CONECT,