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October 4, 2019

DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas 2019 Programming Highlights: What I’m Looking Forward To

By Gene Kim
DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019 Las Vegas

I am so excited about the upcoming DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas. As a programming committee, we seek to make each event better than the last, as measured by how much we learn and how it helps enable the DevOps Enterprise community to achieve their goals.  

As a programming committee, we thought London 2019 was our best conference yet (almost unanimously), which poses a challenge of how we do could possibly do better — but I’ve found over the last several years that this is doable, mostly be being very explicit about what challenges across our community that we want to help to overcome.

This year, we focused on the following areas, and I think you’ll find that the upcoming conference does an amazing job of addressing them:

  • Experience reports of technology leaders presenting with even more senior business leaders
  • Overcoming obstacles in security and compliance
  • Experience reports and subject matter experts in the areas of data science and data initiatives

Reviewing this post, I’m finding that the number of amazing stories being presented is so good that it’s incredibly difficult to pick which ones to mention here.  But, three speakers really stood out to me, because they’re so different than in previous years:

  • Dr. David Almeda is Chief People Officer, Kronos.  I was blown away when I saw him present. He talked about about how one of their top strategic goals was to attract and retain great talent — the result was Kronos being named as one of the top 100 best places to work by both Fortune Magazine and Glassdoor, enabling then to support continued growth, innovation and profitability. He’ll be teaching us the value of employee engagement, and how the top levels of leadership view it.

  • Dr. Andre Martin is VP and Chief Learning Officer, Google:  Until recently, Dr. Martin was Chief Learning Officer at Target, and before that, at NIKE. He will be sharing what his charter was in those roles, and why those organizations created his role in the first place, and how it could advance the mission of the DevOps Enterprise community.

  • The Big Four Auditor panel: In this amazing panel, we have four distinguished experts who support the audit practice from each of the Big Four auditors.  We will be busting the most commonly heard myths and objections about “why DevOps can’t work here” such as why DevOps can’t be done in regulated industry, why separation of duties prevents DevOps, and many more! 
    •  Yosef Levine; Global Audit & Assurance Risk and Controls, Confidentiality, and Privacy leader, Deloitte 
    •  Michael Wolf; Managing Director – Modern Delivery Lead, KPMG 
    •  Matt Bonser; Director, Digital Risk Solutions, PwC
    •  Pierre Fourie, Advisory Services Senior Manager, Ernst & Young

  • (contd) Furthermore, they will be hosting two “Ask An Auditor Anything” workshops, facilitated by Dr. Tapabrata Pal and Sam Guckenheimer.  This is an opportunity to anonymously ask questions about the audit process with some of the best experts in the space.

I attended a smaller version of this session in London, and I thought it was incredible and truly notable.  This one promises to be a landmark moment for the DevOps Enterprise community.

Without a doubt, the programming committee has worked hard to create a high learning experience filled with technology leaders pioneering the business practices that will surely be commonplace within a decade. This, combined with experts from the domains that we’re drawing upon to help achieve our goals–along with exciting networking opportunities each day of the event–has helped us establish an industry forum for exchanging insights and information we need as a community.

I hope you’ll join us in Las Vegas, and that you’re as delighted by the program as we are! In my career, I have grown to love conferences and have benefited so much from them.  And yet, this conference is still my favorite. I never learn as much in such a short period than when I’m at the DevOps Enterprise Summit.

If you want to attend, make sure you take advantage of this offer we’re doing with The Unicorn Project: Pre-order 10 copies (or more) by October 30th and receive $350+ off your next conference registration, plus lots of other bonuses. Details here:

Thanks for Contributing + Changes from Last Year

I want to thank everyone for submitting a proposal to DevOps Enterprise Summit for Vegas 2019. I personally appreciate and recognize the effort required to prepare your submissions. And I know because I still spend a lot of time preparing and submitting proposed abstracts!  

This year was the most difficult selection process for the programming committee ever, especially when so many are friends and people whose work we all respect so highly!

To explain how we made decisions, I want to frame everything in terms of the conference programming objectives. Broadly speaking, here are the number of talk slots we reserved for each programming objectives:

Talk Track Subject Areas


Experience Reports: New


Experience Reports: Repeat


Spanning Business/Tech Divide


Next Gen Ops


Overcoming old ways of working


Subject Matter Experts


Dynamic Learning Organizations


Leadership Lessons, Transformational Leadership






One thing that you should notice right away is that every track only has a few slots. Another thing that you are probably unaware of is that we had more speaking submissions than ever before – it blows my mind just thinking about it.

Evolving Programming Objectives 

In addition to the amazing response we received for this year’s call for presentations, we also worked to address some feedback from 2018 that “some talks sounded the same as last year.” So, we reviewed the talks again, and observed that some of the repeat speakers we invited didn’t have a lot of change since the last time they spoke. As a result, we’ve done two things:

  1. We’ve nearly halved the number of speaker slots for repeat speakers (see stats below)
    1. 45% of repeat speakers (Vegas 2018) 
    2. 27% of repeat speakers (Vegas 2019)
  2. We invited repeat speakers who have a large change to report, or a different perspective to share (e.g., a different co-presenter from another business area), etc.

In general, our top-level goal every year is to help technology leaders succeed in transforming their organizations— both by increasing the likelihood of their success and accelerating the rate of adoption of DevOps principles and practices by focusing on the following talk tracks and subject areas listed above.

We aim to fulfill this goal through speaker presentations, both from technology leaders and/or subject matter experts from those domains. We also do this through less structured networking sessions where attendees can find other people who are tackling similar challenges or want to learn more about a particular area of interest.

New Experience Reports

One of the hallmarks of the DevOps Enterprise Summit is that our program focuses on spotlighting real world experience reports, straight from the mouths of those who are driving enterprise-scale transformation. As adult learners, and as leaders, there are few, if any, better ways to learn than watching how other people in similar situations to solve their problems. 

Besides enabling learning, experience reports serve another important goal—they help us as leaders negate objections that “DevOps can’t be done here.” I’m happy to say that over the past six years, we’ve assembled a growing library of 250 experience reports from some of the most recognized brands around the world. As a whole, it shows that DevOps principles and patterns are universal across nearly every industry vertical today. Some of the new experience reports I cannot wait to here in October include:

  • Heather Mickman (VP Platform Engineering) and David Cherryhomes (VP, IT), UnitedHealth Group: Heather and David will be talking about their amazing work transforming business and technology at UHG, the largest healthcare company in the world, with over 115 million customers. (You will likely remember Heather from her pioneering work at Target, co-presenting with Ross Clanton from  2014-2015 and keynoting by herself in 2016).

  • Fernando Cornago (Senior Director, Platform Engineering) and Benjamin Grimm (Senior Director, .COM), Adidas will be presenting about the work they have done to elevate developer productivity at Adidas, including supporting the incredibly important e-commerce initiatives, as well as product design.  He will share how they’ve educated top executives and even board members on critical technology concepts, and how they’re making all data easy consumable by everyone across the company.

  • Kira Barclay (Director, Analytics) and Elizabeth Conzo (Analytics Leader), John Deere: they will be presenting the amazing work they’ve been doing supporting both enterprise data initiatives, as well as incubating Horizon 3 initiatives and modernizing the software practices in some of the largest product lines at John Deere.

  • Ralf Waltram (VP of IT Delivery) will be talking about the DevOps and Project to Product journey, which as he says, is how BMW is transitioning from project management to product management. In the BMW team’s words, this the “largest change to how business is done at BMW in twenty years.”

  • Jim Lloyd, Chief of the Innovation Branch, Field Operations Directorate / Melinda Solomon, Agile Training Lead / Chief, Transformation Delivery Division at USCIS: Will be sharing the continuation of the DevOps journey at the US Citizenship and Immigration services, which was started by former CIO Mark Schwartz. Jim will be talking about specific mission objectives at USCIS, and the business and technology partnership.

  • Jaclyn Damiano – Associate Director, Verizon / Josh Stone – Senior Architect/Evangelist, Verizon: Verizon has holistically undergone massive organizational and business changes in the past year. A voluntary separation package and outsourcing to 3rd parties has changed the makeup of the team and the culture. A corporate reorganization so significant it is defined as “Verizon 2.0”. They will be talking about how to stay the course on digital transformation, cloud migration, and culture change in such a turbulent environment.

Continued Experience Reports

This year, we will have six companies back to present their continuing experience reports at the conference. Having this pattern of repeat speakers may be a bit unusual, but I personally love that we’re following these courageous leaders along their journey. For me, I liken the experience to having front-row seats to an unfolding documentary of the ongoing transformations that they are leading in their large, complex organization.

It’s great to know how these stories progress that spans more than one year. How was the story told from the previous year evolve for the organization and the leader? What new obstacles emerged, and how did they overcome them? Is this a path the rest of us want to go down? What are the things worth celebrating as part of this journey and why? For DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas, we have the privilege of welcoming these people back to take the stage:

  • Scott Prugh, Chief Architect & VP Software Development, CSG: Scott has spoken at every DevOps Enterprise Summit since the beginning.  This year, I’ve asked Scott to speak on something that he’s never directly spoken about, which is how they’ve overcome incredible architectural challenges as their transaction growth exploded.  This is one of the most incredible engineering achievements I’ve ever seen.

If you want to attend, make sure you take advantage of this offer we’re doing with The Unicorn Project: Pre-order 10 copies (or more) by October 30th and receive $350+ off your next conference registration, plus lots of other bonuses. Details here:

Spanning The Business and Technology Divide

One of the top challenges we see year over year is ways to get business leadership onboard—and by that, I mean enthusiastic and grateful business partners, who want to tell the world how all their goals and aspirations are finally achieved by working together with their technology counterparts. 

These are often the most difficult talks to find, because they require a technology leader with a great working relationship with their business counterpart, and that they’ve created visible successes. In Las Vegas 2018, we had some fantastic talks along these lines (from Nike, Capital One, Target, The Walt Disney Company and Kaiser Permanente).

This year, we’ll be featuring even more talks like this (33% more to be exact), showing how technology leaders are partnering with not just business leaders, but also other areas of the business, such as product leadership, security/privacy, legal, project management and so forth. Specifically, we are eager to hear from the CFO and Project Portfolio perspective. Here are a few talks I’m super excited to hear:

  • Chris O’Malley (CEO) and Joe Aho (CFO), Compuware:  My fireside chat with Chris O’Malley last year was one of the most talked about sessions last year.  I’ve invited him back with his CFO, asking them to teach us how to better interact with CFOs, a famously conservative group, and how we can win them over to help DevOps initatives.

  • Levi Geinert, SVP, and Head of Agile Technology Experience, Werner Loots, EVP Consumer and Business Banking, U.S. Bank:  Levi will be talking about his new role in the Experience Studios, where their goal is to reimagine banking, an effort being driven from the very highest levels of leadership. He and Werner will be speaking about some of their challenges and noteworthy successes, which has created excitement across the organization.

Next Generation Operations

After hearing that Ops needed more representation at DevOps Enterprise Summit, in 2018 we reserved nearly a quarter of our talks to focus on Ops and Infrastructure challenges, and created a separate subcommittee to focus on this area. While we aren’t going to have as many next generation ops talks this year, it is our third largest talk track behind new experience reports and spanning the tech and business divide.

What’s amazing is that we learned the elevation of this topic has fundamentally changed the feel of the conference itself. The programming committee has made an effort to help define and clarify what exactly the role of Ops leader is, and how all the technology and organizational changes there have been in how infrastructure is designed, delivered and operated. I’m thrilled to be able to see this presentation this year:

  • Scott Havens, Director of Software Engineering, Labs: Until very recently, Scott was responsible for rebuilding the entire inventory management systems that support Walmart, the world’s largest company.  He will be sharing how he used functional programming principles to massively simplify the vast architecture that supported the inventory management systems, making it simpler, more reliable, easier to maintain, and cheaper to run.

Subject Matter Expert Talks

All leaders are, for the most part, self-teaching ourselves what we think we need to learn to be successful. Technology leaders in particular have to adapt to a somewhat constant rates of disruption and change happening around us. In the past, we’ve brought experts such as Dr. Christina Maslach (burnout) and Dr. Richard Cook (safety culture) to deliver talks about the domains we want to learn more about to help us reach our desired outcomes. This year we have the following subject matter experts onsite to deliver presentations:

  • Dr. Andre Martin, VP and Chief Learning Officer, Google: Until recently, Dr. Martin was Chief Learning Officer at Target, and before that, at NIKE. He will be sharing what his charter was in those roles, and why those organizations created his role in the first place, and how it could advance the mission of the DevOps Enterprise community.
  • Christopher Bergh is a CEO and Head Chef at DataKitchen: He will be talking about the chronic problems of getting data from where it resides (typically trapped within data warehouses) to where it needs to go (by the teams who need data to make decisions, or manipulate it to make it more useful).  Chris had a huge impact on the development of The Unicorn Project, and helped me see the parallel universe of DataOps.
  • Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Head of DORA and Dr. Dustin Smith, Human Factors Psychologist and Senior User Experience Researcher, Google.

Networking Opportunities, Lean Coffee, Lightning Talks and More!

In addition to all the wonderful talk tracks and exciting presentations above, the conference program creates a forum for different ways to “get together and go faster.” 

I’ve said this before, but it is so important for the organizers of the DevOps Enterprise Summit to help attendees achieve their desired outcomes. One of the most special experiences at DevOps Enterprise Summit comes from meaningful 1:1 interactions with your fellow attendees.

To that end, and together with my friend and IT Revolution advisor, Jeff Gallimore, we have established different ways for people to learn, ask and answer as many questions as possible–based on experiments and what we learned from London earlier this year. Because the quality of the audience is one aspect that we think separates the DevOps Enterprise Summit from all the rest, the more spontaneous conversations and interactions we can nurture onsite, the better for all.

  • DevOps Confessions: At the beginning of each day, programming committee members will read anonymized stories of confessions from leaders in the DevOps community to learn about the struggles, failures, and near-misses. These are some of the best anecdotes you may ever hear!
  • Speakers Corner: We created a dedicated time and a location to ask the plenary speakers questions that go deeper on the information presented earlier that day. 
  • Lean Coffee: Led by Dominica DeGrandis, author of Making Work Visible and the foremost expert in Kanban Flow within the IT industry today, attendees can connect with and learn from their peers in a semi-structured format all three days of the conference.
  • Birds of a Feather Sessions: This is more like the DevOpsDays unconference sessions, with less structure than a Lean Coffee format, and these sessions are driven by specific topics that attendees want to discuss and learn about. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions of these sessions in Las Vegas last year.
  • Lightning Talks: These are rapid-fire, must-see presentations that happen from the main stage after the conference day has concluded. Also, as a bonus, the IT Revolution authors‘ book signing happens immediately afterward.
  • Industry Party: In addition to sponsor giveaways, great food and drinks, this is when I’ll have the book signing of my newest title, The Unicorn Project. The industry party is one of my favorite times during the conference to continue conversations with my fellow attendees and speakers.
  • Slack Workspace: The conference will have a shared Slack workspace for people to interact with speakers, attendees, and sponsors. In the past, this is where people have connected to make plans, search/recruit for job opportunities and more.

As you can see, there’s a lot that is getting me excited for the conference this year, and I hope to see you there!


To preview the DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas 2019 event and learn more about the conference, please watch previous videos of our presentations, download the past speakers’ slide decks, and view photos from all past events.

If you want to attend, make sure you take advantage of this offer we’re doing with The Unicorn Project: Pre-order 10 copies (or more) by October 30th and receive $350+ off your next conference registration, plus lots of other bonuses. Details here:

- About The Authors
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Gene Kim

Gene Kim is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, researcher, and multiple award-winning CTO. He has been studying high-performing technology organizations since 1999 and was the founder and CTO of Tripwire for 13 years. He is the author of six books, The Unicorn Project (2019), and co-author of the Shingo Publication Award winning Accelerate (2018), The DevOps Handbook (2016), and The Phoenix Project (2013). Since 2014, he has been the founder and organizer of DevOps Enterprise Summit, studying the technology transformations of large, complex organizations.

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