It’s September 2022, and I am truly grateful that society has started returning to some semblance of normalcy after the truly devastating global pandemic. Because of this, for the first time in three years, we will be holding our first live conference, DevOps Enterprise Summit in Las Vegas, on October 18-20.
In this blog post, I will be sharing the design objectives of our upcoming live conference, very much informed by the lessons learned from holding five extremely successful virtual conferences. I think there were so many things that we did in the virtual format that worked so well, we want to bring them into the physical format.
(In many ways, this post is the exact opposite of what I did In May 2020, where I wrote a 9000 word blog post, Love Letter To Conferences (And What Makes Some Truly Amazing), to explore what made my favorite physical conferences over the last 30 years so great and meaningful, and try to understand which elements are universal, applying to both physical and virtual events, and which ones can be changed.)
The Value of Conferences
It’s impossible to overstate how much the COVID-19 pandemic upended all of society — the loss of life, the enormous disruption to schools and consequently, the parents of the children who attended them, workplaces, and so forth.
Somewhere on that list, although nowhere near the top as ranked by societal disruption, is how the pandemic affected professional gatherings, such as conferences, professional working groups, and so forth.
As I mentioned in my original 2020 Love Letter to Conferences, I feel that much of my career can be attributed to the benefits I’ve gotten from conferences. And since 2014, I’ve been gathering together some of the technology leaders I admire most at the DevOps Enterprise Summit (in 2019, this was nearly 2,000 people), and the smaller DevOps Enterprise Forum (about 50 people).
These are not only people who are pioneering how work is done in large, complex enterprises, but as a group, are extremely prolific — the DevOps Enterprise community has given 800+ talks, and written over 48 Forum guidance papers, downloaded over 100K times.
But let’s face it — it’s been three years since I’ve seen most of these people. In fact, with virtual conferences, it was much easier to have amazing people present, because the transaction cost was so low — no travel required, which is expensive in terms of time and money.
This year, I’ve been able to participate in several in-person gatherings — and holy cow, they’ve been amazing. As much as we may joke about how much time we save from not having to commute, and how much we may enjoy working from home, these experiences reinforced for me how much we humans are social creatures. Even introverts like me.
There is really something about connecting with kindred spirits in-person that cannot be replaced.
So we have three themes that we are designing the conference around.
- Community Reunion from 2014
- Finally Meeting People I’ve Met During The Pandemic
- New Technology Leaders
Community Reunion From 2014
It’s been three years since I’ve seen most of the DevOps Enterprise Summit community in person. Let’s reconvene as many as possible, and also reconvene some of the most-remembered talks from the first DevOps Enterprise Summit conference we held in 2014 in San Francisco.
All the talks are listed below, but in this category, I’ll mention the following people:
- Ross Clanton, who originally presented with the Target team in 2014, is now a Managing Director at American Airlines, reporting to their CIO, Maya Leibman, who he presented with in 2020. He will be co-presenting with Steven Leist and Julie Rath on the journey at American Airlines.
- In 2014, Jason Cox presented from The Walt Disney Corporation, whose talk was particularly memorable because it was so visually amazing, but couldn’t be recorded, because speaking at conferences is just something that wasn’t done by their technologists. He’ll be presenting again on where his journey has taken him, and because of his tireless advocacy over the years, will be recorded, so everyone can learn and be inspired by the work of him and his team.
- Target has appeared prominently in the DevOps Enterprise community — Luke Rettig, who spoke first spoke at the conference in 2018, will be presenting on the continuation of his journey. He presented in 2020 about the transformation in the Fresh Foods division, as well as what was required to respond to the COVID pandemic, so memorable because of the supply chain disruptions and stock-outs at almost every retailer. He’ll be presenting on his latest remit, which is to gain control of inventory, as almost every department struggled to deal with too much inventory — as he said, “inventory is a whole new level of challenge.”
- One of the most shocking presentations in 2014 came from Dr. Tapabrata “Topo” Pal from Capital One — a bank! He talked about how they went from a technology organization that was almost entirely outsourced to one with aspirations to become almost entirely insourced, as well as cloud first and mobile first. This was such a pioneering presentation for Captial One that it wasn’t allowed to be recorded — and like Disney, because of his pioneering work, his presentation was allowed to be recorded the following year!
He is now Vice President of Architecture at Fidelity — if all goes well, he will be presenting on his work at Fidelity, and will hopefully be recorded.
We’ll publish the full list of announced speakers soon, you’ll see many familiar faces — including Dr. Mik Kersten, Jon Smart, Dr. Steve Spear, Erica Morrison, Mark Schwartz, Dr. André Martin, John Willis — because part of the goal of this conference is to be a community reunion, where they share what they’ve learned and what they’re up to now.
Finally Meeting People I’ve Met During The Pandemic
The second design objective of this conference is to finally allow us to meet in person some of the new people who have taught this community so much:
- Dr. Ron Westrum — it was such an honor to finally meet Dr. Ron Westrum, whose work has influenced so much of how we talk about culture in the DevOps community. (When Dr. Nicole Forsgren offered to introduce him, I was so excited, I almost fell out of my chair.)
You may have heard my 4+ hours of interviews (part 1 & part 2) with him on my podcast, The Idealcast, and the two talks he’s done virtually in Fall 2021 and Spring 2021.
But I’ve never met him in person! He’ll be in Vegas, teaching us more about cultures and information flow, from his decades of work across so many safety-critical industries!
- Christina Yakomin, Site Reliability Engineer, Vanguard, and Robbie Daitzman, Delivery Lead, gave one of the best talks on next-generation Operations I’ve ever seen because it describes so wonderfully how one modernizes technology practices across a vast technology landscape built up over fifty years.
But I’ve never met them in person!
- Dr. Christof Leng and Dr. Jennifer Petoff presented on Google’s amazing and legendary Site Reliability Engineering organization virtually last year — this year, Dr. Leng will be co-presenting with Pranjal Deo on their ProdEx program, which helps their SRE leadership assess their organization and their teams improve.
I’ve never met them, either!
- For years, I’ve been wanting to meet Paul Gaffney, famous for his pioneering work as SVP of Technology at Home Depot, where he worked with their CEO and CFO on transforming how technology was perceived and managed, and later as CTO of Kohl’s.
For a variety of reasons, he wasn’t able to speak in previous years, but I’m so delighted that I will finally be able to meet him!
- Clarissa Lucas, Technology Audit Director, and Tod Bickley, AVP, Identity and Access Management, from Nationwide Insurance. Amazing presentation on audit working much more closely with technology teams!
- Former Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson: As CNO, he was the highest ranking officer in the U.S. Navy, overseeing the efforts of over 600K people. Prior to that role, he served as the Director of US Naval Reactors, which is comprehensively responsible for the safe and reliable operation of the US Navy nuclear propulsion program, which Dr. Spear has written so extensively about in his book, “The High Velocity Edge.”
Now that he’s retired from the US Navy, he serves on the board of directors of numerous companies, including Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, and Exelon, a Fortune 100 company, which operates the largest fleet of nuclear plants in America.
Okay, I’ve met him in person, but it’s likely you haven’t — he’s as fantastic in person as he is in a virtual conference or in a podcast interview.
So, there are some familiar voices and faces, but here’s a chance to see them in person.
New Technology Leaders
Okay, we for sure don’t want to create a conference that when seeing the schedule, you think, “I’ve been to that conference already.” Here are some of the new technology leaders you’ll learn from:
- Norman Marks, Author, Thought Leader, Consultant
- Scott Vigil, Fight Director, USAF
- James Long, Innovation Officer, Joint Special Operations Command
- Max Reele, Material Leader, Kessel Run, USAF
- Dean Leffingwell, Cofounder and Chief Methodologist, Scaled Agile, Inc.
- CAPT Andy Biehn, USN
- Alexis Hoopes, VP Direct to Consumer, Mattel
- Randeep Arora, Director of Application Support and QA, Mattel
- Vivek Gupta, VP of Engineering, TJX
- Anna Steele, Airbnb
- Randy Shoup, Engineering Leader
How We Want Each Attendee to Feel at the Conference
- Reconnected (just like first IRL meetings): to real human beings
- I just experienced something special and unique…
- Super accomplished people
- Seeing so much giving and sharing – people with a genuine desire to help and see other people succeed
- I learned things I never would have learned anywhere else…that matter to me and to my team, my organization, and my career
- Catching up! I built relationships, invested in, reconnected with people
- Surprisingly energized: an incredible energy level, I have more in reserve, feed off each other
- Walking away with a long list of things I want to research, read, interact with
- The last three days mattered to me!
Come Enjoy the Show!
As I work alongside the DevOps Enterprise Summit Programming Committee, we are planning three full days of celebrating, reuniting (we’re hosting a Day 1 reunion party so bring your letterman jackets!), and partnership.
We are so excited to welcome back some of our favorite speakers who will update us since the last time we saw them. We will also welcome new experience reports from an array of industries featuring exciting new topic areas.
If I could waive a magic wand, you would all register today using my special code, LV22MAGICWAND, so that we all get to see each other in person!
Join us for DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas, October 18-20, 2022.
I can’t wait to share those three days with all of you.