Reflections from the DevOps Enterprise Summit 2022
Last week I attended my first in-person DevOps Enterprise Summit, aka DOES, in Las Vegas, and it was an incredible experience. The Devops Enterprise Summit is a technology conference organized by IT Revolution for leaders of large, complex organizations. I love going to tech conferences: it’s a great way to stay current on new trends, technologies, and techniques, which is super important when you work in an industry that is constantly evolving.
One of my favorite things to do after attending a conference is to write down a summary of all my learnings. But as I sit here to reflect on what I learned last week (and my list is long!), something more important keeps coming to mind. Something that sets DOES apart from other technology conferences I’ve attended in the past. And it’s the COMMUNITY. More than the technology lessons I learned last week, I’m sitting here full of gratitude and marveling at the many, many wonderful human beings I met.
Networking is part of all conferences, but at DOES it feels like networking is the main event. In a blog post describing his goals for the conference, Gene Kim shared 3 themes:
- Community Reunion from 2014. The first DevOps Enterprise Summit was held 8 years ago, and many original members are just as active today, and have gone on to write papers, books, done more talks and have seen their own careers flourish through the years.
- Finally Meeting People I’ve Met During The Pandemic. This is a group of influential leaders who have been actively involved in the community and virtual summits since the last in person summit 3 years ago.
- New Technology Leaders. The planning committee stated their intention to not just recycle the same speakers and content year after year. Healthy communities bring in new voices and perspectives and DOES is no different.
What do these 3 themes have in common? COMMUNITY!
Over the past two years, I’ve connected with about 20 people from the Devops Enterprise community through virtual events, webinars, book clubs, slack and social media conversations. I’ve met several IT Revolution authors including Gene Kim, Jon Smart, Matt K. Parker, and Mik Kirsten. But I’ve met even more regular folks like myself –passionate DevOps practitioners and technology leaders from large, complex enterprises.
Everyone I met online has a few things in common. First of all, they are all some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, though that is hardly uncommon for a tech community. But they all have something else in common — every single person I have met through the DOES community all happen to be kind, curious and generous.
We don’t work in the same industries or sectors, but everyone is genuinely interested in learning about what others are doing. They are all people who first ask, “how can I help you?” instead of “how can you help me?”. And when they help you, they don’t ask for anything in return except for you to pay it forward.
I have truly never seen a community as unique as this in all my 20+ years working in tech.
But I only had a small sample size of about 20. Were they indicative of the entire community of thousands? Would it feel just as welcoming and inclusive in person as it does online? Is the DOES community at large really that special or did I just happen to meet a handful of good people? These questions were on my mind as I arrived in Las Vegas for the DevOps Enterprise Summit 2022.
Community By Design
I was thrilled to discover that yes, indeed, the DevOps Enterprise community is just as lovely in person as it is online. I met folks before and after sessions, in the expo hall, at meals, in the hallway track, and discovered the same magical culture in person as I experienced virtually.
It’s not an accident. Leadership matters. Perhaps the inverse to Rabinow’s law, which says a dope at the top will lead to dopes all the way down, is at play. Having someone as smart and genuinely kind, curious and generous as Gene Kim at the top leads to those good qualities throughout.
In the blog post, Gene also listed the how he wanted attendees to feel leaving 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!
As technology leaders we know to start with expected outcomes and work backwards, and running a conference is no different. It’s no accident that the emphasis on connections, relationships and people lead to a conference where I walk away feeling inspired, energized, with many new friends (and lots of meetings scheduled over the next few months to keep in touch) and a renewed sense of confidence that the DevOps movement is important, that it’s not just good for business but for humanity.
Some more reflections
- On diversity & inclusion: Working in diverse and inclusive teams has been and will always be important to me. The diversity at DOES seemed to mirror much of the tech industry, yet I found it to be a place where I feel I belong, and I can be myself. If given the choice, I will always prefer a more inclusive but less diverse community than one that is more diverse but less inclusive. In his opening remarks Jeff Gallimore encouraged inclusivity, telling everyone to be intentional about being croissants not donuts, which means don’t stand in a closed off circle like a donut, make sure you leave an opening to welcome others into your conversation.
- The conference tagline is Get Together, Go Faster. This reminds me of the proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”, except in DevOps you don’t have to choose between going fast or going together! This is what I love the most about DevOps Enterprise — as tech leaders we don’t have to make tradeoffs between fast and together, or between better business value and happier employees. We get our cake and we eat it too!
- People & Culture. I was pleasantly surprised that so many of the talks emphasized people and culture. This is rare for a technology conference. I often get frustrated about our industry that obsesses on new technologies that promise to transform and save your business as long as you have the right culture, but very little guidance on how to create the culture. Not at the DevOps Enterprise. When I told Gene I was surprised at the focus on all the soft skills, he did remind me we weren’t just at a tech conference, we were at the conference for technology leaders, and leadership is all about the soft skills. Touche.
Learn more and let’s connect
If you missed the conference and want to learn more, check out these links for the main conference website as well as access to recorded talks and slide decks:
- More info: https://events.itrevolution.com/
- Videos: https://videos.itrevolution.com/
- Slides: https://github.com/devopsenterprise/2022-las-vegas
If you are part of the DevOps Enterprise community and want to share stories and see how we can help each other, you can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or if you aren’t part of the community but want to get involved, start by checking out the resources at IT Revolution — pick up a book, read a paper, join the conversation.