Before attending my first Devopsdays in Minneapolis in July of 2016 I regarded “DevOps” as simply another analyst-hyped entry on my IT buzzword bingo card. To be honest, I hadn’t given it much thought. I had to maneuver around the daily stand up meeting of a core development team in the hallway when I was running late, but my days were filled with the trials and tribulations of infrastructure operations described in the first few chapters of The Phoenix Project.
That all changed when I attended Devopsdays. I don’t remember what caused me to register – probably a combination of curiosity plus the fact that it was local, short, and relatively cheap. What I experienced there changed my perception of everything. I have attended many conferences, big and small, over my 15+ year career. By 2016 I was the Cloud Architect at a large medical device company, but I started in network operations and desktop support, before spending 10 years in Unix, then VMware (by way of virtualizing Linux), automation, and finally “cloud”. Without wanting to sound cliché, there was never a line for the ladies (or a shirt in my size) at any of the conferences that I typically attended.
I expected to feel intimidated. Just as I had been in awe watching The Matrix-like text scrolling past a colleague compiling a binary on AIX (back when I was new to Unix), I was now intimidated by the smart folks that actually wrote the applications that we supported. And just like discovering that compiling software looks much more complex than it actually is (for the most part), I was soon to discover that software developers have more similarities than differences with their infrastructure and operations counterparts. Ultimately, we were all struggling to do more with less while dealing with the explosion of applications and technology resulting from the digital era. Unfortunately, however, the two sides of this coin do not always work together particularly well to solve these challenges, and indeed sometimes can actually be working against each other.
Enter Devopsdays. As you will remember for my post “DevOps: How Did We Get Here?” the first Devopsdays was in Belgium in 2009 and is considered by many to be the birth of DevOps. By the time I attended the Minneapolis event 7 years later, there were annual events in every major city in the world. Like most of the conferences I attended, I came for the technology. What made me into a DevOps proponent was the culture.
In my post “DevOps: Culture” I talk about the importance of empowerment and autonomy for DevOps teams. But this culture encompasses so much more. What I found at Devopsdays Minneapolis was an open, welcoming, considerate environment for meeting like-minded individuals and sharing experiences. This was not a flashy, marketing-led event. Technical vendors were present, but so were local companies like Target and Optum looking to recruit talented individuals. The best giveaways were the stickers. The organizers clearly put a lot of thought and effort into making the event accessible for all, something that is too often an afterthought at technical conferences. There was space set aside for wheelchair access and viewing, sign language interpreters for the sessions, mothers rooms (that were not simply an area set aside in the bathroom), and a line-up of speakers that did not look or sound like the typical corporate boardroom. The code of conduct states in no uncertain terms not only what won’t be tolerated – harassment in any form – but what is expected of attendees – a commitment to improving the industry through learning and sharing. How refreshing! And this commitment to inclusion seemed to set the tone for the entire event. While we still have a long way to go with diversity and inclusion in technology, making the industry more accessible and welcoming is essential to attracting, supporting, and retaining talent from all backgrounds and I applaud the organizers for making it a priority.
I was immediately hooked and have been back every year since, as well as driving VMware sponsorship for 10 events in 2019. Each event is locally run and managed and has a slightly different feel and focus, depending on the local market. Keynote presenters are top-notch, with presentations live-streamed and posted on youtube.com. In addition to the main sessions, attendees are able to submit a topic for an “open space” – a self-organized discussion for open for anyone to participate in. Topics can range from technically specific (Kubernetes cluster networking) to general advice (growing an operations engineer into a DevOps engineer).
Why You Should Go
Devopsdays is not only where the DevOps movement began but is also where you can find the embodiment of the commitment to inclusion and continuous improvement that drives the culture. Whether you are just getting started or are a seasoned veteran of the movement, Devopsdays is an ideal introduction to your local community. It is a place to make connections, build relationships, and collaborate in ways that can help you grow your career and drive improvements across the industry.
Unfortunately, many Devopsdays for 2020 have been canceled due to the pandemic, including Minneapolis. There has been talk of taking it virtual, but many feel that physical networking and collaboration are core to what makes Devopsdays work. Of course, since nobody knows when – if ever – things will return to “normal” there may be no option other than to go virtual at some point. And if we do, I am sure that the organizers will find innovative and exciting ways to continue connecting people and spreading their enthusiasm for making technology a better place for us all.
Note: Some events have already “gone virtual”, so check the Devopsdays events page regularly for the latest information.
DevOps Blog Series:
DevOps #5: Devopsdays – DevOps Culture Embodied July, 2020 (This post)
DevOps #6: Technology – The DevOps Toolchain
DevOps #7: Continuous Everything
DevOps #8: The Agile SDDC
DevOps #9: What About Cloud?
DevOps#10: Without Developers?
DevOps at VMware
VMware lives DevOps in many ways; as a practitioner of the principles for software development, as a provider of tools and solutions that support DevOps practices, and as an advisor and implementor for DevOps initiatives across many of our customer organizations;
- VMware transformed to an agile foundation over a 3-year period, embracing a DevOps culture across our engineering teams and sharing our journey with customers.
- VMware solutions, such as vRealize and Tanzu, are an important part of the DevOps Toolchain ecosystem.
- VMware provides consulting and Professional Services to customers looking for assistance at any stage of their transformation journey.