The DevOps virtual conference we built with the help of Snyk and Patrick Debois

June 19, 2020 | in DevSecOps, Partners
| By Gene Kim

Great physical conferences are magical. You learn from incredible talks, you’re exhilarated by being surrounded by the best in the game, you find fellow travelers who share similar goals and experience, similar struggles that you hope to conquer together, and so much more. The connections you make at conferences often lead to lifelong friendships and can maybe even change your career.

This is what we’re aspiring to do for DevOps Enterprise Summit London – Virtual—it’s our first virtual event, and we’ve all been studying online events for months, trying to understand what makes the great ones great, and why the worst ones make you feel like you’re stuck on the worst, multiple-day video conference call ever.

When we made the decision to hold this conference virtually, I attended every online event I could find, learned with the team what the attendee experience was like for existing conference platforms. Then I participated and watched the community charity event AllTheTalks.Online, which was supported by the Snyk team and run by Patrick Debois ( the “Godfather of DevOps”) and teammate Sam Hepburn.

It blew me away. I loved it, both as an attendee, and as a speaker—Patrick built something truly amazing, and I think it showcased his lessons learned building interactive experiences to support live TV events, which he did for five years as the CTO of Small Town Heroes.

When I asked how he did it, he spent two hours describing how he built the platform. When I asked whether we might be able to run DevOps Enterprise Summit on it, it led to a call with Snyk founder, Guy Podjarny, and I was grateful that they were willing to help us deliver the conference to you.

It has been a blast working with Patrick again, as well as the Snyk team — Patrick and I met at DevOpsDays in 2010, we were co-authors of “The DevOps Handbook,” and he’s one of my favorite people to work with. 

What to expect at DevOps Enterprise Summit

And as I wrote in my Love Letter to Conferences blog post, great conferences are so much more than just a bunch of talks. But the talks are the most visible part of a conference because they display the achievements of the community.

Really, the goal of DevOps Enterprise Summit is to support the amazing “scenius.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “scenius,” it originally comes from Brian Eno, a famous musician, record producer, and visual artist. Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of WIRED Magazine, brilliantly describes the concept as:

“Scenius” stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius. Individuals immersed in a scenius will blossom and produce their best work. When buoyed by scenius, you act like genius. Your like-minded peers, and the entire environment inspire you.

To support the DevOps Enterprise “scenius,” we use the general session for opening remarks, where we describe the goals of the community, what the specific goals of the conference are, help orient everyone (especially newcomers), as well as establish and model our desired norms.

The general session is where we celebrate successes in the community through experience reports, rapidly disseminate winning tools and techniques and ways of thinking, share anonymized stories of what ideas or practices didn’t work or resulted in outright failures (“DevOps Confessions”), and bring in the best experts for the problems identified by the community.

By doing this, we can rapidly elevate the state of the practice.

Each year, our goal is to create programming that is even better than the previous year. This always seems like such an audacious and intimidating goal, because each year, we’ve raised the bar even higher, guided by the top obstacles voiced by this community.

This is why I’m going to make an astonishing claim: I think the programming that we’re putting together for you this year is the finest we’ve ever created, even though it’s virtual. As measured by what? By the seniority of the speakers, by the breadth of their experience reports, and by the experts we’re bringing to you.

And having had the opportunity to watch most of the keynotes for this year’s conference, I can tell you that we’ve achieved our programming goals with amazing talks like these in general session:

Fernando Cornago (VP Platform Engineering, adidas) and Daniel Eichten, (Head of Enterprise Architecture, adidas): Over the years, some of my favorite talks have always been from Team adidas—with various colleagues, Mr. Cornago described the amazing adidas DevOps journey (inspired when he saw the 2016 Jason Cox / Disney presentation!). This year, he returns (newly promoted to VP, Platform Engineering), presenting alongside Daniel Eichten (Head of Enterprise Architecture), describing the continuation of their journey, what it’s been like to be given responsibility for infrastructure/operations as a career Dev leader (haha!), and how they’re transforming the data architecture for the entire company.

Victoria Mayo (Head of Compliance- iptiQ EMEA P&C, Swiss Re) and James Head (Founder, Rebellion Consulting): I’m super excited about this presentation, because Victoria Mayo and James Head describe how they built a series of startups within Swiss Re, one of the largest insurance and reinsurance providers, founded in 1863. They will talk about the company’s itpiQ “B2B2C” digital initiatives, and their successes and lessons learned over the years creating insurance offerings sold through retailers. This talk is interesting because it’s not only just about changing software practices, but also how a large company successfully uses those capabilities in urgent and important “Horizon 3” initiatives.

David Silverman (Founder and CEO, CrossLead): Mr. Silverman is a co-author of one of my favorite books I’ve read in the last decade, “Team of Teams.” This book tells the story of how in 2004, the Joint Special Forces Task Force was failing to achieve its mission to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a much smaller but nimbler adversary. They needed to create a new way of working so that everyone could work together toward a common goal, dramatically decentralizing decision making, pushing decisions down to the lowest possible level so that people on the front lines could quickly make decisions. I’m so excited Mr. Silverman will talk about this and much more, sharing lessons learned that will definitely resonate with anyone in the DevOps Enterprise community!

And you can watch select excerpts from both the Swiss Re and David Silverman presentations in the Official Trailer we just released: DevOps Enterprise Summit London – Virtual 2020: Official Trailer on YouTube

We’ll also have some exciting experience reports from executives from Nationwide Building Society, Maersk, Siemens, Coats, H&M, Lufthansa, and so many more. In addition, I’m so excited that we have speaking:

  • Peter Moore, who will teach us about Zone to Win and the Three Horizons.
  • Dr. Carlota Perez, who will teach us about what we can learn from history about the upcoming Age of Software
  • John Allspaw, who helped pioneer so many of the practices we use in the DevOps movement
  • Dr. Steve Spear, who will teach us about one of the most interesting historical examples of a rapid, learning dynamic
  • Corey Quinn, the outrageously insightful cloud economist who will describe how to keep cloud costs under control…
  • …and so many more!

As I write this, we are almost through the speaker recording process. I am so blown away and so grateful for all the time, effort, and care every speaker has put into their presentations, to deliver their stories and teachings to us.  

And trust me when I say, we’re all learning together just how much work it takes to deliver high-quality recordings in this world where physical events aren’t possible.

I am more excited than ever about the high learning and networking event that we’ve created for you, which I know will be an incredibly valuable and fun way to learn, so different than the endless video conference calls we’ve all been stuck in for weeks.

To read more about the program, read my blog post: What to Expect, And Why I’m So Excited About It
And again, to watch selected excerpts from two amazing keynotes, check out the Official Trailer we just released: DevOps Enterprise Summit London – Virtual 2020: Official Trailer on YouTube