From KubeCon to My First Keynote as a DevRel
Last month I went to Detroit for my first big open source conference — KubeCon. This exciting event would be my first opportunity to join the Cloud Native OSS community in-person.
Going there, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect initially, but as it turns out, the whole experience blew my mind. I hope by the end of this article I can show you just why.
Ps: You can also check out the vlog I made of the conference to see it for yourself!
KubeCon + CloudNativeCon is one of the biggest conferences in the world where developers and businesses interested in or using Cloud Native get together to exchange fresh ideas.
Judging KubeCon by its name alone may have you assuming that the conference talks only about Kubernetes and its new features, but it’s much more than that. In fact, it’s closer to the opposite. Sure there are a lot of talks about new features in Kubernetes, but all the hype is more about what’s being built on top of that customizable platform.
The conference lasts 5 days (Mon — Fri) and includes co-located events, technical and non-technical talks, networking opportunities, hands-on workshops, parties, and more. Whether online or in person, you can anticipate five days filled with learning, networking, and a lot of fun!
Starting on Sunday 23rd, I went to an event called Cloud Native Rejekts. The event is the b-side conference giving a second chance to the many wonderful, but rejected, talks leading into KubeCon + CloudNativeCon.
The whole day was packed with amazing talks. Honestly, I’m glad I flew in earlier because I wouldn’t want to have missed it. I spent the day mingling with people and learning super fresh topics. Some were very enlightening like “Virtual Kubernetes Clusters: Tips and Tricks” by Rich Burroughs and “Everything You Want to Know about Kubernetes RBAC and Were Too Afraid to Ask” by Ben Hirschberg but others, the ones about eBPF, were harder to understand. By being a smaller and more informal event, I spoke to several speakers and leveled up my knowledge (not that I’m an expert on eBPF now, far from it lol). The amount of knowledge in the room was something else.
Following the event we all went to have dinner together in Downtown Detroit. Duffie is great at selfies, don’t you agree?
The whole day was an excellent pre-KubeCon warm-up. The conference itself hadn’t even started and I had already made many new friends, and got a ton of perspective and insightful advice!
I couldn’t miss taking a funny picture with my bestie, Kunal.
Day 1 and Day 2 of KubeCon usually consist of different co-located events. Co-located events are add-on events to the main KubeCon activities and focus on a specific topic. For the first day, I was particularly interested in attending the “Learning Day Featuring Kubernetes” hosted by Kasten.
The workshop was a unique learning experience. Their hands-on lab helped me better understand some of the Kubernetes concepts and allowed me the chance to talk to industry experts.
I found it helpful to do two things ahead of time to make the most of these workshop-style events:
- Conduct some background research about the project and try to understand the basics so I don’t get lost during the event
- Make a list of what I didn’t understand or where I got stuck to show the instructors and get some help/feedback.
When the workshop was over, I headed back to the conference pavilion to attend the LitmusChaos Project Office Hours. These discussion events are great because they allow you to learn more about the project ask questions, meet the maintainers, and learn about new features and upcoming updates.
On the morning of day 2, I went to OTel Unplugged to learn more about observability, operating the OpenTelemetry Collector, discussing OpenTelemetry Metrics and how to get started with them.
The format of the event was a little different. According to the OpenTelemetry community, it was an “unconference” where instead of a bunch of pre-planned talks, we would get to decide the format and content of the discussion.
Again, I had the opportunity to ask questions to the maintainers and hear some of their stories behind maintaining such a growing project. Did you know it is the second most active CNCF project?
Short pause to appreciate the new tattoos I got at the event :) (Fake, of course lol)
In the afternoon, I snuck out and decided to go to another event nearby (it was hard to decide which events to attend!). Cloud Native Data Management Day was being held at the Hockey arena in Detroit and the attendees had a chance to win tickets to the game that would take place immediately after the event.
Here are some of the sessions presented:
- Rishit Dagli explaining the machine learning deployment stages and introducing TensorFlow extended.
- The CIVO team talking about the challenges of running #Kubernetes Storage Drivers on Hyper-Converged hardware.
- Shivay giving an introduction to different types of cloud architectures, and explaining how SODA Multicloud Architecture works.
I actually won a ticket to my first hockey game — Detroit Red Wings vs. New Jersey Devils! The conference kept getting better and better!
Day 3, 4 and 5
Finally the main conference started. I will combine these days to spare your time otherwise, I could go on for hours talking about it.
I was looking forward to hearing Priyanka Sharma open the conference (luckily, I got to sit in the first row!) I think some people were already tired lol.
To be honest, I didn’t watch many of the talks because I knew they would be recorded but instead, I prioritized going to Q&A sessions, project office hours, and staying more at the sponsor showcase area.
Attending Kubecon is a great way for one to meet other developers and people in the industry, discover new technologies, brainstorm project ideas, and get some cool swag.
You could also have some fun in this area with some stalls like GitLab with its Virtual Reality racing stall and multiple other games.
Unlike what you would make from the name, most of the stalls in the sponsor showcase area are actually manned by developers who are super excited to discuss projects you are making, show you some live demos, and also give you advice — making the sponsor showcase even better.
Kubecon is a great place for maintainers to meet future contributors as well, especially with the projects booth pavilion and the maintainers track.
I am grateful I had the opportunity to go to KubeCon and interact with like-minded people for almost a week, get inspired about new projects, and identify potential projects to use and contribute, all while having fun!
I expanded my understanding of industry best practices and fresh trends in the quickly developing Cloud Native ecosystem. The conference allowed me to network with businesses, technology leaders, and important maintainers of the most well-known projects in the Cloud Native ecosystem.
I would recommend anyone working with or interested in Cloud Native and Kubernetes to attend KubeCon at least once in their lives. The conference is a little pricey, but you can always apply for a scholarship!
Something you should definitely try at conferences is to go outside your comfort zone and not be afraid to go up and say Hi to others. Everyone is there to communicate, share experiences, and collaborate, and you might likely meet folks with different perspectives. You should keep an open mindset and be open to unlearning or relearning to grow yourself.
ADDO — All Day DevOps
A few days after coming back from Detroit, I received a message from Katy Hiller, the Global Marketing at Sonatype, asking me if I wanted to deliver a Keynote at All Day DevOps. All Day DevOps is a 24-hours virtual conference brought by Sonatype, with more than 180 speakers, and 15k registrants.
I was thrilled when I saw the message, but once I looked at the speakers’ lineup, I told myself, “I am in no way ready to deliver a technical talk like these other people”, especially for a whole hour! (Hello Imposter syndrome). So after an internal debate on whether I could do it or not, I emailed her back, politely declining the invitation and trying not to feel miserable for missing out on a huge opportunity.
Thankfully Katy is persistent, and she got back to me within minutes, saying they wanted me because of my soft skills mostly, that they had too many technical talks already. That was the reason I needed to build up my confidence and jump on this opportunity.
With some help from Michael and Mauricio, I put together my presentation in a few days, and I was ready to rock and roll. I have to say the whole Sonatype team was very helpful and organized, which made me feel even more prepared.
Looking back now, I’m so glad I did it! The whole presentation went very smoothly and had a lot of engagement. I ran some polls to keep the audience awake (just kidding), shared a bit of my tech journey, and discussed why and how we can encourage people to contribute more to Open Source.
Furthermore, the presentation got great feedback, with people saying it was very informative and entertaining. You can watch the recording here and check the slides here.
Have you heard of that saying “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”? Well, it’s absolutely true. If I hadn’t gone to KubeCon, met amazing people, contributed to OSS projects, I wouldn’t have been invited to deliver the Keynote. And if I hadn’t accepted it (thanks again Katy), I wouldn’t be writing this long blog post :)
Seeing that my work has been helpful to the Cloud Native community is incredibly exciting to me, and I am looking forward to what the future holds.
Like I always say and repeated during my presentation, I am always happy to help, so feel free to reach out to me at any time (I’ll try to answer promptly lol).
I tweet my journey on Twitter daily, share great tips on LinkedIn, post a ton of photos on IG and record useful videos on Youtube :) GO CHECK THEM OUT!