DevOpsDays DC 2015: Debrief

The inaugural DevOpsDays DC is in the books. It took a lot of work from a lot of people and a lot of support from a lot of sponsors to make it happen, but it was so worth it. Here are some observations and conclusions from my perspective as an organizer, sponsor, and attendee.

1. The DevOps movement is alive and well in DC.
We sold out, both for attendees and sponsorships. We had a waitlist for attendees and unfortunately had to turn some potential sponsors away because of space limitations. In fact, General Admission sold out almost a month prior to the event. As far as the attendees, we had some out-of-towners (which was fantastic), but most were local to DC. Finally, all but one speaker lived or worked within 100 miles of DC (this was intentional). All of this shows how big and strong the DevOps community is in DC.

2. The public sector is part of the DevOps movement, too.
Several of the speakers were federal employees or federally-focused, including two of my favorite talks — one from Marc Esher and one from Mark Schwartz. If you thought you couldn’t “do the DevOps” in the Federal Government, you should have walked away thinking quite the opposite after hearing Mar[ck]’s talk. USCIS and CFPB are definitely doing the DevOps. And let’s not forget DevOpsDays DC was hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). USPTO provided huge value to the event and everyone we worked with from USPTO (and there were many) was incredible.

3. Culture is (still) a major obstacle to DevOps transformation.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but many organizations out there still don’t “get” DevOps. I heard a lot of stories, especially in the open spaces, about bureaucracy, silos, “the executives”, and traditional thinking getting in the way of DevOps adoption. We’ve made progress — in places — in adopting new and better ways of working. But we clearly have a long way to go to win more hearts and minds. Time to exercise those empathy muscles…

4. The event was great, but not perfect.
Many aspects of DevOpsDays DC were wonderful. Some weren’t as good as they could have been. And with an attitude of continuous improvement, we have some things to work on to make the event better next year. There are some opportunities for better outreach and communication in advance of and during the event. Some of the sponsors provided feedback we’d like to address to make the experience better for them next year, too. As a sponsor, I didn’t have the issues some expressed, but I also took a different approach to our booth. No major fails overall, though, which was nice.

5. We’re definitely having another DevOpsDays DC next year.
Our hypothesis that there was a ton of pent up demand for a DevOps conference in DC was correct. Given the positive feedback we received from the attendees, the fact this was just the first DevOpsDays in DC, the sentiment of the organizers, and the now heretical notion that we wouldn’t do the event again, we’re definitely having DevOpsDays DC v2 next year.

If you weren’t at the event or if you were and want to relive it, you can check out the videos and read the crowd-sourced notes from event, including the open spaces. Caveat: If you weren’t in the open spaces, you won’t have a lot of the context when reading the notes, which might make them less valuable than if you’d been present.

Working with the organizing committee was an awesome adventure and it yielded an awesome event with an awesome experience for the attendees. Let’s make more awesome next year. I’m already excited for it.

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