I stopped in the Minneapolis Airport to make a connection earlier this year. I never spent much time thinking about Minneapolis given its reputation for snow and ice. I hadn’t ever planned to go there nor had I explicitly made plans to avoid it. That was until the lineup for devopsdays MSP came out.
I remembered seeing videos from the previous year and being mildly surprised they had such a seasoned lineup. When the speakers were announced I wasn’t expecting to see such a solid group of presenters taking the stage again. I like going to events in cities with a thriving tech industry. It always makes for a good hallway track when a lot of sharp folks are in the area and can easily attend. So what were all these people doing in Minneapolis?
It ends up a lot of tech heavy companies are in the area. Target, US Bank, Cargill, General Mills, Best Buy, Land O’ Lakes, and 3M are among them. None of these are pure tech companies like I would expect to find around San Francisco, but any company that’s competitive these days is probably leveraging a lot of technology in an effort to better serve their customers and keep things running smoothly behind the scenes. If you know anything about what I’ve been doing with CookieOps it should be no surprise I was thrilled to see technology applied to traditional business models so enthusiastically.
Target not only sponsored the event but had employees show up in force, fully engaged. 2nd place highlight for this event was discussing devOps, agile, and lean principles with Mary and Tom Poppendieck, authors of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit, along with a group of folks from Target. Mary’s talk, “The New New Software Game” focused on techniques that make it possible for small teams to deploy small changes to large systems very rapidly and very safely. More specifically, this was a talk on how to break monolithic systems into micro services. I really appreciated how her talk highlighted human interaction and how it incorporates with technology.
Getting to listen to Mary and Tom talk shop with Target was incredible. They mentioned the shelf life of software on more than one occasion, and I may have gotten a little light headed when Mary used a cookie company as an example of a manufacturing process that’s deeply concerned with time to market.
The top highlight of the event for me had to be Daniel Willis’s ignite talk, “Sports Stats 101: Putting the R in Sports”. As a mathematician and a father I think getting kids into technology early is one of the best things we can do for them. When I saw Daniel was giving a talk on baseball stats in R at the age of 12 I had no choice but to make plans for Minneapolis. Daniel didn’t disappoint either, cracking standard deviation jokes in his bow tie in front of a crowd of about 400 people.
Colleen Velo’s talk, “Rolling Your Own vs SaaS” covered the tradeoffs between internally coding solutions, using open source software, and running infrastructure in the public cloud. Bloom Health, another Minneapolis business, is in the high risk environment of healthcare. I found Colleen’s perspective and experience on this subject to be extremely relevant given the new security challenges we’re facing in our industry and the trouble that higher risk sectors are having with innovation as a result of it. I wasn’t surprised to hear Bloom is moving to SaltStack giving the risk associated with the industry where they operate.
I also encourage you to take a look at Josh Zimmerman’s presentation on “Why You Should Care about DevOps in the Public Sector”. Public sector IT employees face a different set of problems with respect to structure, motivation, and funding. DevOps has moved from startups towards the enterprise, but there’s still a lot of good these practices can do to solve problems in the public sector where much of the resistance can be attributed to the need for a cultural change. Josh and I had a chance to talk about the cultural perspective of libraries, and how they’re viewed as places to keep books instead of places to keep information. I try to check out a library when I’m in a new town and see if they have anything interesting in the archives. This trip landed me in the Minneapolis Central Library where I was able to look at an early edition of Walden that included signed letters from Henry David Thoreau. There’s a lot of good stuff at the Hennepin County Central Library including a Dunn Bros Coffee on the first floor, a Teen Tech Center sponsored by Best Buy, art exhibits, and even a sound proof piano room. I stayed in Special Collections the entire time I was there, but if you’re in Minneapolis it’s definitely worth stopping by.
I really appreciated Jason Clifford ignite on GameOps, volunteering it as an Open Space, and coaching a group of us through a few rounds of The Resistance at the evening reception, which was sponsored by Target. Games like The Resistance and Werewolf help us learn how to interact and reinforce the low trust commensalism environment I’ve spent a good bit of time promoting this year and will be presenting this October at Lean Agile Scotland. If table top gaming isn’t low trust commensalism I don’t know what is. You literally have to share a table.
I also introduced the group to The Drawing Game during the open space. You start with a random doodle on a blank page and pass the paper and pen around to each person so they can add something to the picture. We made it around our open space twice before stopping and ended up with the picture below. This game is a life saver for any group stuck waiting to eat, especially if there are kids with you. A spare place mat and a pen borrowed from the staff have warded off more toddler meltdowns for me than I can count. It’s still fun for older kids and adults too, even if you’re just watching the scene unfold.
So how did all this awesomeness end up in Minneapolis? As far as devopsdays MSP is concerned I’d give a lot of the credit to Bridget Kromhout. It’s obvious she puts a lot of time into the devOps community at large and hasn’t forgotten to help build a strong community in her own backyard. The food, shirts, event communications, AV, and even the slides and videos on the website for the event can all be traced back to her and the rest of the amazing staff. Bridget promised an awesome event while in New York but I was skeptical she might be partial when she started talking about the wonderful warm weather in Minneapolis. I can confirm first hand it doesn’t snow year round in Minneapolis, and devopsdays MSP happens during the perfect time of year for a visit.
We’re only two weeks out from devopsdays Pittsburgh, and I’m looking forward to attending the event, visiting this town for the first time, and meeting some new faces while visiting with some more familiar ones. My expectations are pretty high thanks to Minneapolis, Bridget, and the entire MSP crew. Is Pittsburgh a tech hub too?