I am so excited about the upcoming DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) Las Vegas. As a programming committee, we seek to make each event better than the last, as measured by how much we learn and how it helps enable the DevOps Enterprise community to achieve their goals.
As a programming committee, we thought London 2019 was our best conference yet (almost unanimously), which poses a challenge of how could we possibly do better—but I’ve found over the last several years that this is doable, mostly by being very explicit about what challenges across our community we want to help to overcome.
This year, we focused on the following areas, and I think you’ll find the upcoming conference does an amazing job of addressing them:
- Experience reports of technology leaders presenting with even more senior business leaders.
- Overcoming obstacles in security and compliance.
- Experience reports and subject matter experts in the areas of data science and data initiatives.
Reviewing this post, I’m finding the number of amazing stories being presented is so good that it’s incredibly difficult to pick which ones to mention here. But, the following speakers really stood out to me, because they’re so different than those from previous years:
- David Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos: I was blown away when I saw him present. He talked about how one of their top strategic goals was to attract and retain great talent—the result was Kronos being named as one of the top 100 best places to work by both Fortune Magazine and Glassdoor, enabling then to support continued growth, innovation and profitability. He’ll be teaching us the value of employee engagement, and how the top levels of leadership view it.
- Andre Martin, VP and chief learning officer at Google: Until recently, Dr. Martin was chief learning officer at Target, and before that, at NIKE. He will be sharing what his charter was in those roles, why those organizations created his role in the first place and how it could advance the mission of the DevOps Enterprise community.
- The Big Four Auditor panel: In this amazing panel, we have four distinguished experts who support the audit practice. We will be busting the most commonly heard myths and objections about “why DevOps can’t work here,” such as why DevOps can’t be done in regulated industry, why separation of duties prevents DevOps and many more. The four auditors are: Yosef Levine from Deloitte, Michael Wolf from KPMG, Matt Bonser from PwC and Pierre Fourie from Ernst & Young. They will be hosting two Ask An Auditor Anything workshops, facilitated by Dr. Tapabrata Pal and Sam Guckenheimer. This is an opportunity to anonymously ask questions about the audit process with some of the best experts in the space.
I attended a smaller version of this session in London and I thought it was incredible and truly notable. This one promises to be a landmark moment for the DevOps Enterprise community.
Without a doubt, the programming committee has worked hard to create a high learning experience filled with technology leaders pioneering the business practices that will surely be commonplace within a decade. This, combined with experts from the domains that we’re drawing upon to help achieve our goals–along with exciting networking opportunities each day of the event–has helped us establish an industry forum for exchanging insights and information we need as a community.
I hope you’ll join us in Las Vegas, and that you’re as delighted by the program as we are! In my career, I have grown to love conferences and have benefited so much from them. And yet, this conference is still my favorite. I never learn as much in such a short period than when I’m at DOES.
Acknowledgements and Changes from Last Year
I want to thank everyone for submitting a proposal to DOES for Vegas 2019. I personally appreciate and recognize the effort required to prepare your submissions. And I know because I still spend a lot of time preparing and submitting proposed abstracts.
This year was the most difficult selection process for the programming committee ever, especially when so many are friends and people whose work we all respect so highly.
To explain how we made decisions, I want to frame everything in terms of the conference programming objectives. Broadly speaking, here are the number of talk slots we reserved for each programming objectives:
|Talk Track Subject Areas||Slots|
|Experience Reports: New||12|
|Experience Reports: Repeat||6|
|Spanning Business/Tech Divide||9|
|Next Gen Ops||8|
|Overcoming old ways of working||7|
|Subject Matter Experts||7|
|Dynamic Learning Organizations||5|
|Leadership Lessons, Transformational Leadership||3|
One thing that you should notice right away is every track only has a few slots. Another thing you are probably unaware of is we had more speaking submissions than ever before–it blows my mind just thinking about it.
Evolving Programming Objectives
In addition to the amazing response we received for this year’s call for presentations, we also worked to address some feedback from 2018 that “some talks sounded the same as last year.” So, we reviewed the talks again, and observed that some of the repeat speakers we invited didn’t have a lot of change since the last time they spoke. As a result, we’ve done two things:
- We’ve nearly halved the number of speaker slots for repeat speakers (see stats below)
- 45% of repeat speakers (Vegas 2018)
- 27% of repeat speakers (Vegas 2019)
- We invited repeat speakers who have a large change to report, or a different perspective to share (e.g., a different co-presenter from another business area), etc.
In general, our top-level goal every year is to help technology leaders succeed in transforming their organizations—both by increasing the likelihood of their success and accelerating the rate of adoption of DevOps principles and practices by focusing on the following talk tracks and subject areas listed above.
We aim to fulfill this goal through speaker presentations, both from technology leaders and/or subject matter experts from those domains. We also do this through less structured networking sessions where attendees can find other people who are tackling similar challenges or want to learn more about a particular area of interest.
New Experience Reports
One of the hallmarks of DOES is our program focuses on spotlighting real world experience reports, straight from the mouths of those who are driving enterprise-scale transformation. As adult learners, and as leaders, there are few (if any) better ways to learn than watching how other people in similar situations solve their problems.
Besides enabling learning, experience reports serve another important goal—they help us as leaders negate objections that “DevOps can’t be done here.” I’m happy to say over the past six years, we’ve assembled a growing library of 250 experience reports from some of the most recognized brands around the world. As a whole, it shows DevOps principles and patterns are universal across nearly every industry vertical today. Some of the new experience reports I cannot wait to hear in October include:
- Heather Mickman (VP platform engineering) and David Cherryhomes (VP, IT), UnitedHealth Group: Heather and David will be talking about their amazing work transforming business and technology at UHG, the largest healthcare company in the world, with over 115 million customers. (You will likely remember Heather from her pioneering work at Target, co-presenting with Ross Clanton from 2014-2015 and keynoting by herself in 2016).
- Fernando Cornago (senior director, platform engineering) and Benjamin Grimm (senior director experience .com), Adidas: They will be presenting about the work they have done to elevate developer productivity at Adidas, including supporting the incredibly important e-commerce initiatives, as well as product design. They will share how they’ve educated top executives and even board members on critical technology concepts, and how they’re making all data easy consumable by everyone across the company.
- Kira Barclay (director, analytics) and Elizabeth Conzo (analytics leader), John Deere: They will be presenting the amazing work they’ve been doing supporting both enterprise data initiatives, as well as incubating Horizon 3 initiatives and modernizing the software practices in some of the largest product lines at John Deere.
- Ralf Waltram (VP of IT delivery), BMW: Ralf will be talking about the DevOps and Project to Product journey, which as he says, is how BMW is transitioning from project management to product management. In the BMW team’s words, this the “largest change to how business is done at BMW in twenty years.”
- Jim Lloyd (chief of the innovation branch, field operations directorate) and Melinda Solomon (Agile training lead), USCIS: Jim and Melinda will be sharing the continuation of the DevOps journey at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Jim will be talking about specific mission objectives at USCIS, and the business and technology partnership.
- Jaclyn Damiano (associate director) and Josh Stone (senior architect/evangelist), Verizon: Verizon has holistically undergone massive organizational and business changes in the past year. A voluntary separation package and outsourcing to third parties has changed the makeup of the team and the culture. A corporate reorganization so significant it is defined as “Verizon 2.0.” They will be talking about how to stay the course on digital transformation, cloud migration and culture change in such a turbulent environment.
Continued Experience Reports
This year, we will have six companies back to present their continuing experience reports at the conference. Having this pattern of repeat speakers may be a bit unusual, but I personally love that we’re following these courageous leaders along their journey. I want the experience to have front-row seats to an unfolding documentary of the ongoing transformations they are leading in their large, complex organizations.
How has the story from the previous year evolved for the organization and the leader? What new obstacles emerged, and how did they overcome them? Is this a path the rest of us want to follow? What are the things worth celebrating as part of this journey and why? For DOES Las Vegas, we have the privilege of welcoming these people back to take the stage:
- Scott Prugh, chief architect and VP software development at CSG: Scott has spoken at every DOES since the beginning. This year, I’ve asked Scott to speak on something he’s never directly spoken about, which is how they’ve overcome incredible architectural challenges as their transaction growth exploded. This is one of the most incredible engineering achievements I’ve ever seen.
Spanning the Business and Technology Divide
One of the top challenges we see year after year is how to get business leadership on board—and by that, I mean enthusiastic and grateful business partners, who want to tell the world how all their goals and aspirations are finally achieved by working together with their technology counterparts.
These are often the most difficult talks to find, because they require a technology leader with a great working relationship with their business counterpart, and visible success. In Las Vegas 2018, we had some fantastic talks along these lines (from Nike, Capital One, Target, The Walt Disney Company and Kaiser Permanente).
This year, we’ll be featuring even more talks like this (33% more to be exact), showing how technology leaders are partnering with not just business leaders, but also other areas of the business, such as product leadership, security/privacy, legal, project management and so forth. Specifically, we are eager to hear from the CFO and Project Portfolio perspective. Here are a few talks I’m super excited to hear:
- Chris O’Malley (CEO) and Joe Aho (CFO), Compuware: My fireside chat with Chris O’Malley last year was one of the most talked about sessions last year. I’ve invited him back with his CFO, asking them to teach us how to better interact with CFOs, a famously conservative group, and how we can win them over to help DevOps initiatives.
- Levi Geinert (SVP and head of Agile technology experience) and Werner Loots (EVP consumer and business banking), U.S. Bank: Levi talk about his new role in the Experience Studios, where their goal is to reimagine banking, an effort being driven from the very highest levels of leadership. He and Werner will speak about some of their challenges and noteworthy successes, which has created excitement across the organization.
Next Generation Operations
After hearing ops needed more representation at DOES, in 2018 we reserved nearly a quarter of our talks to focus on ops and infrastructure challenges, and created a separate subcommittee to focus on this area. While we aren’t going to have as many next generation ops talks this year, it is our third largest talk track behind new experience reports and spanning the tech and business divide.
What’s amazing is that we learned the elevation of this topic has fundamentally changed the feel of the conference itself. The programming committee has made an effort to help define and clarify what exactly the role of an ops leader is, and how all the technology and organizational changes there have been in how infrastructure is designed, delivered and operated. I’m thrilled to be able to see this presentation this year:
- Scott Havens, director of software engineering at Walmart Labs and Jet.com: Until very recently, Scott was responsible for rebuilding the entire inventory management systems that support Walmart, the world’s largest company. He will be sharing how he used functional programming principles to massively simplify the vast architecture that supported the inventory management systems, making it simpler, more reliable, easier to maintain and cheaper to run.
Subject Matter Expert Talks
All leaders are, for the most part, self-teaching ourselves what we think we need to learn to be successful. Technology leaders in particular have to adapt to a somewhat constant rates of disruption and change happening around us. In the past, we’ve brought experts such as Dr. Christina Maslach (burnout) and Dr. Richard Cook (safety culture) to deliver talks about the domains we want to learn more about to help us reach our desired outcomes. This year we have the following subject matter experts onsite to deliver presentations:
- Andre Martin, VP and chief learning officer at Google: Until recently, Dr. Martin was chief learning officer at Target, and before that, at NIKE. He will be sharing what his charter was in those roles, and why those organizations created his role in the first place, and how it could advance the mission of the DevOps Enterprise community.
- Christopher Bergh, CEO and head chef at DataKitchen: He will be talking about the chronic problems of getting data from where it resides (typically trapped within data warehouses) to where it needs to go (by the teams who need data to make decisions, or manipulate it to make it more useful). Chris had a huge impact on the development of The Unicorn Project, and helped me see the parallel universe of DataOps.
- Nicole Forsgren, head of DORA and Dr. Dustin Smith, human factors psychologist and senior user experience researcher at Google: They will be presenting all the amazing and continuing findings from the 2019 State of DevOps Report, which continues to uncover fascinating insights on what enables high performance.
Networking Opportunities, Lean Coffee, Lightning Talks and More
In addition to all the wonderful talk tracks and exciting presentations above, the conference program creates a forum for different ways to “get together and go faster.”
I’ve said this before, but it is so important for the organizers of DOES to help attendees achieve their desired outcomes. One of the most special experiences at DOES comes from meaningful one-on-one interactions with your fellow attendees.
To that end, and together with my friend and IT Revolution advisor, Jeff Gallimore, we have established different ways for people to learn, ask and answer as many questions as possible–based on experiments and what we learned from London earlier this year. Because the quality of the audience is one aspect that we think separates the DOES from all the rest, the more spontaneous conversations and interactions we can nurture onsite, the better for all.
- DevOps Confessions: At the beginning of each day, programming committee members will read anonymized stories of confessions from leaders in the DevOps community to learn about the struggles, failures and near-misses. These are some of the best anecdotes you may ever hear.
- Speakers Corner: We created a dedicated time and a location to ask the plenary speakers questions that go deeper on the information presented earlier that day.
- Lean Coffee: Led by Dominica DeGrandis, author of Making Work Visible and the foremost expert in Kanban Flow within the IT industry today, attendees can connect with and learn from their peers in a semi-structured format all three days of the conference.
- Birds of a Feather Sessions: This is more like the DevOpsDays unconference sessions, with less structure than a Lean Coffee format, and these sessions are driven by specific topics that attendees want to discuss and learn about. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions of these sessions in Las Vegas last year.
- Lightning Talks: These are rapid-fire, must-see presentations that happen from the main stage after the conference day has concluded. Also, as a bonus, the IT Revolution book signing happens immediately afterward.
- Industry Party: In addition to sponsor giveaways, great food and drinks, this is when I’ll have the book signing of my newest title, The Unicorn Project. The industry party is one of my favorite times during the conference to continue conversations with my fellow attendees and speakers.
- Slack Workspace: The conference will have a shared Slack workspace for people to interact with speakers, attendees and sponsors. In the past, this is where people have connected to make plans, search/recruit for job opportunities and more.
As you can see, there’s a lot getting me excited for the conference this year, and I hope to see you there!
Special offer: Pre-order 10 copies (or more) of The Unicorn Project by Oct. 30 and receive $350+ off your next conference registration, plus lots of other bonuses. For more details click here.
— Gene Kim