DevOpsDays Chicago Learning Review

Jason Hand - October 10, 2014

This week I traveled to participate in the very first DevOpsDays Chicago, live from the Windy City. As with many before it, the event was a great mixture of DevOpsDays alum and new folks just starting to hear about the movement and wanting to learn more.

After a quick poll of the audience during the opening introduction by Matt Stratton (@mattstratton) asking ”Who in the room is attending DevOpsDays for the very first time?”, a majority of the participants held their hand high.

That’s not a DevOps… this is a DevOps

Not only was there an IGNITE talk by Alan Sharp-Paul (@asharppaul) of ScriptRock by this exact name, this seemed to me to be the major theme throughout the event. As with many DevOpsDays prior, there is a continued effort to help define and explain the word and what it represents. It makes perfect sense to some and is a complete nonsensical mashup to others.

Bridget Kromhout (@bridgetkromhout) of Drama Fever kicked off the event on Tuesday with her presentation “How much is that Devops in the window?” by reminding us that it’s not wrong to want a list of action items after attending these events, but acting without reflection isn’t nearly enough. Understanding how to get started is a byproduct of understanding why you feel a need to in the first place. What you’re trying to accomplish and why is always a better starting point than how.

Two of my favorite quotes from her talk are both very important (IMO) for those just now beginning to explore this whole DevOps movement.

"_Be wary of anyone claiming they will give you a turn-key devops solution_."


"_There is no exciting inner circle.  There are only friends you’ve met and friends you haven’t._"


Open Spaces are where IT’S at!

After several more informative presentations and the always fun IGNITE talks, it was time for the Open Space portion of the event. Open Spaces are an interesting and important part of each DevOpsDays. Topics are pitched by the participants and then assigned to time slots and rooms where everyone has the freedom to pop in and out of, depending on subjects that are interesting to them.

With Blameless Post-mortems and ChatOps being two subjects I’m passionate about right now, I was excited to see both of those subjects suggested and scheduled at different times so that I could participate in their discussions.

I was impressed by the post-mortem one in particular as I strolled in after it started and found a room of people fully engaged in extremely thoughtful and helpful dialogue on this subject. Jeff Smith (@darkandnerdy) provided some great insight on a methodology unfamiliar to me (STAMP) but one I’m very interested in learning more about and integrating into my future presentations on the topic of post-mortems.


Following this open space, I wandered over to the one for ChatOps. With a big presentation I’m giving at Camp DevOps in a couple of weeks, followed by a webinar on the subject, I’m very much interested in absorbing as much as possible regarding who’s doing what and how with regard to chat clients, automation bots, and time-saving scripts (i.e. ChatOps)

Day Two: AwesomeOps

As everyone knocked out the cobwebs from the previous night’s social event at Beercade, we were treated to a healthy dose of DevOps therapy by the charming Randi Harper (@freebsdgirl) followed by a great look at how Orbitz manages their release schedule by Jacob Tomaw (@JacobTomaw). Then there was Arup Chakrabarti (@arupchak) explaining how PagerDuty monitors PagerDuty, and the always funny and thought-provoking J. Paul Reed (@soberbuildeng) explaining how we need to STOP with the “Unicorns” (a term assigned to the Twitter, Facebook, Etsy, and Netflix-types who appear to many as the perfect example on everything DevOps) because it creates a culture of “the other”.

"_We are not unicorns...we are not horses...we are people trying to build systems in complex environments._" - J. Paul Reed


Paul always does a great job of slinging very thought-provoking talks on a number of topics in this space and DevOpsDays was no exception. While his mysterious title of “Devops == 42” left all of us intrigued on the nature of his talk, for me, one of the greatest take-aways was that a DevOps transformation or cultural change can’t occur without conscious support of your upper management.

We talk about a grass-roots effort but you do have to have some management “buy-in”. Many of us entrenched in the DevOps movement offer advice on a variety of topics, but this is a very important point. Culture can be a bottleneck in your efforts to institute change, and having some level of management empathy and support is important.

With Gravitas

Day two’s Open Spaces included a live recording of the Arrested DevOps podcast hosted by Matt Stratton and Trevor Hess (@trevorghess), which I was able to be a part of as well as J. Paul Reed, Michael Ducy (@mfdii), Mark Cornick (@markcornick), Steve Pereira (@steveelsewhere), Shannon Smith (@shannonlly) and Aaron Lindstrom (@blanchthebleach).  The topics were obviously regarding DevOpsDays and each of our thoughts on, not only the Chicago event, but previous ones as well.



As the event closed and participants made their way home or towards the airport, there was a great sense of community and accomplishment amongst those of us mulling around until the end… and well-deserved congratulations were handed out to volunteer organizers of DevOpsDays - Chicago.

These events are always so rewarding, not only for me personally as I continue to learn more about the movement and how myself and VictorOps play a part in it all, but also as I begin to develop new friends and help grow the community each of us are very passionate about.

While several of us concluded our week together over obligatory “Deep Dish” pizza and beer, I was reminded that this may be the last one in the U.S. until next year, where maybe, just maybe, we’ll all meet up again in Denver!  ;)