If you have ever attended a well-run Meet-up on a night with a fantastic speaker, you will understand the value of putting time and effort into a community. If you haven’t then I suggest you get to a few and experience it first-hand. Freely shared knowledge, experience and finding people passionate about what they do is the hall mark of these groups.
When a business steps in to support a community like this, generously and without expectation of direct return, something special can happen. DevOpsDays annual NZ event is a splendid example of this.
The event is run by group of passionate and very capable volunteers who, with the support of the global DevOpsDays community, execute one of the better tech conferences in the country. From the very well received inaugural event in Wellington to the well-attended and rated event last year in Auckland the team have gone from strength to strength. Stretching a relatively meagre budget to put on an event that not only felt professional but extremely rewarding. All while still retaining the community feel that is missing from larger vendor driven events.
Last year’s event was a 2 day conference held at the Ellerslie event centre. The event is quickly becoming known for the quality of the speakers and the content they create. Each day opens and closes with internationally renowned speakers on the wide array of topics that make up DevOps. Interspersed throughout are Open Spaces, one of the best things to come out of conference for me personally.
For the uninitiated the core concepts of Open Spaces are well described in on the Wikipedia page but put simply it’s a time set aside for discussions decided on and run by the attendees. The topics ranged from the highly technical to commercial to more personal/cultural like burnout and maintaining a culture of learning in a busy team. The first thing that strikes anyone new is how collaborative and informative something so informal can be. They also provide a way of breaking up the passive act of being presented to with something much more active, which no doubt accounts for the low rate of attrition at the end of each day.
The only criticism, and it’s a minor one, is they have yet to really hit the nail on the head with the evening event. In both events so far, it’s been nice for a little networking and last year the food was excellent. Still there are lots of way to help break the ice that have yet to be explored and as these events really can’t rely much on alcohol as social lubricant. A few guided fun activities would be great to see. All that said these events are usually left up to the sponsors and it was still a good night.
As a company OSS is committed to supporting events like this and I am very proud of the approach we have taken. Here is a short extract from our community strategy that describes it well:
“By focusing on building a strong community first, and sales and marketing activity second, our efforts can have a genuinely positive impact on the community. This will grow and enhance the potential pool of employees, increase current staff capability and satisfaction and build a brand that is seen to give back to the community that supports it. “
The greatest value that can be added to most community activities is the time and attention of passionate, capable people. Where appropriate, funding may be required, but it should be focused where it will have the most impact and drive the most value back into the community.
It's with this approach we help the organisers of these events as well as our own staff maximise their value. Sales, marketing and training opportunities often come as a result as well but we whole heartedly recognise the true benefit comes from the furthering of the community itself.
If you have been thinking about attending DevOps days as an individual, do. Its well worth the time and money and it would be great to see you there. Make sure you register early though, so far, it’s always sold out long before event day.
If you’re a business thinking about sponsoring, its another big yes from me, but with a couple of suggestions:
- Go with the intention of participating: The event is great and any staff you send along will get value from it
- Engage with the organisers early: They are great at helping you make the most of the time and money.
- Be patient: these guys are volunteers, they put on a great event but it's in their spare time, so expect some delays in questions etc… you will get what you need before the end of the day.
- Market but don’t sell: This is a great opportunity to build your brand and even potentially recruit some incredible people. It’s not the time nor the place for a sales pitch. The community are there to learn so if you want the right to pitch later make sure the team have something to teach.
In summary, DevOpsDays is a fantastic event and a clear sign of what a few passionate people and a bit of sponsorship can achieve. If you’re looking to break into the DevOps space or to extend your existing skills or just give something back to the community, then it’s a great place to start.
Full Event Details can be found here: