This year I have the privilege of being part of the organizing committee for DevOpsDays New York City. It’s been an exciting (and busy) journey so far though I’m learning a lot about how to put together a 1 track conference with over 600 attendees, 20+ sponsors, and 20 speakers in NYC. There’s a lot that goes into organizing a conference; sponsors, CFPs, agendas, signage, registrations, volunteers, marketing, payments, vendors, and of course, FOOD!

As this is only my 2nd DevOpsDays conference so I’m not yet an expert though I do know a thing or two about speaking at and attending tech conferences. So, here are my tips for any first-timers that plan on heading to DevOpsDays New York City on March 3 – 4, 2020:

1. Find the speakers and organizers on Twitter and LinkedIn and connect with them

This will help you grow your network while getting prepped for what you may see at the conference. The cool thing about DevOpsDays is that it is a 1-track conference, meaning you won’t miss a speaker if you hang out in the main hall. Many other conferences have different tracks requiring you to make a decision on what to see and what to miss. Another great thing to keep in mind is that the conference will publish the talks on YouTube after the event allowing you to go back and relook if you miss something. Here are the Speakers, the Program, and the Organizers for DevOpsDays NYC 2020:

If you have time, catch my colleague, Victoria Geronimo, presenting DevSecOps is a Misnomer and get some insight into exactly where Security fits in the “DevSecOps” pipeline and culture and on specific challenges companies face, and the things they do to address those challenges.

2. Bring your resume, a link to your resume, or a business card

If you’re looking for something new. There are tons of sponsors you can talk to that are looking to hire and there are no ‘badge scanners’ at this conference so you’ll have to provide them your contact info in a quick/easy way. Remember if you sign up at a booth with your email address, they’re likely to follow up with a few sales emails. So, I always like to have a specific email address for events so that I can sort through these. Gmail helps with this by allowing you to add filters too. You can easily print personal business cards for cheap using a service like Vistaprint. Include your name, title or role (developer, engineer, ops guru, etc.), email and phone number. Add a link to your resume / Twitter / LinkedIn / GitHub as well so people can get connect with you.

Here is a list of Sponsors that you can check out now. Do some quick research on what they do and which ones you want to stop by and chat with. It’s good to come with a checklist of things you want to do/accomplish so that you don’t get distracted by all the activity and the other 599 people at the conference:

3. Plan to meet at least 3 people

At the event, get connected with them on social media, and follow up for coffee or a quick chat. This is my networking secret that helps me build real contacts instead of just people I said hello to at a conference. We all have something to share and give so don’t feel like asking for 15 minutes of their time is too much. You can easily connect on LinkedIN at the conference and then send them a note that night saying

“It was nice to meet you at DevOpsDays NYC! I’d love to chat about [opportunities, your experience, your company, how you got to where you are] if you have 15 mins next week to catch up. How does [insert day/time] work for you”

4. Get your elevator pitch down

This includes who you are (name and role), where you’re from/company/school, and what you’re looking to get out of the event (learn, meet industry people, be a future speaker, etc.). You may also want to have a quick sentence on what you can offer others at the event like connections, directions to the nearest good coffee, or just a nice conversation.

5. Open Spaces

Are fun but may be a little intimidating for many newcomers and introverts. It’s good to know how they work before being forced into a circle and share your thoughts. DevOpsDays puts out a quick guide here for organizers and below is my 6 step open space guide for attendees:

  • Topic Submission – People submit topics they want to talk about or a discussion they want to lead. You can submit a topic too! Just put it on the board when the organizers ask.
  • Everyone Votes for Topics – This is usually facilitated via an online app that you can download. Sometimes stickers are handed out and you will place a sticker next to the topic you’re interested in talking about. Some conferences give 3 votes, others give 1. Choose what open discussion you want to be included in or listen to.
  • Topic Organization – The event staff will organize open space topics by vote into break out rooms. This is done usually during the lunch time so after lunch you can check out where the open spaces you voted for are taking place. At DevOpsDays NYC 2020, we’ll likely have 3 open spaces per day so you will have 6 opportunities across 2 days to participate in an open talk.
  • Find Your Room – The open spaces will be held on all different floors too so keep an eye out for the room number and signs or ask for help getting to your open space. I like to take a picture of the board so I don’t forget the room numbers.
  • Attend the Open Space – When you enter the room there may be someone in the center introducing what they wanted to talk about. Introduce yourself, get involved, help circle up the chairs, sit down in the circle or near the organizer to get a good view and try to say at least 1 thing during the open space, even if it’s a question to others. This is your opportunity to share what you know but also a great opportunity to learn. It is okay to leave an open space if it’s not interesting to you. Just walk out of the room. No one will be offended they’re too busy talking anyway. ;0)
  • Rinse and Repeat – Attend as many open spaces as you’d like and try to take advantage of the time to learn something new. Don’t forget to find a way to continue the conversation if you found it interesting. A great way is to connect with the topic submitter via Twitter or LinkedIN and follow up.

6. Make time to attend the evening social

This event is in the same venue so you don’t have to go far and food/drink will be served (so you won’t want to miss it). DevOpsDays NYC Evening Social is on March 3rd at 5 pm right after the last session on day 1. It’s a great way to meet the speakers, sponsors, attendees, and organizers and grow your network quickly while in a relaxed environment.

7. Wear something that makes you comfortable

Looks semi professional in case you’re looking for a job. You could be meeting with recruiters, hiring managers, etc. Also remember this is a DevOps conference so most of us aren’t wearing suits and ties and dresses. I’ll be wearing jeans, sneakers, and an organizer t-shirt, and bringing a sweater You do you. Be authentic but neat.

8. Use Social Media

A great way to gain new Twitter followers is to live tweet your thoughts during a talk and tag the speaker and the event, @DevOpsDaysNYC. Share what you’ve learned, what they said that really impressed you, and your followers will start flowing in. It’s also great to post on LinkedIN to share your experience through pictures and thoughts. Posting on LinkedIN helps you come up in search results more often for potential employers. Use the hashtags #devops #devopsdays #devopsdaysnyc to make sure your messages get noticed. Don’t forget to follow these hashtags and retweet/like other peoples posts too.

9. Read and Abide by the Code of Conduct

DevOpsDays has a clear code of conduct providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone. Remember to read it prior to the event and also report any harassment to an organizer immediately. We will support you.

10. Take a Break

This is my most important tip for all conferences. You do not have to see every speaker, participate in every activity, or even stay the whole time if your mind/body isn’t into it. It’s not easy being around 600 people in close quarters for 2 days so remember, taking a break in one of the Open Space rooms, taking a quick walk around Central Park, or grabbing a coffee outside of the venue is perfectly fine.

2nd Watch is also sponsoring the event, so make sure to look for us and stop by for a chat!

-Stefana Muller, Sr Product Manager – DevOps & Migration