I was lucky enough to be chosen to speak at Ignite Australia in February this year. This was huge – mostly because in Microsoft circles I’m fairly unknown – whereas within the PASS and SQL Saturday community I’m getting known as the DBA/OPs guy who preaches that DevOps thing.
My tagline for getting up in front of people is:
“If I can inspire just one person in the audience to make a change – then this is worth it“.
Ignite was always going to be huge as it was going to one of four conferences I was going to speak at within 10 days. Hence the title – this was a road trip of sorts where I got to speak about a topic that I hope can help people make positive change in their businesses.
The others were:
- Difinity – 7th-9th February
- SQL Saturday Melbourne – 10th February
- Ignite Australia – 13th-17th February
- SQL Saturday Sydney – 18th February
The big one of course being Ignite Australia.
Here is the crowd who wanted to hear me talk:
All the sessions has one common theme – how to make DevOps work for you and your company. Ignite Australia was about an overall “How to make DevOps work in the wild” view whereas SQL Saturday Sydney (for example) was more about “How DBAs can/should embrace DevOps”. All my sessions have DEMOs associated with them.
For Ignite I wanted to show the whole journey of making changes and showing those flow through various tools and also environment setups.
For Difinity and SQL Saturday Sydney I wanted to drill down into particular parts of Continuous Delivery – specifically the use of SQL Server Data Tools and DACPACs – the common theme was integrating the delivery process with Azure and Continuous Integration tools like Team Foundation Server (TFS) and Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS).
If you’re interested here is my session on Channel 9 (75 minutes):
You can watch the interview (13 minutes)here:
Before I went on the roadtrip I was asked if I would do a podcast with CIAOPS and you can hear it (26 minutes) here:
All in all the experience of speaking at Ignite Australia was amazing, I really enjoyed meeting fellow speakers and also going along to some great sessions.
I’ve been speaking for roughly 2.5 years now and I always like to retrospectively analyse how my sessions went. My evaluations for Ignite were pretty good – as a speaker I got 4.1 out of 5 which I am happy with.
The comments were interesting – DevOps is a subject that polarises people and I’ve found that I’ll either have lovers or haters who decide to fill out evaluation forms. Ignite was no different and I’m glad for all the comments as I want to grow as a speaker and every time I speak I learn something new about my technique and also something to improve.
I preach about continuous improvement both within my workplace and in front of crowds so it makes sense that I reflect on how I could have improved.
I am going to choose Ignite as this was the largest group of people I’ve spoken to on this subject. About twice the size of the group of people I spoke to at PASS Summit in 2016:
Areas for improvement:
1. I should have made it a 200 level session.
Initially I wanted to go in depth into Continuous Integration feeding into Continuous Delivery. I had a fairly good in depth DEMO that would show this. However I was worried about time and cut back my DEMOs which involved a lot of material that would have made this a 300 level session. I was also worried I’d lose some of the audience if I focused wholly on the technology rather than what actually makes DevOps work in the wild.
What actually makes DevOps work in the wild you might ask?
Watch the session.
But yeah – lessson learned – I should have contacted the organisers and said “hey thanks for picking my session, however in retrospect it’s a 200 level session”.
2. Recorded DEMOs are an art…
Part of the speaker briefing was that Ignite recommended doing recorded DEMOs. Which I could see the merit in – imagine doing an Azure DEMO and the internet drops out. Or your DEMO completely breaks – Ignite don’t want a room full of people twiddling their thumbs whilst the speaker freaks out.
I love to do DEMOs that are LIVE. Because it is risky and more importantly when things go wrong (trust me there is no “if” there) then the audience can go on a journey with you to work out what broke. I have always recorded my DEMOs – as a backup – just in case something does ever go wrong – but I’ve never (yet) had to use them.
So I recorded my DEMOs and then I re-recorded them and changed bits and got them to a point where I thought I was happy. I practised with them, alone and in front of people.
However on the day in front of a crowd of 200+ people – I felt a little disjointed and my DEMOs were a little too fast in hindsight.
They were a little too broad as well, I should have delved into one thing and really done a deep dive – to warrant the session being a 300 level session. In a 200 level session the DEMO I did would have been fine.
Another lesson to be learned – if recording the DEMO – slow it down rather than speed it up and practise it in a variety of stances (as the monitors might be over there or over here etc.).
3. Warm up with the crowd – regardless of size
Before any of my sessions I engage with the crowd. I like to find someone to talk to then extend it out to the mass that is the crowd.. Even at PASS where my audience was over a 100 people I still engaged with them, mostly talking about NZ chocolate..
The reason I do this is that I get into my style quicker and I don’t need to warm up during the first 3 slides.
Ignite I didn’t do this as I was waiting for the room to fill, the technicians to say “yip, you’re on”…
…and when I listened to my session this week I could tell – I use “uhm” or “ahh” when I’m warming up. I should have engaged with the crowd- I was in the room for 30 minutes before my session so I had time.
As mentioned speaking at Ignite was a wonderful opportunity for me – I feel extremely lucky to have presented. DevOps is a topic that people either don’t understand, over complicate or just plain hate. I’m not going to change the haters but I certainly want to help the people that don’t understand or want to make a positive change in their application life cycle and deployment pipeline.
I learnt some things speaking at Ignite which will help me in future presentations and that is worthy of the time spent preparing, speaking and evaluating myself.