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My first in-person KubeCon + CloudNativeCon

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My first in-person KubeCon + CloudNativeCon

This year I got a chance to attend my first in-person KubeCon + CloudNativeCon in Valencia, Spain under the generous Dan Kohn scholarship by CNCF and Linux Foundation. Throwback to when I was applying for the scholarship, I had a ton of things to worry about: I had never seen a high-schooler like me receive the scholarship, and being younger than others would I be welcomed in interactive events (PS: which was not the case), this was also my first solo international trip and much more. This might sound scary at first, but the effort of going through these challenges was absolutely worth it, and in this article, I give you some glimpses of my experiences KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe. These would be paired with some of my learnings from the conference which might help you too!

Caption: This year's Dan Kohn Scholars (can you spot me?)

In the past, I have attended a KubeCon + CloudNativeCon event virtually but the in-person event experience was completely different and a ton of fun. CNCF is one of the best communities I have seen and the best part of such conferences is getting to meet this amazing CNCF community in-person: I got to meet people who I had drawn inspiration from, people who I had worked with for quite some time and made a ton of new friends as well.

Some background

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon is also one of the largest conferences in the world where developers and companies excited about or adopting Cloud Native, gather and discuss new ideas. KubeCon is a five-day conference comprising co-located events, technical and non-technical talks, networking sessions, interactive activities, parties, and more. Be it virtual or in-person you should expect five days packed with learning, networking, and a lot of fun. I will partition my experiences among the five days to share in this blog post.

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Day 1

The first two days of KubeCon usually consist of different co-located events. Co-located events are add-on events to the main KubeCon activities and focus on a specific topic. I was particularly interested in attending Kubernetes AI Day considering my interests. The co-located event started off with some talks: often about specific technical concepts in Machine Learning on Kubernetes and a talk about solving socially impactful medical problems with machine Learning too which were quite interesting to watch. Almost all the talks at Kubernetes AI Day were paired with a demo or a hands-on component and something I do to make the most presented in these events is to make a list of talks or demos I got particularly excited by and then watch the recordings of the talks in this list. This time around I have the liberty to better understand and try out the demos for myself. Since I had already watched and processed the talk earlier, I end up often learning on top of the presented content in this exercise. Well, I am still in process of doing so for all the talks in my list but for the ones I have done so, this is something that has seemed to work quite well for me.

Caption: Talk at the Kubernetes AI Day

Co-located events are not just about attending talks, you have ample amount of time to network with speakers or other people attending the event. I would recommend anyone to make the best use of opportunities like these. Going to my first networking session, I was rid of all my fear, and everyone around was helpful and considerate not only did I not feel left out but it was a pleasure when people came over and told me they had used one of my libraries or seen me in the open-source community. All I would tell anyone attending the networking sessions is to remember that the community around them is helpful, all you need to do is ask! Following a lengthy discussion with a speaker from the Kubernetes AI Day, I even developed a project and talk idea which is now accepted at Kubernetes Community Days Berlin.

I also attended a couple of Kubernetes Contributor Summit talks which had a completely different vibe, an informal conference with a ton of discussion.

Caption: Networking at the Kubernetes AI Day

With the ending of Kubernetes AI Day, it was almost evening but you could not tell so due to the pleasant atmosphere in Valencia, there was proper daylight until 9:00 PM each day. Usually, in the latter half of the day, there are multiple parties one can attend which adds an element of fun as well as a place to do longer discussions and casually meet others from the community. I reached just in time to see Bart Farell who leads the Data on Kubernetes community sing. My plans for this day though were to attend the famous Kubernetes Contributor Summit Party which is a great way for contributors to meet and greet while having some fun. My major highlight from the Kubernetes Contributor Summit was getting to chat with people whom I drew inspiration from, Saiyam Pathak, Divya Mohan, David Flanagan, Tim Bannister, and a lot more!

Caption: The Kubernetes Contributor Summit

Owing to all the activities we had in Kubernetes Contributor Summit (our team won the Kubernetes Trivia too :) ), it was quite late but the weather in Valencia was so nice that we did a three-person party on the beach near the venue with some new friends I made at the Contributor Summit. I not only heard some fantastic stories and workplace mess ups 😆 but got some really insightful advice for choosing colleges, which I would in a couple of months. It was just the first day of KubeCon and I had already made many new friends, and got a ton of perspective and insightful advice!

Caption: Making some new friends.

Day 2

My Day 2 started off with a grand unofficial breakfast with most of the scholarship recipients and speakers from my country, India since most of us were staying in the same hotel anyways (Thanks CNCF for the room block). Being interested in Machine Learning research myself, day 2 of the conference started on a high note for me, as I got to meet and sit down for lunch with Han Xiao, the author of Fashion MNIST which is a well-cited and known paper in the Machine Learning space. As well as I got to meet multiple times and have discussions with Kunal Kushwaha and Shivay Lamba too whose work I had been following for quite a long. There could not have been a better start.

Day 2 is also the co-located event day and my plan for that day was to attend the OpenShift Commons Gathering co-located event. I was also excited to attend a couple of project meetings. Project meetings at KubeCon are longer workshop format talks typically in a smaller room, where you not only get to ask a ton of questions, more like a discussion of some sort but also interact with the maintainers of projects. These events are not live-streamed or recorded.

Something you should definitely try at conferences is to go outside your comfort zone, there is probably a technology you might have not worked with or an area of development you had never explored, KubeCon is the place for you to attend a session and see if it interests you or just come back with a decent knowledge of the technology. In fact I had only explored a bit of OpenShift earlier and just came to the OpenShift Commons Gathering with a little research yes, I did not understand all the content in this co-located event but this gave me a way to start exploring in-depth about OpenShift now.

Caption: OpenShift Commons Gathering

I also had a great time attending the Litmus Chaos and containerd project meetings which were really great. Going in with very little knowledge of Litmus Chaos, the atmosphere of these meetings and the people around made me feel welcome. To make the most out of a tutorial or a workshop style talk I would suggest you try and do two things beforehand which worked quite well for me:

  • Try doing some of your own research about the project before attending the tutorial, even if you plan to attend a beginner level talk I would still suggest you try and follow some getting started guide by the project
  • Just for yourself try listing down a couple of small bullet points about what you aim to get from the talk or you could also practice this as a whole for one of the co-located events and review this list after the workshop is over

Finally, I also attended a discussion event which is super fun and KubeCon had a lot of these, this one was by the TODO group on open-source. These kinds of events not only allow you to get insights from other people but also share your experiences and get some feedback and visibility for your work. I am also going to another Linux Foundation event "OpenJS World" from 7 June 2022 and I also got the chance to meet the executive director of OpenJS in this discussion! I would suggest anyone attending in-person conferences to not be afraid to just go up and say Hi to others.

Caption: The JFrog team

This day when I was off for sightseeing at a museum, I ended up meeting a fellow KubeCon attendee while asking him to click a photo of me, this was the time when KubeCon brought >7,000 people to Valencia, you could literally meet developers everywhere outside of KubeCon as well. We ended the day attending the JFrog party where I got to meet a ton of awesome folks from JFrog as well as others and I'm also working on a new open-source project with friends I made from this party. Parties at KubeCon are just great opportunities, make sure to use those well. The one bad decision I made on day 2 was thinking I could walk 9 kilometers back to my hotel.

Day 3

Day 3 was when the main conference started, most of the attendees come to the conference today, and thus what was a less crowded place for the first two days became a super crowded place today as everyone tried to get in for the keynote. The line to get inside the venue spanned a block outside the venue but just think about all the developers KubeCon brought together.

Caption: Trying to enter the conference on day 3

once I got to the venue after the long lines I attended the keynote talks which probably everyone at KubeCon would definitely attend. I was looking forward to the keynote talks as well which were started by Priyanka Sharma who also invited some other folks from the community. Here is a very brief about the keynotes:

  • 7 Years of Running Kubernetes in Mercedes-Benz: About the experiences from the team at Mercedes Benz as they migrated to an on-premises self-service cloud platform with close to 1000 clusters on Cluster API
  • Finding Your Power to Accelerate to a Sustainable Future: This talk greatly got me thinking about some aspects of green technology and some of intel's efforts to do this in their data centers
  • Incremental Deep Learning For Satellite with KubeEdge and MindSpore: Huawei's team shows how they combined KubeEdge Sedna, the cloud-native edge machine learning suite, with TinyMS which is a high-level API toolkit for MindSpore deep learning framework, to enable incremental learning at the satellite to accomplish tasks like remote sensing and earth observing
  • Supporting the Community – So Open Source Projects Can Grow and Thrive: About the challenges and insights from Kasten who built an open-source community whose members contribute often to their open-source cloud-native projects

Day 3 is also when one of the most famous aspects of KubeCon + CloudNativeCon starts: the sponsor showcase which is a great way for one to discuss with other developers, discover new technologies, brainstorm project ideas, and get some sweet swag (thanks IBM for a drone) and often the place where you'll end up with a job (in my case internship) offers too. You could also have some fun in this area with some stalls like Microsoft allowing you to play Forza Horizon on a real steering wheel or GitLab with their VR racing stall and multiple other games. Unlike what you would make from the name, most of the stalls in the sponsor showcase area are actually manned by developers who are super excited to discuss projects you are making, show you some live demos, and also give you advice - making the sponsor showcase even better.

Here's a video I took just to help you get an idea of the popularity of the sponsor showcase among KubeCon attendees, taken just before the sponsor showcase opened.

%{ } Caption: Entering the sponsor showcase when it starts

I finally ended another hectic day by attending the Microsoft and AWS party where I also got to meet and chat with Bridget Kromhout and Stephen Augustus among others from who I greatly drew inspiration, undoubtedly I had a ton of fanboy moments at KubeCon. PS: If you want to see some super funny moments from the AWS party, check out the tweets from this account

Day 4

I was quite excited for the talks on Day 4 since they featured the two talks I was personally most excited to attend, by the Machine Learning team at CERN. Apart from ML research, I am also interested in particle physics making CERN one of the experiences I have dreamt of taking on. I was not only able to learn from these presentations but also utilize the after-talk time to discuss with the speakers.

Caption: With the ML team at CERN

A couple of things that have come in super handy to me while networking at KubeCon are:

  • try reaching out to people you want to meet in advance over Twitter, LinkedIn, mail, or whatever you like. They are at the conference and likely would be open to meeting you I did this for quite a few of my meetings too
  • there is a reason that KubeCon uses sched for scheduling, start making your tentative schedules early on, you should have a plan albeit a draft
  • it is very much likely that you might meet folks who have different perspectives, you should be open to unlearning or relearning to grow yourself, just have an open mindset
  • finally, please connect with people on social media to create a way for you or them to reach out or follow up after your conversations. Folks at KubeCon including yourself will meet a ton of people and some might stand out due to mutual interests but following up after the conference is a very helpful way to create a lasting connect

A highlight of the keynote talks I attended:

  • Securing Shopify's Software Supply Chain: Shane discusses lessons that Shopify has learned in protecting millions of businesses and demonstrate these techniques using open source software
  • THE API IS PEOPLE!: All about communities and why you should also focus on building them and how
  • Landscape Sustainability: The Pillars of Cloud Native Growth: About the updates in the strategies of the Technical oversight Committee at CNCF and about some new innovative projects at CNCF
  • Building Bridges: Cloud Native and High Performance Computing: There would probably be no one better to talk about building a bridge between high-performance computing and cloud-native and how recent work in this area would allow the last bits of it to be finished
  • PlatformOps: It’s all about Developer Experience: Bwn talks about a couple of things PlatformOps needs to focus on reducing complexity without sacrificing flexibility, shifting outcomes left without shifting the burden left, ensuring consistency and security without giving up agility

Day 4 is also when the grand all attendee party happens which was at a palace around an hour by a bus. This bus ride to most parties is often a ton of fun too since everyone on the bus is a KubeCon attendee you could literally start a tech conversation with anyone on the bus or talk about sessions at KubeCon. The all-attendee party was also when I got to appear in the KubeCon highlight video being shot by The Linux Foundation and also got to chat with Priyanka whose keynote I had watched the other day and loved it! Finally, to end the day, I attended the Giant Swarm party which was at probably one of the most beautiful venues.

Day 5

This was the last day of KubeCon and my last day in Valencia, Spain as well and it just felt that the conference got over way too soon, I did not realize how fast the last 4 days went. I started my day 5 attending some keynote sessions I found exciting which I now give you a quick overview of:

  • Nurturing the whole project: An attempt to answer the question if you are a CNCF project and your code is reviewed, docs are written, you have an event what more do you need, Josh and Catherine talk about how you also need to publicize your project, create a good developer experience, develop project policies and more
  • How Developers Help Scale Kubernetes Security: A talk about the ways and the best practices for developers to integrate security in their CI and CD pipelines
  • Exploring the Frontiers of Cloud Native: About how Huawei pushed cloud-native deployments to greater scales than ever talking about some of their Machine Learning workloads and outer space as well

Following this, I attended the "Peer Group Mentoring + Career Networking" which included multiple roundtables with one of three topics related to growing within your career. You would switch roundtables thrice to cover each topic and each roundtable would have a mentor to help you. This was indeed super helpful, especially with awesome mentors like Davanum Srinivas and more. One of the quite fun talks I attended was called "What Anime Taught Me About K8s Development & Tech Careers", having loved watching anime myself I loved attending this talk which was essentially a talk on how one could get started on their Cloud Native journey, though I had watched a similar talk back when I had started my journey with Cloud Native but well I was in there for anime.

Another roundtable session I attended this day was the "SIG Meet and Greet" where, as the name suggests you could meet SIG Leaders and talk about the development or roadmap or how to get involved in the SIG, and a lot more. Such roundtable sessions are quite helpful and I am very glad that I got to attend some of them. I learned about a couple of Working Groups and Special Interest Groups like the WG Batch and SIG ContribEx which I will start contributing to as well.

I ended the day attending a couple more sessions but left a bit early for the venue as some of us, Dan Kohn scholars and some speakers, from India, had a casual party planned where we got our hands on Indian food for the first time in (for me) 9 days and then just roamed around the streets of Valencia before boarding a flight back to my home city Mumbai the next morning.

The conference ends

Finally the conference ended and I am already looking forward to the next KubeCon + CloudNativeCon and learning more from the fantastic CNCF community, I came back with a ton of great experiences and look forward to more! Post conference seeing a couple of tweets like this one made me feel pretty nice about the people I got to connect with and continue the discussions post conference too.

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PS: Not tomorrow, now is the right time for you to be a part of the open-source community and start contributing if you aren't already.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @rishit_dagli to talk about KubeCon, Kubernetes, CNCF or well anything.

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