I recently attended DevOpsDays in Sydney, a two-day tech conference that has been running since 2010. The event focuses on software development, IT infrastructure operations, and how the two intersect in the tech world.
Sponsored by GitHub, Google Cloud, BuildKite and more, the DevOpsDays conference has a great range of world-class speakers and several engaging open discussion sessions. Talks were diverse and covered everything from onboarding DevOps teams to Kubernetes and Configuration Management. Molly Rowe from RecordPoint presented a talk on ‘Using Metrics to Build High-Performance Teams’ while Matty Stratton from PagerDuty spoke on ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze – Releasing Organisational Trauma’.
Attending conferences like DevOpsDays is a fantastic opportunity to upskill, network and possibly even land a new job!
So, how exactly do you get the most out of a tech conference? Here is my advice based on my experience.
Find Out Who the Key Stakeholders Are
Do some research beforehand on speakers and sponsors. Tech conferences will often have an exhibition hall for various companies in the industry – looking into who you may want to work for will allow you to plan who you might want to approach on the day.
Utilise LinkedIn to find out who is attending from these companies so that you can identify the key people to network with.
Researching relevant company events, career histories and shared interests will provide you with icebreakers to help build rapport with company representatives. When you can demonstrate that you are well-informed and genuinely interested, you are sure to stand out from other tech professionals.
Research the Topics
Find out what topics will be covered throughout the conference and then do some research. Think about how the concepts might be relevant to you and how you will be able to use the information to improve what you do.
You can also take notes from your research to take with you on the day. This will equip you with a solid foundation upon which to build your knowledge, ensuring you’re able to grasp any technical details that are outside of your area of expertise and help you to get the most out of the talks you attend.
This will have the added benefit of enabling you to ask meaningful, relevant questions and providing you with conversation starters when it comes to networking.
Make the Most of Networking
While networking can seem like the most intimidating part of a conference, it’s also a valuable one and is easier than you think if you know how to approach it effectively.
- Be prepared to make the first move to engage in conversation. Everyone is in the same situation, so don’t be afraid to approach people and introduce yourself.
- Remember, you don’t always have to speak about the conference or your technical expertise – it’s also good to build connections on a personal level.
- Ask simple, open questions such as “What do you think of the day/conference so far?”, or “What do you do?” to kickstart conversations.
Along with finding potential job prospects, tech conferences are great places to find a mentor. Make sure you have plenty of charge on your phone to connect on LinkedIn or take contact details so that you can get in touch after the conference.
It’s important to follow up with those you networked with and the companies you approached in the week following the conference. This could be as simple as a LinkedIn message or sending an email letting them know you enjoyed meeting them. You should also take some time to think about who could be a potential mentor and suggest catching up with them for a coffee.
It can be easy to walk away from these types of events without re-visiting your learnings. Don’t just let your notes sit on your laptop – read over them in the following days and see how you can apply the insights you’ve gained to any current projects.
Remember to look for opportunities to develop your skills and boost your employability too. For example, creating a project on GitHub to apply your newly acquired skills will be highly regarded by employers in the DevOps community.
Attending a tech conference is a great way to network, learn new skills and advance your opportunities in the IT industry. Try out these tips to get the most from your next event and give yourself a leg up in the competitive tech market.
To learn more about advancing your DevOps career or find out about the latest job opportunities, reach out to me at any time.