A Decree: ChefConf and Community from the Chef Prince of Azure

By Trevor Hess

Let me say it now: There is no event quite like ChefConf. And I would know—I’ve been to a few tech conferences and am a regular at comic conventions. ChefConf is something different; never before have I felt such a strong sense of community and excitement.

chefconf-2015Everyone is approachable and willing to share their knowledge, experience and expertise—be it about Chef, Linux, .NET, Powershell, technologies and tools long gone by, or even mental health in the tech field (as well as Star Trek, Doctor Who, and just about anything else).

I was busy running between commitments during most of the show, and really stuck to the “hallway track.” Hanging around those halls, I met a lot of interesting and dynamic people, and put a lot of faces to podcast voices and Twitter handles. Despite not knowing many of the people at the conference, I honestly felt as though I could call the majority of them kindred spirits, if not friends. Through these conversations I learned a lot and I hope others learned from me as well. Here is a small sample of the conversations I had:

  • Met an awesome person on my flight into Santa Clara, and had long discussions about different methods of managing teams, while observing the passing geological phenomena outside our aircraft’s window.
  • I had conversations with a true PowerShell expert and learned about some utilities I had no knowledge of that solve some problems my team and I have been struggling with, as well as some great tips and tricks.
  • Spent an evening with a former Marine and an exceptional Etsy engineer, discussing the stress of work, and how we deal with the voice in our heads that says we’re never good enough.
  • Talked at length with various engineers from Microsoft about pain points and missed features across Azure and Windows server, gaining friends and better insight into the path we follow.
  • Spoke with a team of engineers from a major financial institution about their challenges working with Chef and DevOps, and discussed how we’ve worked around some such issues in the past.

Some of the people I spoke with may be pretty easy to figure out, but I left names out intentionally. Despite how “famous” a given person may be in our industry, they’re all still people. Sometimes that can be hard to remember, but make sure you don’t listen to any voice in your head telling you that you don’t matter enough to talk to someone. Reach out.

I attended a few really interesting talks, and gave a talk, “The Chef Prince of Azure” with John Smyth and Mahesh Velaga. These talks that I attended were all interesting and taught me things, which is something I value immensely. I’ve been quoted as saying something along the lines of “you have to keep learning, and if you stop you die” and I mean that. Learning is important, especially in a field that evolves as quickly as ours. Some things I learned:

  • I attended an open spaces talk about mental health and burnout. I learned that I may have some personal aspects I need to identify and sort out. And that I have a whole community who are willing to talk through these issues with each other. It’s not often that a conversation moves me deeply, and this one did. Possibly my favorite talk of the entire conference.
  • I learned that Azure PaaS sites are getting Chef client capabilities. That is really, really exciting.
  • I learned about session recording in PowerShell, and that it can be enabled for all sessions as part of group policy in PowerShell 5.0.
  • Chef Delivery looks awesome and I want to learn it ASAP. It looks like it will remove a lot of setup that I have needed to do for Continuous Delivery/Integration systems in the past.

Finally, I need to highlight the keynote speeches given by Adam Jacob and Jez Humble. Both of them are extremely smart people, and their speeches gave form to a lot of my internal arguments on how to deal with “DevOps.” I need to hone my DevOps “kung fu.” Here is the summary of what DevOps is:

A cultural and professional movement, focused on how we build and operate high velocity organizations, born from the experiences of its practitioners. – Adam Jacob

How powerful is that?

Check out the keynotes here:
Adam Jacob

Jez Humble 

Read about and join the school of DevOps:
https://github.com/chef/devops-kungfu

I learned a lot at ChefConf this year, and now I add that knowledge to my repertoire. Methinks my GitHub account will be more active this year as I push us to contribute back into our loving community… In fact, I’m incredibly happy to announce that 10th Magnitude has just begun committing resources to contribute to open source projects on Chef and Azure.

chefprinceofazuremicdrop

Chef Prince out.