After two years of virtual meetings, the EMEA team at Catchpoint is finally on the road again. We've attended a series of events over the last four weeks, including ICE (London), Datacloud Global Congress (Monaco), DTX (Manchester), and DevOpsDays (Birmingham).
And what a wild ride it's been. Craft beers with DevOps enthusiasts? Check. €90 for a 15-minute taxi ride? Welcome to Monaco. Being gifted bottles of Armenian Brandy by our friends Digitain? Thank you very much. This is life on the road again, precisely as we knew it.
Some key takeaways
We've met with numerous customers, partners, prospects, and tech evangelists on our travels. We've listened to keynote speeches and participated in discussion huddles led by people from all four corners of the world of tech. Here are some of the same key themes that keep cropping up:
- Sustainability – from thinking about commercial travel to building state-of-the-art data centres powered by green energy, this topic came up regularly and was generally grouped into three main areas – Environmental, Social and Ecosystem.
- End-to-End Observability – From open-source solutions (Prometheus, Thanos, bingo etc) to the big APM vendors via Digital Experience (obviously!). This was a hot topic in sessions, especially with a DevOps focus.
- Automation – How to turn data and insight into actions.
- Integrations – this is connected to the previous two points. With numerous tools used to observe code, infrastructure and customer/employee experience, how do you consolidate the resulting data and automate your response to alerting?
I have a confession. After two years of virtual meetings, even I was beginning to question the value of 'meeting' with humans in person, both Catchpoint employees and others. All that was settled while getting ready to attend DevOpsDays in Birmingham.
My colleague Sam Patel had hustled me into taking a detour to his beloved home city of Leicester to pick him up on route. Some free advice to all in sales out there – when the rockstar Sales Engineer who has been responsible for winning the majority of your business over the last few years invites you to his house, you say yes. Preparation included piling the back of my car with the latest swag sent by Marketing over the Atlantic and setting the sat-nav for the Midlands.
What a welcome I received! I was ushered to the Patel family table and served the best onion bhajis, dhal kachori and vegetable samosas that Leicester has to offer. Sam's seven-year-old son, Shaan, delivered a pitch-perfect 30 second DevOps focussed Catchpoint elevator pitch to rapturous applause. It was a task I'd set the team a week before, but I hadn't expected nuclear family members to pick up the baton. It was priceless – it's moments like that you don't get on Zoom.
Following our arrival in Birmingham, we did all the usual pre-event activities, including practising our elevator pitches. We had dinner at the local pub and watched the football. As we wandered home, there were bold boasts about how Birmingham offered a more scenic walk home than the one we'd made in Monaco two weeks before. In retrospect, that may have been the beer talking.
We arrived early, set up the Catchpoint stand, and started attending talks, open space discussions and met with exhibitioners and attendees alike. Massive credit to the DevOpsDays team who've created an excellent environment for free-flowing discussion. Not a shiny suit or sales pitch in sight – kudos!
I grabbed a seat near the front for Marcel Britsch's opener. He believes that project success is strongly linked to happy teams, value-focused decision-making and fast feedback cycles. He spoke articulately about how his experience of successful DevOps transformation projects shows that we need to consider elements of DevOps as strategic organisational assets and treat them as we would a product.
Another highlight was Bartłomiej Płotka's talk about Designing Pragmatic Observability. Going headfirst into the Observability vs Monitoring debate, he outlined how observability is not just about knowns but also about answers to any question around state or behaviour.
After dozens of conversations over free lunch and lots of coffee, it was off to the networking event at Purecraft Bar & Kitchen. Head here when you're next in Birmingham and want some pale ale, posh burgers, and heated discussions about resilience engineering. We went toe-to-toe with some of the biggest and best in the UK tech space, including the teams at Shell, Dunelm and most of the UK government. And they say the art of old school networking is dead? Not on our watch.
We did it all again! Ayelet Sachto passionately discussed reducing the impact of incidents on customers by analysing time to detect, time to repair and time between failures. This is a common talking point for anyone at Catchpoint.
DevOps at scale, change management, supporting junior engineers, and agile presented as a Lego Star Wars story were some of the themes for the rest of the day. Finally, we packed the stand away, said our goodbyes to the many good souls we'd met and made our way home.
Embracing the new normal
The last few weeks have been much more than simply attending events. They've been about really connecting with our customers, prospects and the people I work with every day. I've shared meals with them, discussed, debated and engaged with them. I've met my colleagues' families, given gifts and received gifts and forged relationships in a way that virtual meetings can only aspire to achieve. After a long and taxing two years stuck at home, it's been a welcome return.
It will be up to us all to make our minds up on being back in the real world. Still, a message I received recently from Armen Juharyyan, CIO at Digitain (who bought 150 people along to ICE London) summarised my sentiments nicely:
"ICE London was fantastic; just amazing to connect with our partners and so many gaming enthusiasts in one place. After a brilliant first few months of working together, it was great meeting you in person and mapping out our further collaboration. We look forward to hosting you in Armenia." Armen Juharyan, CIO at Digitain
See you soon, Armen, see you soon.