Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cassandra summit 2012

Last week was my company's big conference for the year. We flew everyone in to San Jose: from Texas, Utah, France, England, and Poland. Alas, there were visa complications for the ones in Belarus, and our man in Connecticut was expecting his fourth. So it was not quite a full house, but as close as we'll get.

I flew out a day early since nobody else was available to teach the pre-conference training class. I dread training days; not because of public speaking anxiety, but because an entire day is an awfully long time to be "on" for an introvert.

We've expanded the trainings since I did them routinely. Back then we had developer training crammmed into the morning, and operations in the afternoon. Now the dev material covers two days alone. Partly this is because we've slowed down the pace a bit, but mostly because we've added a lot more features to cover.

Brandon had already booked his flight for Monday, so I took the first day. This meant an extra day away from Rachel, but the silver lining was this was the material I knew cold. The second day was Hadoop and Solr stuff that was more Brandon's area. So that actually worked out well.

I attended Tuesday as well, partly to give moral support to Brandon, who is possibly even more introverted than I am, and partly because I was the only one authorized to drive the car.

Meanwhile, the rest of the engineering team had an all-day meeting. Which sounds bad, but it wasn't. Our CEO gave an overview of our financials and marketing progress and so forth, our new VPE conducted voting for some awards, and there was a freezer with all the Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars you wanted. Even Paul didn't complain.

I got back from the training in time to catch a picture of the team:


Jeremy wore his Muppet shirt:


Tuesday night I rehearsed my keynote. I had gone through it a couple times already but it was pretty flat. It was pretty stressful being on stage in this huge room for 800+ that was empty except for our CEO and VP Marketing, watching me. Billy was probably pretty nervous about the next morning after that, but like a good coach he didn't say that. Instead we came up with a couple places to improve my slides and he assured me that it would be great.

After dinner I finished the slides, rehearsed twice more, and went to bed. Monday I'd had the room to myself, but my roommate was there now, and he snored. Loudly. After twenty minutes I went over and prodded him. He kept snoring. I prodded him harder. This time he woke up. "Sorry," I said. "You were snoring." Fortunately I fell asleep before he did again.

In the morning, the practice paid off. The keynote went well. We were shooting for 700 attendees and had 830, 30 more than we had chairs for. The room was still big, but full of people it didn't make me nervous. It helps to remember that when you're speaking in front of an audience, they all want you to do well.


I got to attend exactly one talk that day. The rest of the time I was answering questions either formally for interviews, or informally with someone who spotted me and came over to ask something. I spent a lot of time hanging out in "the DataStax lounge" for this. We put together an attractive space:


(Not shown are the corner off to the left where Tyler gave hourly Opscenter demos, and the food and drinks behind the camera.)

Thursday was team building day, and Martin put together a sailing outing. I would have rather spent the day catching up on work, or better yet flying home, but I stayed for team solidarity. Brandon did fly home, and to Martin's credit he didn't twist his arm to stay. I think everyone else thought it was a pretty great idea, except Billy, who hates boats and water and was also there to be a good sport.


Adding insult to injury, I sunburned my forehead and the back of my neck pretty badly. At least I remembered to spray the top of my head this time. Dad was right, with the reflection from the water you get almost 2x the intensity.

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