Starting a Blog and 2018 in Review

In 2018 I decided to engage more with the larger technical community. I had a few goals:

  1. Speak at more technical conferences
  2. Engage with other people/companies on twitter
  3. Start a technical blog
  4. Contribute to more open source
  5. Attend more events aimed at women/non-binary folks (and maybe organize one!)

Here’s how I did.

Speak at more technical conferences

I knew I wanted to speak at a technical conference, but I had zero experience finding conferences, filling out abstracts, and submitting before CFPs close. I gave a first talk at FutureStack 2017, but that was a bit different since it was a vendor conference and Airbnb was invited to speak there. Also a manager signed me up before telling me about it (thanks Joey!), so it wasn’t planned. So I started submitting proposals in the middle of summer 2018. I got a rejection, and three acceptances (yay!), and I was surprised by a keynote acceptance. I ended up speaking at ONS Europe in Amsterdam in September, and KubeCon NA in December. The ONS talk wasn’t recorded, but it was also more of a practice run of the content I would finalize for KubeCon NA. I couldn’t squeeze in VelocityConf NYC into my schedule, and was sad to miss it (but I was having fun in Hong Kong instead). I love giving talks, but they’re time consuming for me. In addition to practicing the presentation, I spend a lot of hours drafting content and finalizing the slides. I spent even more time polishing my KubeCon slides, because I knew a lot of people would see it :).

What I was most terrified about was standing up there and saying something universally Wrong or Bad. But people were engaged. There was note-taking, picture-taking, “aha”s, and a lot of followup discussion both in person and on twitter. What I loved most was meeting with people and other companies and comparing/constrasting how we’ve tried to solve different problems. And there are a lot of problems when you completely change your infrastructure to Kubernetes. I walked away with a treasure trove of notes and ideas to share with our infra teams, and feel re-energized about many of the technical and organizational problems we’ve been facing.

status: super success!

Engage with other people/companies on twitter

I started picking up my twitter game shortly before the conferences. I put my twitter handle on all my slides too :). I got a TON of engagement from KubeCon. I went from ~400 to ~1000 followers, and finally feel engaged on the platform. It’s a great way to see where things are going in infra in real-time.

status: success

Start a technical blog

Well, I started setting up this blog on December 30th. I waffled a bit on how to setup it up, but settled for using hugo.

status: kinda?

Contribute to more open source

I set up kubernetes locally and commented on and tried to work on an issue. Liz Frost gave me a lot of 1:1 help reproing the issue. But the issue was too hard for me to complete on a compressed timeframe at KubeCon :). So I’ll have to pick this up later.

There was an uptick on open source contributions from Airbnb engineers in 2018 (My coworker Ramya found a scheduler bug related to balancing pods across availability zones, and her fix will be in 1.14!!), and we’ll likely make more contributions in 2019. For example, I know our Continuous Integration team is looking at current open source image building solutions, and our Continuous Delivery team is looking at moving us to Spinnaker.

status: failure, I can do better!

Attend more events aimed at women/non-binary folks (and maybe organize one!)

I also attended a few meetups and conferences, my favorite of which was Building Upwards by Vicki Cheung at Lyft. I loved listening to and chatting with women and non-binary folk about infrastructure. I wanted to plan one of these for late 2018 at Airbnb HQ, but we’re pushing it to 2019.

status: mostly success

2018 Contributions

Overall, I did a lot of coding in 2018 at work: work github

Although the darker green boxes were actually automated refactors of 100+ services (now you can run refactors as a bot user to not mess with your contributions if you’d like).

2018 Highlights / Lowlights

Lowlights:

  • Spectre/Meltdown fallout continued into January (we also experience peak load in early January– fun!)
  • This one guy in PR kept trying to stop me from speaking and was super rude about it
  • Unexpected and sudden departure of two close teammates :(
  • Imposter syndrome was a bitch, again
  • People trying to get me to debug stuff by implying an issue is somehow my fault (just ask nicely and I’m usually happy to jump on an issue, I actually enjoy debugging)

Highlights:

  • My project (new way of configuring and managing services) became general access for new services in April
  • My project (streamlined way of migrating existing services to the new way) became general access in November
  • Leadership of different engineering groups signed off on migrating their services!
  • Business trips to Dublin, Amsterdam, Portland, and Seattle.
  • I got promoted to senior software engineer! (well technically, from software engineer to software engineer since we use levels)
  • I got to work all over infra this year (service discovery/networking, CI/CD, developer tooling, security, etc)
  • Speaker training and keynote at KubeCon
  • The CEO and CTO know my project :). The project does have a hype name and catchphrase, which always helps.

I worked on a lot of interesting problems this year, and look forward to sharing my solutions now that the blog is up!