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Alex Radu
Alex Radu

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GitHub Satellite 2019- my highlights

GitHub Satellite is a global conference that brings together the people who are changing the world through software.

This is how it’s described on the website, but in reality it is so much more! You can watch the replay here.

For me, this was the first year I attended and so far it is my favourite tech industry event I have ever attended and think it might be for a very long time. I was lucky enough to be invited as part of the GitHub Campus Experts program (check it out here if you are a student or not, it’s a friendly bunch!) and that made it so much more exciting and insightful.

From the movie-premieresque keynote that had a surprise appearance of the EHT team (the one that took the first picture of a black hole! — but you knew that already) to the myriad of talented and passionate speakers and sessions, to the skilled and friendly attendees and staff, to the discussions about self-care and learning journeys, to popcorn, glowsticks (yes, you read that right, should probably mention here that it was hosted in Berlin this year to make that seem more fitting), personalised Octocat stickers, I could probably write a full article only listing the amazing things that happened between 8AM and 8PM!

I took a lot of notes and am really happy that they provided us with a small sized notepad to be able to take notes, draw diagrams or any other creatives endeavours as I prefer that to carrying my laptop around! I almost filled it because there were so many interesting stories and lessons to take back with me and I will try to lay some out for you today! I should mention that all the sessions were live streamed and recorded, so if you want the whole talk, feel free to check the livestreams!

This will be a whistle stop tour of the sessions I attended and their highlights:

The keynote had lots and lots of exciting news, from Nat Friedman announcing Dependabot to GitHub Sponsors to the amazing guest speakers (EHT team) to new enterprise features, but my favorite part was Dana Lawson’s talk. She is such a charismatic speaker, engaging and fun that it was hard not to feel like at a friend’s house party having fun instead of being one of 800 attendees in a chair listening to her. She talked a lot about how GitHub is now not only thinking about the developers, maintainers and all the wonderful people working directly in GitHub but also allowing business and other roles people to get the data, overviews and insights that they need from their teams in a sleek, easy and fast manner.

Open source in the enterprise: using GitHub to run your Open Source Programs Office

Kathy Simpson, Senior Director of Product Management (GitHub) was so amazing, she started with a story about earthquakes in her home state of Alaska and how it made everyone have a Be prepared kit and to stay informed. She likened it to living online and how we need to be prepared too.

Components of Open Source(OS) bring complexities with their usage and today, 99% of all software has OS dependencies. She highlighted that we need to stay informed just like the OSPO (Open Source Program Office) teams, using policies, data and tools.

“It’s vital to have the right tooling that highlights your OSS (Open Source Software) usage and dependencies!” — Kathy Simpson

Innersource is GitHub culture and open source principles

Thomas Aidan Curran, Cofounder, co-CTO (Ory sh, Inc) had a really captivating talk about the steps and ways in which you can nurture innersource in your company and how to make it work for you.

The steps he went through were: Why GitHub Enterprise, Product management and product teams, Communities of practice ( I will break this down below, as it’s very close to me), Learning by doing, Data-driven KPI approach, Automate everything, GitHub community + DevOps toolchain, Write — Slack, Discord & Co {no email}, Immediate feedback and Customer interaction, and finally Product development lab for intersource projects {break down the silos}.

Communities of practice, here he explained companies are often not organised for sharing, however sharing is really important. Communities of practice are great for building and sharing knowledge inside organisations because you are having people that like to look at things like Cloud or Docker, for example, at home and are passionate about it, so why not give them that opportunity at work. They foster collaboration, nurture innovation and sharing of information.

Continuous Deployment @ Skyscanner

Stuart Davidson, Senior Engineering Manager (Skyscanner) did one of my favourite talks of Satellite, not only because he gave really good examples and concrete implementations of their journey to continuous deployment, but also because his wonderful humour and relaxed manner. I am sure you are noticing a trend in my favourites being the funny, less conventional or heavy presentations.

He told the story of their team achieving a robust deployment system in place and also of how they managed to attain Continuous Deployment, mentioning it’s not been easy and there’s been plenty of bumps and unintended consequences along the way. He first covered the difference between Continuous Delivery or CD (package code, test it, wait for QA/Release and ready to go) versus Continuous Deployment, also CD(every commit is merged to master and goes straight to production).

He told the story on how his new manager, Brian Dove, a few years back came to them and asked for 10000 changed deployed to their website/day and their disbelief, which became “How do you go around doing this?”. They soon realised their current tools wouldn’t cut it, so they investigated new tools and soon started to build their stack for scale and CD (the Deployment one).

He also gave some really good examples of how to sell the CD workflow as a Production concept, would you rather make the changes one by one, less risky and easily identify the problem is something goes wrong, or would you rather bundle months’ worth of work and do one massive deployment, however, if something goes wrong you need to revert it all and go back through QA and testing and try to fix the issues. The answer would most likely be the smaller CD changes.

Maintaining the maintainers: Supporting independent open source tools

Don Goodman-Wilson, Developer Advocate, EMEA (GitHub), Floor Drees, Product Marketing Manager (Microsoft) and K Rain Leander, OpenStack Liaison (Red Hat) held an incredibly cool panel on whether formalised support like an accelerator program for maintainers could provide motivation in the face of these challenges or if the risks of corporatism outweigh the benefits. At the centre of the discussion was the core question, “How do we help more people to work in open source independently?”

My favourite part of this, on top of K Rain Leander’s incredible energy, was the discussion around licensing and if licensing should include specifications on what software can be used for. An example was of software that is OS and eventually ends up being used to kill people. It prompted interesting comments, including the debate of whether it should be included in licenses or other ethics considerations altogether?

Tribes at ENGIE Digital: when shiny tools don’t make it all

Charline Grenet, Head of Digital Communities and Communication (ENGIE Digital) gave an inspiring talk and one that touched both my designer and developer chords, about how to design and build software, tools are not the magic answer and are only driving us halfway when taking hundreds of thousands of employees’ projects to the next level. ENGIE Digital has taken change management beyond powerpoint slides with a tribes dynamic.

In the session, she went through how ENGIE Digital is strengthening collective intelligence, moving faster, making digital knowledge and reusable code available for all. I also loved the idea of letting their tribes decide their own animal, color, name but also their own roadmap and where they want to be.


A photo from the Closing Keynote presentation
The closing keynote was an awesome talk: “In the Shadow of the Black Hole”, where six members of the EHT team walked us through the entire experiment from the individual telescopes that record the data through the calibration, imaging, and interpretation of the observations that lead to the first-ever direct image of a black hole released to the world on April 10th of this year.

I realise this post is now longer than I intended but there are so many amazing talks and experiences to talk about. It was a great experience and learning opportunity as well as a chance to expand my network of brilliant people, you know who you all are, I was very fortunate to meet you there!

Satellite out :)

Top comments (2)

helenanders26 profile image
Helen Anderson

Thank you for such a great write-up! I really appreciate the effort you've gone to to sum everything up

Looks like the videos are now up on YouTube if there were any you want to revisit:

alexandrammr profile image
Alex Radu

Ohhh amazing!! Thank you so much!! I'll most likely add it to the post for anyone that wants to have a look and couldn't make this year! :)