Don Jones

Tech | Career | Musings

Back in… jeez, 2015, which seems like forever ago, I started DSC Camp. At the time, Desired State Configuration was brand-new, and there were very few people actually working with it int he ran world. I wanted to get as many of those folks in a room as possible (it was about 15) for a weekend, and just brain-share what we knew.

Of course, sitting in a room isn’t always the best way to get your creative sharing juices flowing, and I didn’t want it to just be another conference-y thing. So we made it fun. Sure, we spent plenty of time in a hotel meeting room exchanging information and stories, but we also spent plenty of time at my house. Great pool, some booze (the tea is vodka!), and some awesome BBQ that my partner, Chris, whipped up for the occasion.

It was a huge success. Some Microsoft folks attended, and I tell you, you just can’t imagine the amount of hard facts that flew around that room. It was so useful, and so much fun, that we had like an 80% return rate, plus some extra new folks, for the 2016 edition… and an even bigger return rate for 2017.

People would constantly ask on Twitter, “will this be recorded?” which has become a standard line anytime someone is doing a cool event that not everyone can make it to. For Camp, the answer is no. And that’s because it’s not something you really can record. Sure, there are presentations – nearly every alumni talks for about an hour, sharing what they’ve been doing, sharing solutions they’ve developed, and so on. But that’s only half the value – pool time created this kind of constant, Brownian-motion conversation. Tug was literally born in my pool. New-resources were deemed up, hashed out, and all but coded while eating BBQ in my back yard. Keeping the group to around 20 people kept it functional productive, and fun. My Campers became an elite group of kick-ass DevOps samurai. Like, if you can get even one of these guys or gals in a room with you for an hour, do it – but Camp is all of ’em.

Sadly, times change. I’ve sold my house (like, I closed yesterday) and my new condo doesn’t support the environment Camp needs. Plus, my own work has just left me without a lot of time to continue it.

But not all good things must come to an end.

In a move that has made me prouder than I can tell you, three Campers – Jason Helmick, Jeffrey Bernt, and Mitch Kruzel – are taking Camp upon themselves. And “upon” is a serious thing – you have to commit to some serious monetary spend to make one of these things happen, and so these guys have taken that risk on themselves, to continue doing something that they see is valuable to their community. They’re taking on the time-suck than event planning represents, and taking on the responsibility for all of the gritty details.

DevOps/DSC Camp 2018 will still be in Las Vegas, and tickets are now available. The hotel has changed, but it’s still a very affordable, off-but-near-the-Strip location. It’s got a pool. And I’ve promised to drop by and bring s’mores or something.

Let me make something clear: if you’re working in the Microsoft-centric DevOps field, and/or working with Desired State Configuration – and I mean really working with it, not just dabbling or wishing you worked with it – then this is the place for you to be. It’s not a conference. There’s no expo. There’s usually not even an agenda until the last minute. It’s just the most amazing, intimate, and interconnected information exchange you can possibly imagine. No sales pitches – just real people, sharing real solutions that they’ve implemented in the real world. They share their problems, too, and everyone pitches in to offer ideas and directions.

And here’s another thing to consider: while it’s not cheap, most Campers pay their own way. The guys are working hard to keep the expenses as low as possible, because they know attending is a valuable career move. Maybe it doesn’t benefit your current job, but Campers are smart enough, and experienced enough, to know that you own your career, not your boss, and sometimes you need to feed your career on your own. No investment, no return, right? And that’s why so many of them fund their own way to Camp – because it’s worth it. In at least one case I know of, demonstrably worth it, when that Camper got a massively better job and paycheck thanks to the experience Camp helped them earn.

So. If this is your field, think really hard about whether you shouldn’t be Camping with everyone this summer!

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