Ambassador post originally published on Social Maharaj’s blog by Atulpriya Sharma

I’m sure that by now most of you reading this already know that I was attending KubeCon Chicago in person – my first KubeCon in person!

But if you don’t know, no worries, just read on as I tell you everything about KubeCon and my experience attending it in person for the very first time. It’s been a busy few weeks as I was attending KubeCon in Chicago and hence you didn’t see much on the blog.

However, with the conference done and dusted, and me finally at home, it’s time to get back to writing and share everything from my first international trip along with my experience of attending the KubeCon in person that I’ll share in this blog post.

What is KubeCon?

KubeCon is the world’s largest conference on Kubernetes. Kubernetes in very simple terms allows us to run applications on the cloud and makes them scalable and flexible. (If this were on any other technical blog, this definition would have been VERY different!)

The conference is organized by The Linux Foundation along with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. There are two major editions of this conference, one that happens in the US during Nov-Dec every year and the other one that takes place in Europe during Apr-May. 
Priyanka Sharma, GM CNCF, speaking at KubeCon Chicago.

I stumbled upon Kubernetes and everything related after I started working as a developer advocate in the cloud native space. I had no idea about this side of the tech world until the last two years. This is when I also learned about KubeCon. I attended a few of them virtually and never in person. This time however things were different as I got to attend KubeCon Chicago in person for the first time!

This was enabled by the Dan Kohn Scholarship that is provided by The Linux Foundation for people who are open-source project maintainers, for diversity and inclusion to name a few. I’m a maintainer for Paralus along with the organizer for CNCF Hyderabad. A big shout out to the foundation for enabling me to attend the conference in person. 

Let’s Talk About Rejekts First

Before I talk about KubeCon, I’ll talk a little about another conference called Cloud Native Rejekts. Now in its 8th edition, Rejekts has become a sought-after conference that takes place right before the KubeCon.

The whole idea of Rejekts is to give a platform for speakers from KubeCon whose talks were not selected. PS: The talk selection rate at KubeCon is around 10-12%, so you know it’s tough to get a talk featured in KubeCon!

And guess what, Maharaj’s talk was selected at Rejekts this time around! Hence, I was in Chicago a few days early to speak at Rejekts and meet some amazing people IRL for the first time! I spoke about Chaos Engineering in a service mesh like Istio. You can read the blog post or watch my talk video embedded below.

KubeCon Chicago 2023 – Recap

Moving to KubeCon, this year’s KubeCon NA was held in the windy city of Chicago from November 7-9, with the 0th day being reserved for project meetings and co-located events. Before I get into the details of this year’s event, let me tell you about the format of KubeCon. 

image of KubeCon banners
My KubeCon Experience

Format of KubeCon

The conference has a set format that starts with keynotes from the leadership team at the foundation, followed by some distinguished folks from the industry talking about cloud native and Kubernetes along with project updates from different CNCF projects. This ritual is followed on all the conference days.

Then there are talks that are scheduled for the rest of the day. These talks are submitted by people from across the globe, with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Talks range from core technical concepts and hands-on to community and culture-related too. Hence it’s a perfect mix.

Panel Discussion at KubeCon Chicago 2023

Apart from talks, there are project and solutions showcases where different organizations, groups, etc. showcase their projects and help the audience learn more about their projects. While learning is the important part, it’s often the swags that are given out at these conferences that steal the limelight. From laptop stickers and t-shirts to Lego sets and even PlayStations, there are tons of swags that are given out. So you’ll find a lot of people at the project booths 😉 

Solutions Showcase at KubeCon Chicago

My KubeCon Chicago Experience

The conference was scheduled to take place from 7-9 at the massive Mc Cormick place, with the 0th day (6th Nov) reserved for project meetings and other co-located events. Here’s a quick overview of all the days at the conference along with all that happened.

Day 0 – Project Meetings

Maharaj is also a part of the platform engineering working group and hence I attended the project meeting where I spoke about workload specifications. The meeting was fun and exciting as I finally got to meet the team with whom I’ve been interacting only over Zoom calls for the last few months. Yes, Maharaj can talk tech too! Below is the video of the presentation.

Apart from this, I also attended some talks at the BackstageCon where people talked about platform engineering and Backstage. Though I attended the second half only, I got to learn more about platform engineering, especially from the case studies that were presented.

Day 1: Keynotes, Talks and Meetings

Moving on to the first day of KubeCon Chicago, we started with the Keynote from Priyanka Sharma who’s the GM at the CNCF, and gave a demo of using LLMs on Kubernetes. This was followed by other sponsor talks and project updates.

Post this, I headed to attend a few talks related to Platform Engineering. I was able to attend a few talks where the folks spoke about nuances of Platform Engineering, their experience implementing it so on and so forth. There were also some customer meetings that I had on this day, so it was a busy day.
Maharaj on the way to attend a talk! Courtesy: CNCF

Day 2, 3: Talks & Project Showcase

The second and third days were similar with some interesting keynotes to start the day followed by talks and sessions. One thing that was different though was that I had a special breakfast session arranged as I’m a CNCF ambassador (one of the 200+ global CNCF ambassadors) Hence it was an amazing opportunity to meet and interact with other leaders from the community and learn about the great work they’ve been doing.

photo of ambassadors
Ambassador breakfast with 200+ global ambassadors.

I too met folks at different project booths and solutions showcase at KubeCon Chicago. There were some whom I work with, so it was great to catch up with them in person while there were other new projects that I learned about. PS: I won’t deny it, but I did collect a lot of swags too! Apart from this, there was free WiFi and food on all three days, both of which could have been better. Especially the food considering I’m a vegetarian, the options could have been much better.

photo of booths
Project Booths and Showcases. Courtesy: CNCF

To sum it up, it was an amazing experience attending KubeCon Chicago in person. The best part for me was meeting my customers and other industry leaders with whom I had just interacted on Slack and emails until now. It was great to discuss with them various project updates, and future road maps and also get to know them better. I now know who likes cats, and who wants to travel to India!

It’s so much better to learn about people as it helps strengthen relationships. Apart from that, it was a well of learning. I won’t lie, but it was overwhelming. There were so many things happening that I missed out on a few talks that I intended to attend too 🙁 But I’m glad these are recorded so I can go back and watch them later. 

Over To KubeCon EU In Paris 2024

Yes, everyone in the community knows that the next KubeCon is happening in Paris in 2024. PS: They’re also having one in India in 2024 too! I’m sure that one is going to be as exciting as this one too. Will Maharaj be attending KubeCon EU in Paris in 2024? Well, I’d say time will tell. I still need to get back from my post-conference vacation to brainstorm talk ideas that I can submit for the next KubeCcon and hope it is selected. 

If you’re a long-time follower of this blog, I’m sure you’re wondering where’s the food and travel part of my trip to KubeCon Chicago. Well you can check out the highlights on Instagram and wait for the blog posts where I share stories about all that I did in Chicago and New York (Yes, I spent a few days in New York after the conference to explore the city as this was my first international trip!)

That’s pretty much it for this blog post on my experience of attending the KubeCon NA in Chicago in 2023. Once again a big shoutout to The Linux Foundation and CNCF for enabling this and assisting me in attending the KubeCon in person. For anything more about KubeCon or tech in general, hit me up on @TheTechMaharaj. For food and travel updates, suggestions and everything else, you know the drill, DM @Atulmaharaj on Twitter, DM on Instagram or Get In Touch.