Dreamforce 2018

This used to be one of the world’s largest conferences, with around 180,000 attendees in 2018. Hotel rooms in San Francisco had long been sold out – in at least one prior year, the organizers had docked a cruise ship at a city wharf to house attendees. I was asked at the last minute to do live social media about AWS’ participation in the event, but where I lived in Campbell was too far from the city to commute to the conference, so one of the AWS events staff gave up her hotel room for me (I suspect she was grateful not to have to attend).

You can see in the above photo how big the “campus” was. Somehow the events that I was supposed to cover had me running from the Intercontinental Hotel on one end to the Salesforce tower on the other. At least I wasn’t stuck inside a single conference hall the entire time.

Dreamforce was an example of the kind of over-the-top tech conference we may never see again, with high-profile speakers (I forget who, specifically) and entertainment. The closing band was Metallica, playing in front of San Francisco’s City Hall. Not particularly my musical genre, and I wasn’t going to spend an hour or two in a security line to then go stand in a crowd and listen to them (I didn’t like crowds even before the pandemic). Brendan had joined me at the hotel, so we strolled over towards the end of the concert and were present for the encores.

Red flags in interviewing: How do they treat wait staff?

Everyone seems to have advice about what potential employers and employees should look out for in the hiring process. Some of the suggestions for job seekers come from a position of privilege, and assume that you have multiple job offers to choose among. This was never the case for me, so I completely understand that advice may only be useful when you have choices. What follows is a tip I’ve seen elsewhere, which I share because I have had occasion to confirm it for myself.

If you have the opportunity to interact socially with your prospective future manager before or during interviewing, take it. I once went out to lunch with the person who was trying to hire me. Their interactions with the wait staff were troubling. They had many questions about the menu – it was reasonable to ask questions, given their dietary restrictions. But when the meal that arrived was not precisely what they expected, they were nitpicky. Not rude, but condescending: “Oh, I thought it would be…” There’s nothing wrong with sending back food you can’t or don’t want to eat, but the way this person responded to a minor contretemps was troubling.

That incident stuck in my mind and, in hindsight, was a red flag. This person would prove to be a terrible manager – themselves disorganized, and unable or unwilling to correctly use company tools such as the calendar, while expecting their team to accommodate by being constantly available. They micromanaged to an insane degree (“Copy me on all your emails”), a sure sign of an inexperienced and unconfident manager.

I took the job in spite of this and other red flags because, as usual, I couldn’t afford not to. I came to regret it almost immediately, and spent several miserable months on the verge of quitting (others on the team were also unhappy) before the situation was finally resolved by reorganizing the team so that I no longer reported to this person.

VMworld 2018

I became one of a small cadre of people authorized to live-tweet from AWS-branded Twitter handles, including AWSonAir which is used for live coverage of major AWS events. My first assignment was VMworld, held that year in Las Vegas, where a big joint announcement was being made. If I recall correctly, this was the first time AWS had sent someone to do this kind of live coverage at a third-party event, though they had been covering AWS events for some time.

There was a test as part of the certification process to become a live tweeter for AWS. This included several examples of photos we should and shouldn’t tweet – literally “What’s wrong with this picture?” I LOLled, because one of the photos featured my then-manager, Adrian Cockcroft (no, he was not what was wrong with the photo).

The photo above was as close as I got to AWS CEO Andy Jassy at that event.

I tweeted key points from AWS presentations, and also live broadcast short videos of AWS speakers in the AWS booth. I was pleasantly surprised at the iPhone X’s ability to pick out the voice of the person I was filming against a lot of background noise. I had done a lot of this kind of thing at conferences for years, but I used to have to lug around a video camera and mics, and would then have to get the video off the camera, edit it, and upload it somewhere to make it available. Or else I had to have a whole streaming setup which pinned me to a chair in an auditorium. Being able to live broadcast from a small device held in my hand was new to me.

I met two more powerhouse women colleagues: exec Sandy Carter, and Aarthi Raju.

You may notice a lot of similar-looking photos in these event collections (where I haven’t yet whittled down my photo galleries). I would take a bunch of photos of any given scene/speaker in my effort to get a really good shot to share on Twitter.