DevOpsDays Edinburgh Review and Takeaways

Marcus Isherwood 7th November 2019

DevOpsDays Edinburgh took place on the 17th and 18th October this year at the wonderful Dynamic Earth venue. Boasting a mix of technical presentations and talks about people and culture, this year’s event didn’t disappoint!

After submitting to the conference’s Call for Papers, I (Ali Hill – Test Consultant at ECS Digital) was lucky enough to be selected to speak. I was presenting my talk ‘Don’t be a Hero’ in which I share my experiences with burnout and some methods I used to recover. I have previously blogged about the topic here.

If you’re more of a video kind of person, you can watch a recording of my talk from DevOpsDays Edinburgh on YouTube.

ECS Digital were also Gold sponsors of the event, meaning a number of the team got to meet and discuss hot topics with many conference attendees.

This was going to be my first full DevOpsDays conference. After hearing so many great things about the event, I was really excited about experiencing a mixture of different activities throughout the day.

DevOpsDays Edinburgh

Presentations from DevOpsDay

The main talks were all of a very high standard. I particularly enjoyed the talks detailing DevOps transformations within their own organisations. Here are the ones I attended, and the takeaways I took from them:

Andy Burgin’s Talk

Andy Burgin gave an in-depth description of the DevOps transformation that he has experienced whilst working at SkyBet. In 2016, SkyBet adopted the tribes and squads model. By 2019 this model needed to scale, given the huge number of products and platforms SkyBet needed to support.

Andy went into detail on both the ‘Product’ and ‘Teams’ workflows within their organisation. He described that the Product teams are responsible for taking an idea into a customer facing product. They do this by creating a PoC, then an MVP which receives feedback, and then a Minimum Marketable Product (MMP). The Teams pattern, on the other hand, looks after Platform as a Service (PaaS) within SkyBet. They have a similar workflow, but focus more on whose responsibility it is to support the product once it is live.

I particularly enjoyed SkyBet’s use of ChatOps and their MonkeyBot. MonkeyBot integrated with Slack could give an update of a Jira ticket, progress it, get others involved in the conversation and then resolve the ticket without an engineer needing to open Jira at all. Brilliant!

You can watch Andy’s talk here.

Adarsh Shah and Priyanka Rao’s Talk

As well as Andy’s talk, Adarsh Shah and Priyanka Rao gave an overview of how creating a Platform Engineering team has enabled a DevOps culture within their organisation. Platform Engineering teams, in this example, were responsible for enabling teams to self-service different platforms to enable their software delivery. In this context, the organisation’s value and mission statement is to allow teams to deliver features quickly and confidently.

A common trap that Platform Teams can fall into is that they become another silo within the engineering department. Adarsh and Priyanka wanted to avoid that by sharing common business goals with other engineering teams. They also carried out regular knowledge sharing and root cause analysis sessions with members outside of their team. This led to a DevOps culture forming within the organisation.

You can watch Adarsh and Priyanka’s talk here.


Ignite Talks

Having talks in the morning, and then Ignite talks and Open Space sessions in the afternoon really helped with the energy of the conference. It’s quite easy to fall into a post-lunch slump whilst watching talks, but by mixing up the format throughout the day it kept everyone engaged.

This was my first time experiencing Ignite talks and they were a lot of fun! Ignite talks are five-minute talks consisting of twenty slides. The slides change every fifteen seconds and the presenters do not have control of this. This added an extra element of excitement to the presentations.

I particularly enjoyed Nik Knight’s Ignite talk on using coaching skills to use compassion. Nik suggested that coaches need to get good at three things:

  • Listening,
  • Asking questions, and
  • Building trust following the GROW model to coach others.

Nik then recommended creating coaching dojos. Her dojos involve splitting into groups of three and performing three different rotating roles: a coach, a player and an observer. Reflect on what you learn and how it felt to perform those roles.

You can watch Nik’s talk for yourself here.

Open Spaces


Finally, but certainly not least, the Open Spaces allowed people to suggest topics that they wanted to discuss with fellow attendees. You could suggest anything remotely to do with DevOps and then it was up to all attendees to vote for the ones they wanted to discuss.


What I enjoyed most about the Open Space idea, was that topics weren’t purely linked to technology. There were a number of Open Spaces run on technical topics such as Jenkins, branching strategies and how to effectively apply monitoring to your product, but there were also sessions on mental health and diversity in tech.

I attended the mental health discussion, and the participants were open and honest about their own experiences – something only possible because of the safe space DevOpsDays created. It was also great to hear that so many companies are launching their own mental health initiatives.

At ECS, we have recently launched an initiative which involved a number of others doing the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training – me included. Off the back of this training, we are starting to host events to encourage everyone to discuss mental health, and normalise these types of discussions. It was great to hear from the experiences and ideas of others in different organisations.

Closing comments from my time at DevOpsDay Edinburgh

DevOpsDays Edinburgh was a wonderful event with a wide range of different types of sessions on a vast number of topics. The programme had a great mix of technical and non-technical talks and the Ignite talks and Open Space sessions followed this pattern.

It was great to represent ECS Digital at a local event and talk to others about the tech industry in Edinburgh. Here’s to more DevOpsDays events next year.


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