A few weeks ago, I got the amazing opportunity to head over to San Francisco for the Google Next 2018 conference.
Over the past 7 years, I have attended many conferences such as Microsoft TechEd, Microsoft //BUILD, Amazon re:Invent and a few others; both in North America and here in Europe. This was my first big Google conference, and it won’t be my last.
To be honest, my first impression of Google Next (the judge the book by its cover review) was not so great. The Google Next mobile and web application were not so user friendly to plan your sessions, for example when clicking on a time slot where I had free time – you got around a hundred of sessions with no way to filter or sort on category or time slot and if you decided to click on one for more details and then went back to the list view… it didn’t remember where you where in the list. So, you had to scroll back to where you were. I eventually gave up on bookmarking/adding sessions to my schedule.
Another thing that scared me before the conference was the multiple locations the conference was being held at; this immediately brought back nightmares of spending 30-90 minutes of travelling between venues at Amazon re:Invent in Las Vegas and every other session was, as my colleagues called it, “the hallway session”, where you missed your session and sat in the hallway waiting for the next one. With Google Next, even with all of the construction that was ongoing around Moscone during the conference, this was not an issue at all. All locations were around 5-15 minute walk and the free time you have between sessions was more than enough, I even had some spare time to visit the many expo areas between sessions.
I flew in on Sunday afternoon from Copenhagen and joined a couple of my colleagues that arrived the day before for some dinner and drinks. One thing I learned about travelling overseas; the day you land is the most important to get your body in the new groove, you have to force yourself into the new timezone and drink lots of water! Pro-tip: Never trust a “quick nap”, it will mess up your entire week, get out of your hotel room and find something to do – worse case, just grab your laptop and chill in the hotel bar.
On Monday, I attended a full day boot-camp on Advanced Kubernetes. It was located in another hotel just a couple blocks from where I was staying and it was well planned out, the food was great, and content was extremely useful. The boot-camp itself was hosted by half a dozen Googlers who knew alot about Kubernetes. I will try to do this again next year if it is available and if there are topics relevant to my area. Pro-tip; if you attend a boot-camp before the event, you get your badge at the boot-camp for the rest of the conference and since you are doing it early, you get a “K” badge which means priority seating at the keynote.
On Tuesday morning, my colleagues and I met at a local diner for some breakfast and headed over to Moscone South for the keynote, there was a line-up to get into the building because of the security and metal detectors but it went surprisingly fast. Even though this was Google’s largest conference they ever hosted, they seemed to plan accordingly for the 23000 attendees. Since we had “K” badges, we past most of the lineups but I am sure some people were annoyed with the limited keynote seating.
After the keynote, we visited the Moscone South expo hall and walked over to Moscone West where the majority of sessions where being hosted. At 1:30 pm, I had my first of two Certification exams for the week; Cloud Engineer. I then went to a couple more sessions in the late afternoon. In the evening, my team met for beers before we went to an event.
Wednesday was much of the same, get up early for breakfast (we never ate at the conference but instead went to local restaurants), head over to the keynote and then attend sessions, private meetings or certification exams.
Thursday was, in my opinion, the best day – opening developer keynote was great, I never seen Mr. Hightower live before and I was not disappointed, even with his copy paste challenges in Stack Overflow, haha.
It was a great week all around and we made sure to attend a bunch of evening activities when we had the chance or when we received invites. Pro-tip; when visiting the expo hall, look for opportunities of networking and ask around about parties or where people are meeting up in the evening, these conferences are great for building your network.
Things I would like changed for the next Google Next:
- For the opening day keynote, more seating should be available so everyone could attend live. Though I didn’t experience this, I am guessing that travelling to a conference and having to watch they keynote in an overflow room is quite annoying.
- Make the mobile application more user friendly for planning the sessions
Things I will do differently for the next Google Next:
- Book the hotel early and do not use the Google Next hotel finder – there are many great hotels available and at a much cheaper cost; we already booked our hotels for Google Next 2019 in April.
- I will not book two exams back to back, it was intense.
How was your Google Next and what announcements were you excited most about?