Summit Through the Years - Part 1

In September 2017, Atlassian, the maker of JIRA and Confluence, hosts its annual user conference.  It’s back in San Jose, California.

This will be my sixth Atlassian Summit.  As a frequent attendee I can’t wait to see what’s new this year.  Each Summit has been totally different. The venues have changed, the focus, content and activities have changed, and most of all I’ve changed.  Join me as I recap my Summit journey.

The Beginning

I started using JIRA and Confluence in 2011.  By 2013, I was a JIRA Admin and had no idea what I was doing!  I convinced my company to send me to Summit, so I could learn more about the products. I didn’t know it then, but this first conference would change my career path entirely.

This is where I learned about the Atlassian User Group program.  I wanted to understand JIRA and networking with my local peers was the way to do it.  I marched up to the AUG booth to ask about events in my area. Unfortunately, there were none.  I immediately volunteered to start a user group.

Summit 2013

October 1-3, 2013 – San Francisco, CA

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Focus:  Team.  “Supercharge your team – Unleash the full power of Atlassian products through training and proven best practices to make every member of your team a power Atlassian user.”

Attendees:  1,800 attendees from 40+ countries.  A 50% increase from the previous year.

Content:  Over 40 breakout sessions, and 40 speakers including presenters from leading companies like: Twitter, Symantec, Pandora, Netflix, Orbitz, NASA, Fortune Magazine, and Turner Broadcasting.

Major Announcements:  JIRA Service Desk and Confluence Knowledge Base are available for Download (now called Server) and OnDemand (now called Cloud).  HipChat reached 1 billion messages sent.  HipChat Server and Confluence Questions are in beta.  Atlassian Connect introduced new ways to build add-ons.s2013.pngObservations:  This event was intimate and cozy.  Atlassian employees impressed me with their enthusiasm for the products and new features.  I attended every single JIRA session possible, got there early, and always sat up front. During the keynotes, attendees fought over the coveted Atlassian-branded bean bag chairs.  I absorbed all the information I possibly could and typed pages of notes and ideas.  Lunch was provided by food trucks and the “vouchers” were strips torn from your conference badge.  Neat!

Takeaways:  Atlassian feeds you a lot on conference days. You won’t need to spend much money on food.  I made the mistake of trying to work AND attend Summit at the same time. It is too hard to do both well. Instead, turn on your “out of office” email autoresponder, set the expectation that you’ll be unavailable, and delegate your tasks to coworkers while you’re away.

Travel:  This was my first time in San Francisco so I did a bit of sightseeing on the side.  I booked a tour of Alcatraz Island, but the Federal government shut down that day and cancelled all tours.  That activity would have to wait for another California Summit.  I also saw the Golden Gate Bridge, experienced the earthquake “Shake House” at the California Academy of Sciences, and had a relaxing lunch at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

Summit 2014

Sep 9-11, 2013 – San Jose, CA

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Focus:  Extraordinary Teams

Attendees:  2,100

Content:  27 sessions with speakers from: Yahoo, Twitter, Pitney Bowes, Intel, Netflix, Garmin, BAE Systems, Goldman Sachs, and Vistaprint. Sessions were categorized into 5 team-based tracks:  Software, Collaboration, IT Service, Platform and API, and Massive teams.

Major Announcements:  JIRA Portfolio announced.  JIRA gets project templates for business and software project types.  A simplified project interface, project-specific side bar, and automated issue transitions are coming soon.  JIRA Service Desk adopted a per-agent license model. Confluence real-time editing was announced but not yet delivered. Atlassian University became free.  The Atlassian customer base increased to over 40,000.  Over 300 new staff hired. Enterprise customers gained a Technical Account Manager, Premiere Support, and access to Enterprise Experts.s2014.pngObservations:  Just like the year before, I spent all my time in sessions, learning as much as humanly possible.  But I noticed the types of sessions I attended were changing.  I was less of a beginner and was learning about more advanced topics, like JIRA performance factors, monitoring, and database issues.  I learned new phrases like “Boy Scout Coding” – leaving the code better than you found it and “Code smell” – weaknesses in design that slow development or increase the risk of bugs or failures in the future.  I talked the Support Bar employee’s ear off about the lack of archive methods in JIRA. Bash, the famous conference party, was held at the Tech Museum of Innovation.  I was memorized by the 3D printer.

This year and every year since, I attended Summit as an Atlassian User Group leader.  AUG Leaders are treated like VIPs!  We attended a half day workshop, a steak dinner at Morton’s, and an award ceremony.  I won the peer-voted “Play, as a Team” award and the registration contest for facilitating over 40 user group conference sign ups.

Takeaway:  This year and the year before, I brought my laptop to take notes. That made me a slave to power.  The venues usually have outlets, but who wants to fight for one?  Bring an extra battery or portable power source.  Or, switch to taking notes on paper like I did.

Travel:  I was determined to visit Alcatraz Island this year, even if I had to swim across the San Francisco bay to get there.  I flew into San Francisco, had lunch at the famous “Stinking Rose” garlic restaurant, and finally made it to the island. Then I drove to Mountain View, CA to visit the Computer History Museum.  I thought I’d be there for an hour, but four hours later, they were ushering me out of the building.  What an amazing collection of Commodore 64 computers, zip disks, and G3 iMacs! I saw a live demo of the Babbage Difference Engine.  I hope to return one day for another four hours.  Next, I drove to San Jose and visited the Winchester Mystery House.  It’s worth a look for the weird architecture. After Summit, I took a short trip to Yosemite National Park.

Summit 2015

Nov 3-5, 2015 – San Francisco, CA

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Focus:  Unleash your team’s potential.  “Smarter, Better, Faster, Stronger Teams”

Attendees:  Sold out at 2,600!

Content:  77 sessions with speakers from:  BAE Systems, Janus Capital Group, Orbitz, NetApp, Twitter, Netflix, Pandora, Rosetta Stone, Autodesk, Spotify, and Sothebys.  Sessions were categorized into 7 tracks:  Innovate, Plan, Build, Interact, Service, Scale, and Enhance.

Major Announcements:  Atlassian had 50,000 customers and over 2,000 add-ons in the Marketplace.  IPO filings were imminent.  JIRA 7 introduced three variations:  JIRA Software (for Dev teams), JIRA Service Desk (for IT teams) and JIRA Core (for Business teams).  HipChat got a new UI and collaboration integrations.  JIRA and Confluence Administrator certification to launch in 2016.s2015.pngObservations: The venue was much bigger this year and the expo floor was huge!  The swag was out in full force.  I returned home with a new wardrobe. This was the first year for the “Women in Tech” networking event and there was more networking through the Summit mobile app. Bash was at the Exploratorium, the museum of Science, Art and Human Perception.  I groaned as people drank from a water fountain shaped like a toilet.  I won a t-shirt design contest.  The design was flags of countries of 30 user groups, displayed within the letters “AUG.”  We played “Who can name all the flags?” at Bash.

This year participated on an experts panel, won the “Community Champion” award, and my AUG was recognized with the “Founder’s” award.  The awards granted me reserved seating at the Keynote presentations.  I started to recognize other fellow customers, Atlassians, and partners – and they remembered me from earlier years too.  I felt like a celebrity.  I shifted from “student in the crowd” to a more visible personality.  Atlassian treated the AUG leaders and their guests to a tour of their local office after Summit.  I spotted a couple of those bean bag chairs from Summit 13. #AtlassianSendMeOne!

Takeaways:  Walk the conference center, before it gets busy, to know where activities will take place.  If there’s a map, take a phone picture. Leave room in your luggage for the goodies you’ll acquire!  Some die-hard collectors bring an extra suitcase or plan to mail items home.  Pre-plan for sessions you want to attend, but be flexible.  Continuing your conversation with an Expert partner or Atlassian employee may be more valuable than attending the next session.  Don’t worry if two sessions you want to attend happen at the same time.  After Summit, the major session recordings are available online.

Travel:  I left for Summit from Key Largo, FL.  I was on day 164 of a long-term RV trip.  Since I was already traveling full-time, I didn’t add sightseeing to the trip.  I made a dumb travel mistake in San Francisco though.  I wanted to try a dinner restaurant that was in walking distance from my hotel.  I calculated the distance and the route, but I failed to understand the neighborhood I would walk through.  It was starting to get dark and I overheard comments about me walking alone.  I knew I was in trouble.  I ducked into an open shop and called a cab to take me the rest of the way.  I know better than to walk alone at night in my city.  Why did I do it in another city?  Really stupid.

Read part 2.

10 comments

Angela Smith Atlassian Team Aug 08, 2017

This is awesome @Rachel Wright!

Leslie Lee Atlassian Team Aug 09, 2017

You've really been through it all!

@Rachel Wright, what a great idea for a post; and extra points for the sections (takeaways, travel etc.) you chose to provide highlights on for each year. They really help provide some context and summary for those who weren't there.

I can't wait to get to part 2!

Susan Hauth Community Champion Aug 10, 2017

Wow..that's amazing...I should try and fill in 2010, 2011....LOL

Ashley Elder Atlassian Team Aug 11, 2017

Amazing!!!

This is really neat :)

love! I'll be at Summit this year for my first time, and I hope to meet you there! 

Rachel Wright Community Champion Sep 01, 2017

Hi @Theresa Marwah - Looking forward to meeting you at Summit!  I'll be easy to spot with my Summit flair!

I would like to see BASH party videos and pictures.
Are there any publicly available?

Looking how things are growing since my first Summit at 2011 .. soon Summit will need to move to a stadium for a bigger capacity ;)

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