KubeCon by Train

Attending KubeCon in Valencia, Spain this year I was thrilled to find exactly the kind of tech community I hoped for; open, fun and fired up by open source. It was great to see the buzz around the Container Solutions External Secrets Operator project and the offers of support for it that just kept coming. From people who knew the project and wanted to contribute by further developing the codebase, integrating it into their own projects or managing the community that is flourishing around it. From people who did not know the project but were excited as we explained it, often surprised that they did not know about such an elegant solution to the fundamental problem of how to make secrets securely available to applications. And finally, from people who had been using ESO in their work and wanted to thank us for what it had given them; including one person who thanked us 5 times and another user who complimented the “frictionless” experience of using it to make secrets available securely.

The Cloud Native community coming together is a rare occurrence and it enables so many great conversations to happen as new connections are forged, old ones strengthened and knowledge spread in all directions. I found a lot of laughter and joy but the most precious moment was being found by someone who had been an intern on my team 5 years ago. He told me about the fantastic career he has forged in the Cloud Native space. He went on to explain how lucky he felt and that it was all down to the beginning he got in my team all those years ago. As he thanked me I felt so proud of the role I had played in his journey I had to brush away tears of joy.

I failed to make it to many presentations during the conference; however these are recorded, and I can use other people’s reviews to ensure I don’t miss out on any of the very best. I was very happy to see that there was a keynote Finding Your Power to Accelerate to a Sustainable Future, but sustainability through efficient resource management feels like dieting by only controlling calories. To succeed in weight loss you also need an exercise program and in an industry whose carbon emissions have now overtaken those of pre-COVID aviation we need to be doing more than only reducing consumption. To become truly green our industry needs a paradigm shift to a model where low energy consumption is the most important feature of every technology, tool or platform.

I travelled from London to Valencia for Kubecon by train. It was a slow and expensive journey. So let's begin with why: the environment is the primary reason. We think about the environment and our impact on it a lot at Container Solutions, and the 8kg of carbon my journey emitted is much better for the planet than the 341kg that would have been released into the atmosphere if I had travelled by plane. Thinking further about this there are many other reasons that I love train journeys; first of all the space and the ability to move around, then the length of time that such a trip takes and the space that gives me to think - I am forced to clear my calendar and to reflect on what is most important to me. Free from the stress of an airport or take off and landing I can watch the countryside rushing past and reflect on the beauty of the world as I pick through the jumbled mess of thoughts running through my brain.

Heading south on the way to Kubecon my thoughts are dominated by wondering what I will find at the conference, who I will meet and what may happen. The whole thing feels like a big adventure and this journey across 4 trains serves to awaken that spirit in me. Not that the journey was without pain points: it took 16 hours to get to Valencia and 23 hours on the return leg - including a bed on the night train. Crossing Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyons gave me some gut wrenching moments. The sense of trying to navigate an unfamiliar public transport system where I am unable to find the optimal path and the fear that I will find myself on the wrong side of Paris as my next train leaves the city. The moment where I realised that I could not use my phone to pay at the ticket machine and the 20 minute queue watched me angrily as I searched through my suitcase for the euros that I knew must be hidden in an unexpected corner.

My overwhelming emotions on a train are excitement and joy; the expectation of the adventure my whole body can feel myself rushing towards. Focus is always an important consideration for me and where to direct it in the coming week seems obvious: relationship building with the people I will find there, striving for the meaningful connections that can begin. So many other aspects of a conference can dissipate my energy and stop me being the best version of myself. Alcohol is the demon I need to be most careful around; a source of fun but one that can rapidly blunt my mental and emotional capabilities. I need to be focused on the pursuit of the interpersonal connection that this forum can facilitate. In terms of my work it is the exposure to open source communities that I will find there and what I can learn from them. The quality I need to personify is openness and to team this with complete honesty and authenticity–no front or projection will serve me at Kubecon.

The final avenue where my thoughts wander on this train journey is around my family and what they give me, what the future holds and what I should keep close. The man that I have become is hugely dependent on my partner and sons: the love and the joy they share with me and the challenges and inspiration they present me with. The future is unknown to me so I want to revel in the present. I suppose that makes me unambitious but in reality I think that it makes me ambitious only for happiness. For me this is the goal that everything else supports. In a social context even this singular goal becomes complicated as the components that need to come together can be assembled in myriad different forms. There is often a gulf between the things that we desire and those that will make us truly happy.

It is the peaceful calm that I love most about train journeys, the feeling of quiet spaciousness where I can allow myself to fold inwards and explore my emotions in a lonely space that is rarely part of my day to day life. Whilst my eyes soak up the sight of successive landscapes , my internal emotional landscape can also unfold. Revealing unnoticed corners of joy and anxiety that I usually do not have the time to connect with. I am able to sit in my own little world; a bubble of calm where it is safe to question the life I am currently living.


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