In what has become a valuable and cherished New Relic tradition, more than 300 New Relic software developers, architects, managers, and others from all over the world gathered outside Portland, Ore., this week for our annual Product and Engineering Conference. This year’s theme: How we innovate and build market-defining products!
The two-day event, now in its eighth year, “is an investment in the future of our product organization, and a celebration of our people, process, and projects,” explains Darin Swanson, New Relic VP of engineering, who led program creation this year. His goal is to encourage all of us to be “more connected and aware of the great team we have and the amazing things we are passionate about and striving to achieve. We want to celebrate who we are while at the same time figuring out our next iteration.”
New Relic founder and CEO Lew Cirne told attendees that the conference “is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s work but it feels like play,” which is often a recipe for doing our best, most innovative work.
Evolution is inevitable
Like New Relic itself, the New Relic Product Conference has grown and changed a lot over the years, and several new approaches made their debut this year. For instance, as our team has grown, we now welcome attendees from Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, Texas, Winnipeg, Guadalajara, Barcelona, London, Poland, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere.
Not surprisingly, the program has evolved significantly along the way. Among the almost 20 formal presentations, this year we’ve introduced a pair of customer panels to enable our teams to develop an even closer understanding of the actual people for whom we are building our products. The half dozen customer panelists, from companies large and small, were not shy about sharing what they liked about New Relic, and their wish lists for future features and products.
We also added a series of more casual “unconference” sessions and workshops in multiple tracks covering everything from building harmonious, high-functioning teams to optimizing our backend practices and insights into machine learning. The goal here, Darin says, was to more directly engage all the attendees and enable bi-directional idea and information flow. Or more simply: “Learning all around!”
More fun, too!
We have also expanded the team-building portions of the event beyond golf, soccer, juggling, cycling, hill climbs, and game nights to include movie nights, musical jam sessions, and even a lock-picking class (it’s easier than you think!). In fact, this year we have more people participating in a single afternoon activity than worked at the entire company back when we held our first conference.
The conference is a big deal for veteran attendees and newbies alike. James Stuckey, a product manager who started at New Relic just a few weeks ago, said he’s enjoying the event in several ways: “It’s been a great mix of awesome learning opportunities, combined with a chance to connect more deeply with my team and meet Relics from all over the world.”
On the other hand, veteran Relics who have attended multiple conferences said they particularly appreciated the new unconference tracks, which allowed for deeper dives into specific technical topics.
For Darin, though, the best part is simply watching the ever-growing gathering of people engaged in passionate conversation around topics they care about. “Made possible by the planning and work we’ve done over the years curating the people, processes, and practices within New Relic Product and beyond,” he says, “those moments are super rewarding and always bring a smile to my face.”
Stay tuned to the New Relic blog—many of the conference sessions may soon become blog posts and/or public presentations at FutureStack or other events.
See below for more photos from this year’s conference:
New Relic Chief Product Officer Jim Gochee addresses conference attendees.
The more musically inclined Relics made time for jam sessions.
“Selfies” are so 2015 …
Team lunch under the big tent.
Attendees made time to get out and explore Oregon’s natural beauty with a group hike.
The hardware hackathon is a great opportunity for Relics to have fun working together in new ways.
An annual conference favorite: game night!
Senior Site Reliability Engineer Jonathan Owens presents on teamwork issues.
Photo credits: Full group shot by Danny McCarty; event photos by Caito Scherr and Fredric Paul.