Coalesce 2022 from 5 perspectives
Ask anyone at dbt Labs, the most special week of the year for dbt is Coalesce.
There’s so much work, anticipation, and anxiety that goes into Coalesce: Will talks resonate with the Community? How can we ensure speakers feel confident? Will folks be excited about new product launches? How can we make the online and in-person spaces as inclusive as possible?
This year at Coalesce 2022, the team added new elements of joy and challenge by not only having an online conference with thousands of attendees, but adding three in-person conference options. Thousands of practitioners joined us in-person across the New Orleans, Sydney, and London locations. Thousands more joined us for the online conference.
There was…a lot of magic that happened at Coalesce. I could go into great depth about the 100+ amazing sessions that happened. I could talk endlessly about the sparks that flew during appropriately-heated Slack conversations. I could try to describe the indescribably humanness we all felt as folks from the dbt Community got to meet in-person for the first time.
Or, I can let some amazing folks from dbt Labs talk about what Coalesce 2022 meant for them.
Ian Fahey, Analytics Engineer
Coalesce 2022 surprised me in many ways.
It being my second Coalesce but first at dbt Labs, I felt very aware of going from the child enjoying Christmas magic to the parent responsible for Christmas magic. Staffing meant watching Slack for the next assist someone needed; visiting vendors as a member of dbt Labs felt loaded; and my shift at the Expert Lounge neither felt like the work of an expert nor like lounging. This labor was self-imposed (my wife likes to say “Ian needs a mission”), but still came with a cost.
If I didn’t have an explicit
mission task, though, I found myself in conversations. In the weeks before the event, dbt Labs team member Paige Berry reminded us of The Pac-Man Rule (tl;dr: leave physical gaps in a circle of conversation). Every time I remembered to open that space, someone fascinating stepped into it. Not just fascinating for their acumen, but personally fascinating. I was a math and english major; do you understand how incredible it was to meet someone with a tattoo in binary of “All the World’s a Stage”?
And the conversations didn’t just happen in person. Whether chat champion or just lucky enough to get some time in a talk’s channel, I wound up DMing with attendees across the world, talking about how finance data needs to be reconciled rather than fixed or how supply chain realities (the pile of unknown stuff in the corner of a warehouse) laugh at your attempts to model them.
Then the conference ended. The quiet set in, the session recordings finally dropped, and with my dog asleep at my feet, I began watching them as fast as I could. Immediately, I started seeing familiar faces. A Twitter friend I finally met in person gave an incredible talk about data in academic research. A buddy with whom I marveled at the bayou room of the afterparty rearranged my understanding of data tests. That same binary bard fan explained emitted event data in a way I didn’t expect one could in just 30 minutes.
Suddenly, I was an attendee again, learning and growing, overwhelmed with the community I had joined. Sure, I was home by myself and the Slack channels had all but gone quiet, but my brain was loud, fired up over and over as each speaker landed their points. In addition to reassuring me I hadn’t missed out, it made me deeply glad I had spent my time during the conference the way I had.
Sure, we needed to decorate the house and set out the presents, but after the quiet set in and all the kids were asleep, I still got my chance to sit back and marvel at the lights.
Julia Schottenstein, Product Manager
Pure dopamine hit. Coalesce London was a lot of firsts for me—first time in London, first time on stage at Coalesce in person, first time speaking in front of this large of a crowd. Seeing so many people in one room excited about dbt and analytics engineering was inspiring and motivating. I met members of the Community who flew in from Vienna, Reykjavík, Zurich, Istanbul, Berlin to spend the day together. The event was intimate, and engagement was high.
We heard from the team at On Deck about how they got started with their modern data stack, followed by the team at Miro on how they surmounted scaling cliffs with their analytics engineering workflow. We then flooded to the hallway to meet each other and discuss. “Oh yeah, we had that problem too! We’ve figured out a little more on this front, but are behind them on this other front.” The willingness to share, teach, and learn was high—reinforcing that we had found our people.
Drew and I debated the hottest trends in the data industry, attempting to decode some of the buzz that reverberates on data Twitter and Substack. So much changes in a year. How can we all keep up? I met some fans of the Analytics Engineering Podcast; it felt amazing to hear people love our content and engage with them in person.
Coalesce London had a little of everything—practical talks, a view on the industry, a window into the roadmap, socialization with other practitioners, space to get expert dbt advice, and an opportunity to spend time with the folks at dbt Labs. The day was electric from morning to after-hours, when we admittedly closed down the Queen Elizabeth II Centre and finally had to take the party elsewhere. Coalesce 2022 didn’t disappoint; it’s my favorite week of the year.
David Krevitt, Marketing
After attending Coalesce 2020 online as a guest and working it as an employee in 2021, I was super excited to get to attend in New Orleans in 2022.
Unfortunately, life intervened and I wasn’t able to make it in-person—I ended up volunteering to help ensure the online experience was running smoothly: making sure the online streaming experience didn’t go dark at any point, and that talk replays were uploaded in a reasonable amount of time.
To be honest, I was a bit nervous! This was obviously the first time that Coalesce has been split between online and in-person, so I wasn’t sure how the experience would play out. Would the live conference wash out the joy of attending online?
As a data person who now does marketing at dbt Labs, data work isn’t any longer an everyday part of my life 😔—so I always crave an opportunity to learn new things.
My favorite two talks of the week were workshops on things new and old:
For the new, an intro to dbt python models. Like many people, I’ve been curious what the best use cases are for dbt python (as opposed to SQL) models. Jeremy Cohen, Leah Antkiewicz and Cody Peterson had a great time walking through a handful of use cases that are incredibly more typing-efficient in dbt-python vs dbt-SQL.
And for the old, a refresher on dbt Packages from Elize Papineau and Dave Connors. What’s amazing about doing data work is that there’s always something that’s new to you, even if it’s been out there for years.
A coworker of mine used to say that a new group of 15-year-olds discovers Nirvana every day—it’s old to the world, but brand new to them.
dbt Packages are like that for me, and I imagine I’m not the only one—it’s not like I scour the Package Hub every day looking for ways to improve my work (especially given I only make a couple PRs to our internal analytics project a quarter). So I loved hearing about codegen, audit_helper and the newer metrics package from Dave and Elize.
Why were these some of my favorite talks of the week? Because they showed that a hybrid (online + in-person experience) can actually work. They gave me hope for our collective future :).
What made a hybrid model work?
A couple things off the top made the experience fun for me:
- Q&A stayed on Slack: there was live interaction in the room from people tuning in online, which made it feel like we were all doing this thing together.
- The talks were…actually entertaining! So many talks from this year’s Coalesce I’d tag as “rewatchables” — this makes the online experience a fun long-tail of watching talks over the course of a few weeks versus a few days.
Overall, 10/10 would recommend the online experience—but I look forward to being there in-person in San Diego next year!
Sung Won Chung, Sr Solutions Architect
Coalesce in person was something that left me elated, eclectic, electrified, and exhausted all at once. And I wouldn’t have it any other way! And that’s a lot coming from a raging extrovert like myself.
What I did
Ian and I are spiritually aligned: “Sung needs a mission too.” But coming in as a floater host, I didn’t have much except to meet people/customers/partners. You’d think that amorphous prompt would make me crumble, but I took it upon myself to extend my emotional labor muscles a little further.
Long story short: it paid off. I had some of the most energizing conversations across all those segments! And there was something peculiar about each of them. They consistently danced along the spectrum of deep, technical nuance and personal impact stories:
“dbt made my career”
“dbt is the reason this is my first work conference.”
“I tell all my peers to learn dbt if they don’t already!”
“Sung, is that you? I watch your demo videos all the time!”
What I felt
A dopamine hit like no other (borrowing Julia’s language here 😉). For reference, I’m in tech sales at dbt Labs, and I get the pleasure of dopamine hits all the time when customer deals close! But there’s nothing like the small, private, intimate moments when someone sees dbt is about more than automating your SQL. You get to step into a career you’re proud of. You get to work on stuff you’re proud of. You get something better than a resume. You get to surpass who you are.
What am I gonna do next?
I don’t want to live off euphoric vapors. I want to extend the momentum of what I felt above by continuing to do work I’m proud of! I want more moments where people say, “dbt made my career”. And I think that starts with small, public, intimate moments where I make people’s lives a little easier with dbt. Whether it be adding to this bloated demo library, or talking with more people, I want more of what someone DM’ed me below. In truth, this is what the people at Coalesce do everyday in the Community (think: dbt Slack is ragingly strong). Deep down, I hope you get to feel what I feel too because you all are deserving of it already from what I saw at Coalesce!
Amada Echeverría, Developer Relations Advocate
I spend most of my mornings responding in meetup planning channels in Taiwan, Ho Chi Minh City and Tokyo that come while I’m sleeping, my days chatting with Slack avatars interested in leading micro communities around the world, and my evening making sure I didn’t miss responding to someone who needs help with their account in Slack.
For the first time in my career at dbt Labs, I got to do all of this in person, where Slack avatars became people. On the first day I met the local-Taipei meetup organizer, Karen Hsieh, who flew to New Orleans all the way from Taiwan. She brought me pineapple cake, and tears of joy (which were a little saltier than the cake). The second day, at the Hackathon I met someone who traveled 20 hours, 3 flights and several cars to get to Coalesce from Venezuela. And sadly, I didn’t get to see Opeyemi Fabiyi from Nigeria in-person, but still got to see his online talk. That was part of the beauty of Coalesce, it was both in-person and online, and most of us switched back and forth between conference rooms and laptop screens, chatting with everyone we knew around the world, avatars new and familiar.
I got to spend time with the Coalesce Scholarship recipients, and make sure they got what they wanted out of Coalesce. With this program, we wanted to find folks—content creators, those building community, and community-oriented folks—whose experience at Coalesce could kickstart or significantly improve their career. These were folks who didn’t necessarily have connections to leaders but who could most benefit from them. The goal was to create opportunities, without requiring a strong professional background or demonstrated leadership ability. Scholarship recipients attended a breakfast with dbt Labs executives and team members, and then we met with some members of the dbt Labs leadership team for a photo and hangout session. They were able to give our leadership amazing feedback and ask any burning questions they had. Hanging out with this group of people was one of the most rewarding experiences of the entire event; they were brilliant but humble, creative, motivated, and much to my delight, inspired by Coalesce.
I also got to attend many Community talks, the majority of which were by practitioners who spoke about where their data work meets the businesses at their orgs. I got to meet the Community speakers whose talks I helped support behind the scenes. I had met them on Zoom to help them meet a few deadlines, give feedback on narrative structure, slide design, and mostly to provide moral support. And I even got to emcee several of these talks and more, which was a really funny way to experience the energy of the room, see folks laugh, take notes, experience confusion, and then see their expressions change as the answers unfolded. What a delight it was to see Slack avatars come to life. I’m grateful I got to do it.
Making Coalesce your own in 2023
Even though Coalesce 2022 is officially over, you can watch (or rewatch 😉) all the amazing talks and sessions here. Go deep in YouTube, go deeper in the Slack channels for the amazing discussions that happened around them.
As you may have figured out by now, everyone’s Coalesce experience is a little different. Some folks are able to join us in-person and shake more hands they can count. Some folks thrive in the online experience, playing a vital role in keeping the Slack conversations active and meaningful (and meme-filled).
All this to say: There’s a Coalesce experience for everyone out there. In 2023 (Oct. 16-20), Coalesce will be in-person in San Diego, Berlin, Sydney, and London (and always online). Make Coalesce 2023 your own by learning more about the 2023 offerings and early bird registration option here.
We can’t wait to see y’all again next year.
Last modified on: Dec 6, 2023