Diving Into Docker: Where Are My Floaties?!

In March of this year, 2018, I attended Docker’s 5th Birthday. The event was hosted worldwide, in myriad locations. I ventured out to my local event, hosted by Docker Atlanta, with IgnitionOne providing a fantastic venue. I went primarily for the Docker playground which would be offered. I’d spent the previous several weeks reading about Docker, watching online videos, and trying to teach myself some things. I felt prepared to go in and have a ball actually working with this nifty technology.

As I opened the playground and began, it became apparent that I had no idea what I was doing. It was incredibly frustrating. One of the volunteer mentors happened by, and was kind enough to offer assistance. He patiently listened as I asked question after question, and he offered answers which actually made sense. It was revelatory! I learned more in those few moments than I had in weeks of online study.

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I was less than thrilled with my level of knowledge acquisition at this point in my journey.

Before heading home, my head hung low with defeat, I sought out the organizers to thank them for a lovely evening. As is my habit, the introduction quickly transitioned into me cracking jokes, cutting up, and enjoying being the cause of a hearty guffaw. They suggested I ought to speak at the next meetup. I agreed, enthusiastically! But there was one small problem:

I DON’T KNOW DOCKER. I had given my word, and I always do everything possible to keep my promises; at the end of the day, my integrity is all I truly have. That not withstanding, the task seemed impossible: give a presentation to subject matter experts, on a technology about which I had just discovered I knew nothing, in such a manner as to keep everyone engaged and entertained. What could go wrong?!

It was time to dig deep. After a week of brainstorming, an idea emerged. I sat with it, toyed with it, and rapidly, the idea evolved into a plan.

My presentation ended up being different than any tech talk I have yet given. I began by admitting to the crowd my embarrassing experience at the 5th birthday gathering. Seeing as what I had been trying clearly lacked efficacy, I had set out to determine which Docker learning resources were most effective. I then introduced my volunteers.

Weeks before, I had reached out to various people associated with the Georgia Tech Coding Boot Camp requesting the assistance of folks who did not know Docker, but were willing to study. Two coworkers and one of my students accepted the challenge. I tasked each of them with studying Docker utilizing a specific learning resource. Meguel watched LinkedIn learning videos and did the corresponding exercises. Andrew was only allowed to watch YouTube videos about Docker. Sarah, my fearless boot camp student, drew only documentation released by Docker as her resource.

I should mention here that I was raised on game shows. From Match Game 76, to Jeopardy, Press Your Luck, to Hollywood Squares, I adored them all. Wee child Valarie thought Richard Dawson was the coolest person alive. Naturally the only way I could see to adequately test the efficacy of the various learning paths was to host a game show!

I had queried Google with phrases such as “common misconceptions about Docker,” and “Docker quiz” in order to build a deck of questions for my game. The twist came in the source of the answers. I asked the assembled Docker Atlanta crowd to determine if a contestant responded correctly, and to then elaborate on the nuances of said response.

The first question or two required a modicum of work on my part to engage the audience and get them interacting with the contestants, the material, and one another. But they did! By question three, the room was animated with responses and debate. Each contribution from an experienced Docker user begot another, and fueled discussion. We laughed, we learned, and we all benefited.

Meguel, Sarah, me, and Andrew. Sarah was the proud winner of the Golden Floatie!

After the game concluded, I admitted to the Docker Atlanta community my ulterior motives for the evening. I wanted them to teach me, and the others, in a way the internet simply does not. There is no substitute for a mentor in this industry; no comparable resource to an experienced practitioner who is willing to teach. Docker users of the world, I implore you! Seek out mentorship opportunities. The contestants and I all agreed: we learned as much or more during a 30 minute game show as we did in hours of online study.

~Thank you, Docker Atlanta, for the opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, thanks to the incredible people I met. See you next month!

Relationship builder. Tech event speaker. DevOps Engineer. Queen of the YAMLs. Total nerd.

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