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What I learned at Data Council Austin 2022: A Snowflake experience

Snowflake booth stars

Summary

This was my first data conference since 2019, and a lot has changed since (including my t-shirt stamps). Gone are my “Mr BigQuery” days, now I am a Snowflake “Data Cloud Advocate”. As such, these were my main observations from the ground:

  • Snowflake is behind everything, everywhere, at all the talks.
  • The data world is full of new companies building “The Modern Data Stack”.
  • Data Council used to be data practitioners sharing their experiences at big companies. Now the joke is that Data Council is 85% vendors, 10% VCs, and 5% potential customers.

To this last point, Drew Banin made a great observation: The numbers might show that Data Council has changed, but maybe not that much. Look deeper and you’ll find the same people. They are now building companies based on the big ideas they developed at their previous employers. Data Council changed, but only because we did.

My favorite talks

Data Council had talks spread around 3 tracks and 2 days. I live tweeted the talks I attended the first day. You might notice a common thread, as I chose to highlight how most of these talks are linked to Snowflake:

Anaconda opening
Tecton loves Snowflake
Hex reactivity
Data quality with great expectations
Data Apps with Hightouch

Friday I got lazier with the tweets, but believe me: There were great talks too. Scroll to the bottom of this post to find links to what others said.

My favorite people

Conferences are about people, and I had so much fun meeting old and new friends. I don’t have space here to list and rank all my favorite people, but let me share a small sample of them.

For example, as I was waiting for my flight to Austin, I saw this pic with Claire Carroll and Pedram Navid. Claire sporting a cool Hex jacket, same day as Snowflake announced investing in Hex:

https://twitter.com/pedram_navid/status/1506342297897562113

I couldn’t wait to get to Austin and find them, and I didn’t have to. I found them at the same airport I was at, getting ready to board the same flight:

Later that day I arrived to my hotel and wondered where to go next. Instead of finding a restaurant around, I chose to go to an event by people I didn’t know much about. There was an announcement on Twitter, and I followed the lead. As I arrived to the event, social panic attacked: “Can I just say hi to all these people I haven’t met and leave in 5'?” But then instead of fleeing, I had a blast:

3 highlights from these pics:

  • Sarah Catanzaro arrived later that night. She’s one of the best people-connectors I’ve met since I joined the data cloud.
  • Peter Wang — CEO of Anaconda — loves hanging out with the community, even as he was getting ready to deliver the opening keynote the next day.

As days passed, I kept making future plans with great new friends. A couple of their tweets as proof:

Data council sponsors

https://twitter.com/orchestofficial/status/1506667164576665607

Sponsors make conferences possible, and I was delighted to see how most of the sponsors present were tightly linked to Snowflake. While some have built connectors, others have built their whole foundation on it. Some have announced partnerships with us, with Snowflake also investing in several of them.

As proof— let me list here all the sponsors in the order that Data Council presents them, with links to how they connect to Snowflake:

As you traverse those links you might think that Snowflake is at the same level as other connectors they offer. But what you can learn while talking to them is that several have also chosen Snowflake as their main backend to build their companies.

By the way, becoming a Snowflake partner is easy: Start by signing up on the partners portal and choose the program that best adjusts to you.

Blind spots: What’s not in the picture?

As you see above, I had a wonderful time at Data Council, especially experiencing Snowflake at the center of everything. But is this true? What did I not see?

First, check that list of sponsors: Very few of these companies existed 10 years ago. We call them “The Modern Data Stack”, but where is “The Traditional Data Stack”? Where are all the Oracle, Teradata, Spark, […], users congregating? Let’s not confuse the community at Data Council with the reality of data professionals around the world.

I used to work for Google, so I was surprised to see so little BigQuery presence around — among sponsors, talks, and hall conversations. Where did all my hard work as their Developer Advocate go?

And this might be my favorite part of Data Council: I kept meeting BigQuery fans around the venue. Some remembered all the times I helped them on Stack Overflow. Others had given talks on how they implemented BigQuery at their companies, as I remember amplifying their stories. But then time passed, and they have all moved to work with Snowflake at their companies now — just like I did.

I’ll let them share their stories, and I’ll be ready to amplify.

Update: Report from another conference (HIMMS)

A couple weeks earlier Snowflake was present at a different conference, ran by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) group. With a completely different audience, this one had booths for AWS, Box, Databricks, GCP, Hyland, IBM, Microsoft, Opentext, Oracle, Snowflake, Teradata.

Check the report from Paul Burgess at Corporatedata.news. It doesn’t get more corporate than this:

More Data Council stories

  • Tristan Handy newsletter shares Drew Banin’s observations: “If I was in a room with folks like Claire, Emilie, Anna, Scott, Taylor, Max, and Julien in 2019, I’d be in a room full of practitioners. Today though, that same group is now composed of people building or investing in data tools
  • Sophia Yang experience at Data Council: “Overall, I think Data Council is a very interesting and unique conference. I met a lot of startup CEOs, cofounders, Python package creators, and investors. The startup’s creative energy is inspiring.”
  • Molecula reports their team experience: “Almost every session started with some iteration of “Hi, we’re here because we faced a very challenging problem. Here’s how we solved it at <insert Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, Lyft, LinkedIn, etc.> and the company we’ve spun out of that.”
  • Mary hosted a Twitter Space looking back at Data Council with Hightouch CEO Kash Gupta and guests (me!). Find the recording here:
https://twitter.com/MaryMacCarthy/status/1508660975536246785
https://twitter.com/cloderic/status/1508789005948788737
https://twitter.com/julianhyde/status/1118208986589777920
  • And a 2022 one from Juan: “All the talk is about data and the people/tech for the data, but… no conversation about the end business users who are the ones that need to make the critical decisions. Let’s not forget what is the end goal!
https://twitter.com/juansequeda/status/1506709882845736967

Especially to Juan’s point, I look at our upcoming Snowflake Summit 2022 in Vegas agenda, and I’m delighted to report that a large portion of the event is dedicated to customers and their companies success:

Other highlights in pictures

Shinji Kim delivering a Select Star talk, featuring Snowflake
CARTO’s Gabriel Hidalgo building maps (find CARTO in the Snowflake Data Marketplace)
Apache Iceberg with Ryan Blue (and Snowflake in the future)
Austin bats, from a boat sponsored by Atlan and great expectations
Looking at my ex from a boat (haiku)

Want more?

I’m Felipe Hoffa, Data Cloud Advocate for Snowflake. Thanks for joining me on this adventure. You can follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Check reddit.com/r/snowflake for the most interesting Snowflake news.

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Felipe Hoffa

Data Cloud Advocate at Snowflake ❄️. Originally from Chile, now in San Francisco and around the world. Previously at Google. Let’s talk data.