DockerCon 2018 Recap

Which session do I go to next?


3 months ago, I had the privilege of attending DockerCon conference in San Francisco. The events that led to it were quite straightforward but if you ask him he would say it was an act of Providence for him to be selected under the DockerCon Diversity scholarship and most importantly attend it.


I got wind of the scholarship through my inbox. I was working with BrightHive, Andela’s partner then and, being a data engineer using a paid billing-plan of DockerHub, I had subscribed to updates on Docker. So I applied and my application was accepted. The questions were simple:

  • Why do you want to attend DockerCon?
  • What do you hope to learn at DockerCon?
  • Why do you think you should be selected to receive a scholarship to DockerCon?

Getting the scholarship was half the hurdle since the scholarship footed the Conference ticket bill that was $1400

I still needed to figure out how I would travel to and fro, and spend 4 nights in the most expensive city in the US.

In Andela, there are a number of programs created for the specific function of improving the experience of a world-class developer poised to be a global tech leader — Developer In Residence Program (DIR); Fellow Exchange Program (FEP). Through other programs like TeenCode and developer communities, developers hone community engagement, speaking skills and the character of giving back. Andela occasionally sponsors its developers to attend or speak at important Tech conferences all over the world. I applied to get sponsored to attend DockerCon and my request was granted.

So what is Docker anyway and DockerCon?

I have been doing Docker advocacy since early 2016. I picked it up as soon as I heard it packaged in these words “With Docker, you will forever forget the statement — ‘It was working on my machine, why is it broken on yours/ the server

DockerCon (Docker Conference) promises to have Docker enthusiasts from all over the world in one place. The 2018 San Francisco edition had a staggering 6000 attendees and I was one of them representing Nairobi, Kenya — what we dub the Silicon Savannah.


A friend of mine always reminds me “preparation meets opportunity”. I didn’t do much here. At least in retrospect, I should have done more.

For one, I forgot my business cards (I know this sounds outdated but trust me these 3.5 x 2 inches cards are still relevant. I use CamCard to get contact info out of cards handed to me)

Secondly, DockerCon organizers had an app for the conference on the Android and Apple app stores. With the agenda within, you could plan out the talks you would attend since apart from the keynotes all the other breakout sessions were happening 5 or more concurrently. I was aware of this but did not realize how crazy it would be up until after the day 1 keynote. Thank God for Docker Pals, a program aimed at assisting new conference attendees to know how DockerCons are done. Otherwise, you would find all sessions booked and you would have to queue up on the waiting list section. Some of these guys eventually got in if the session was not maxed out or people walked out midway. Anyhow, you would not want to walk into a session after it has started or worse after someone has validated that it is either not interesting or too complex or simple for them. Blackbelt sessions were intense!

Agenda-wise, old-school worked out for me, check my printed agenda all circled out:

I, however, did my due diligence of going through the speaker profiles (I want to be one someday so this was useful). I planned to take advantage of opportunities as the cherry on the top for this DockerCon experience.

One was the Hallway Track designed to help you make new meaningful connections by sharing knowledge. Just like Google Calendar, you could schedule meetings with attendees who availed themselves. One could also host sessions open to anyone to share knowledge.

There was a section of the 2nd floor (as I recall) that read Quiet Please … Upon paying the examination fees you could sit for Docker Certification exam and hopefully have your name on the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, I’ll do that soon or while attending the next DockerCon.

There was teasing all over the place and so did I.


The conference day one was on Wednesday, June 13. However, there was a Pre Conference day and Day Zero 🤓. Check out the agenda here.

Day Zero

This was the day for picking your tag, agenda and swag.

I arrived in the afternoon after a tour of Alcatraz (SF is touristy, by the way), picked these up and spent the rest of the afternoon in the Hands-on Lab section. The exercises here were great. I attempted to share the links to these exercises with other DockerCon enthusiasts back home but, as it turns out, they are normally released to the masses after the DockerCon. They would have to wait until then.

The general exhibition, that would run all through the conference was opened late afternoon. Here all sponsors had stations decked with swag and information pamphlets. Like clockwork, attendees ‘swagged’ themselves up over drinks and snacks. Thankfully this place would be open the entire time otherwise I think the rush would be insane. All the same, I figured it’s part of DockerCon culture plus it’s paid for besides

being a place where your details would be taken simply by scanning your badge, this was a haven of knowledge. All these companies had stations where you could ask anything about their product and get hiring opportunities. One booth, in particular, focussed on wowing us by having arcade race-car games at their station 😯 (Too bad I can’t remember. I confess that I am not a games guy. Yeah we exist 😅)

Day One, Two and Three sessions

I know a great deal of Docker use-cases so someone in my shoes or more experienced could ask “what’s the point of going to DockerCon or any other conference besides just meeting new people and networking?”. I wanted to take home answers to two main questions:

  1. What considerations do I make when using Docker in Production
  2. What Docker security tools (not necessarily paid-for) can I leverage on

This knowledge would prove instrumental at the time, in my work at Andela and BrightHive and in my career progression into Data Engineering. I structured my agenda primarily on these two topics and left room for sessions on Docker basics (you never get too old for this), Diversity, Impact 💪🏽, Collaboration (#AllThingsOpenSource) and the all-time favourite IoT (Internet of Things); I am a tinker and enthusiast in IoT. A day one keynote is considered very important since it highlights any conference. I’ll focus on this one and mention key takeaways from the rest.

Day One Keynote

Day one’s keynote was MC’d by @francofinn. Here’s the video (correction in the description Scott Johnston is not Docker Product Manager). Docker CEO Steve Singh touched on Docker’s history since 5 years back; the underlying motivation of supporting communities around the technology; the commitment to solving global problems and driving software innovation and versatility of docker to the Developer, IT, Architect and Executives.

Docker Product Manager Gareth Rushgrove focussed on Docker Desktop, a GUI product to remove the command-line barrier to entry to the Docker ecosystem for a lot of people. I concur, and being a champion of breaking complexities into chewable bits, I have to give it up to Docker on this product and the updates released that day. Eventually, Kubernetes was released on the Docker Desktop.

Mason Eugene Fish and Lily Guo did an awesome demo on this tool. The depiction of a typical software engineer’s world played out: insane expectations and deadlines, coding overnight drinking Morning Dew and voila the application was up!

McKesson, a Fortune500 company (6th rank in 2018) closed this session by taking us through their journey on digitising their pharmaceutical supply chain and empower their developers using Docker.

  • Did you know?

There’s a long-standing tradition in DockerCon of ‘sacrificing to the demo gods’ by opening fortune cookies before every talk.


Day One and Two started out with the keynotes and break out sessions later. As mentioned earlier I attended sessions on these topics: Diversity, Impact, Collaboration and IoT.

The on-demand videos can be retrieved here. Most of the talks and panel discussions were relevant to me. The talks that made my day(s) were:

  1. Transform category: Shaving My Head made me a Better Programmer by Alex Qin (GAKKO) - Video - Slides
  2. Transform category: Diversity != stock photos: Are you looking for candidates in all the wrong places? Chloe Condon (Sentry) - Video - Slides
  3. Using Docker category: Creating Effective Docker Images by Abby Fuller (AWS) - Video - Slides Notes Minimal images — Docker image size matters Caching and layers in image creation Multi-stage builds Choice: Have your own base image vs choosing one from the community
  4. Using Docker category: Don’t have a Meltdown! Practical Steps for Defending Your Apps Liz Rice (Aqua), Justin Cormack (Docker) This was among the repeat sessions for Day three as voted by DockerCon attendees. - Video - Slides
  5. Black Belt category: A Vision of Persistence Justin Cormack (Docker), Luke Marsden (DotMesh) - Video - Slides
  6. Docker Docker Docker category: Modernizing Traditional Applications with Docker Jeff Murr (MetLife), Brian Walker (Docker) - Slides
  7. Innovation category: Docker and IoT: Controlling “Things” with Containers Darragh Grealish & Brian Christner (56K.Cloud) Last but not least…
  8. Community Theater category: 5 Years Later: Is Docker Still Delivering? Confessions of a Docker-Holic Thomas Shaw (Demonware)

If you are conversant with PWD (Play with Docker), you are aware that it was featured as a cool hack in the 2017 DockerCon. This year’s Cool Hacks category was anchored by ManoMarks and Christine Lovett from Docker. I did not attend this one: Automated Hardware Testing using docker for space (DART, NASA) by Christopher Heistand (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory), but from the blog post, slides and video I can simply describe it as bleeding edge.


Day One was climaxed by the DockerCon AfterParty. That was amazing!


At the start, I mentioned how my journey with Docker started. Well, I don’t have the answer to this question:

I have been doing advocacy for Docker in my own small way: speaking at tech meetups in Kenya and Nigeria (I was working from the Andela Nigeria office then). I have also had the privilege of helping a friend Joseph Muli write a course book on Docker.

The author is also an Andela developer and here’s the book.

The experience at DockerCon and a sneak preview of the Silicon Valley tech space allowed me to get more knowledgeable, meet new people and leverage their experience and very important have fun. I did have a lot to share with the team at BrightHive and I am working on a talk at Andela to off-load this knowledge and share together with other Docker enthusiasts. Look out for that one

The community has a huge impact on driving innovation. This I confirmed at DockerCon. Plus I picked up what a Global tech conference has to offer: swag, huge screens for live coding 😬, great food, drinks, amenities for caring parents, first aid, platforms for networking, great wifi, wonderful furniture and loads of space…

As most cultures dictate, I did not return empty-handed. Well, mostly I distributed swag. My mac got it’s fair share of stickers so did loads in my circle 😁.

That’s a wrap! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments. Passionate about technology? We can engage on Twitter.

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The Andela Way

A pool of thoughts from the brilliant people at Andela

Stanley Ndagi

Written by

The Andela Way

A pool of thoughts from the brilliant people at Andela