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Alice Goldfuss's LISA story
Alice Goldfuss currently works as a Site Reliability Engineer at New Relic, but she didn't start out there. She had her own desktop computer at the age of nine and taught herself HTML, but when it came time to go to college, Alice chose a film and animation program. The years of constant constructive criticism taught her how to separate professional critique from personal and honed her ability to tell a story.
After graduation, Alice accidentally ended up in a technical support role at a marketing company for golf courses. When she outgrew that role, she joined New Relic and worked her way up to her current position. One late night earlier this year, a system broke. After getting all of the pieces back in place, Goldfuss wrote "two pages of rage". Meant as a catharsis, coworkers thought it would make a good conference talk. Colleagues with conference experience helped refine the talk and Alice began looking for a venue to submit.
When she found LISA, she knew that was the right target. It has a DevOps and sysadmin focus and a history of quality content. The quality and reputation of the LISA conference was a little intimidating, especially since she felt like a culture talk might be out of the norm. Her coworkers kept encouraging her, and when she received the acceptance notification she said she was "over the moon."
Lots of repetition helped her prepare for the talk. When the time came, she was on autopilot. Despite her concerns, her talk was incredibly well-received. The room was over capacity, a fact she didn't realize until she saw pictures on Twitter afterward. Attendees were raving in chat and on Twitter about the talk. During the hour we sat down to chat for this story, two separate people interrupted to compliment her. Even the conference photographer complimented the quality of her delivery. "People wish culture was more planned, defined, and deliberate," she offered as an explanation of the reaction. "We should remove the stigma of talking about culture."
Culture is not only a track at LISA, but it's an important part of the conference ethos. Goldfuss specifically mentioned the Code of Conduct as an important factor in feeling welcome. Having never participated in a big sysadmin conference, she wasn't sure what to expect. The friendliness and respect she was greeted with were a happy surprise. Participating in the LISA Build team, she was immediately treated as a professional. "It feels like a giant family you can learn from," she said. "I'm almost guaranteed to have a good conversation with whoever I sit down with."
Alice found the technical quality of the conference to be rewarding as well. When I asked about the training sessions she attended, she said they were "exactly what a conference should be." A first time LISA presenter and attendee, she's already considering a talk proposal for LISA16. Slides for her "Scaleable meatfrastructure" talk are available online.