Cuboid Cylinder
Industry / Jan 08, 2019 / 5 min read

How to convince your manager to send you to a conference like DockerCon this year

In December, Margo and Dom attended the DockerCon Barcelona where they had a chance to chat with many interesting people from the Docker Community.

We had opportunity to speak with: Liz Rice @lizrice (Aqua Security), Banjot Chanana @banjot (Docker Inc.), Dieter Reuter @Quintus23M (NeuVector), Don Bauer @DevOpsDon (Citizens Bank), Gareth Rushgrove @garethr (Docker Inc.) and Alex Palmer (Rightmove Plc). And they shared their top tips on how they would try to convince their bosses to send them to tech conferences like DockerCon.

With early bird rates for the DockerCon19 San Francisco ending Thursday, 31st January and the KubeCon and CloudNativeCon Europe 2019 ending next week (Friday, 18th January) this could be the right time to make your request and meet some of the most interesting and inspiring people in tech!

To sum up, here are four main tips on how to convince your boss to send you to a tech conference:

  1. Clearly identify why attending the conference is relevant to what you or your business is doing
  2. Explain how the knowledge you will bring back will be useful to the business
  3. Connect and interact with the right people ahead of the conference
  4. If rejected, don’t give up, never give up!

Sometimes getting a cheaper or even free pass to certain conferences might be easier than you think as long as you make a strong case for it and you don’t give up. Here are a few tips that we’ve overheard at various events like Meetups and Conferences we attended in 2018:

  • Look for a diversity scholarship – if you’re from a traditionally underrepresented or marginalised group in technology, you can try to apply for a scholarship. This might cover not only the conference ticket but also travel and accommodation expenses! Kubecon and Cloudnativecon offered one for their EU event last year and here they explain how to do it.
  • Apply to speak at the conference – If you have confidence on stage and you or your business has come up with an interesting solution to a problem, applying to participate as a conference speaker not only gives you a free pass to the conference but also helps raise your company’s profile! Take a look at Jenny Burcio’s article on Tips For Submitting Talks To Tech Conferences. You can now apply to speak at the DockerCon San Francisco.
  • Get sponsorship from your community – our friend, Petra Spirkova, got sponsored by the Women Who Code community to attend DockerCon Barcelona. In return, she wrote a post-event summary for them. You can find it here: My first DockerCon.
  • Check if your company is a customer – Sometimes companies offer perks like conference tickets to their customers.
  • Chat to event sponsors – if your company partners or works closely with any of the companies sponsoring the conference, or you know someone who works there, it’s a good idea to ask them about free or discounted passes. They usually get a number of them as part of their sponsorship package.
  • Volunteer – sometimes conference organisers will need someone with tech background to help run a workshop or provide other support. Sending an email, Linkedin or Twitter message to the organisers asking about volunteering opportunities might help you get a free ticket, and your company will only need to support your transport and accommodation costs.

Do you have any other ideas or success stories? Let us know! Drop Margo a LinkedIn message, DM on Twitter or send her an email:

Here is a quick cheat sheet that should help you in preparing all the necessary answers before asking your manager to send you to a conference, you can download it here.

*Video Transcript:

Tecknuovo: What are your tips on convincing your manager to send you to a cool conference like DockerCon?

00:00:15 Liz Rice If you want to attend an event you have to identify why it’s relevant to what you do, what you’re going to learn from it, what you’re going to bring back to the company from it. What value can you add to the event and what value can you bring back from the event?

00:00:34 Don Bauer I’ve worked for several companies that in the interview made a promise of conferences. And then you’ll talk to them and they’re worried that all of the exposure and meeting all these other teams and people, is going to lead to them leaving the company because they might find something better.

00:00:53 Gareth Rushgrove I think conferences, and not just this one but all technical conferences, are actually a good way of both learning specific things, having time to focus on learning and getting better at your job.

00:01:07 Don Bauer The company I’m at, realised pretty quickly that it’s an investment they’re making in their employees. And it makes them happy, but it also makes them better professionals. 

00:01:17 Banjot Chanana The first tip would be to tell them what you’re bringing back from the conference that will be useful for everybody else. Because, one of the things that most bosses are afraid of is that you go to the conference and you either hang out, or you do something that’s not part of the conference, or you’re kind of wasting time. So you want to make sure you can tell them this is what you can use and apply and: “I will bring it back and I will make sure I do a lunch brown bag and teach the rest of the team”, or “I’ll bring all the notes and make sure that it’s communicated to everybody else”.

00:01:24 Alex Palmer It might save probably days or even months of effort down the line if I’ve learnt a few things here, that would mean that I don’t go down a path that I otherwise would have in the future. So that kind of justification would be how I’d try to sell it. Of course to do that I need to believe it myself.

00:02:09 Gareth Rushgrove The other side is actually, increasingly technology is moving incredibly quickly, being at something like DockerCon, like you’re here with other people who are solving the same problems as you and learning from their experiences is probably the cheapest, fastest, safest way of accelerating anything you’re doing.

00:02:29 Don Bauer We get to expand our networks, we get to learn how to do new things that we probably otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. So if it’s important for the company to invest in their employees, then it’s absolutely the first thing I would mention in trying to convince a boss or a manager, or a VP to you know… let your engineers come to conferences. We need to make them available to everybody! That’s how we learn, that’s how we get better and that’s how we network and figure out how to do the next big thing, or what the next big thing is.

00:03:05 Dieter Reuter First you have to be curious…

00:03:07 Liz Rice You know, sometimes it’s even having the right conversations with the right people. If you know those people are going to be at an event, then that’s a good reason to be there.

00:03:17 Dieter Reuter Then you look at what is the right conference for you and then you try to follow these guys on Twitter. Ask the conference leaders: “ok how can I get a free pass, how to get a sponsorship to attend?”. So just try to get in touch with these guys.

00:03:35 Banjot Chanana Probably the second tip I would say is you should also explain who you’re going to meet. So if you’re going to break out sessions or if you’re trying to meet other people from other companies, that work in a similar way to you, then that networking also helps when you come back, because you can say: “I will go and learn some best practices from this company that is also in our field”, “I will find out more about how other engineers are solving these problems”; “Here are five problems I’m going to take that we have, and I will try to find answers for them”. 

00:04:11 Liz Rice Think about picking the events that really relate to what your company does or what you do in that company.

00:04:21 Dieter Reuter Don’t give up. Never give up, just try, try, try and then magical things can happen, no! Will happen.

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