Ship It! – Episode #52

Priyanka's Happy Hour (KubeCon EU 2022)

featuring Priyanka Sharma, Executive Director at CNCF

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Today we talk to Priyanka Sharma (E.D. at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation) about all things KubeCon Europe 2022. We start with Gerhard’s favourite subject - Priyanka’s Happy Hour - and then we switch focus to the conference.

For many, this will be the first in-person KubeCon since 2019. As for Gerhard, he is not sure that he remember how airports work. If he succeeds, he looks forward to meeting some of you in Valencia. If not, send help.

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Notes & Links

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KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2022:

Gerhard & Priyanka

Transcript

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Click here to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

Priyanka, thank you very much for coming back to Ship It after recording the last year’s episode that never shipped. I didn’t think that you’d be back, so welcome… [laughter]

I’m here for it, thank you for having me.

So this is the week before the KubeCon EU. When people listen to this, it’ll be exactly one week before the KubeCon EU, and I’m so excited to be going there in-person. And for all those that are listening - I’ll be there, and I’m looking forward to meeting those people. And I’m wondering what are you most looking forward to, Priyanka, when you’ll be there at KubeCon EU?

Sure. When you said “It’s one week to KubeCon”, I was like “What?!” [laughter]

No, no, no… By the time this goes out. Sorry about that. I know it’s early morning for you. Sorry, sorry… No, we have time.

That was a moment of panic there! [laughs] Well, I am really looking forward to meeting so many people from the community in-person, in such a wonderful city as Valencia in Spain. I’ve actually never been to Spain before, because I was supposed to go to KubeCon Cloud-Native Con Barcelona, but I was in between my green card process in the U.S, so I actually couldn’t travel. And it was very much at the last minute that I couldn’t travel, so I was pretty bitter about it.

So finally, I’m getting to go to Spain… I think there’s a trend here - finally, I get to be on Ship It. Finally, I get to go to Spain.

Exactly! I like the way you think about that. [laughs]

Right? Good things come to those who wait.

Of course.

So just generally, I think the mood is pretty euphoric right now. People are talking all about their travel plans on Twitter, how they’re gonna get there… I’m all booked and ready. I’m gonna arrive early in Valencia, so if anyone’s around, hit me up. I think it’ll be just wonderful to be together, the second time now. The first time we did was North America, in Los Angeles, as you know. But on a different continent.

I think in general Europe has – there’s been a lot going on in Europe lately. And if we can be there and lift people’s hearts a little bit, bring some joy, engage in stuff that we all enjoy so much as a community, I think that’ll be a good contribution for us to make.

[04:16] If people still remember how traveling works, and they can make it to the conference… And that’s a big if. Fingers crossed that everyone makes their way, and they remember how plains and trains and all that works… Because it’s been a while for many of us. I think it’s going to be amazing.

And rules change a lot… So I highly recommend folks should keep looking at the KubeCon Cloud-Native Con event website, because we post information on what’s essential to travel… And while we can’t go into every country in detail, we have links and we have our requirements crystal clear… So keep checking the website. We’re also updating it regularly. So yes, travel is harder than it was before, because we’re less experienced now, and also because extra rules and regulations. So stay on top of it, keep checking the website… But I think we’ll get there.

I think so, too. I have a good feeling about this one, I really do. So obviously, meeting in person - it’s a big thing, and I’m really looking forward to that. But there’s one other thing which I’m really looking forward to. Can you tell what that is based on what I shared before we started recording from the KubeCon EU? The KubeCon EU, the post - there was the first image. That’s what I remember so fondly from the first KubeCon EU that I attended virtually. I wasn’t there in-person… But that was amazing. So can you tell what I’m most looking forward to, Priyanka?

Well, I’m honored if I’m right, which is that my virtual happy hour!

That’s the one. That is the one. Happy Hour with Priyanka. That was such an amazing idea. I don’t know where you came up with that idea, or who had that idea, but I so enjoyed it. I mean, it was one of the best experiences at a virtual conference, and I think that every conference should have a Happy Hour with Priyanka if possible, because it’s so good.

Thank you. I used to work at GitLab, as you know, before CNCF, and we were an all-remote company before all-remote was a thing… And the way we used to hang out and have fun together was these kinds of non-meetings, where you get together and you’re just going into breakouts, having fun. So with that training, I think we came up with this concept of “Let’s do a virtual happy hour.” Because the biggest challenge with virtual is that you can’t always get the hallway track experience, and make new friends, which is the most fun part, I think, of our community and culture.

So that’s how we came up with it… It has surpassed my expectations and how much people love it, so I’m super-flattered… And we are continuing it. As events go hybrid, we’re definitely doing it. It’s on the agenda, at least one, if not two, for KubeCon EU 2022 as well. So I enjoy those a lot, too. They’re very real, and they’re really comfortable.

Are they going to be with Priyanka? That’s what I wanna know.

[laughs] That’s sweet. Yes.

Okay, excellent. Great. So if we’re there in-person, how do we join? Still remotely, just with a laptop?

The same way, exactly.

Okay. I think I’m going to do that. That sounds amazing.

Oh, yeah. I think that was so nice for the people tuning in, because some of them at least will be only virtual attendees, and for them to interact with folks who were at the conference - it’s gonna be like an extra layer of feeling like you’re there.

Yeah, I can see it. I can definitely see it.

So that would be cool, and I recommend anyone listening to consider it if you’re gonna be there in-person, to tune in on your laptop for the Happy Hour.

Yeah. I know I will. That means, again. So this is for real, what is happening today; every other day at the company that I work for we have half an hour of a non-meeting… Where because we’re remote, we get together, we have a bit of fun for half an hour. And then of course we end up talking about work in the last 5-10 minutes, but the idea - I wanna say it’s called Happy Hour; it’s not called Happy Hour, and it does not have Gerhard in it. It’s not the whole sub-team. It’s not Happy Hour with Gerhard, but it’s like half an hour, it’s called [unintelligible 00:08:15.26] actually. And we have a coffee, in the morning, and we have a conversation that would happen maybe in the kitchen area of the building that we are working at… Which doesn’t exist, obviously. But the idea is there. The idea is really there.

[08:33] The watercooler, right?

The watercool, yes. Some call it the watercooler moment. That’s the one. Great idea. So this is going out on the 11th of May, if I’m recording it right this time… And I’m pretty sure I am. I triple-checked. [laughter] People will listen to this episode, for sure.

So that’s the one… The first episode of Ship It was meant to be this one, but it didn’t happen… So anyways; the long story - we can talk about it another time, for sure.

Can you share with us any keynote spoilers a week before the conference? Anything that you can share?

Well, I would say there’s a lot of cool picks, definitely. There’s a bunch of announcements that you will hear about, you’ll see how much progress is being made, how cloud-native is maturing, how we are going at different verticals… You will also hear about you and me, folks, individuals, people who are just making our community proud every day in different ways. So I think this keynote will be news, plus the things we should celebrate in our community. The people we should celebrate in our community.

Okay, so it’s the same great format that we had last year. That’s amazing. I love the consistency.

Oh, did that jive with you? Because I thought it’s working… You know, have some cool announcements baked in a story format, but then also talk about our community, who we are, and demonstrate that with examples.

Absolutely. I really, really like that. I forget where exactly – I think it was in your… Was it the last one? I think it was the last keynote at KubeCon North America, where you talked about – or was it the one in Europe? I can’t remember. You shared some pictures, and you were around some companies. You were meeting with innovative companies that are embracing the CNCF ecosystem. Which one am I thinking about? I know there was a keynote, because you had the Audi picture.

Yes. [laughs]

That’s what I remember. So which one was this?

This was KubeCon North America in Los Angeles, because in September, or a little bit before that, I had been in Europe and had done like a road show. I visited Audi, as you said, I visited Deutsche Telekom, I went to Mercedes, and I went to Spotify… And yeah, I had that whole journey thing there, yes. So that was the last one.

Do you see how memorable those things are, the way you combined those stories, the format? I think it’s really working. Because you have images, you have all the meetings, you see all the people… You hear about the stories that people have. I think that is so powerful, so I love that format. And it’s really memorable, especially for me. I love it.

Awesome. I’m so glad to hear that. This really makes my day, to be honest, because I spend so much time on those keynotes, as do my teammates. Folks are helping me with slide designs, because - there’s lots of things I can do, but design is not one of them. [laughs]

Okay. Well, I’m really glad that we’re having this conversation first thing in the morning for you, because if it is making your day, I’m doing something right. I’m very happy about that.

You are, absolutely.

So what is different about this year’s KubeCon EU compared to last year’s, apart from this episode of Ship It? And I will keep repeating that, because it’s super-important for me. [laughter]

Well, just the fact that we can meet in-person… So we’re a hybrid event this time, versus a fully virtual one last time. So that’s a huge difference. And I think it’s a KubeCon EU that has never been done before, because in the past we used to have in-person events and there was a little bit of – you know, within 24 hours we would put videos up, and all of that. But that’s very different from having a simultaneous virtual element. So that’s all new, and I have to say, people are excited.

As of now, we are pacing really well with the attendees who are coming on-site. It’s many, many thousands of people already, and I’m expecting to beat our numbers; fingers crossed. But the excitement is there…

I think that this time around it’s also a very unique location, personally. I don’t know about others, but I personally am just so excited to go to Valencia. It’s not a huge town, but it’s got a lot of culture, it’s got these orange farms… It’s got so much for us to learn and experience. And the way it’s set up, it’s kind of like team cloud-native taking over Valencia. So that should be a really fun experience.

I think the event this time around is also similar to the previous events in many ways, which is important, because we will uphold the quality of our content, we will uphold the code of conduct that we follow. So there are many key things that must remain the same, and that is also happening.

I do think this is the first KubeCon Cloud-Native Con where all co-chairs are representatives of end user companies. So that’s something that you might notice in the talk selection. It’s gonna be a little – what I feel is that it’s skewed a little more towards practical applications for real-world examples of how to utilize cloud-native tech, and it reflects the backgrounds of our wonderful co-chairs.

I think that’s going to be a huge improvement, because I do feel like in the past years not many areas could have been improved, because you’re already doing an amazing job… But there was this one when it came about the diversity, and a certain perspective, a certain angle… But it also had to do with the maturity of the ecosystem. So this shows that you’re at a point where this is really exciting now. And you would think that – how many years have you been doing this? Eight? Seven?

[16:16] It started in 2015. KubeCon started in 2015.

Okay, so almost seven years.

And now we’re finally getting to a point where it has all the elements. And you’d think “What more can you improve at this conference?” The hybrid approach, I love. I know it was through necessity, but the way you made it work - I thought it was such a great combination of in-person and remote. So KubeCon remains my favorite conference. And I’m not saying this because it’s you and because of this interview. I really mean that. It’s the one conference that I’m really sad to miss.

So when the pandemic hit, I was wondering, “Will there be a KubeCon? How is that going to work?” That was one of the things which was on my mind, like “How is that going to work?” Because sure, you’re not there in-person, but what does that mean? Does it mean, like, all these people? I mean, things are still happening. The world hasn’t stopped, so how are you going to adapt? And seeing you adapt as an organization - that was amazing. And the end result is even better; I mean, how is that possible?

Everything was thrown at you, and it’s better.

I have to give credit to the amazing LF Events team. Angela Brown leads them, and Vanessa Heric under her, she supports CNCF exclusively. And that woman has worked so hard with her team to give the best experience possible to people. And it was so hard for all of us. I was just coming in as general manager when we were pivoting to virtual. And that was like, “Gosh, what just happened here?” And so we were building mutual trust, learning to work together… All the while, we are completely changing how we have executed on these events in the past.

So it was a very intense, I would say, six months to a year almost, in this job, and for the events team. But now we’ve really come out so strong. I mean, to hear your compliments - I am definitely gonna pass them on to Vanessa and the team. They deserve to hear it. It’s so great to hear it. And it’s a testament to their efforts. It’s also funny what you said about how we went into virtual with necessity, and now we’ve come out with the hybrid option, which is an elevation of our experience.

Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation - him and I were chatting and we were like “How did we miss this? Why did we not do this before?” [laughs]

Exactly.

Yeah, it’s pretty great. I do think, I will say, that hybrid will always be there, because it expands the accessibility and inclusivity in a way that you can’t with in-person. At the same time, what I have noticed, at least this time around, is that - maybe it’s because the world is opening up, but the excitement and energy for the in-person tickets is just on fire. And virtual is happening, but it’s not in droves in the same way as we had during the pandemic. And it kind of makes sense, right? It’s like, if people can attend, they’re trying their best to show up in-person.

We also think that behaviors are changing even more, where it’s like “Oh, I’m gonna try to make it in-person. If at the last minute it’s not gonna happen, I’m gonna join virtually.” So things are changing, and I’m eager to see how it all settles down, give it a year. It’s like, do we have certain populations that always show up virtual, or is in-person always the first choice…? Let’s see how the ecosystem evolves.

Yeah, that makes sense. That really makes sense. One thing which I’m wondering about is - I know that there’s a difference between EU and the US conference, the North America one. And I think that while they are similar, there’s something to be said about attending both in-person to realize that there are certain differences. I’m not sure whether it’s about the people that participate, it’s about the location… I’m not sure what it is. But it feels like it’s the same conference, but almost like the reverse.

[20:16] It’s not better or worse; that’s not a fair comparison. It’s different like in a different dimension. I haven’t been able to quantify it yet, to say in what way, but I do have to say that to get the full experience, going to both conferences is a must. And this year I think it will be the first – do you know that actually this is my first in-person EU KubeCon? I’ve never been in-person.

I know. I did the virtual one, but not the in-person one. And I’m based in the EU, so you would think that… Well, I was, before Brexit, but anyways; that’s a different story.

Oh, right, right…

Anyways. Different story. But the North America one was my first KubeCon, and I’m very keen to experience the EU one. But I have noticed this via the virtual ones. More things seem to be happening at the US one, and I’m not sure why that is… Because it’s not an accurate representation. Lots of things are happening in Europe. Do you know what I talk about? Do you have the same sentiment, or how would you put it in words?

Sure. So I one hundred percent agree with you that there’s a different feel to whether it’s KubeCon Europe, or North America, or China, because we’ve done those as well. And there is definitely the regional aspect. You’re in a different location, the vibe is different, the rules are different. So you adapt to that. And of course, a certain subset of the attendees are different.

There is the crew that jetsets everywhere, right? Myself included. And it looks like you’re joining our ranks. Perfect. [laughs] So there’s that core group, which is a substantial core group… And then there’s folks who attend [unintelligible 00:21:48.24] If they’re based in Europe, they’ll attend in Europe. If they’re based in America, they’ll attend in America. And that’s very true, I would say, for the end users in particular. They are less likely to travel cross-continent for a conference, unless they’re very deeply involved. So there’s that just demographic difference and locational difference.

I think in terms of things happening more at North America versus EU, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that, because I would say, with all the virtual events that we did KubeCon EU last year was the blockbuster. It was the one where we had everything sorted, where we had all the activities, and this, and that… So in my opinion, that was the best virtual event we did. A little bit of it is just practice… [laughs]

And then in terms of hybrid or in-person, I think that it is possible that some of the sponsor companies may do more announcements in North America. But what I am finding, at least this year, because of just excitement, is people are stoked, and they’re just bringing all kinds of things to announce at KubeCon EU. So I think it’s maybe in the past that there’s been maybe more vendor announcements in North America. However, this year people are just ready to announce stuff, so it’s gonna be different.

I asked this question last year, but because no one heard the answer, I’m going to ask it again, okay? [laughter] What goes into shipping a conference like KubeCon? I mean, it’s such a huge thing… And you would think that shipping applications is complicated, regardless whether they have a monolith or microservices… Well, a conference is much, much difficult. Organizing it, putting it out there, getting it out there and just seeing what happens. So what goes into it? I know that you see only a small subset of that, but the people that you work with - they must be telling you so many stories and so many challenges to getting a KubeCon out there. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Yes, for sure. And by the way, I’m in the thick of it. We have multiple meetings every week, there are all kinds of things to go over, and so I see and hear a lot in all. But I have to say, the team is the one that fights through a lot of things.

I think that the number one thing that goes into shipping such an excellent experience is a solid, solid events team. We’re really lucky because they’re very practiced, having done specifically open source events. Our ethos is different from a company-led event, because those events serve a different purpose. Often lead gen is the purpose there. While in our case, the be-all-end-all is to ensure that the ecosystem and the community gets to meet and have a good time and learn from each other. We just want to provide that space and that experience, because people from different kinds of companies are collaborating, because the LF Events team has been doing this since - gosh, I don’t even know what their first event was, but like LinuxCon, L3C, all that. They know how it all works.

After that, the unique awesomeness of the cloud-native community. I would say, actually speaking to that whole shipping an application as a monolith versus microservices, I think we’ve had that experience in shipping events over the last few years. As you also said, “Oh, it’s probably the team who goes and does all this, but you must hear a little bit.” No, it’s different, where it’s become more loosely coupled teams working with the core events team in order to produce the best result possible, and those loosely-coupled teams spin their efforts up and down based on the timing and what is required. And that’s been a subtle shift that we have made intentionally, at least while I’ve been here. And also since before.

[28:16] A great example is the idea that Dan Kohn (who was my predecessor) had, which is to have community cultures for each event, which means it’s a community-chosen track, or a set of tracks for talks so that it ensures staying current with the latest technology trends. And I think that’s a great example.

Another great example is the CNCF PR and marketing teams are all involved when the time is right, and usually there’s lots of questions and evolutions as we are going through in execution to iterate on our structure and processes to keep elevating the experience. So there’s that core, solid thing we need which comes from the LF Events team. And then we need the loosely-coupled teams which spin up and down, change how they’re working with the events team in order to be responsive to community needs.

And all in all, I will say that KubeCon Cloud-Native Cons are our biggest efforts in the year, and we’re all so proud to be part of it and give that experience to the community.

I think there’s so much to be learned here by companies that are wondering how to build a company, how to structure teams, how to deliver products, so on and so forth. You’re doing it so successfully, in like a completely different context, which is conferences, events, bringing people together.

The principles - I see a lot of similarities to how a good, healthy organization should operate and should be structured. And the end result - it may not be events, it may be code or products, but I think the principles are more or less the same. And that’s why it fascinates me. It doesn’t have to be code, it doesn’t have to be infrastructure to start seeing the similarities, to recognize the good things that work, learning from them, and then applying them to your context. Even if it’s applications.

I one hundred percent agree. And you know, the interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that it comes down to workflows and process. You know, process gets a bad rep; it’s boring. It’s like, who wants to talk process? No one. But in reality, that’s how you get things done, and that’s (I think) what’s behind the whole DevOps movement - change our workflow, change our process to understand all the elements of software development and delivery. Or I should say technology development and delivery, at this point.

And the same is true when you’re running a large-scale event like this. There are so many things. If you don’t have a solid process and workflow, which also iterates on itself, you’re just not gonna be able to do it. So that fundamental principle remains the same.

Okay. So I’m going to try and do the reverse right now. I’m wondering how much of your involvement with Jaeger and OpenTracing – because you’ve been a contributor 5-6 years ago. How much of what you’ve learned in that context you’re able to successfully apply to your current position to make things transparent, to make things understandable… Am I reading too much into it, or do you think there’s something there? What do you think?

It was an essential experience to be able to come in and do this job. To be even considered for this job. So I started my cloud-native journey in the early days. As you’d mentioned, I was working on the OpenTracing project, which has now merged into OpenTelemetry; and then I was also helping out Jaeger, and all kinds of stuff. Observability was my jam, basically. And that is how I actually learned about distributed systems, about infrastructure, and got into the community and understood their pain points, their challenges, and really who they were.

[31:58] So I came in with a very focused approach of working on observability, finding myself in a community where I got along with people and we all understood each other - our challenges, and how we all saw the world. There’s a lot of diversity in cloud-native, but there are core principles we all agree on. We all want to build the best software, best technology possible. We all want to be kind and welcoming and go out of our way to increase our diversity, equity and inclusion, and just be a model community. These are genuinely common principles every member of the community has.

So having been really immersed in it, I understood the ecosystem in a way that I would never have – you can’t helicopter in and get it. And I think it has been really helpful for me. For me, it’s been a steady progression, where first I’m a contributor, and doing all the things on the ground, speaking everywhere I get an opportunity, working with end users… That was when I worked at OpenTracing and with the company LightStep. Then I moved to GitLab and I got elected to serve on the CNCF governing board, and I got to see a completely different side of how this organization is run.

And I will tell you, when I was elected to the board, I was actually quite surprised at how different the ethos in the board meetings was, compared to the wonderful, loving, positive community experience I had. And coming into this job, one of my priorities has been to change the board experience to mirror the community experience of being as transparent as possible, of being collegial with each other, supporting each other, and really moving towards a common goal. And I don’t think I would even have that vision if I hadn’t been a contributor.

That makes a lot of sense, yeah. I really like that story. I see so many parallels, and I see so many moments in which you chose your true love for open source, for observability, the real observability, and having that experience, having gone through the stages, and not just jumped into something that then you have to figure out, because it’s challenging enough as it is.

So I’m wondering, which KubeCon EU conversations would you enjoy listening to? And the reason why I ask that is because as I’ll be reaching out to people, I can tell them “This conversation is encouraged by Priyanka.” So if there’s some conversations that you would like me to have, some people that you’d like me to reach out… Is there one or two that stand out, that you would enjoy listening to?

Yes, absolutely. I think I always have the end user bias, so I would love for you to interview some of the folks who are doing great things. Mercedes is a great example. They are just wonderful contributors and implementers. And they actually have a keynote at the event, so you’ll hear from them… Great people. I would highly recommend talking to them.

[34:53] I think the co-chairs are excellent people. As I said, they’re all end user representatives. There’s Emily from Apple, there is Ricardo from CERN, and then there is Jasmine from Twitter. So all have a very unique perspective, and I think you should talk to them.

And then I would also round it out by talking to some of our European key contributors and folks in cloud-native projects who are doing so much stuff. A bunch of the Prometheus team is there… There’s so many folks, but I would definitely talk to them too, and hear their unique experience.

Okay, that’s really helpful. Thank you.

Absolutely.

And this will be recorded, so if it’s okay with you, we’ll leave it as is, and then we will use it. “Hey, this is what Priyanka thinks. I think so, too.” [laughs] Shall we go for it

Okay, that sounds great to me. Do you know how I know that you’ll be at KubeCon in person?

I would assume people are assuming it…?

No… Okay, I assume too, but I know that you’ll be there. You tweeted Paige… “Hey, Paige, what hotel am I staying at?!” [laughter]

Oh, my God…

That was so funny to see.

She runs my life. [laughs]

Yeah. Paige does. So I think Paige is a superhero in this story.

Superhero! Oh, my gosh… She is really tying the threads across different teams and organizations, and making sure I actually get to Valencia. Left to my own devices, it gets iffy. [laughs]

You wouldn’t make it. Okay, so Paige is the reason why you’re making it there. That makes sense.

On the wrong plane, ending up somewhere else… Forgot to book a hotel… Those are my realities.

The reason why I think that that tweet is amazing is because it captures the spirit, the closely-knit community, the kindness, the openness… I mean, that one tweet from me symbolizes all the things that are great about the CNCF. [laughter] It’s just great people getting together, having a good time… And again, it’s the one conference that you don’t want to miss, and I’m so glad that I’ll be there in-person. I’ve been really looking forward to meeting everyone, you, everyone else… And Paige, to say “Thank you for helping Priyanka make it to Valencia.” That’ll be amazing.

I know. Everyone should say hi to Paige. She’s awesome.

So as we are preparing to wrap up this conversation, Priyanka, what would you say is the key takeaway for our listeners?

I would say thank you, first of all, for your interest in team Cloud Native, in the cloud-native ecosystem. It’s because of this growing buzz around us that we keep breaking all the barriers when it comes to numbers. People keep joining us. There’s more and more innovation that happens because of your interest, you tuning in, so thank you for that.

I would highly, highly encourage you to come to KubeCon Cloud-Native Con Europe in Valencia. If you can attend in-person, it’s gonna be a blast. If you can’t attend in-person, there is the virtual option. So there is no excuse. You can definitely be there, and you should be. And at the end of the day, everyone be kind, welcome more folks in, and let’s keep building great technology together.

Thank you, Priyanka. That was great. So this, the title which I’m thinking is “The pre-happy hour with Priyanka.” I intend on joining that session, because that’s an amazing one. So even if you’re at the conference or you’re remote, that is the one place where we can all come together, and I’m really looking forward to that.

Thank you, Priyanka. This was great.

Awesome. Thank you so much for having me, Gerhard. I really enjoyed it.

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