I had a business need to go to San Francisco for a day. I decided to try and get the best I could out of it, and given Niamh Bushnell's recent article I thought I'd share my approach and experiences.
As those who are used to the typical technical content of this blog are aware, I run a bootstrapped business dedicated to helping organizations get the most out of the open source Prometheus monitoring system. I have been working with a US company since 2015, and they were finally ready to sign a deal. The catch is that closing it required visiting them in person in San Francisco.
I'm located in Ireland so I could have taken the direct DUB<->SFO flight and stayed for a day. Travelling that far is tiring, so I'd lose at least 3 days to this. The Bay Area is one of the most influential places technology wise, so it'd be good to stay a little longer and network a bit. I've also some customers in the New York area that it'd be good to meet face to face. A rough plan formed of going DUB->JFK->SFO->DUB.
With an outline of my trip in place, I looked for how to get the most of it.
Goals and Expectations
My primary goal is of course to sign the deal I'm making the trip for. Beyond that I'm hoping for a chance to evangelise Prometheus and grow the community. If I'm lucky I'll also meet one or two people who will at some point in the future become customers.
An important thing to realise is that almost all meetups are continuously looking for interesting talks.
These days one of the first things when planning on visiting any city, whether for business or pleasure, is to go to meetup.com. I put in my destination and search for meetups nearby that are related to my interests. In my case I use keywords like monitoring, devops, microservices, sysadmin and software. I look at the biggest meetups, ignoring the ones that haven't had an event in over a year. For each I look over their recent talks to get a feel for what sort of areas they're interested in. By then I'll usually have found 1-2 meetups that seem relevant. I then reach out to the organisers, say when I'll be around (if talks are on a regular schedule, see if they coincide with your trip) and humbly offer to give a talk.
A key point is that the talk you offer and ultimately give must be beneficial to the audience. A blatant sales pitch is unlikely to be well received. In my talks I obviously try to promote Prometheus and demonstrate it's benefits (even my non-Prometheus talks have a quick plug). I also adjust each talk to the audience and include theory that's applicable to monitoring generally. That way even if an attendee doesn't ultimately end up using Prometheus, they'll hopefully still have learned at least one thing that they can put into action.
I take advantage of my network. As I catch up with people, if they're somewhere I'll be visiting I'd mention it. I advertise my travel plans on social media. This helps to promote the talks I'm giving, and opens the option of grabbing a coffee.
Keeping in mind that my goal of spending extra time in the US was general Prometheus evangelism and community growth, how did all of this turn out?
- Talked at 2 meetups, one in each city, both very well received. 50+ attendees.
- 350+ views of the slides so far.
- A video of each of my talks is publicly available.
- Got to chat with several existing users of Prometheus, both big and small.
- Many developers and organisations now actively considering Prometheus.
That's a good outcome, but what really surprised me were the business benefits. I talked not only to companies interested in Prometheus and with the potential to become customers, but there was even talk of partnership!
Overall I believe the gains well exceeded the additional costs to stay longer and visit an extra city. If you're considering international travel, I encourage you do it and make the most out of it.