Let me entertain you: how theatre influenced building a developer community


Chloe Condon gave up treading the boards for developer evangelism at Sentry. In her talk at DevXCon San Francisco 2018 she explains how a flair for the dramatic has added some showbiz sparkle to their Sentry Scout meet-ups.



My name is Chloe Condon. I am a developer evangelist at Sentry.io. a lot of my job, as we all know, as dev rel, involves many spinning plates many times. So, part of my job is creating content. We create very quirky content at Sentry. As you can see, this is a video that we made that involved a squirrel and compared it to our logs. You can look at it online. I also organize and run our monthly meet-ups, Sentry Scouts, which is what this talk is about.

Guys and Dolls

Also, I blog sometimes. If you’re looking at me and you’re like, “She looks familiar.” I’m the girl from the “What it’s like to be a Woman at a Tech Conference” article who’s very stoically giving a thumbs-up in front of a room full of dudes. Definitely check that out if you’re interested in that experience. I am a woman. I also like it when people laugh in my presentations because I come from the musical-theater world, and I always played the quirky side-kick, and I make a lot of dad jokes, I apologize in advance, so please laugh.

And also, you can Tweet me @ChloeCondon. It will be on my slides and…yeah. Also, a little bit about me, I come from a diverse background. So, I’m a Hackbright Academy graduate. I know we have a couple Hackbright grads in here. It’s an all-female, software engineering school in San Francisco, if you’re unfamiliar. And I’m a former actress. So, my life was very different a couple years ago. I did lots of musicals in the Bay Area. These are some pictures. This is from “Snoopy! The Musical.” Yes, Snoopy is a musical. Who knew?

So, there are a couple shocking realizations that I had transitioning from theater to tech. The gender balance is opposite. Auditions were full of women and had no men, so that was pretty big. The industry is a lot less competitive. We obviously have a lot of developer roles that are open, whereas if you go to an open cattle call in New York, it’s a very different story. People don’t sing as much and just like break out into song, which is probably the thing that I miss the most about not doing musical theatre anymore. I also get paid a living wage, which is probably actually my really favourite thing that I do, working in dev rel.


But the biggest thing was that meet-ups and events in tech were pretty boring. And to give us some context, like, we’ve all seen a musical before. Whenever I went to a musical, even if it was a bad musical, there was something that I walked away with where I was like, “That was really cool.” So, this is a picture of me in Xanadu: The Musical where I was on roller skates the whole time. Here we are jumping in Hairspray. Like, musicals are very larger than life. Maybe there’s a big showgirl number, all the characters are really over the top. Even the worst show I was ever in, which is this one, it was in a Frank Sinatra musical I was lifted up by a bunch of dudes, so like still pretty entertaining for a  bad musical.

So, to give a little background on me, both my parents were in the arts. My dad was a director, and my mom was a costume designer. I did musical theatre camps growing up. I went to a performing arts high school. Even the dramatic shows still had a bunch of interesting stuff going on in them.  I don’t know why this is blurry. So, at Sentry, we wanted a monthly meet-up that would engage with our community. It would create brand awareness, positive brand awareness. And we wanted it to be authentic to the Sentry brand. So, as I mentioned before, a lot of the content that we create is very quirky. Our content person that I work with comes from a film background. I come from a musical-theatre background, so this is, kind of, perfect for both of us.

And I also have a great manager for when I have an expense report that expenses a bunch of inflatable lightsabers and Star Wars masks that he doesn’t really blink an eye. But this is really something we pride ourselves on at Sentry, is we know that developers are people too and we never want to send an email or create boring content that’s gonna make people snooze. So…yeah, it’s really great. So, definitely check out some of our content online if you like quirky, fun things like that, but this is about meet-ups. So I’ll go through this very quickly because this is a short talk.

The Sound of Music

By your average meet-up, you arrive, you get maybe some cold pizza, warm beer, and then you chat with the other attendees. And then someone comes out, maybe a recruiter, they talk about how they’re hiring, okay, blah, blah, blah, you’re still looking at your phone. First speaker comes up. Probably a dude, shamelessly plugs his company, tries to do a demo, Wi-Fi doesn’t work. Then the second speaker’s really nervous, Wi-Fi still isn’t working. You start to look at your phone. You’re trying to question why you’re here on a Wednesday night, and then you totally sneak out because it went 45 minutes over and you’re like, “what am I doing here?”

So the Sentry Scouts meet-ups we wanted to be a little bit different. We wanted you to come in and take a picture with the giant squirrel, and we wanted you to take a picture in our giant camp chair that we have. We want you to chat with attendees. You can have some fruit by the foot. You can look at all the cool camp decor and take pictures for Instagram and Snapchat or whatever you want to post that on. I come out, I intro our PowerPoint karaoke speakers, which if you’re unfamiliar, we put up a bunch of slides that the person hasn’t seen before, and they improvise a presentation in front of it. Then the panelists come on stage. You learn about a new topic or a familiar topic from a really diverse panel of speakers.

Someone performs a song sometimes, and we had someone we commissioned, Becka Rose, who’s an amazing developer who also went to Hackbright, to write a song about Sentry Scouts since we’re a scout, camp-themed meet-up. And then, you grab your patch and sticker…oh yes, there are patches. And you don’t leave the venue soon because you really like talking to everyone and there’s lots of yummy food and S’mores and fondue. This is the asterisk that I put at the bottom here. Introvert option: you go home and post about how great of a time you had on Twitter and catch up on Westworld, because I do that sometimes too, even when I go to a good meet-up.

Anything Goes

So that is how Sentry Scouts was born. Sentry Scouts is our camp-themed, monthly meet-up with rotating topics. We decided to rotate the topics, so we didn’t get the same people over and over again, but we still got the same people over and over again, so we probably have about 20 or 30 people who repeatedly come to each of the Sentry Scouts meet-ups. But because we rotate the topics from everything from open source, to dev ops, security, to UX, we get new people who come in. And one of the most exciting things is at our security meet-up, I did a raise of hands to see who worked in security, and out of the 80 plus people who were there, only three of them did, so a lot of people are just coming because they’re genuinely interested in the topic.

Camp-themed meet-up? So, here are some pictures. This from our PowerPoint karaoke. This is also from our PowerPoint karaoke as well. Here’s some people having fun. I promise I didn’t pay them to look like they’re having fun. We have a giant squirrel. This is usually a GIF, but I’ll just keep going through. So it’s very much a themed meet-up, and we very much had that in mind when we were designing this and we really wanted to interact with the community. And here’s an example of some of the food that we have, very different than the average pizza and beer, obviously. This is my Girl Scout vest, and some little fun friendship bracelets that we made for some of the promotional materials.

We made a commercial for the meet-up, which is actually the way that most people hear about our meet-up is from our commercial. It’s very campy and over-the-top. Usually, I would show it in this talk, but we don’t have sound, so definitely, check that out on video afterwards. And, here we go.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

So, this is an example of the patches and stickers that we made. Fun fact, our designer designed the Octocats, so we’re very lucky to have an amazing designer who came up with this concept. So we have the main Sentry Scout Sticker, and we’ve had people who’ve come to every single meet-up, and since we’ve gamified it, people want to come back. Because like who wants to go to a meet-up on a Wednesday, usually we’re tired, we’ve been coding all day, but people literally come for these patches and stickers and they put them on their backpacks and their water bottles, and it’s really become a collect them all, you know, Pokemon, kind of, situation, which is cool. This is usually where I show the commercial, but you can check that out on your own. I’ll also Tweet it out after this talk.

So, what’s the response been? I wrote it down on a post-it so I could remember all of them. So the first part, gamification, obviously, has made people come back repeatedly, which is amazing. Also, by putting in the little details of, you know, having an inflatable fireplace, and a photo booth that’s set up like a giant camp chair in front of a dinosaur, people love to share that on social. And then people ask what it is and they tell their friends and they want to come back. Rotating topics means we’re getting more of a diverse spread of people, and that’s diversity in the language, that’s diversity in background, so we really, really have had a lot of success with rotating the topic and not having it be, you know, the ever observability… Like, we could have gone a very specific direction, but opening it up has been very positive for us.

And people respond really well to funny and engaging content. I can’t tell you how many people watched our commercial and decided to come to the event because the commercial was funny. And I think, you know…I’ll close on the fact that one of the best compliments that I got was at our last meet-up, which was an arts and technology meet-up. We had a panel of people. One of the women had synesthesia, which is where you can see color when you play music, and she played a 3D printed violin that lit up to the colors that she saw with her synesthesia. And we had the PowerPoint karaoke beforehand, and at the developers came up to me and said, “I’ve never laughed at a meet-up before. Thank you,” which to me was a very big compliment because I was very used to these meet-ups where I wanted to fall asleep. So I think it’s important to really make the, not only the content engaging, but also just your surroundings and to really entertain the people. And remember that developers are people too, they like to be entertained, nobody wants to fall asleep at a meet-up.

So, thank you. For some reason, there’s gonna be some blurry images on here, but I’m @ChloeCondon on Twitter, I’m @getforked on Instagram. You can find me on Medium. I’m happy to chat after. Come to Sentry Scouts, and also if there is a topic or something that you want to do, and co-host for Sentry Scouts, I would love to talk to you because we are looking for more people to do these with. Thanks y’all.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.