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Vibe Check - An Unbiased Review of Coalesce 2022

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Let me declare my position before writing this. I started using dbt professionally and personally about a year ago, and have considered myself a big fan of the project and the community ever since. I’m probably what you would call a community lurker, following all the data influencers and doing my best to keep up to date with the #memes-and-off-topic-chatter channel offering slack reactions where I see fit. Therefore, I feel like I have the ability to provide a more unbiased opinion about my experience at Coalesce over those that rank higher in the stratosphere. So, here it goes.

no data just vibes

It was not obvious to me that the hipster data vibes I spent 45 minutes explaining to a colleague at dinner would transcend the internet and actually be evident at the live event. Well played organizers, you accomplished the mission. The vibes from arrival to the closing party were an immaculate representation of all that encompasses the dbt community. As an observer, I watched the barber in the lobby give fresh cuts to the infiltration of black rimmed vintage glasses wearers head to toe in neutral toned aesthetics. I’ve never been to a tech conference with more talented dressers, so much so that when I arrived from the airport in my t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, I went up to my room and skipped a talk just so I could change my outfit to blend in.

I’m not sure why, but I was nervous. Maybe it be imposter syndrome, in-group/out-group mentality, or just a fear of not being able to connect with others, I didn’t know if I would feel a sense of belonging. I just assumed everyone there was way more technical and funny than I was and that without both of those two positive traits that no one would talk to me. Data college was only for those who were accepted into the elite university. I totally get that I’m projecting here, but I did feel forced to overcome this feeling once I arrived. I then slapped on my (she/her) button - amazing work having buttons where people could write in their pronouns of choice - and started the week.

The People

It took me four hours to realize this concern was unnecessary. The biggest reason for the success of the dbt community is the people. The people who gave authentic and engaging talks, the people who started genuine conversations within each breakout room, and the people who championed this culture and let it bleed out into every aspect of this event. I dare you to not be inspired by Erika, or Phoenix, any of the other amazing people who delivered us heartwarming stories and engaging content. I’m not sure what the final breakdown was, but I was excited to walk into rooms where the demographic of “white male” was only a slight majority as opposed to an overwhelming majority. It was the first thing I noticed when I entered the first talk room, and became just another of the many instances where dbt Labs took it upon themselves to promote a culture of inclusivity.

It was weird to watch some of these data influencers interact both in-person and real-life. How could it not be? It’s a strange place to be where you have a bunch of online friends coming together but you also have actual fans greeting you and saying, “I know you because you're a data celebrity shitposter”.

So, while I never actually understood the data nets joke, I did immediately feel seen when Ian called out this behavior from the data twittersphere. This was exactly the type of concern I was afraid to be left out of just as a lurker. However, the entire exchange that ensued left me feeling hopeful, because every single response to his concern was positive and uplifting, and it made me realize that maybe I was being a little too judgmental of the data twitterverse. I dare say I actually did not work up the courage to talk to some of my data idols - but I now have the confidence to know that this is my fault and not theirs. I should have gone up and connected with them, but I do have the silver lining of the personal connections I’ve made with new data idols.

The Community

I left New Orleans feeling renewed, both personally and professionally. I can’t commend dbt Labs enough for their amazing event which over-delivered on even my highest expectations. I still can’t get over how kind everyone at this event was, and I just had the absolute blast I had chatting with people all week. The conference really reinforced what I already thought the community aimed to be: inclusive and inspiring.

NOLA also delivered. Good food and good conversation, what more could you ask for? Good music. Which of course, also delivered. Here’s a video of me getting asked on-stage during the afterparty because my vibes transcended and the universe thought it would be funny to push me out of my comfort zone.

Also, I bought a data baddie hat so I guess you could say that I’ve officially graduated from lurker to participant.