DevCon: A Tech Conference for Engineering, by Engineering

In 2010 a group of Cerner engineers went to their leadership with an idea: a Cerner tech conference just for the internal development community, built and run from the ground up. The idea for a conference like this had been brewing at Cerner for several years. It was seen as an opportunity to create a large scale, sharing and learning experience for associates in Cerner’s technical workforces.

From the beginning, buy-in from leadership was essential for the conference to succeed. In their original pitch, these engineers demonstrated how DevCon would create opportunities for knowledge sharing, networking, and collapsing long standing organizational silos by placing the teaching and learning opportunities into associates’ hands. The idea of associates getting together to share experiences and lessons learned around topics they were genuinely passionate about resonated right away as an intrinsic benefit to the company. Leadership’s support combined with the efforts of associates driving the conference forward year to year have pushed DevCon to an entirely new level since 2011.

The first DevCon had 600 attendees, all in Kansas City; now DevCon spans three locations – Kansas City, MO; Malvern, PA; and Bangalore, India – and in 2018 hosted over 7,500 attendees. The three experiences included 25 corporate sponsors, over 150 unique, associate-led sessions, and 5 keynote sessions delivered by industry thought leaders. Each year involves a new quirky visual theme, ranging from 8-bit vintage video games to large film and book franchises like Star Wars and Marvel Comics.

In addition to the keynotes and breakout sessions, attendees are given the opportunity to mingle and network with coworkers through trivia night, a social, lightning talks, and quick breaks for lunch and snacks throughout the day. Also, DevCon is fun. It’s two days to step away from your desk and become immersed in a creative, accepting, and open environment.

DevCon is a great example of the work that can be done across a wide variety of groups collaborating, allowing us to create something amazing. Some of these groups include:

  • Presenters. Cerner has an amazing community of people who step up and share their stories, trials, ideas, and new information. The presentations are the core of what makes this conference a success and topic tracks range from devops and experiences with bleeding edge programming languages/frameworks, to people skills and UX design.
  • A group of user experience designers that put an impressive level of thought and consideration into the aesthetics of the space, the flow of the event, and the promotional materials used before, during, and after the event.
  • Organizers and volunteers who put their heart into choosing the right talks, training presenters, recruiting keynote speakers, choosing menus, organizing activities, marketing sessions, and helping attendees be at the right place at the right time. It takes a lot of work on the ground to get this thing going, then to successfully recreate it year after year.

See some of our favorite DevCon talks over the years on our CernerEng YouTube channel: