Little Mermaid and the Balkans

I don’t get to visit this many new places in this short amount of time usually but last week I got to visit 4 cities in 4 countries. The amazing thing was that I had never been to any of these cities or countries before!

My journey started in Copenhagen, Denmark on Monday. I had been in all countries around Denmark but not in Denmark itself, so I was happy to finally add Denmark to the list of visited countries. I had to work on Monday, so I paid a visit the Google office in Copenhagen. This was my the 27th Google office I ever visited 🙂


Monday evening, we organised a meetup with the Google Developer Group (GDG) in the Google. I talked about .NET apps on Gooogle Cloud to a group of about 30 people. It was nice to connect with GDG members in Copenhagen. I even met someone who lived in northern Cyprus, my home country, before.

The main reason to be in Copenhagen was for DockerCon Europe conference. DockerCon is one of the largest tech conferences I’ve been this year with focus on Docker and Containers. DockerCon US happened earlier in the year in Austin, Texas and this was the second edition of the conference in Europe. Google Cloud was a sponsor, so we had a booth and I got to hang out with other Googlers from New York, San Francisco and Seattle offices. I also delivered a talk on Google Cloud and Containers to a full room of about 200 people probably. Overall, it was a nice event with lots of sessions. The highlight for me was when Docker announced Kubernetes support in the keynote on the first day. This was big news and a lot of people asked me about it at our booth after the announcement.

I only had Tuesday evening after the conference to see Copenhagen. I walked around the city a little bit and visited the Little Mermaid statue in the northern part of the town. Copenhagen is a nice little city but I didn’t find anything remarkable about it. I probably need to spend more time next time.


Wednesday evening, I flew to Belgrade, Serbia. This was the first time I ever visited a Balkan country. I grew up watching the breakup of Yugoslavia and the wars around them on TV when I was a boy in 1990s. It was nice to see that things are back to normal in that part of the world now.

I was there for Voxxed Days Belgrade on Thursday. Voxxed Days is another series of conferences that happen all around Europe. I spoke at Voxxed Days in Vienna and Luxembourg earlier this year, so this was my third Voxxed Days event. We had strong Google presence at the conference with 5 speakers. I got to meet my co-worker, Casey West, for the first time at the conference 🙂

Overall, I really enjoyed the conference. There were more than 500/600 people and my session on Kubernetes was well attended by probably around 200 or so people. After my talk, I answered questions for half an hour or more which is always nice. I also liked the artwork and slogans at the conference. Here’s an example.


We received the same slogan as a t-shirt and a bag. We even received a rose liquor, a local beer and a Street Art in Belgrade book as gifts. Organisers went above and beyond to make sure people received good gifts.

On Friday, I had half a day in Belgrade, so I did what I always do in a new city: walk around. I went to the Belgrade Fortress, visited a couple of churches, tried some local cuisine and of course took some pictures. I was lucky that it was a gorgeous sunny and warm day.


Friday afternoon, I flew to Zagreb, Croatia with Edson Yanaga from RedHat for ChangeCon. This was a small but nicely organised event. Edson did the opening keynote and then I had my talk on Kubernetes again. It was unique that the conference happened at a local chocolate factory called Kras. Speakers also received a lot of chocolate as gifts, I probably have enough chocolate to last me for a year now 🙂


After Zagreb, I decided to take a day off on Monday and see the neighboring country, Slovenia. I took the bus from Zagreb to the capital of Slovenia: Ljubljana. It’s one of the nicest cities I’ve been with a nice fortress, cute old town. I only had a day there, so I just walked around the city, visited the main touristy areas and tried some local food.


As I head to the airport, I was quite happy about my little marathon of 4 cities in 4 countries.


Ada Lovelace Day in London, Unter den Linden in Berlin and DevFest in beautiful Lviv

October 10 was Ada Lovelace Day, a special day to celebrate women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Unfortunately, there are not enough women in software engineering and technology in general. Programs like Women Techmakers do a good job to encourage more women participation in technology with meetups, conferences and hackathons. One of those conferences, Tech(k)now Day, happened in London on Ada Lovelace Day and I was happy that Google Cloud was a sponsor. We had a booth and I was there with other Googlers answering questions. I also gave a talk on Containers and Kubernetes to a small group of 30+ people.


After my talk, I had to rush to another conference, JAX London. It had been a while since I gave 2 talks in 1 day but at least, it was on the same topic. JAX is mainly a Java conference in a few different cities in Germany and London. I spoke at JAX conference in Mainz, Germany before. Like in Mainz, the event in London was well organised and my session was full with 100+ people, some standing (sorry!).


Wednesday was travel day for Codemotion Berlin conference. I have been to Berlin before once about 5 years ago and I remember really liking it. It’s a nice city with a good vibe, good beer and lots of places to see. The tech scene in Berlin is pretty good as well. I’ve been to Germany a number of times since then but never to Berlin, so I was excited to visit again. After I finished some work at the hotel, I walked around the city a little bit. Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Building and the Tiergarten were all near, so I didn’t waste the chance to take some pictures. Google also has an office in Berlin, I stopped by quickly to get lunch. This was my 26th Google office that I visited in my travels 🙂

Codemotion is a generalist IT/Tech conference that happens in multiple cities throughout Europe. I spoke at their events in Milan, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam before, so Berlin was the fourth Codemotion that I had the chance to speak. I again talked about containers and Kubernetes to a small group of about 40 people.

After my 24 hours in Berlin, it was time to fly to beautiful Lviv in western Ukraine to speak at DevFest Ukraine. DevFests are community organised conferences organised by Google Developer Groups (GDGs). They usually happen from September until December and some of them are like big meetups of 100 people and some of them are quite big, more than 1000 people.

I visited Lviv for the first time last year in September. At that time, I hadn’t heard anything about Lviv and I had never been to Ukraine before. I also did not know what DevFests were, so I had zero expectations. As they say, when you have zero expectations, you always get nice surprises and that’s exactly what happened with Lviv last year. I had a really good time there. The city was beautiful, I met a lot of good people that I kept in touch throughout the year and the DevFest Ukraine was one of the best and fun conferences that I attended last year.

As you can imagine, I was looking forward to visiting Lviv again and of course, DevFest Ukraine did not disappoint. This year it was more than 1000 people at the conference. There were a lot of great speakers from different companies. I did a talk on Apache Beam and Dataflow, got to meet a number of friends again, visited my favorite places in Lviv, took lots of pictures and drank quite a bit of cherry liquor at the speaker’s dinner evening after the conference 😉

It was also a little bit sad. Organisers announced that 2018 will be the last year the current committee will organise a DevFest. These people put a lot of time and effort into organising DevFest Ukraine in the last 5 years and I guess they want to take a break. While I understand it, it is still quite sad that such an amazing community event will come to an end in 2018.

This was one of those weeks that I wished did not end but as they say, all good things come to an end.

Autumn in London, Stockholm’s Nordic charm and the independence dilemma in Catalunya

Last week has been pretty eventful with conferences & travel.

First, I got to spend some time in London on the weekend. It was nice to be home and not travelling for once. After travelling all around, I now feel like a tourist coming back to London and as a result, I get to plan my time much better and I’ve been enjoying London more lately. A good side effect of travel is the appreciation of your own city, I suppose 🙂

One of the things that I truly love about London is the amazing parks. I don’t know any other big city with some much green space. When I first moved to London, I chose to live in Greenwich and the Greenwich park played a big part in that decision. It also felt like an interesting place with the Prime Meridian and the Royal Observatory. I’m still in Greenwich, so I must have made the right decision.

I hadn’t been to the Greenwich park lately, so I decided to pay a visit with a good friend. The park was beautiful and peaceful, as it always is. The changing colours of the leaves reminded me that we are unmistakably in autumn.

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I also visited Regent’s Park, another great park in London with another friend. I always visit this park at least once in the summer to see the fantastic rose garden. This time around, there were no roses left.

Two parks in one weekend got me ready for the busy week ahead. On Monday, I flew to Stockholm for Google Cloud Summit. Back in February 2016, Stockholm was the first city I travelled to for a conference as a Googler, so it’s kind of special for me. My co-worker, Ray, took me there for a conference called JFokus. At the time, I had no idea about JFokus but it’s one of the best Java and Software Engineering conferences in Europe. I applied to speak at JFokus in 2018, who knows, maybe I’ll get to visit again.

The Google Cloud Summit was on Tuesday. It was in a big waterfront conference hall in downtown. This time I wasn’t speaking but just helping with the Kubernetes booth and demo. It was nice to enjoy a conference once without the stress of a talk.


I also had a very nice surprise in Stockholm. Whenever I visit a place, I usually try to ping people I know in that place. This time I pinged Jacob, an ex-coworker of mine from Skype, who is from Sweden but he now lives in Thailand. I had zero hope that he’d be around but turns out, he was visiting Sweden for a few days and he happened to be in town! We ended up meeting after probably 3 years, had a drink and talked about the good old Skype days.

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On Wednesday, I was back in London and I was due to speak at IPExpo Europe. It was at Excel, one of the biggest conference halls of London. I love visiting Excel because it’s literally across the Thames river from my flat, so very close to me. Better yet, I get to take the Emirates Cable Car from my side of the river to the other side where Excel is 🙂 The views of Greenwich, Docklands and Canary Wharf from the cable car never get old.


IPExpo was a big conference with a unique setup. It was pretty much a big technology fair with lots of booths from different companies. The talks happened in the big expo area out in the open. People in my talk had to wear headsets to hear me because there was a lot of background noise from hundreds of people around. To be honest, it was quite distracting and challenging for me to speak in an open area with all the background noise. I also had only 30 minutes for my talk, but in the end, I think I did a good job.

I was in the office on Thursday after a couple of weeks but it was only for one day. On Friday, I flew to one of my favorite cities in Europe: Barcelona. This was my third time in Barcelona but I can visit this city many more times. The city has a good vibe, friendly people, amazing food and the weather is always nicer than London! This Barcelona song captures my mood every time I go there.

When I arrived to Barcelona, it was already late afternoon and I was starving, so I visited my favorite tapas place: Maitea. This is a small tapas place that I discovered when I first visited Barcelona 5 years ago. They have amazing tapas and my favourite Pimientos did not disappoint.


On Saturday, I spoke at Polycon Conference. Polycon is a mid-size software conference. It does not have a strong theme. There were talks on different kinds of topics and programming languages and they had workshops in the afternoon. I had the first talk of the day which is always nice. I talked about containers, Kubernetes and Google Cloud. The good food and the 8 hours of sleep the day before definitely helped me to deliver a good relaxed talk and I got feedback from attendees afterwards.


After the conference, I got to explore Barcelona more. The weather was good, so I walked all over the city. When I got tired, I got to the beach and had a couple of drinks on the beach.

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Like Stockholm, Barcelona had a nice surprise for me in store. Sevki, a friend whom I met in my first visit to Stockholm back in 2016, saw my status on Facebook and messaged me. He apparently moved from Stockholm and now lives in Barcelona and asked if I wanted to have a drink. We ended up having not one but many drinks in the end. It was nice to catch up with him.

Sunday, I had a little more time to walk around the city before my flight. There were demonstrations all over the city about the Catalan independence referandum. This time, pro-Spain and pro-European Union people were demonstrating against independence. I was amazed how many people were out in the streets with Spanish and Catalan flags.

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It was also good to see the other side of the story. I was under the impression that every Catalan wanted independence but the huge number of people in the streets against independence showed me that it’s actually not that clear cut.

I wrapped up my Barcelona trip with a visit to the beach and of course to The Sagrada Familia.

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Wow, this was a much longer post than I expected but I guess it’s a sign of a good week with 3 conferences in 3 great cities and 2 unexpected friends…

Istanbul: The city where the East and the West meets

Last year, I started sharing some of my travel pictures on Instagram. It’s been always on my mind to talk about my travels in a longer form via my blog but life has been busy (excuses, excuses!) and I never got around to it, until now 🙂 I don’t know how long this will last or how consistent I will be but it’s my intention to talk about places I visit, conferences I attend on my blog once in a while in order to inspire others to travel and learn.

With that, I want to talk about my latest travel to the great city of Istanbul last week. Istanbul has a special place in my heart because it’s the first big city I ever visited as a kid. I was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus. Nicosia is now a mid-size city but when I was growing up, it was quite small and felt like a town rather than a city. My parents took me to Istanbul when I was probably around 10 years old and I remember how amazed I was with the sheer size and complexity of Istanbul.

Since then, I visited Istanbul many times as a tourist. It’s a great city with rich history, fantastic shopping and one of the food capitals of the world. It sits on two continents and it’s a place where the East and the West comes together in a unique way. I don’t know why but food in Istanbul (and Turkish cuisine in general) is so under-rated. In every corner, every street, there is some kind of food in Istanbul and usually, that it is very very good. The Turkish cuisine is so diverse, colourful and it’s so much more than the usual kebab/doner that people think about.

This time, my main reason to be in Istanbul was for Cloud Onboard, a full day training for Google Cloud. Normally, I don’t get involved in Cloud Onboard trainings but I wanted to help with this one because I can speak Turkish (Cypriot dialect of Turkish to be precise) and we thought that it’d be a good idea to have a Turkish speaker as a co-instructor for the course.

The class was on Tuesday but I arrived on the weekend to spend time with friends in Istanbul. I met with guys from Google Developer Group in Istanbul for drinks in Besiktas. I first met these guys at DevFest Ukraine in Lviv a year ago and since then, we’ve been in touch whenever I visit Istanbul.

On Saturday, I spent the day as a tourist. I went to sites that I first went 20 years ago as a kid such as Agia Sophia museum, The Blue Mosque, The Grand Bazaar. Then I took the ferry from Sirkeci to Uskudar and watched the sea gulls follow the ferry to Uskudar. I love ferries in Istanbul, they are quick, cheap and they provide a little escape from the craziness of the city. I met with a long time high school friend for dinner in a traditional Turkish meze place which was nice.

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On Sunday, my mum and sister flew from Cyprus (which is only 1.5 hour flight away) so we could spend some time together. We ended up taking a Bosphorus cruise tour that I highly recommend. We explored Istanbul from the sea and the views were amazing. We ended up having dinner in a steakhouse called Nusret. The owner of this place is a famous chef and an internet sensation.

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I was in Google office on Monday, meeting with the Google Cloud team there and getting ready for the class the next day. Tuesday was the show time with the Cloud Onboard training. I co-presented with Nigel who is an awesome instructor. It was the first time I presented such a long workshop to an audience of almost 500 people. I loved how interested and attentive were people during the class. We received so many questions on Google Cloud during breaks, so much so that I could not have lunch 🙂

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On Wednesday, I was back in the Google office. This time we had a half a day workshop on Google Cloud and running .NET apps on Google Cloud with 20+ customers. Pinar, a customer engineer from the Istanbul office, did a great intro presentation on Google Cloud and I followed with a more specific presentation on running .NET apps on Google Cloud. After the talks, we did a couple of codelabs to finish off the session.

Thursday was my last day in Istanbul and I spent it at DevOps Days Istanbul. DevOps Days is a global conference that happens all over the world. It’s a conference with topics on software engineering and operations as well. This was the first time I presented at a DevOps conference. It was also an ignite talk, 5 minute high speed talk on a certain topic. I presented Stackdriver, Google Cloud’s monitoring/tracing/debugging service. It was quite challenging to present 20 slides in 5 minutes with slides changing every 15 seconds but in the end I loved the adrenaline rush! I will definitely look forward to doing more ignite talks in the future. Ahmet Alp Balkan, another Googler, also presented a talk on building cloud-native apps. Overall, I enjoyed DevOps Days Istanbul, organisers did a good job of putting together an interesting conference.

Of course, no Istanbul trip would be complete without shopping and trying some awesome food. I spent the evening of Thursday doing some shopping and I also went to Sultanahmet Koftecisi. This is a Turkish meatball place in Sultanahmet region. My dad took me to this place once years ago. When I went there, I realised there were 5 other places with similar names, so I had a difficult time remembering which one is the authentic one. Eventually, with some memory searching, I recognised the small two-story building and went in. I had the Turkish meatballs and “piyaz” which is basically a bean salad. I don’t know what they put into that bean salad but it was amazingly tasty. The grilled meatballs were light and super tasty as well.

I had my flight to London early on Friday. As I flew out of Istanbul to London, I reflected on the week. It was a busy and productive week at work with Cloud Onboard, .NET workshop, customer meetings. It was also nice to catch up with friends in Istanbul and see my mum and sister. Istanbul is so dynamic and inspiring, so much so that I decided to start documenting my travels with Istanbul. Rain and traffic jam greeted me when I arrived to London on Friday but hey, that’s the price you pay to live in London 🙂

Google Cloud Next’17

In my previous post, I promised to talk about some good conferences I’m attending or speaking over the coming months. One of those conferences that I’m most excited about is Google Cloud Next’17: Google’s main cloud conference happening March 8-10 in San Francisco.


Last year, I attended that conference as a Noogler. There were a lot of developers and great technical content. This year’s schedule has just been published and it looks even more exciting, especially if you’re a .NET developer!

First, a shameless plug. I’m speaking at Next’17 and my session is called Take your ASP.NET apps to the next level with Google Cloud.  I will talk about how to migrate existing ASP.NET apps to Google Cloud and what kind of benefits you get by running your ASP.NET apps on Google Cloud. It should be an informative and fun talk for .NET developers.

I’m also excited about Running .NET and containers in Google Cloud Platform session by Jon Skeet and Chris Smith. This session will be about deploying ASP.NET Core apps to App Engine and Kubernetes on Container Engine. ASP.NET Core and Kubernetes are both hugely popular in the development world and I’m so happy that Google Cloud supports ASP.NET Core apps on Kubernetes in a big way.

You probably didn’t know but you can run Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server on Google Cloud and there’re sessions for both of them on Next’17. Deploying Windows-based infrastructure on Google Compute Engine and Microsoft SQL Server on Google Compute Engine should both be interesting sessions to get to know about all the details.

Apart from all of the great Windows and .NET sessions, sessions on Serverless architectures (cloud functions), Machine Learning, big data processing with Dataflow all sound very interesting. Not to mention, we will have a ton of codelabs at Next for people to get hands-on experience with Google Cloud.

As a .NET developer, I have a lot of reasons to be excited about Next’17. Hope to see some of you there!