Episode 07:

Data Council Week: What’s Next for Data Council? With Pete Soderling of Data Council

April 28, 2023

This week on The Data Stack Show, we have a special edition as we recorded a series of bonus episodes live at Data Council in Austin, Texas. On this episode, Brooks and Kostas chat with Pete Soderling, the Founder of Data Council. During this conversation, Pete talks about the origins of Data Council, the focus of AI at this year’s conference, how the data community has grown to support the event, future expansion, and more.


Highlights from this week’s conversation include:

  • The origin story of Data Council (0:39)
  • Developments for the future of Data Council (2:42)
  • The emphasis of AI and ChatGPT at this year’s conference (3:54)
  • The support of the data community (5:31)
  • Biggest changes and innovations in the industry (7:10)
  • What’s next for the Data Council? (10:46)
  • Getting connected with Data Council (13:07)


The Data Stack Show is a weekly podcast powered by RudderStack, the CDP for developers. Each week we’ll talk to data engineers, analysts, and data scientists about their experience around building and maintaining data infrastructure, delivering data and data products, and driving better outcomes across their businesses with data.

RudderStack helps businesses make the most out of their customer data while ensuring data privacy and security. To learn more about RudderStack visit rudderstack.com.


Eric Dodds 00:03
Welcome to The Data Stack Show. Each week we explore the world of data by talking to the people shaping its future. You’ll learn about new data technology and trends and how data teams and processes are run at top companies. The Data Stack Show is brought to you by RudderStack, the CDP for developers. You can learn more at RudderStack.com.

Brooks Patterson 00:22
All right, welcome back, everyone, if you are following along, we’re here at Data Council. And we have been recording in person this week. So if you’re rejoining us, thank you. If this is your first episode here from data Council week, welcome. We have Pete Soda rolling here, the founder of data Council in the data community fund. So one, we’re extremely grateful for him taking time out of what is obviously a busy week for him to sit down with us. And I’m just really excited to hear some updates from him. We talked with him last year. So this is becoming an annual tradition. Super excited. Pete, welcome.

Pete Soderling 01:02
Thanks. It’s great to be here. Yeah. To have you guys here at the event. Recording shows again. Yeah, we are.

Brooks Patterson 01:07
We’re thrilled to be here. I think we’re on our eighth show so far. So it’s been a great week. And Pete last year, I know you talked with Eric about kind of the origin story of data counsel, we’d love to hear kind of a quick rehash of that. And then, if you tell us kind of like you just before we hit record here, just some really new exciting things that are happening this year, and also have a vision for what’s next. Yeah,

Pete Soderling 01:29
for sure. So the data council was the world’s first data engineering conference. We started it out of a meetup. I started in 2013, and became a conference in 2015. So this is our ninth year of data Council Conferences now, and the community has grown by leaps and bounds, we’ve sort of been fortunate to track, not just the data engineering and data infrastructure, communities and the growth there. But also, we turned the data Council into a full stack conference several years ago. And so we cover models and science and analytics and building AI products and have become very much a full stack conference for b2b, largely b2b data builders. And this year has been no exception. This year, what’s changed is, there’s more people here, we’ve had around 200 More people at the event, which makes all the rooms filled, the hallway track more exciting, the office hours more engaging. So that’s been quite exciting to see the growth in the attendees. And we’re also three days this year instead of two days. So that gave us a lot more surface area for a lot more talks. So I think we had almost 100 speakers at our speaker dinner, for instance, this week. Yeah. So there’s been a lot of growth and all the angles. And I think in terms of content, we really leaned into the Gen AI stuff. This year, we had a whole talk on generative AI. We had a keynote panel on the topic as well with folks from josper, and GitHub, and Databricks, and hacks and others. So that was pretty incredible. And I encourage people to go and check out that talk, especially on YouTube, once we get that launched. And then for the future, we’re, you know, we’re excited to continue to develop content and service or idea counsel around data products, because it’s not just all the technical layers of the stock that herb interested people here is weaponizing that into data oriented products. And so we had a building data products track again this year. But we’re even tossing around ideas about maybe doing a design for a data track next year, which would welcome designers into the community. Because there’s special challenges around designing the next generation of interfaces that maybe haven’t even been thought about yet, for Gen AI and data tools in general. So we’re interested in exploring that area, too. So if there’s folks listening who might want to potentially participate in that they should definitely reach out. Yeah.

Brooks Patterson 03:56
That’s awesome. That’s really exciting. Yeah, I can say just been around. For the past few days, the engagement among the attendees with all the classes and workshops has been, I mean, the most I’ve ever seen in a conference. So really great. If you have a chance to come next year, and you haven’t been, definitely check it out. You said you’re really kind of leaned into the general AI thing this year, which just blew open. You know what chat GVT was a couple months ago, how did y’all kind of have the foresight to make sure that was such an emphasis this year?

Pete Soderling 04:30
Well, I think the cool thing about data Council is the community that we’ve built, sort of is self sustaining, and it’s a bit future proof. It’s resilient on its own. And that’s because, you know, we had a sufficiently broad theme of folks working in data and interesting data technologies, and working in different roles. But I mean, as the world has sort of changed or twisted or pivoted or, you know, gone more down this LM Gen AI track. It turns out that we have a bunch of people in the community who have been either leading that charge or building those systems in smaller ways previously, so there’s just a wealth of a depth of knowledge to draw on. So it wasn’t that novel or hard for us to sort of slightly turn the ship in that direction, because a lot of these folks were already here. So I think that’s the power of the community, you know, sometimes networks and communities are fairly haphazard, and they’re kind of like, rough around the edges. And they’re not necessarily built, you know, purpose built to solve particular challenges or problems, but, but their power is really in their resilience. And I think being able to sort of talk on and direct the conference and point towards things that people are currently interested in, that are related to data is the power of having this network. And so we’ve definitely seen the benefit of that

Brooks Patterson 05:52
circle. And it is such a I mean, it’s been cool for me to see like, the fabric of the network is clearly so tied up and kind of following along on twitter. And you just see how many people that are here are grateful for each other, and being able to connect a lot of holes, right, and they’re connected in real life. And it’s just been cool to see, to see that and see how supportive everyone is of the greater gay community.

Pete Soderling 06:14
Yeah. And another example of that is DJ Patel’s keynote that he gave this morning, you know, we’ve been trying to get DJ at the conference or thinking about it for years, and this was the year that stars align. So DJ, who was the former first US chief data scientist, ever, I mean, it’s pretty rad to be the data scientist for the entire country. And it was very significant when he was talking about the COVID response that he was pulled into, from a US policy perspective. The team, the SWAT team that he built with some engineers and data scientists, were people who have been speakers at data council before. So it’s like we knew that we were collecting experts here at the Data Council. And, and now they’ve been useful to the world and useful, and not just in building tooling. Companies are doing significant things inside tech companies. But now they’ve been successful and influential, even in helping the country respond to, you know, the global pandemic that we all went through, and that those were folks that have been sort of card carrying members of data council for some time. So that’s been exciting to see.

Brooks Patterson 07:17
So cool.

Kostas Pardalis 07:19
Yeah, so if it has been a year since like the last council, and like, literally, many things have happened in the world, right? It has been quite a year. And I want to ask also about, like, generally doing it. But before that, like what have you seen happening in the industry is one year and more particularly, because one of the great things with our culture was like the visibility that you get into like, what’s, let’s say, the innovation that is happening in the data space right now, like, you pretty much can find all the interesting and new vendors out there that they are doing something. And everyone is talking about, like the economy slowing down, like, everything is going wrong. I don’t know, everyone’s depressed. But what have you seen happening in this one here? Like, what’s the status of innovation in space, and then outside of generative AI, because it’s a very unique, kind of like black swan event here. But there was like a few things about these, and also how you feel about you how confident you are like from the future and what’s

Pete Soderling 08:26
happening? Yeah, well, we’re definitely continuing to see a tool explosion overall, and not Turks mad landscape, which, you know, it’s almost sort of indistinguishable these days. But the companies because there’s so many logos on the slide, and, and, you know, that’s a bit of a joke, perhaps, you know, or a representation of the industry, that’s a little humorous, although it’s very serious work that Matt does, and collecting and categorizing all these tools. So. So for some reason, it seems like data engineers and data, people really like to build their own tools. And there’s no question that there’s going to be some collapse and some consolidation in these markets. So, you know, we’re watching to see exactly where that might occur. I mean, for instance, like one space is the metrics layer, which has seen some, you know, interesting consolidations or pivots away from companies and pivots away from that space for various reasons. DBT launched something in space this year, which was significant. So there’s kind of been a little bit of, you know, I think that’s one market where there’s maybe a little bit of angst, in terms of, you know, founders who have tried to start things there and aren’t sure exactly what to build next, or if they should even, you know, keep going. So some interesting things like that I think have emerged. You know, when it comes to the Gen AI stuff. One thing I see a lot of is companies that are building NLP to SQL tools or features You know, Can something like that be its own product? Or does it need to be built on top of Is it a feature of a sort of broader data aggregation or analytics platform? I think there’s a lot of founders, you know, wrestling with that question. And also, you know, my opinion is that just sort of concatenating strings of SQL, and throwing them into the void might not produce the high quality results that people expect. And so that actually, interestingly enough, kind of comes back to the semantic layer, or perhaps a metrics layer, it’s like, it’s almost as if, you know, more of our tools need to be informed by this elusive metrics layer, just so that some of the power, for instance, in this example of some of the Gini II stuff actually has a hope to work. So it’s interesting to look at some of the interplay across some of the dynamics that we see here. At the Data Council, of course, we have a front row seat, because we look at so many companies and so much content to prepare for the conference. But those are just a couple of random insights that, you know, pop popped to mind.

Kostas Pardalis 11:04
Yeah, that’s great. And what’s next for the data Council were like close to the end of the events this year. Can you share a little bit about your plans?

Pete Soderling 11:16
Yeah, so Austin has been really good to us, we want to bring the conference back to Austin next year, around the same time, folks called Spring Break for data geeks this year. And we kind of like that, that label and it was quite fun. And, again, because we were three days, there was more surface area at the conference in the evenings for people to meet each other and attend parties. And, you know, there were many fun, like, overlapping parties, multiple overlapping parties every single night by our friends, by you, folks. RudderStack. And, and from others, who are, you know, someone else’s, like important and seminal in the data space. So that was very exciting to see, I want more companies to come to Austin and have their offsites during the week of data Council. Right. So we’re starting to kind of fill up more of the week at data Council and, and more companies are benefiting from that, and also using it to build a sense of ecosystem and community around it. So we might, you know, have a big, blowout closing party next year. We’ve never done this in the past. And so, you know, that’s one thing that there’s no clear announcements made yet. So maybe I shouldn’t even be talking about it publicly. But just a spirit of transparency. You know, we kind of want to go out with a bang next year, hopefully. And we’re, we have some ideas that I can’t talk about, specifically. But I mean,

Kostas Pardalis 12:40
It’s Austin, right? Like it is the love of music. So that’s right, there has to you have to do something a year after but like, you definitely,

Pete Soderling 12:50
we’re thinking of Madonna, so we’ll see.

Kostas Pardalis 12:54
Yeah, and Austin is also like an amazing CD. Like, it’s like, I don’t know, if you have any thoughts of doing it somewhere else. Does the fact that like, is an opportunity for me activities that

Pete Soderling 13:10
may ask you, folks love Austin geeks love Austin. And it’s just such a fun, fun city that I don’t. I don’t feel like we want to change that dynamic anytime soon. It’s just working. So well. Yeah.

Kostas Pardalis 13:21
That’s great.

Brooks Patterson 13:22
Yeah. Hey, thanks. Thanks, again, you’re busy running around. And just appreciate the time. Quickly before we sign off here, if folks want to get involved with data Council, kind of become a part of the community obviously. Keep in touch about what’s coming up next year. Where should they go? Yeah,

Pete Soderling 13:42
The best way is to follow us on Twitter at data Council AI. We’ll usually release our CFP for the community several months before the event. So probably by this fall, like say, October or so we’ll kick off the CFP process. This year, we had, I think, 250 submissions to this speaker at the data council. So it’s very hard to choose. But the appeal and the intention of the community. The intention of the community to support us has been obvious so folks can keep up with us on Twitter, and stay up to date on announcements that way. Cool.

Brooks Patterson 14:18
Sounds great was at Data Council AI on Twitter. Pete, thanks so much for joining us, listeners. Thank you all for joining us. We’ll catch you next time.

Eric Dodds 14:29
We hope you enjoyed this episode of The Data Stack Show. Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app to get notified about new episodes every week. We’d also love your feedback. You can email me, Eric Dodds, at eric@datastackshow.com. That’s E-R-I-C at datastackshow.com. The show is brought to you by RudderStack, the CDP for developers. Learn how to build a CDP on your data warehouse at RudderStack.com.