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Evolving the Engineering Culture to Manage Kafka as a Service

Embracing open source software for critical platform operations is a tough organizational evolution for a company of any size. This is particularly daunting for technology teams accustomed to a fully supported managed service. Come learn about how we are using OSS to modernize Health Care at UnitedHealth Group as a roadmap to adopt and offer OSS in your own organization!

Over the last three years, Kafka as a Service within UnitedHealth Group has gone from non-existent to being centrally managed and utilized by over 200 internal application teams as an essential component to our ecosystem. In this session, I will share how to tactically implement a Kafka as a Service platform offering within any organization with a very lean team and how to get broad adoption from engineers and leadership.

I'll discuss the engineering cultural changes needed, both on the DevOps team as well as more broadly, to adopt OSS. Spoiler: Documentation is the key to success. I will talk about some of our ""aha"" moments, including the importance of internal Terms of Service and how to encourage teams to ""Google first."" I will include things that haven't worked as well, such as requiring manual review of all topic creation PRs (this doesn't scale!).

Attendees will learn how to both stand up their own OSS offering as well as how to be a good internal consumer of other such offerings. Come ready to learn and laugh about my journey to offering OSS to thousands of people!


Kate Agnew

Kate Agnew is a Senior Director of Platform Engineering at Optum, where she began in 2017 on a team tasked with modernizing and introducing scalable technologies to healthcare. Now managing a team of 60+ software engineers, she has created multi-million-dollar impacts and is always looking for ways to take on more. Prior to Optum, Kate had various roles including employee number 7 at an Artificial Intelligence startup and Campaign Manager in a City Council race. She obtained her BA from Macalester College and MBA from MIT. Outside of work, she previously served as the Managing Director of the non-profit Girls in Tech Minneapolis and serves on the board of a girl focused STEM Charter School - Laura Jeffrey Academy. She is also a commissioner for the city of Edina and the Communications Director for the Macalester Alumni Board.