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Looking Back at Codegarden 2023

This year, our team attended Umbraco’s international conference, Codegarden. Karla attended as Host/Emcee, Joe as a session speaker, and Chase as a diversity ticket attendee.



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Every year, Umbraco — the friendly CMS! — hosts a community of Umbraco developers, leaders, and strategists at Codegarden, the official Umbraco conference. And for the 2023 edition of Codegarden, Blend was well represented — Blend CEO Karla Santi was the event's host, Blend CTO Joe Kepley gave a breakout talk, and developer Chase Burandt joined in his role as Umbraco Certified Master Developer.

The Blend team heard countless stories and saw dozens of pictures from the contingent at Codegarden, but we wanted to know a little more about what we missed. So, we sat down with Karla, Joe, and Chase to hear their take on the conference.

Q1: What was the best part of your Codegarden experience — if you can even narrow it down to one thing? 

Joe: The best part was the people — to see people in person and build relationships. I was able to reconnect with people I knew and also meet new people who are super awesome. It was also great to meet people whom I’d only met on Zoom — it’s weird you walk up to someone and realize you recognize them from a Zoom window. It takes a second to realize how you know them.

Chase: The people, definitely….so many people. I met so many people — I still can’t pronounce most of their names. Hammerschlagen was super fun, I met a lot of people playing that. 

Karla: Hammerschlagen was so fun; we should try to make that happen on our roof sometime. 

Chase: The sessions were really good, too, I learned a lot. It was reassuring to learn I’ve been building sites correctly. I got to see a lot of Odense, which was fun. I rented a scooter and rode around the city for most of the first day. 

Karla: For me, it is definitely the people. I loved giving out the Codegarden pins that Blend made, they were a great icebreaker. Several people said, ‘I remember seeing you last year, but we never met.’ The pins gave people a reason to introduce themselves. 

I met a new group of people, and we quickly became friends. I was bummed to leave them, knowing I won’t see them until next year’s Codegarden. 

Joe: Umbraco does a great job of creating an atmosphere that encourages people to meet and socialize. It’s not like a traditional conference where everyone keeps to themselves. 

Q2: What are some of the key takeaways or inspirations you got from the conference? And how can you apply what you learn to your role at Blend?

Joe: As far as being inspired or energized, I came back from Codegarden more motivated about my role at Blend than if I had taken a week of PTO. It was great to hear all of the ideas and what others in the Umbraco community are doing. I really enjoyed Heather’s talk on DXP, especially the discussion about different sizes of sites. I thought Blake Watt, with Diagram, gave a great talk on how to model content — which was interesting because there are similarities in how we go about that, but also seeing comparisons was super helpful. A lot of the HQ talks — focused on the future of the products — were great to hear. I feel like the Umbraco CMS is in good hands and is headed in the right direction. I’m really excited to start using the future versions of Umbraco hinted at in their talks. 

Chase: I attended the development tracks. I got to see Contentment, a package I've heard a lot about, in action — and it was obvious how it will make a lot of things better. I’ll be implementing it from now on. Not a request! 

It was also great to learn more about the block grid editor. We can use web components to allow front-end and back-end developers to work at the same time — which is very exciting.

And I got a handbook for upgrading Umbraco from 7 to 11!

Karla: Now that I’m a part of the MVP community, I’m included in some additional Slack channels where relevant topics are being discussed at a new level, giving me a new view into the community. People are very passionate about making sure Umbraco is the best and it’s great to be a part of that.

Q3: Blend loves Umbraco — after all, we’ve been partners for a while. But what is something new you learned about Umbraco at Codegarden? 

Joe: The software is moving quickly. Umbraco is often adding new components. It was a great opportunity to dive deeper into some of the features we’ve only heard about. They also announced the future direction of the product — reading the tea leaves and making adjustments like how the product handles content, scaling the system to be more attractive for enterprise sites — hopefully making it more of an option upmarket — and creating a more capable deploy system for the cloud, for starters.

It is a lot to learn, but it seems like Umbraco is in a really healthy spot. 

Chase: While Joe and Karla were attending the Business Summit on Day 1, I rented a scooter and went over to HQ. They gave me a tour and I got to see where everyone works — like the Cloud teams, Heartcore, and Sales. It was really cool to meet the people who are building what I use in implementation. They are really open to suggestions too. We discussed how to incorporate personalization into Heartcore, for example. There isn’t a solution yet, but it was great to be able to give feedback.

Karla: I didn’t have a chance to attend a lot of sessions, since my hosting duties kept me busy, but I got to spend a lot of time with the team putting on the conference. Since I’m not on the team that uses the products every day, my perspective was more on the partner relationship side. I enjoyed swapping stories with other partners to brainstorm how we keep growing Umbraco’s presence within North America. It was very cool to hear other partners recognize Blend’s success with Umbraco so far and ask for our suggestions as to how they can grow too.

Joe: I think we can attribute some of our success with Umbraco to how Blend fundamentally approaches CMS selection. We don’t partner with many companies, and when we do, we go all in. We want to make sure we’re experts in those systems and want to make sure we are helping them succeed.

Q4: How was it being in a different country with different languages and practices?

Chase: The sun goes down so early, like if you blink, you’ll miss it.

Q5: Go ahead and rate your Codegarden experience from 1-10.

Karla: 10, for sure. I had an awesome experience! 

Chase: 9.8. The conference badges were really, really sharp, and I actually got cut from mine. 

Joe: 10! It was awesome, and the badges were sharp!


To sum it up, we traveled a combined 8,784 miles to Denmark and back for three days of community building, endless confetti, and one unforgettable conference. 

See you at Codegarden in 2024!