DevOps is for everyone

DevOps is for everyone

A non-engineer explains why you don't need to be a developer or an operations person to fall for DevOps.

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I've never held a job as a developer nor in operations—so what am I doing writing an article about DevOps? I've always been interested in computers and technology. I also have a passion for people, psychology, and helping others. When I first heard about DevOps, the concept piqued my interest, as it seemed to merge many of the things I was interested in, even if I don't write code.

My first computer was a TRS-80, and I loved writing BASIC programs on it. I took the only two computer programming classes my high school offered. A few years later, I started a computer company. I made custom mailing labels, stationery, and built a database to store addresses.

The problem was I didn't enjoy writing code. I wanted to teach and to help people, and I didn't see writing code as an opportunity to do this. Yes, technology can help people and change lives, but writing code didn't spark my passion. I need to feel excited about my work and do something I love.

I found that I love DevOps. To me, DevOps is about:

  • The culture, not the code
  • The journey, not the result
  • Building an environment where everybody can continuously improve
  • Communicating and collaborating, not working independently

Ultimately, DevOps is about being part of a community working towards the same goal. DevOps merges psychology, people, and technology. DevOps isn't a job title; it is a philosophy for life and work.

Finding my people

Almost four years ago, I attended my first DevOpsDays conference in Seattle. I felt like I had found my people. I felt welcomed and accepted, even though I work in marketing and don't have a computer science degree. I could geek out over psychology and technology.

At DevOpsDays, I learned about the "Three Ways" of DevOps—flow, feedback, and continuous experimentation and learning—and new (to me) concepts such as Kaizen and Kaikaku. As I learned, I found myself saying things like, "I do this! I didn't know there was a name for this!"

Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement and learning. Small, incremental changes over time can yield significant results. I found parallels between this and Carol Dweck's idea of a growth mindset. People aren't born experts. Becoming skilled at something takes time, practice, and often failure. Recognizing incremental improvement is necessary to make sure we don't give up.

Kaikaku, on the other hand, is the notion that small changes over time sometimes won't work, and you need to make a radical or disruptive change. Quitting a job without having a new one lined up or moving to a new city can be pretty disruptive—yes, I've done both. But these radical changes can reap great rewards. I might not have learned about DevOps if I hadn't quit my job and taken some time off. Once I decided to return to work, I kept hearing about DevOps and started researching it. This led me to attend my first DevOpsDays, where I began to see all my passions come together. Since then, I have presented at five DevOpsDays and regularly write about DevOps topics.

Putting the Three Ways to work

Change is hard and learning something new can be scary. The Three Ways of DevOps provide a framework for managing change. For example: How is information flowing? What is driving you to make a change? Once you know a change is needed, how do you get feedback about whether the changes you are making are the right changes? How do you know if you're making progress? Feedback is essential and should include both positive and constructive elements. The hard part is making sure the constructive elements don't outweigh the positive.

For me, the third Way—continuous experimentation and learning—is the most important part of DevOps. Having an environment where people are free to experiment and take risks can lead to unexpected outcomes. Sometimes those outcomes are good, sometimes not so good—and that's OK. Creating an environment where it is acceptable if things don't work out encourages people to take risks. We should all strive to continuously experiment and learn something new on a regular basis.

The Three Ways of DevOps provides a method of trying something, getting feedback, and learning from our mistakes. A few years ago, my son told me, "I don't ever want to be the best at something, because then I can't learn from my mistakes." We all make mistakes, and learning from them helps us grow and improve. We aren't willing to make mistakes if our culture doesn't support experimentation and learning.

Being part of the community

I've worked in technology for over 20 years and often felt like an outsider until I found the DevOps community. If you're like me—passionate about technology but not the engineering or operations side of things—you can still be a part of DevOps, even if you work in sales, marketing, product marketing, technical writing, support, and more. DevOps is for everyone.

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About the author

Dawn Parzych - Dawn Parzych (@dparzych) is a Director at Catchpoint where she uses her storytelling prowess to write and speak about the intersection of technology and psychology. She makes technical information accessible avoiding buzzwords and jargon whenever possible. Dawn has spoken at DevOpsDays, Velocity, Interop, and Monitorama. Her articles have appeared in numerous technical publications. She uses her non-existent spare time to organize web performance meetups and serve as a chapter organizer for...