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Less Pager duty, more Yak duty. My (Strange) DevOps (rant) story.

Growing up I always wanted to work with electronics, and as soon as I could work I was working with a computer. I currently work as a Software Engineer at Vistaprint. I work on the Gallery team, which is an agile development team that works on our platform to display products in a gallery (hence the name). Before I joined the gallery team, I spent most of my career doing ops things.

When I started working in the industry I was really interested in working with scaled out infrastructure. Any large compute things I had an interest in, which lead me to be more or less an 'Ops' person. Over the course of this period I did quite a bit of networking, VMware, and LDAP administration. My first real gig was working for a school district. Staff, and students combined was 6000, and we quickly realized the only way for our team of 3 to be effective was to write code. This was my first real introduction into programming (yup, I was a late bloomer to programming).

I always thought programming was something done by PhD types, and I never thought I'd be smart enough to do it. I didn't have the privilege of going to a great University. In fact I got my degree while working in the Industry, this left me with a lot of insecurities early on in my career. I am a creative person, and I always thought I'd be good as a full stack Web Developer. I tried to learn JavaScript in 2005, and decided that programming was too hard, not realizing that js, and the DOM API's were working against me.

I think the first time programming really 'clicked' for me was when I needed to create a script to move around 1000 users from one OU to another in Active Directory. I quickly started Googling on the ol' Bing, and I managed to whip something together with the multitudes of knowledge out there.

This was the first time that I had a real taste of the power programming can unlock, and that power was intoxicating.

Over the course of my ops career I started creating a lot of tooling to pursue the goal of faster, more flexible infrastructure. During this time I noticed that some of my colleagues really started acting different around me.

All of a sudden, I felt very alienated from the rest of the operations community, but I wasn't being embraced by most of the developers either.

I think a lot of the culture issues quickly I faced subsided when we had Insert large amount of copies of the Phoenix Project floating around the office.

While I working on a team with Sarah Flint, and Matt Alioto called Automation Task Force (that is the actual name). One of my good friends Nicholas Pirollo mentioned I should join the gallery team. This was further reinforced by Drew Ditto the lead developer. As someone who spent their entire career in ops, and never thought about being a Software Engineer. I was immediately skeptical if I could even add value to their team. I took the risk, and plunged into what is basically a new career.

The one amazing thing about Vistaprint...erm..Cimpress is the fluidity at which people can grow, and change their careers (and I'm not getting paid to write this either). I've grown a ton over the last 4 years already. Within a month of saying "sure I'll come work for you guys" I was on their team, and was already working on some major changes that I probably shouldn't hint about.

My being on this team has certainly helped things move a little. A lot of ops people have come to me for dev-centric questions, and I have been increasingly helpful in providing them a perspective of what developers at Cimpress want. While also telling the people on my (new) team, how to structure requests to the ops teams, and how we can make our application(s) more accessible to our operations brethren. That being said I didn't write this to give you the typical 'DevOps' story, but unfortunately as I write this it is slowly turning out this way.

I feel that I have matured a lot. I have really started to understand the problems developers around me face, when they have little domain knowledge on what would be more traditional IT things. I am not really good at understanding human relationships, but this move as certainly made me realize how two groups of very similar people can be different. The one thing that has really irked me lately is both of these groups of people have more things in common, than differences. Yet both groups seem hell bent to point out each others failings.

I guess my whole point in this whole thing is to try to gain someone else's perspective. That is probably what mixed Developer/Ops teams try to gain. Lets be honest dev's and op's have more or less a symbiotic relationship. Even with every cloud technology at you command, you will still need ops people once you get to a certain scale, and ops people cannot administrate systems that don't do anything. Lets come together and get along, for the good of OUR industry.

tl;dr I was a sysadmin, now a dev. Why Can't we all get along?

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devops culture