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Rockstars, Builders, and Janitors: You're doing it wrong

Rockstars, Builders, and Janitors: You're doing it wrong

Velocity, 2016

You know these roles: the rock star, who is always rolling out a new demo or installing a new technology in your stack; the builder, who makes it reliable and makes it scale; the janitor, who cleans up all your messes, writes your docs, and tweaks your configs. Grow an engineering team to a certain size, and these roles reveal themselves and cement themselves into your processes.

You come to rely on these roles and the people who fill them. And that’s bad.

Yes, rock stars get the spotlight, while builders toil away in the background, and janitors are forgotten. But it’s not all about glory. Pigeonholing engineers hurts everyone and can slow down your engineering organization in the long run. If you’re only a rock star, you’ll never understand scale or user experience. If you’re only a builder, you’ll never learn to write clean configs or care about future use cases. If you’re only a janitor, you’ll never appreciate change or technical growth. You need to be all three to succeed.

Alice Goldfuss

June 23, 2016
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  1. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 1
    Rockstars Janitors
    Builders
    @alicegoldfuss
    Work distribution in engineering orgs

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  2. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 2
    • Built new features / tools / systems
    • Scaled existing ones

    • Cleaned up existing ones
    In the past 3 months, have you mainly:

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  3. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved.
    I’m Alice
    3
    SRE @

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  4. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 4

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  5. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 5
    • Define the roles
    • Examine the current environment

    • Discuss a better way

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  6. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 6
    Rockstar

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  7. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 7
    Rockstar Strengths
    ▪Curious and
    open-minded

    ▪Can iterate fast

    ▪Always looking to
    the next thing

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  8. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 8
    Rockstar Weaknesses
    ▪Get bored easily

    ▪No patience for
    maintenance

    ▪Not used to thinking
    about end user
    experience

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  9. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved.
    Builder
    9

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  10. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 10
    Builder Strengths
    ▪Understand scale

    ▪Value reliability

    ▪Good at catching
    “what ifs” that
    others miss

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  11. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 11
    Builder Weaknesses
    ▪Can move slow
    while trying to build
    out

    ▪Have hard time
    letting things go

    ▪Can be resident
    doom-sayers

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  12. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved.
    Janitor
    12

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  13. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 13
    Janitor Strengths
    ▪Understands the
    weaknesses in your
    systems

    ▪Really good at
    bandaids

    ▪Able to do a lot with
    a little

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  14. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 14
    Janitor Weaknesses
    ▪Can often resort to
    cleaning manually
    instead of
    automating

    ▪Often gets stuck
    down in the weeds

    ▪Resistant to change

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  15. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 15
    Rockstars
    Janitors
    Builders

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  16. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 16
    Rockstars
    Janitors
    Builders

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  17. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 17
    Organic == Good?

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  18. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 18
    GMO

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  19. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 19
    GMO
    Greater Mobility, Okay?

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  20. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 20
    • They get stuck

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  21. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 21
    • They get stuck
    • They get tunnel vision

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  22. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 22
    Current State of Tech

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  23. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 23

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  24. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 24
    117 responses

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  25. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 25
    47.9%
    Currently
    Rockstars

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  26. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 26
    55.2%
    Want to be
    Rockstars

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  27. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 27
    19.7%
    Currently
    Builders

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  28. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 28
    35.3%
    Want to be
    Builders

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  29. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 29
    32.5%
    Currently
    Janitors

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  30. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 30
    9.5%
    Want to be
    Janitors

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  31. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 31
    47.9%
    19.7%
    32.5%
    Current
    State
    Rockstars
    Builders
    Janitors

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  32. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 32
    55.2%
    35.3%
    9.5%
    Preferred
    State
    Rockstars
    Builders
    Janitors

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  33. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 33
    70.9%
    70.9% of
    Rockstars

    are Devs

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  34. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 34
    58.3%
    58.3% of

    Janitors

    are Ops

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  35. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 35
    54.4%
    54.4% of

    Builders

    are Devs

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  36. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 36
    55.0%
    55% who
    want to be

    Builders

    are Ops

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  37. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 37
    70.9%
    58.3%
    54.4%
    Dev Ops
    Dev
    Rockstars Builders Janitors

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  38. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 38
    26.3% 26.3% think

    work distribution

    on team is unfair

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  39. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 39
    49.1%
    49.1% think

    work distribution

    in company is
    unfair

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  40. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 40
    people unhappy / not doing the work they want

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  41. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 41
    can try to make something like reliability a first class citizen,
    but people confuse that with not changing anything, so it’s a
    tough sell
    Focus on
    Reliability

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  42. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 42
    can try rotating responsibilities across teams, but some
    teams will be better at some tasks than others, and this will
    evolve back into an imbalance
    Rotate
    Teams

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  43. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 43
    what to do?
    What to
    do?

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  44. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 44
    Ursula Le Guin

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  45. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 45
    The Left Hand of Darkness

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  46. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 46
    “No physiological
    habit is established,
    and the mother of
    several children may
    be the father of
    several more.”

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  47. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 47
    “Burden and
    privilege are shared
    out pretty equally;
    everybody has the
    same risk to run or
    choice to make. ”

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  48. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 48
    Have everyone do everything

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  49. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 49
    what??

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  50. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 50

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  51. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 51
    That’s not what this is

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  52. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 52

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  53. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 53
    Remove the Blinders

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  54. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved.
    Build better
    54

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  55. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved.
    Foster
    new skills
    55

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  56. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 56
    Rotate

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  57. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 57

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  58. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 58
    4 engineers

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  59. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 59
    1 week janitor
    1 week builder
    2 weeks rockstar

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  60. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 60
    50.0%
    25.0%
    25.0%
    Proposed
    State
    Rockstar
    Builder
    Janitor

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  61. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 61
    55.2%
    35.3%
    9.5%
    Preferred
    State
    Rockstars
    Builders
    Janitors

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  62. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 62
    Technical debt

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  63. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 63
    Velocity!

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  64. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 64

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  65. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 65
    Productivity =
    Size(TechDebt)
    Size(System)
    1 -
    Griffith, C. Izurieta, H. Taffahi, and D. Claudio, “A simulation study of practical methods for technical debt
    management in agile software development,” in Proceedings of the 2014 winter simulation conference,
    Piscataway, NJ, USA, 2014, pp. 1014-1025.

    http://www.gregerwikstrand.com/technical-debt-reduction/

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  66. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 66
    case study

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  67. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved.
    Decommissioned 1,139
    applications in 2013 alone
    Reduced systems 7,000 to 4,200
    in three years
    67
    “The Digital Transformation Symphony: When IT and Business Play in Sync” http://www.slideshare.net/
    capgemini/the-digital-cio

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  68. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 68
    Reduced debt by €14 billion
    “The Digital Transformation Symphony: When IT and Business Play in Sync” http://www.slideshare.net/
    capgemini/the-digital-cio

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  69. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 69
    Where to start?

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  70. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 70
    Ops team

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  71. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 71
    firefighting

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  72. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 72
    pile of sustaining work

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  73. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 73
    pile of sustaining work
    Don’t punish your ops team
    for your dev team’s
    SHIT TY CODE

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  74. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 74
    • What are you worried about?

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  75. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 75
    • What are you worried about?
    • What could we do better?

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  76. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 76
    • What are you worried about?
    • What could we do better?
    • What do you want to add?

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  77. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 77
    devs overburdened

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  78. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 78
    devs overburdened
    GOOD

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  79. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 79

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  80. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 80

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  81. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 81
    Rockstar tasks
    ▪New feature / tool /
    system

    ▪Research new
    projects

    ▪Demo mockups

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  82. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 82
    Builder tasks
    ▪Improve testing

    ▪Improve service
    resiliency

    ▪Understand greater
    impact

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  83. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 83
    Janitor tasks
    ▪Bug fixes

    ▪Refactoring

    ▪Config cleanup

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  84. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 84
    • What are you worried about?

    View full-size slide

  85. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 85
    • What are you worried about?
    • What could we do better?

    View full-size slide

  86. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 86
    • What are you worried about?
    • What could we do better?
    • What do you want to add?

    View full-size slide

  87. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 87
    47.9%
    19.7%
    32.5%
    Current
    State
    Rockstars
    Builders
    Janitors

    View full-size slide

  88. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 88
    • Define the roles

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  89. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 89

    View full-size slide

  90. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 90
    • Define the roles
    • Examine the current environment

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  91. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 91
    47.9%
    19.7%
    32.5%
    Current
    State
    Rockstars
    Builders
    Janitors

    View full-size slide

  92. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 92
    55.2%
    35.3%
    9.5%
    Preferred
    State
    Rockstars
    Builders
    Janitors

    View full-size slide

  93. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 93
    • Define the roles
    • Examine the current environment

    • Discuss a better way

    View full-size slide

  94. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 94

    View full-size slide

  95. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 95
    50.0%
    25.0%
    25.0%
    Future
    State
    Rockstar
    Builder
    Janitor

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  96. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved.
    Thanks!
    96
    @alicegoldfuss

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  97. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 97
    This document and the information herein (including any information that may be incorporated by reference) is
    provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer, commitment, promise or
    obligation on behalf of New Relic, Inc. (“New Relic”) to sell securities or deliver any product, material, code,
    functionality, or other feature. Any information provided hereby is proprietary to New Relic and may not be
    replicated or disclosed without New Relic’s express written permission.

    Such information may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of federal securities laws. Any
    statement that is not a historical fact or refers to expectations, projections, future plans, objectives, estimates,
    goals, or other characterizations of future events is a forward-looking statement. These forward-looking
    statements can often be identified as such because the context of the statement will include words such as
    “believes,” “anticipates,” “expects” or words of similar import.

    Actual results may differ materially from those expressed in these forward-looking statements, which speak
    only as of the date hereof, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Existing and prospective
    investors, customers and other third parties transacting business with New Relic are cautioned not to place
    undue reliance on this forward-looking information. The achievement or success of the matters covered by
    such forward-looking statements are based on New Relic’s current assumptions, expectations, and beliefs and
    are subject to substantial risks, uncertainties, assumptions, and changes in circumstances that may cause the
    actual results, performance, or achievements to differ materially from those expressed or implied in any
    forward-looking statement. Further information on factors that could affect such forward-looking statements is
    included in the filings we make with the SEC from time to time. Copies of these documents may be obtained
    by visiting New Relic’s Investor Relations website at ir.newrelic.com or the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.

    New Relic assumes no obligation and does not intend to update these forward-looking statements, except as
    required by law. New Relic makes no warranties, expressed or implied, in this document or otherwise, with
    respect to the information provided.

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  98. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 98
    1 https://www.flickr.com/photos/lydur/22006675124/

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    16 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Anger_Album_Artwork.png

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    43 https://www.flickr.com/photos/christinagallivan/8660375888/

    44 Photo by Jack Liu, 2014

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    49 https://www.flickr.com/photos/greencolander/3203922211

    50 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ee/
    Woodwards_building_Vancouver_demolition_2.jpg
    Image credits

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  99. Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 99
    53 https://www.flickr.com/photos/3059349393/8000156483/

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