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.

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Alice Goldfuss

June 23, 2016
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  1. 1.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 1 Rockstars

    Janitors Builders @alicegoldfuss Work distribution in engineering orgs
  2. 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:
  3. 5.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 5 •

    Define the roles • Examine the current environment • Discuss a better way
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 21.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 21 •

    They get stuck • They get tunnel vision
  11. 31.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 31 47.9%

    19.7% 32.5% Current State Rockstars Builders Janitors
  12. 32.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 32 55.2%

    35.3% 9.5% Preferred State Rockstars Builders Janitors
  13. 37.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 37 70.9%

    58.3% 54.4% Dev Ops Dev Rockstars Builders Janitors
  14. 38.

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

    26.3% think work distribution on team is unfair
  15. 39.

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

    49.1% think work distribution in company is unfair
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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.”
  19. 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. ”
  20. 59.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 59 1

    week janitor 1 week builder 2 weeks rockstar
  21. 60.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 60 50.0%

    25.0% 25.0% Proposed State Rockstar Builder Janitor
  22. 61.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 61 55.2%

    35.3% 9.5% Preferred State Rockstars Builders Janitors
  23. 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/
  24. 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
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. 75.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 75 •

    What are you worried about? • What could we do better?
  28. 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?
  29. 81.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 81 Rockstar

    tasks ▪New feature / tool / system ▪Research new projects ▪Demo mockups
  30. 82.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 82 Builder

    tasks ▪Improve testing ▪Improve service resiliency ▪Understand greater impact
  31. 83.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 83 Janitor

    tasks ▪Bug fixes ▪Refactoring ▪Config cleanup
  32. 85.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 85 •

    What are you worried about? • What could we do better?
  33. 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?
  34. 87.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 87 47.9%

    19.7% 32.5% Current State Rockstars Builders Janitors
  35. 90.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 90 •

    Define the roles • Examine the current environment
  36. 91.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 91 47.9%

    19.7% 32.5% Current State Rockstars Builders Janitors
  37. 92.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 92 55.2%

    35.3% 9.5% Preferred State Rockstars Builders Janitors
  38. 93.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 93 •

    Define the roles • Examine the current environment • Discuss a better way
  39. 95.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 95 50.0%

    25.0% 25.0% Future State Rockstar Builder Janitor
  40. 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.
  41. 98.

    Confidential ©2008-15 New Relic, Inc. All rights reserved. 98 1

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/lydur/22006675124/ 1 https://www.flickr.com/photos/qilin/491356901 16 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Anger_Album_Artwork.png 22 https://www.flickr.com/photos/tamakisono/14903068219 40 https://www.flickr.com/photos/46799485@N00/4470761409 43 https://www.flickr.com/photos/christinagallivan/8660375888/ 44 Photo by Jack Liu, 2014 45 https://queerscifi.com/for-readers-the-new-pronouns/ 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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    https://www.flickr.com/photos/3059349393/8000156483/ 54 https://www.flickr.com/photos/dalbera/4923032712/ 56 https://www.flickr.com/photos/moonlightbulb/8025527585/ 57 https://www.flickr.com/photos/dafnecholet/5374200948 62 https://www.flickr.com/photos/alebonvini/4757651199 63 https://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_see/15132684184 64 https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/1623358150/ 70 https://www.flickr.com/photos/expertinfantry/ 71 https://www.flickr.com/photos/adambelles/5044281763/ 72 https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/9090732482/ 77 https://www.flickr.com/photos/twalmsley/5545712341 79 https://www.flickr.com/photos/athomeinscottsdale/3279949186/ 80 https://www.flickr.com/photos/modofodo/14964870008/