The DevOps blogosphere is aflame over Jeff Knupp’s post on “How DevOps is killing the Developer”. While I agree with Knupp’s premise that DevOps, Agile and other technology trends are allowing (is forcing more accurate?) developers to do more outside of pure development, even turning into “full stack” developers, I disagree that this is a bad thing.
I disagree with Knupp’s assertion that developers are the Orcas of the IT world sitting atop the food chain as the top dogs. I think Knupp consciously or not, degraded the very real, important and hard job that ops people perform, DBAs do every day, as well as everyone else at an organization. Reading this I was reminded on one time I was sitting in an executive meeting and the VP of engineering actually had the stones to say that his developers were smarter than the rest of the people in the organization and worked harder to boot. Now that is a real team builder right there.
One thing I have learned in 30 years of business is that when an organization is achieving its goals it is because just about everyone is working as hard as they can. It is usually not one group, whether it be developers or marketing or operations that is pulling the sled alone. It takes everyone to really succeed. There is no top of the totem pole or rather who is on top is a constantly changing position as bottlenecks come and go, priorities shift and the market changes.
In any organization whether it be startup or enterprise, we all have to do what we need to do to accomplish the mission. There you have it. Working in the Federal market all of those years taught me something. In the DoD and armed forces it is all about the mission. We have missions as individuals. Those missions can be writing code, deploying or monitoring (heck even support and sales), but ultimately those missions all fold into the greater mission of the organization. If developers doing full stack work helps the organization better accomplish its mission and goals, than it is good. No man is too big for the army.
At its core that is what DevOps is too don’t forget. Empowering IT to better serve and meet the organizations goals. Not about letting developers do what they love to do or what floats their boat or what they consider the “top of the totem pole”. Enterprises are here for one thing, the bottom line. It is something we should all never lose sight of.
DevOps is changing the mission of developers. It is a change in the environment if you will. Species are faced with changing environments all of the time. Those that adapt to change succeed and even flourish. Those that fail to adapt fall into the extinction bin. Generally species that are generalists adapt and thrive much better than species that are too specialized. This is basic evolution theory.
I think to Mr. Knupp’s point we are going to see a form of DevOps Darwinism play out. Developers who insist they only develop and don’t do full stack or other DevOps type of tasks will find shrinking habitats and less opportunity. They will exist on the margins. Developers who embrace this new environment will find abundant “target rich” environments with rewarding (both monetarily and stimulating) career opportunities.
I am all for doing something you love for your work. Otherwise I would be practicing law somewhere. I stared working in the technology world because playing with computers was the most fun I was having. I am sure many of you had the same experience. Messing around with code or scripting moved from fun and something you did because you liked it to something you also do to earn a living.
Earning your livelihood doing something you love is a great blessing by the way. There are untold numbers of people who trudge off to work every day and have to do something they dislike, are not passionate about and do just for a paycheck. I can’t imagine having to live life like that.
I think that is what Knupp is talking about too. That developers code because they love to, they need to, and it is what they do. Forcing them to do other tasks takes away from their focus and stunts their growth, which in turns comes back to hurt the organization as a whole.
I don’t think developers will ever stop coding. Mr. Knupp is right, developers code because they want to. That is what they love to do and it is why they became developers. I think however they will have even more opportunity to code, not less as software continues to gobble up the world. It may be a different kind of development, with coding as infrastructure as software dominates, but developers are still going to code no matter what.
We may be seeing the rise of the coding generalist versus the pure application developer as the lines between developer, ops, QA and yes even security continue to blur and overlap. But I don’t think it is a bad thing for developers, enterprises or anyone else. It is just part of the constant change in our environment.
I don’t think this change is bad at all. In fact to paraphrase the great Gordon Gekko, “Change is good, change is what made America great.”