The past year-plus has brought disruption and opportunity to businesses and software teams all over the world. Change is inevitable, but 2020 was a year of massive change: businesses pivoted, supply chains were disrupted, customer expectations shifted to contactless services, digital transformation projects accelerated, new digital experiences were created, the move to the cloud jumped into high gear and our ability to create and deliver software was elevated to an essential capability for business.
It’s time to pause and ask ourselves, what did we learn from all of this disruption and change? What lessons can we carry forward? How do those experiences inform how we prepare for 2021 and beyond?
Cornelia Davis from Weaveworks, Kurt Chase from Tricentis and Sanjeev Sharma from Truist join hosts Alan Shimel and Mitch Ashley in this episode of DevOps Unbound to discuss lessons learned, how to overcome the obstacles we’ve faced over the past year and how to improve business processes and make better decisions. The video is below, followed by a transcript of the conversation.
DevOps Unbound is sponsored by Tricentis, the world wide leader in automated testing. DevOps Unbound airs biweekly on TechStrong TV, with all episodes available on Digital Anarchist. There is also a live monthly roundtable open to audience participation.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, this is Alan Shimel, and you’re watching DevOps Unbound. For those of you watching for the first time, DevOps Unbound is a biweekly video series where we tackle interesting topics related to DevOps. Once every four to six weeks, we do a live roundtable with a live audience questions and live audience participation, and we invite you to our next one. You can find that scheduling at DevOpsUnbound.com.
Today, though, is a session just with our panel, and what a panel it is. Let me introduce you to them. First off, let me introduce our friend, Sanjeev Sharma of Truist. Sanjeev, maybe you wanna introduce yourself to the audience.
Sanjeev Sharma: Sure. Thanks, Alan. First of all, thanks. Great to see you all. Hopefully, we will be able to meet in person soon, but thanks for having me on. I am the Head of Automation and Platform Engineering at Truist Bank. Truist, for those of you who might not know, is the new bank that was created last year by the merger of BB&T and SunTrust. I have various hats I wear at Truist, but my background is mostly in the DevOps and cloudware adoption space.
Shimel: Excellent. Thank you, Sanjeev, and welcome. Sanjeev, I should mention, is also the author of The DevOps Adoption Playbook.
Next, we’re really, really pleased and honored to have Cornelia Davis with us. Cornelia is, of course, a pretty well-known thought leader and leader at the DevOps space, but is also at Weaveworks. Cornelia, welcome. If you wanna give a little background?
Cornelia Davis: Sure, yeah. Thank you so much, Alan. It’s so great to be on again. Yeah, I am the CTO at Weaveworks, and you might know Weaveworks as the company that coined the term GitOps, that has been kind of driving that movement. And GitOps is just an element of a broader category, which is really developer platforms, which is what we’re talking about many, many times when we talk about DevOps.
And so, prior to Weaveworks, I’ve been here for about a year and a half, I was at Pivotal, where I worked on Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes based developer platforms, you know, platform teams for enterprises for quite some time. And I’m also the author of a book called Cloud Native Patterns, which is a book aimed at architects and software developers, helping them learn how to build software for this highly changing, highly distributed—constantly changing, highly distributed environment that is the cloud.
Shimel: Absolutely, thank you. It’s a pleasure to have you here. Last but not least on our panel today is our friend Kurt Chase with Tricentis. I should mention Tricentis is a sponsor of DevOps Unbound, and thank you, Tricentis, for sponsoring. But Kurt, why don’t you give them your background?
Chase: Yeah, thanks, Alan. Great to be here today with Cornelia and Sanjeev. Nice to meet both of you. I’m currently running Release Management and Engineering Services at Tricentis, which, Engineering Services is a group that provides cross cutting services primarily for internal engineering, but effectively for the whole corporation as well.
Prior to Tricentis, I spent years at Splunk, again, supporting the engineering function, all the CI/CD builds and releases and things like that. And then prior to that, I spent almost two decades at Autodesk, producing the AutoCAD, multiple releases of the AutoCAD software product.
So, again, it’s great to be here today with all of you. Excited to talk about some of the things we’ve learned over the last year, year and a half—and what a year it’s been, holy cow. [Laughter]
Shimel: Yes, it has. Then let me finally introduce my co-host here at DevOps Unbound, my good friend and partner, Mitchel Ashley. Mitch, why don’t you give a little background?
Mitch Ashley: Thanks, Alan, and of course, I’m excited to have our panel—thank you for joining us, all of you, today.
I’m Mitch Ashley, CEO of Accelerated Strategies, an analyst firm that focuses on DevOps and cloud native, cyber security, digital transformation. I also work with Alan as part of MediaOps, the folks that put on this event, with the CTO of that organization. So, it’s a lot of DevOps practicing and observing what others are doing, so I’m excited to hear what Sanjeev and Cornelia and Kurt have to say, too.
Shimel: Alright. Thank you, Mitchell. And as I mentioned, DevOps Unbound is sponsored by Tricentis, so—many thanks to them.
Today’s episode, folks, as I mentioned off camera, I don’t wanna jinx anyone or anything, but at least here in the U.S., we seem to, at least we hope that we’re seeing this whole COVID life sort of starting to recede in our rearview mirror. We are returning to normal or a new normal, some may say recklessly too quickly, or some may say not quickly enough, but certainly, the return to normal is on, and accelerating.
But, you know, there have been many, many lessons, many, many experiences, some painful—extremely painful—from a business and a humanity point of view over this last 14, 15 months or whatever it’s been. There’s also been a tremendous amount of success, a tremendous amount of acceleration, a tremendous amount of, “Jeez, this really—this worked. We didn’t know if it would work, but it worked,” probably the Internet being the first thing, right? Where would we be with this without an Internet?
But can we—let’s take a moment, and let’s, as I say, hope and pray that this is in our rearview mirror or starting to move to the rearview mirror. What are the lessons? What can we learn, what will we take forward from this? And, you know, I don’t wanna boil the ocean, because I think there’s a lot, but if I asked each of you to give me three things that you really, you think—not just you personally or your organization, but the tech industry has learned, the business world has learned, perhaps society in general, humanity has learned, what would you say some of those things are?
I don’t wanna put anyone on the spot, but Kurt, you always have something to say. I introduced you last, we’ll start with you.
Chase: Sure. I’ll jump right in, and one thing that’s amazing to me, not so much from the technology or engineering or R&D side, let’s talk about business, here—the other aspects of the business that were able to adapt to remote work, that, to me, was pretty incredible.
When COVID really took hold, I wasn’t too worried about software engineers and folks producing software working from home, doing their coding, testing, and all that. The other functions—finance, legal, things that are required to ship your products—seeing those go remote at the pace they did, that was pretty incredible. I think they definitely took advantage of some of the learnings from their individual engineering teams. But to me, that’s one thing that sticks out right away is the speed at which businesses adapted to working remotely and the success they achieved across the functions in the business. That was incredible to me.
Shimel: Agreed. I mean, the speed of adoption was something. Cornelia, did you wanna say something?
Davis: Yeah, sorry, I was muted there. I did wanna chime in, because I agree, and one of the ones that really knocked my socks off was how quickly call centers went remote.
Chase: Yeah. [Laughter]
Davis: Because that isn’t something I would’ve expected. I would’ve expected them to still be kind of really tied into their telephony services and, you know, the phones that are on their desks.
But I spoke with many, many people, you know, various customer service people from the banks and from, you know, the Amazon.com—well, there’s not that much of a call in center there, but from all of these different organizations where, when you chatted with these folks, they were like, “Yep.” Within a week, they were able to move everything, move everybody remote in these traditionally really physical call center based systems. Which means that there had to be some preparation. I don’t know if it was intentional, but there had to be something that allowed them to flip that switch so quickly. Is it just forwarding phones? Is it just VPNs? I don’t know.
Shimel: No, no, it was—so, I have some info on that, if I can. I interviewed a fellow down here in Florida, I think he was out of Tampa, and he operated multiple call centers, like in Costa Rica, which is actually a call center capital, believe it or not, that’s a big business down there. It turned out that the software they used, right, people in call centers, they don’t just—Kurt just doesn’t call someone randomly. Everyone gets assigned their calls or their inbound when a call comes in and gets assigned.
The software they used within the call center itself worked just as well, the person didn’t have to be in the desk next to you, he could’ve been anywhere, it turns out, or she could’ve been anywhere. And so, it worked just as well in a remote thing. So, they still used the software they were using that tracked how many calls they did, who they spoke to, the notes, putting it into the central database. Yes, they had to be cloud-based, right, because there was no one in the call center to kinda run that infrastructure. But the software, it turned out, worked remotely as well as it worked on everyone’s desk in the call center. It was an amazing thing.
And so, what they found—again, and this is gonna be, I think, something that’s gonna be a recurring theme—who needs the physical call center? They don’t need that infrastructure anymore. They could have people working at home just as well.
And so, the more advanced ones—and you’ve probably seen this yourselves—you call someone, they may be very well at home, but they’re giving you the same mediocre service that you get when you call the call center itself, right? [Laughter] But yeah, no—
Chase: And that’s the point. I think with a business, it’s applicable across functions there, it’s amazing. And business learned that they can still be extremely successful, even if everyone’s remote. And having that pool of remote talent—that changes everything. [Cross talk]
Sharma: I think a couple of things to be noted there, right? First of all—sorry, Cornelia, I think I spoke over you. You know, one is, the pendulum also needs to swing back from that extreme.
Chase: That’s the challenge, yeah. [Laughter]
Sharma: Right? Because, while we have people who are able to work from home because the technology is there, from an equity perspective, one has to look at people who cannot work from home who are being forced to.
Sharma: And we experienced that when we opened up our offices. We are just beginning to open up our offices. June 1st was the first day folks would come back. And I was surprised to see some people had jumped at the opportunity and said, “I want to go back.”
Sharma: Then when you look under the hood and you talk to them, you realize, you know, they’ve been struggling. They’ve been operating out of a tiny closet, right, because they don’t have the space or because they have toddlers or they’ve been struggling with Internet issues, and it is worse overseas than it is here in the U.S.
So, I think the pendulum needs to swing back to a more normal position, but hopefully, it won’t swing all the way back to where they say everybody has to be on site, on premises, right? So, I think that is definitely, some balance has to happen to recognize—some people do need a workplace, where they can work comfortably.
Chase: You’re absolutely right.
Chase: I know a story of one individual who was in a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco and after three weeks, he couldn’t handle it. It’s like—I don’t have no space.
Shimel: It happens. Cornelia?
Davis: And, you know, honestly, I have space, and I have a wonderful office and I’m super comfortable, and I’m also desperate to get back into the office.
Davis: Because—and I love, Sanjeev, that you called out the equity thing, because that’s something that is so painfully obvious in the whole pandemic is that this has only broadened the inequities that we have across society, and we need to absolutely focus on that.
But then the other lesson, you know, with me, I’m extremely privileged, I live this super comfortable, I never really had to worry about catching COVID, I could just choose to stay home. But humans need humans and, you know, we’re all coming to you on your two-dimensional screen. I am super fortunate that last week, I had the opportunity to have my first face to face with a couple of colleagues in over a year, and it was rejuvenating. I’ve been saying, it’s a 3D work world again instead of a 2D work world.
Davis: And so, I mean, humans need humans. But you’re right, Sanjeev, I think that the even bigger thing is that we really, really need to look at the inequities. And in the beginning, in the early parts of the pandemic, without getting too political here, we had all of this narrative around these people who we considered essential workers who were kind of the forgotten, like, taken for granted folks, and they were put on a pedestal, and that, unfortunately, didn’t last that long.
Davis: And so, we need to bring that back.
Shimel: And they weren’t paid like they were that essential, either, but that’s [Cross talk]—yeah, it was a pretty low pedestal. But let me, you know what, you bring two things—I’m sorry, Mitch, I just wanna make two quick points.
Number one, when we talk about the inequality, let’s be really clear. This has affected women and mothers especially, more than men, right?
Shimel: Mothers have had—because not only have they had to work from home, but they’ve had to take care of the kids who are not in school. And it’s very hard being a teacher, a home care provider, and doing your work at work. And so, how many women have had to work out of the workforce because they had to take care of their kids and their kids are home and they didn’t have an option, there was no child care for them. So, I think—
Ashley: And the challenges of re-entering the workforce.
Shimel: Right, and now they’ve gotta re-enter after, you know, months off, and that’s never easy. People wanna know, “Well, why the gap in your résumé?” Well, there’s a gap in my résumé because I have this beautiful child that I’m raising, you know, and how dare you? That’s number one.
Number two, it is a case of the rich get richer, right? Companies that, not only individuals as you say, Cornelia, but companies that were able to leverage this. Man, they accelerated, but they accelerated at the expense of their competitors who couldn’t, right? Think about all the open retail shops in the malls near you and the strips, right?
Davis: And this is a place where I’d love to pull DevOps into the conversation, because we are, of course, as a part of DevOps Unbound. One of the things that I thought was impressive—and I’ve worked with some of these companies. In, you know, my previous life at Pivotal, I worked with The Home Depot, for example. When you had The Home Depot and you had these other organizations that, in a matter of weeks, updated their software so that you could do things like curbside pickup? That right there is DevOps in action.
Davis: It is the ability to release software, get feedback, release software, and there was no six-week testing cycle that we used to do, or eight-week testing cycle.
Davis: It was like, “You know what? We are gonna be testing in production, because we didn’t have time to test this for six weeks.” So, it brings in all of these tools that Kurt, I’m sure, you have day to day experience with, which is these things that allow us to put safety nets in place to be able to release all the time. I mean, that is something where the people who were along their DevOps journey already had a leg up on those that didn’t.
Ashley: You know, Cornelia, I had that exact experience where I couldn’t get a computer, you couldn’t get one shipped to you, they just weren’t there, so I had to build a computer for some video work, and did it solely from parts from Best Buy, by curbside pickup, two Best Buys in town.
Ashley: So, it literally was, like, a week later, all of a sudden, I could do this, and I was pretty shocked by it.
One of the things I wanna say, though, about what we’re discussing is, the people dimension of it is extremely important. I think there’s a whole other set of lessons for the business. I think we’ve pressed reset on a lot of assumptions about how businesses have to operate, that you have to be in an office. And essentially, we’ve kinda globalized the business by just taking the location out of it now. And yes, there are privileged and underserved and people who aren’t privileged. And those inequities probably are gonna get bigger, not smaller, because I don’t think we’re gonna all slap back into the office immediately.
But what the businesses learned is that lesson you just talked about with Home Depot and you with Best Buy is—you know what? We can decide we’re gonna pick Team or Slack in two days instead of two years. We can get a software release out in a few days if we have to. Talk about constraint based management—you know, we now have this constraint and everything else comes off.
So, I think what it’s done overall, though, is for DevOps and for all of us is, it’s moved software from maybe second or third to number one. Our ability to get software out the door that’s effective, meets what we need it to do, but that is a strategic advantage, maybe even a survival advantage of what we’ve seen happen in this past year.
Chase: Yeah. I think some of it is, you know, businesses like that were forced to do it or die, basically, you know? And I 100 percent agree with Cornelia that I think they look to DevOps and some of the practices that they’re all used to. You know, the collaboration we need across functions to move forward and all those things are key, some of the foundations of automation, you know? That has been key in the DevOps space, and I think they learned, they need to take advantage of automation to do these things as well.
So, yeah, it’s been fascinating to see that. And that was a point I brought up to see how businesses transformed and our world changed. And I think it’s opened up endless opportunities for us moving forward. And to Sanjeev’s point, I hope when that pendulum swings back, corporations take a look, that this is no longer a corporate decision where people work, it has to be more joint. It has to be more personal, because every situation’s different, and if you wanna maximize all your programs in HR, diversity and all those things, you have to take that into account. I don’t think you can do a one size fits all any longer.
I still wonder if all those big office buildings, I worked in downtown San Francisco for many, many years—are we gonna fill those up again, ever? I really wonder now if that’ll ever happen. I could see it not happening, quite honestly.
Ashley: I’m curious, Sanjeev, you’ve been in the middle of this bringing two companies together with this new bank in the middle of all of this. What in God’s name was that like? [Laughter] What are the additional challenges you’ve had for that, or maybe what opportunities has it created?
Sharma: Yeah, so, I think it—you know, I joined in the middle of the merger, right, so we were in the middle of it when I joined. So, what I can tell you in the 10 months I’ve been there, we have shifted a lot of the priorities because of the pandemic, right? A lot of things which we would have done later on, we did first. We were able to do things.
But the flexibility has definitely opened up. I can tell you, between the time I joined and between now, the ability to hire people who are not local to one of our offices has gone through the roof. It used to be an exception, now it’s the norm, right? The last three people I hired, two are in the West Coast and one is in Minneapolis, right, so Midwest. It doesn’t matter anymore, right? The same way there are—the operation has opened up a lot.
And when I look at it broadly, outside of who I’m working with, when I’m talking to other companies where I have friends or colleagues, they are seeing more offshoring happen, right? Because they’re going, “Why do I need to hire somebody in L.A. if they’re never going to see the person ever anyway, does it matter whether he’s in Bangor or Bangalore, right? Let’s put the person, let’s hire the right person at the right place.” So, I think a lot of that has opened up. It has, of course, shifted some of the salaries, also.
So, you know, a lot of things are going on, interesting dynamics are happening, and we’ll see how that all pans out. But from a perspective of, you know, doing the transformation, it is hard when you can’t have people in the same room on a white board and things which could have just drawn on a white board and knocked out in a 1 hour or 90 minute working session, now it’s like 15, you know, Zoom views, WebEx or Teams calls, which could have been, and it’s like, “Where is that white board we made up? Was it on Miro or was it on Mural or was it on this or was it on that? You know, and who can edit it, who can’t edit it?” All those—you know, dang it, if we just had a white board and all of us in the same room, we could have knocked this out in half a day.
So, it is difficult to do certain things remotely. I think there has to be a balance, which needs to happen. And yeah, during a merger just made it more complex, because we are going through change every day, right? People’s networks are changing, people’s—how we are doing things are changing, we are updating stuff. It’s been a very interesting few months and we’re not done yet. You know, the merger isn’t over. We’ve still got a long way to go. So, it’ll be more fun going forward, I think.
Shimel: I think it brings up the issue, though, of how much of this sticks, right? Because, I mean, look what Sanjeev just described. We’ve all had similar experiences, I’m sure, hiring people from all over the world—what difference does it make? They don’t have to come in the office.
Does that stick? Because if it sticks, there are profound implications for society in general. Why live in San Francisco unless you love the view of the Bay. It’s a beautiful bay, right, the bridge is nice, but pay $4,000.00 for a closet-sized one bedroom apartment? Maybe not. I mean, on the other hand, I live in South Florida. Housing market is insane because of people moving here from New York and California and spending a fortune—Colorado, right?
So, does this—that’s one example. Does the ability to work from anywhere, it makes no difference, is that something that sticks around, or do we, as Sanjeev said in the beginning, see a pendulum start to swing back? What do you think?
Chase: Well, for me, like I said, I think elements of it have to exist and remain. I think there needs to be a balance, as Sanjeev said. I no longer think it’ll entirely be a corporate decision where employees are located. I think for some roles and groups in organizations, there needs to be a deeper conversation on where is the best talent, what’s the best way to use them? You know, having people sit—just the commute. The one thing I don’t miss is the commute. Oh, my God, you know, those three hours a day commuting, you know, that, to me, we have to somehow retain that benefit, you know, from working remotely somehow. I’m not sure how.
But that’s a very good question, Alan, I don’t know. It’s like, will those office buildings ever be full again? I don’t know. I’m not sure.
Sharma: On that point, I’ve been remote since 2013. In 2013, I was at IBM. I moved to a global role, and since then, I haven’t had an office. I’ve worked out of this room since then. But I used to travel 150 to 175,000 miles a year.
Chase: Got it, yeah.
Sharma: Right? So, for me, the office was a place to go collaborate, whether it was my office or my company, IBM—
Shimel: And for all of us.
Sharma: – right, or a client’s office, it was not a place to go and have a desk, right? My desk is here, right, my books are here—you know what I mean, right?
Sharma: I think we should, I would like to see us go to that model where offices become more of a collaboration space rather than a place you have to show up and work alone in a cubicle. What’s the point of that?
Ashley: I agree.
Sharma: Unless somebody needs it, right? That’s different if they don’t have space at home and the need a cubicle to work in—fine, put them in a WeWork next to where they live, right, close to where they live rather than have them commute to the other, you know, 45 minutes one way.
I think that’s the model we should head towards.
Chase: I agree.
Sharma: And, you know, the tools to enable that are there, we’ve proved it. We’ve proved, during the lock down, during the pandemic that the tools are there, but I hope it goes that way. I hope it doesn’t go back to, “You have to show up in this cubicle” even if you are, you know, like the guy from Office Space protecting the stapler and never talking to anybody.
Ashley: The butts in seats model, right? [Laughter]
Chase: We’ve seen some large organizations [Cross talk] make those calls already and say you can be remote forever now, you know, things like that. So, I think that’ll become a bit more selective, but I still hope, when that pendulum does swing back, that the employee has a say, you know, and his voice is a little bit taken more seriously.
Shimel: Or her voice.
Davis: Or hers.
Chase: Or hers—or hers, [Cross talk].
Davis: Exactly, that’s where I’d like to chime—I’d like to chime in there, because Alan teed this up earlier and then, because you had two things, Alan, we followed thread number two.
I wanna come back to thread number one, which is that this has affected women in the workforce, and it’s not just us technologists, but it’s a broad spectrum, and it’s probably even more so in other working arrangements. And so, I love what you’re saying there, Kurt, about it being a partnership between the corporation and the employee and determining what’s best for them. And then Sanjeev, you, I think, just teed up—is that the survival answer for WeWork is that part of that negotiation between the corporation and the employee, she or he, includes having the ability to move into a workplace that is close to your office but allows you that space that you need, for example, not to be on call for child care.
Of course, the other thing I can’t help but say—and I’m very fortunate, I have one son, he’s 26, I’m not tying shoes or going to PTSA meetings anymore—
Shimel: I hope not. [Laughter]
Davis: – so, I wasn’t affected in that way. Yeah, [Laughter] I wasn’t affected in that way in the last year, but I was a working mother and I worked from home that whole time. And I just wanna remind everyone, men and women, that you’re right, women take on that burden, but it doesn’t have to be that way, fathers.
Cornelia Davis: So, please pitch in even more than you think, just because it’s been kind of the standard operating procedure. If nothing else, I hope the last year has maybe, in some cases, resulted in a, hey, a need-based way of rebalancing responsibilities. That is something that every single individual, male or female, can participate in kind of these societal expectations and challenging those.
Ashley: I think something happens—
Shimel: You know what? Oh, go ahead, Mitch, I’m sorry.
Mitch Ashley: When things open up, when opportunity happens and things make that shift, it’s different when there’s opportunity there, but when things have shifted and made a shift, they don’t snap back to the old way automatically. It transforms sort of the landscape going forward, and there’s so many things about this—and you mentioned women in the workplace, we also have people of color—and we think about the emphasis of diversity that’s happened over the last year and a half, which is fantastic. And we see so much more bringing to the forefront of women in leadership positions, people of color being involved in security more, whatever it might be. You know, I don’t think that that changes.
So, hopefully, those people who now are getting to participate in a bigger, broader way or have more opportunity to do that, (a) I don’t think this is gonna go away, (b) that’s gonna change things for us, right? You know, maybe, Cornelia—[Laughter] here, I’m speaking about what I don’t know about—but maybe more women in leadership positions make some of those, it’s assumed that the woman at home does the child care or whatever is part of our societal transformation, that it isn’t necessarily an assumption. Hopefully we can get past that and remove that barrier for people so there is more opportunity.
Shimel: So, Mitch, on that front, though, here’s the deal. Number one, I think the move to diversity is not necessarily COVID related, I think it’s just an idea that its time had come, it has been a long time coming, number one.
Ashley: I totally agree.
Shimel: Number two, I think one of the positive things that happened is, it wasn’t just the woman stuck at home taking care of the kid. She was stuck at home taking care of the kid while the husband was trying to carve out a desk space in his bedroom somewhere to try to do a meeting or something, right?
But what often happened, at least among my friends—look, my kids, also, Cornelia, they went away to college even though their college was online, just to get out of the house from their mother and father who wouldn’t let them breathe. But most—like, people I know whose kids were younger, the mother and father were home. They had to split up, delegate duties. You did the wash, I cook the meals, you clean the table, I took the kids here, you took the kids there or entertained them now because you had work to do, I had work to do.
In a best case scenario, it became very much a shared responsibility. Of course, not every scenario or every instance has that best case outcome. There’s a lot of people [Cross talk], you know?
Ashley: I think it’s been a journey to share. It may not be quite as, like, “Okay,” [Cross talk].
Davis: Yeah, yeah.
Shimel: Well, that goes, this is—
Davis: I mean, you’ve painted a fairly ideal picture.
Shimel: That is an ideal picture, you’re right.
Davis: Yeah. You know, this conversation is making me wonder, and I don’t have these stats, but I wonder if anybody else has heard the stats—you’re right, absolutely, that this shift towards more underrepresented folks in leadership positions, women, people of color, and so on, that absolutely started before COVID.
I wonder how COVID has affected that. Have the numbers accelerated, have they decelerated? I think—I suspect the latter, and I’m pretty much an optimist, but I’m also a bit of a realist, and I wonder whether the last year has slowed down progress when it comes to diversity at the leadership level. I don’t know. It’s just a gut feeling. I’d love to see some metrics on that.
Sharma: I can tell you, Cornelia, in IT roles, it has always been very difficult to hire people from minorities, right, underrepresented minorities.
Davis: Yeah, of course.
Sharma: It always has been. I personally believe it has gotten worse, because if you look at especially leadership roles, senior roles—we’re not talking fresh college grads—most of those roles, no matter what anybody says, happen through referrals and connections, through your network.
Davis: That’s right.
Sharma: And that network stalled. That network stalled during the pandemic, right?
Shimel: Yeah, networking, yeah.
Sharma: Right? It is as big as it was then or grew slightly, right, that networking opportunities were gone.
Sharma: No Meetups, no conferences, no lunches, no power breakfasts, no women in technology meet ups—nothing. The network stalled—you only knew the people you knew, right?
Sharma: And I think that hurt, bad. I find when I’m trying to hire, when my peers are trying to hire, we are struggling more to have—see, you can’t hire when you don’t receive the résumés. When there are no résumés coming in, how do you hire, right? And I’m struggling, and if anybody has, if either one of you could—any one of you has any suggestions on how to fix that, I’m all in. Please, I’m all ears.
Davis: I think—
Chase: Yeah, I was gonna say, you pointed out an anti-pattern to what I was gonna say, Sanjeev. I was gonna say, at least with COVID and all the remote work, our talent pool has opened up worldwide, but you’re saying that hasn’t helped in that regard.
It has for me with some of the roles I’m hiring. Now granted, they’re not Director, Senior Director, VP level roles yet. But for the other roles, having the world as my talent, you know, the talent pool versus the United States, that makes it [Cross talk].
Sharma: Well, I look at it a bit differently. I look at it a bit differently, Kurt. You know, hiring—how do I, I wanna make sure I say this properly. Hiring an Indian in India is not hiring a minority.
Chase: Yeah, true. Yeah, true.
Sharma: Hiring an Egyptian in Egypt is not hiring a minority. Hiring a Turkish person in Turkey is not a minority, right?
Sharma: They have to be a minority in where you’re hiring them, that’s the only way it works.
Davis: Yeah, I think, [Cross talk] I wanted to comment on your remarks, Sanjeev. I think that you’re spot on. Because there were opportunities, and some of the techniques that we have used in corporations to source diversity candidates or underrepresented candidates, those things went away. So, being able to go to a historically black university or go have your recruiter show up at Women Who Code meet ups, those went away, and those aren’t the same.
Sure, Women Who Code still had meet ups line, but it’s not the same as walking around during the social hour and saying—or, I’ve been at many meet ups where, before they start the program, they say, “Okay, who’s hiring?” And everybody stands up and then, “Who’s looking?” Everybody stands up. “Alright, you folks, talk.” That was a very organic thing that was not just so easy to say, “How do you do that in an online setting?”
You’re right, it’s—I hadn’t even thought of that, but that whole network is the same now as it was a year ago is remarkable, especially when it comes to leadership.
Sharma: Exactly. That’s why hiring from a historically black university, we can still do that today, because the recruiters still know the counselors there, they still know the placement office or whoever does—you know, those networks are still there. It’s just that the network hasn’t grown. The higher you go, right, the air gets, you know, rarer, right, and those jobs are fewer and you are not screening 100 résumés to do that. You’re relying on the network more than often, no matter what anybody else says, right?
And that network stalled. I mean, who have we met at a conference who we didn’t know before? Now, when I go to a meet up and I see somebody I know—
Davis: Yeah, but I think what you’re pointing out—
Sanjeev Sharma: – I am IM-ing that person, not some stranger who I’ve never met, right? Unless there’s something really, some reason to do that. Then—no, no, it is the opposite, it has really hurt. I think we need to fix this.
Sharma: We need to put this [Cross talk] the moment we come back.
Davis: Yeah, but I wanna suggest that—yeah, but I wanna challenge that assumption, which is that I hire leadership from within my network. Maybe that right there is the thing that we need to work on.
Sharma: Well, I’m with you. We need to work on it. What I’m saying is—that’s what I was saying. I was saying that what we tend to go, tend to—we tend to grow our network to find leadership role people, right? People in leadership.
Sharma: When you can’t grow your network, you’re reliant on what’s already in your network, right? I mean, otherwise, you’re scouring LinkedIn or some other website or pinging people in your network asking for referrals.
Sharma: But that network stalled. That network didn’t grow. I can’t point to 50 people I met in the last year who were cool and interesting who I did not know before who were underrepresented minorities have I would have met, had I gone to Reinvent or IBM Think or, you know, DevOps World or KubeCon or whatever. All the people I would have met, I didn’t meet them.
Shimel: So, that’s a whole other thing. Virtual events, right?
Shimel: We’ve all spent significant portions of our lives at conferences. Cornelia, that’s where I usually see you is at conferences—Sanjeev, as well. Virtual events are cool. We put on one a month here at MediaOps. Gene Kim does his DevOps Enterprise Summit virtually, people even paid money to attend it.
And all of the virtual events, they try to do a social thing to it. It’s just not very good, frankly. It just—it’s just not the same as being in the hallway or grabbing a drink at the bar or a soda or whatever, you don’t have to be drinking. But, you know, just not—it’s not that, someone said it before, face to face, person to person. I think it was Cornelia, you recently had an in person. It’s not the same, it’s not the same.
I mean, so, different than the three of you, Mitchell and I have had a chance to meet hundreds of new people this year. I do three to four to five of these interviews a day. My day starts with talking to people in Asia or Israel and goes to Europe and through the Americas, all the way to the West Coast. And what I’ve found is that I’ve become a resource for people like you, Sanjeev, who say, “Hey, I’m looking for someone to head up cloud or DevOps or testing” or what have you. And I go through, who have I interviewed recently?
But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. And the question is—and we’re getting near on time—I wanna bring it back to DevOps and software, right? And, you know, what—
Chase: I think you touched upon it from the beginning, Alan, it’s the Internet. You know, the fact that our technology infrastructure was able to shoulder the burden, that was pretty incredible to me, too. You know, I expected Zoom to go out for weeks, if you will. But I think it demonstrated that the technology infrastructure we have is pretty solid. You know, it allowed us to scale up pretty quickly, pretty massively and, you know, there were outages here and there, but I would’ve expected a lot more.
Shimel: Minimal—minimal. Even counting all the DDoS attacks and the ransomware and all of that nonsense, it was still minimal.
So, we had that infrastructure, but we also had this incredible capability to accelerate, to automate that DevOps kind of has been teaching us for seven, eight, nine years or more now, right? And that really helped. Curbside pickup and the—it’s not just curbside pickup, it’s the back end, obviously, right, that allows you to pull into that parking space and hit the button and say, “I’m here, and this is the car I’m in,” right? That kinda stuff, how many companies and jobs were saved by that kind of capability.
Chase: The other thing for me internally is, I think it also opened up the ability to question everything, just because—at all levels, you know? Whether you’re designing a new feature, adding something to a product, designing a new process—is that the right thing, just because we’ve done it like that? I mean, really question it, because I think it, I mentioned this before. I think the opportunities ________ are endless now, really.
We haven’t even started to take advantage of the things we’ve learned. I believe we’re starting to now, as Sanjeev mentioned, the pendulum coming back. Part of that is some massive learnings that we’ve also had forced upon us, if you will. But I think we’re gonna come through it even stronger and better, for sure.
Sharma: I think the—
Davis: You know, I wanna, I’d love to chime in on—
Shimel: Go ahead, Cornelia.
Davis: – yeah, I’d love to chime in on that scale. You used the word scale and these systems were able to scale and handle just a tremendous surge in traffic.
Shimel: Oh, yeah.
Davis: And when you said that, it took me immediately back to a DevOps Enterprise Summit where Nicole Forsgren and Jez Humble—and those of you who don’t know them, you should know them.
Chase: Yeah, we know them.
Davis: State of the DevOps Report, State of the DevOps Report, the book Accelerate. I remember this moment where they were on stage, and Jez Humble, in his very humble way, hand in his pockets, says, “Turns out, architecture matters.”
Shimel: Yeah. Right.
Davis: And so, it’s having these systems that are designed to scale, and we find so many enterprises that have said, “Oh, well, you know what? Google scale, Amazon scale, that’s not a problem that I need to face.” Well, surprise—
Chase: Yeah, it is.
Shimel: It is.
Davis: – maybe it is. And so, architecture matters, and so I can’t help, as a software architect, coming back to that and saying, “Yep, there ya go.” [Laughter]
Shimel: Yep, [Cross talk].
Sharma: And I think we’ve seen companies who were—there’s two ways to look at it. One way is to look at it from a scale perspective. The other way is to look at it from a resilience and reliability perspective.
Davis: Right, yeah.
Sharma: Right? Which are two aspects of the same thing. It’s all architecture. And I think companies realize very early that reliability and resilience are critical—resilience to be able to make changes rapidly, right? Today, I have, I don’t have curbside pickup, tomorrow I have. Today, I had 10 people doing this, tomorrow I’m gonna have 200 people doing this.
Sharma: Today, I had a teller sitting in front of her terminal, so the user interface didn’t need to be that cool. You know, the things could hang and the teller could, you know, make sense, make small talk while the system is catching up. Well, nobody’s accepting that on the mobile app when they’re directly dealing with the website or the mobile.
So, I think that whole shift on resilience and reliability are real, are important, and all that goes back to your point, Cornelia, to architecture. That was front and center to people, and I think [Cross talk]—
Chase: Yeah. And I think along with that, Sanjeev, is security. I think security, this really exposed—we have to do more in security. We have to do more, you know?
Ashley: We have to rethink security.
Chase: I think that’s one of the chief learnings.
Shimel: No doubt about that. Guys, I hate to do this to you, but I need to pull the plug on this. We already have people in my waiting room for our next interview.
What a great panel this is. We’re gonna have to rerun this again and go to a part two, because there’s things I wanna talk to about this as well. I spoke to a guy today who started a new, he calls it the mobile cloud for gaming, it’s called Now.gg. Because their research is that our kids, you know, these digital natives, if they don’t get a response in half a second, they’re gone, they’re onto the next thing. And so, what does that mean for your banking apps? What does it mean for we’re doing?
But we need to end this. Sanjeev, Cornelia, Kurt—man, thank you, guys, so much. Thank you, all, so much for making this an amazing panel. Thank all of our viewers out here for watching this; we hope you enjoyed it. Mitchell, I’m gonna let you take it home.
Ashley: Well, I think—what a fascinating group and wonderful things to say. I think the biggest learning for me—and I really appreciate Cornelia and Sanjeev talking about the lost opportunity we had through networking to help people come together and expand their networks. So, let’s invest in that going forward. We need to rebuild those and make that happen. So, I appreciate—I really wanna thank you for helping me understand that better.
Shimel: Absolutely. Many thanks to Tricentis for sponsoring this episode of DevOps Unbound. We’ll be back in two weeks with a fresh episode, a new panel, a new topic, but hopefully it’s just as interesting a conversation.
This is Alan Shimel for MediaOps. Until next time, be safe and be well.[End of Audio]