First off, nice recovery. I commend your gesture to return to positivity and make what to my eyes, looks like a kind and altruistic offer to an underserved class of engineers. I personally sent your offer to all the female engineers on my team and got very good feedback from several of them.
Some people will try to tear you down and criticize your offer to make a difference in the lives of female engineers as patronizing or sly self promotion, but I take you at your word and applaud your offer as both poised and graceful.
Given your offer to one underserved population in IT, I thought you would be OK with some constructive feedback from one dev guy concerned with the welfare of IT workers to another and hope you take this feedback as it is intended, with the same eye towards a desire to be a force for positive change to the plight of all IT workers, everywhere. Please remember that this is just my perspective. I could be wrong, and often am. So, here goes:
DevOps does not mean everyone has to do everything
DevOps is not just for startups.
I work in a big shop and we have all the sorts of disciplines you call out in your posting on how DevOps is killing the developer. We are also embracing the DevOps movement not to force anyone to take on roles they aren’t optimized for, but rather to inspire them to expand the boundaries they have set for themselves and others in an effort to make things better for everyone.
We want QA professionals to know how to script and automate tests. This is good.
We want operations staff to know how to script and automate changes. This is good.
We want release managers who know how to triage problems, automate configuration management and instrument the throughput of the IT machine. This is good.
We want developers and architects who know how to go deep when required to help solve performance problems. This is good.
You may disagree and I respect your right to do so. I just am not that interested in hiring an IT professional of any type who says “That ain’t my job”. That’s not a guy or gal who gets things done or makes things better.
I’m not saying that everyone has to be able to do every role or even that developers must branch out. I am saying that making others wrong for increasing their value prop is not likely to do anyone any good.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere
Using narratives of which type of IT worker is more important than another type of IT worker does us all harm. All of us. All men. All women. All IT workers. All Developers. All operations staff. All employees from any department of any company no matter the size.
Now, I realize that this is a bold statement (even from the guy who wrote “Sharepoint is Crack and Microsoft is the Pusher”), and I have no problem admitting that you probably have no desire to harm any employee anywhere (Except for the guy or girl who invented IVRs. I can understand wanting to do bodily harm to whoever did that). I would ask that you consider a few ideas before writing me off as a troll.
1) The schism upstream is the enemy to be fought, not the people downstream from you
You may not be aware of the schism to which I refer, but I would argue that you are probably very familiar with it’s effects. The deep and distrusting divide that exists between enterprise IT and the customers of enterprise IT across the industry is the single most destructive and demoralizing artifact in the lives of IT employees everywhere.
Have you ever worked in a shop where IT employees are casually referred to as “technical” while marketing, product and design employees are referred to as “creative”. Have you ever been exposed to a shop where the developers were treated and talked about like they were worker insects who’s job it was to keep their mouths shut and code what they’ve been told to?
If you have somehow managed to have an IT career and avoided exposure to this phenomena that seems to pervade so many (but not all) IT shops around the world, I would ask you to pull back and reflect for minute. Spend some time and have some gratitude for the fact that you have not been either witness to, or been the subject of the message: “we are the so and so team and you are not on our team so you have no say IT boy, go back to your nerd closet and build what I tell you to build”.
If you are familiar with this idea that robs developers everywhere of the right to claim their creativity and basic need for self realization through recognized craft, then I ask you this: Aren’t you all sick and tired of the completely loathsome ideas that we are not “creative” because we are IT? Doesn’t that make you want to throw up? Don’t you want to go postal when you hear people push developers down the collectively agreed to illusion, referred to by you as the “totem pole”, that creates a veritable corporate caste system?
I would run out of my word limit if I were to try and cite the publications that point out that silos are the prime roadblock to unlocking business potential, but I will point you to a few modern classics which make the case much better than I ever could:
- The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni, best known for The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
- Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors also by Lencioni
- Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie
This isn’t just about IT workers. This is about every employee everywhere who has their role demeaned and belittled by another. There are three basic roles inside of most companies in the products and services business. Sell the work, do the work, support the work. One thing in common to them all is that if any of the three roles don’t get done well, then everyone is at risk of not being paid.
We are all necessary and none of us is sufficient at any real corporate scale. The moment we allow division (i.e. the totem pole) between ourselves, we have ceded the ground that other people upstream from us or up the hierarchy from us have the right to demean whomever they want to.
You can’t possibly eliminate injustice via injustice
2) The schism will always exist if we reinforce it
Being of service to another is an honor and all who claim to want to improve the lives of workers anywhere, should hold themselves accountable to not belittle the contributions of others.
Every single employee has the potential to be innovative and creative in their work. We constantly create and reinforce the concept of commodity items and jobs and then are paradoxically shocked and surprised by:
- how the unmotivated and unengaged masses of people in jobs frustrate us with their lack of passion for doing a job well
- how new people constantly create a “new and improved” version of something perceived to be commoditized forever and then dominate the market because they believed it was possible to reinvent a new level of quality
Innovation is not a department. Creative is not a department. Aren’t you all sick and tired of narratives of ownership and control from other teams who claim to own these abstract qualities when they are delivered at you?
When we the development community adopt the same basic ideas, we allow it to continue.
If you want to world to be different, than you must have the courage to be willing to be one of the first ones who fully live in that new different world.
What world are you working towards?
3) How will you know your ideas and contributions are better if you set up barriers that make it harder for others to contribute?
I am privileged to lead one of the best dev teams in the world. I am privileged to work in a shop that is committed to breaking down the barriers to collaboration and cross-pollinating innovation. To keep us all all at our best, we have to be brave enough to say that our dev team and our creations can more than likely withstand any criticism or contribution from any team up or down stream and if they don’t because some other idea was better, so be it.
I won’t take the cheap and easy shot and ask “Are you afraid that the outside idea is better and that you will seem weak for having a lesser idea?”, because I doubt that this is true. I honestly think this kind of resistance has roots in the human condition itself. It probably has more to do with fear of the clock running out or the possibility of lesser ideas winning the day than of fear of being shown either as “weak” or “not as smart”. With these dreadful possibilities in mind, I would ask you consider this: The way to maximize the likelihood of these undesirable outcomes is by allowing others to say we are closed off to outside ideas. This is what leads to goat-rodeos, witch hunts and ultimately those with more authority than we have removing the little authority and control we actually have.
Let the best ideas win, not the ones made by those with the authority backed up by a title.
If you truly are looking for the best and most game changing ideas to help your enterprise, be aware that the richest source of these ideas will inevitably come from people who’s blinders have not been firmly affixed by the discipline they are embedded in. This is a widely accepted historical truth laid out by Thomas Kuhn in the timeless masterpiece The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and if you doubt me, remember that Albert Einstein was a patent clerk when he gave humanity the theory of relativity.
I’m not trying to make you out to be a bad guy or anything close to one. In fact I praise you for having the guts to articulate a fairly controversial point of view that you believe in.
When I write this letter, I’m not fighting for or against DevOps in particular (even though I am DevOps fan). I’m fighting for the end to the schism between Business and IT.
I’m fighting for the end of narratives of control and authority.
I’m fighting for the end of the un-empowering messages that authority gives to individuals every day.
If you want to know why enterprise IT employees everywhere are asked questions from their business partners that display lack of trust over and over and over; This is why…because the schism exists.
If you want to know why enterprise IT can’t complete things it starts; This is why…because the schism exists.
If you want a world where people trust IT employees expertise and allow IT shops to complete work without questions of minutia that spawn from lack of trust, we must not embody what we oppose – narratives of authority and ownership combined with an “us vs them” mentality.
I don’t say any of this to scold you Jeff. I say this as an attempt to call upon you to join us . Help us tear down the walls. We need more help. We need you.
Stephen Fishman – Creative IT Professional