Optimism Matters and so Does a Sense of Wonder

I’m a terrible video game player. For as much fun as people have with me at the table for Table Top RPGs (TTRPGs), I’m a pain when playing video games.

As a guy with a masters in computer science, and years of experience ranging from embedded drivers to enterprise architecture, I see bugs or bad design decisions in video games and they tweak my sense of right and just. Ask my wife and youngest about playing Fortnite with me, you’ll get an earful. My wife uses her masters to analyze what could have happened in the code, and why it’s understandable. I fume and say “Yeah, well the code–not me, not the other guy–just eliminated me.”

In short, I’m jaded where video games are concerned. As a casual gamer, I see the bad even while the good all around is rocking–EPIC devs, you’re doing a great job, particularly with the rate of change the game sees. Gamer rage is about the occasional oddity like getting stuck waist deep in the snow. Or about things beyond your control, like Skill Based Matchmaking that isn’t.

I’ve noticed a trend in the portions of DevOps that I keep an eye on lately–fatigue. A sense that the change is non-stop, and the volume will just keep increasing. It only makes sense, we’re knee deep in sea change and new terms, products and processes seem to crop up on a daily basis. It can be wearing. Just looking at requirements for jobs–there is the persistent joke about 2000 years’ experience in Jenkins for a reason–it shows a fractured and constantly changing environment that begets unrealistic expectations.

This has a tendency to make people jaded about new technologies and techniques. After all, Agile and DevOps have brought a huge return on investment, the law of diminishing returns might be kicking in, right? And lots of new shiny have turned out to be smoke and mirrors.

The thing is, the rate of change in DevOps is still moving so fast because there is still more to gain. Continuous optimization, aka AIOps, is cool and promises a lot. Automated testing is still ramping up, even though automation of build tests is solid in most environments. Other kinds of testing (security, regression, live and even A/B) are still lagging, and test automation is offering help.

What we need to do is try to keep that sense of hopefulness that we embarked on DevOps with. New tools might give us an appreciable ROI. They might free up time for time-constrained teams, which is the best ROI you can hope for. New processes might address shortcomings in existing ones. Will new tools and techniques always pan out? No, your environment is unique so even popular tools or techniques might not be best fit for your particular organization/apps. That’s okay, keep poking around at what’s new and remember the wins.

I’ve got like a 4% win rate in Fortnite. Those other 96 games out of a hundred? All learning experiences to (hopefully) increase my win rate. Same with evaluating new tools. The failures feed the successes. It’s far easier to go “Product X didn’t work for us, and this is very much like it. Let’s look closely before even trying a pilot.”

While there are more people in IT these days by conscious career choice, the bulk of us are still here because of the wonder moments–first time you got code to compile, spun up a cloud instance, figured out network segmentation or divided physical disk into partitions. The same sense of new and exciting should be brought to the current set of changing technologies, while still rock-starring your job. After all, it is some pretty astounding stuff we’re getting to play with every day.

Maybe I’ll take my own advice, chill a bit when playing video games. After all, that’s another space that has jumped light-years in quality and availability.

Don Macvittie

20 year veteran leading a new technology consulting firm focused on the dev side of DevOps, Cloud, Security, and Application Development.

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