Introducing DevOps in Nashville at DevOpsDays BNA

DevOps in Nashville

The Chef team was recently in Nashville as a silver sponsor at the first-ever DevOpsDays BNA (those who love airports will recognize the local 3 letter code). The event was held on November 10th and 11th, right downtown next to the honky tonks and Johnny Cash Museum. Most attendees were local to Tennessee, although some people did smartly use the conference as an excuse for a mini vacation.

It’s a great time for a DevOps community to form in this region. I have been living in Nashville for about 3 1/2 years. Although I’m pretty new to Chef, my resume has had DevOps-flagged keywords for much longer. Anecdotally, I have seen a huge uptake this year in the amount of LinkedIn recruiters searching for DevOps practictioners in Nashville. More often than not, they’re also asking for Chef skills specifically. Health-care startups, especially, are exploding in the area, adding to the enterprise-landscape with stalwarts such as HCA. Didn’t know that Nashville is a huge hub for Healthcare companies? Now you do.

As an inaugural event, the presentations were geared towards people who are new to the concept of DevOps. What is it, why do I care, why do I want to make anyone else at my job care? Different ways of introducing DevOps as a cultural shift was a recurring theme. Hopefully, participants walked away from the event better understanding that when rolling out new processes and technology for high velocity projects, a cultural shift is just as important as new software.

The DevOps Ideal

Inclusion was a a term I heard repeated frequently throughout the 2 days of presentations. It was more prevalent than collaboration, a term that now feels like a buzzword in our industry. Many of us are good at collaborating well within our own team. However, if we aren’t including people from outside our own area of specialty in our day-to-day activities, we aren’t fully practicing DevOps.

One of my favorite ideas from the event was this: if you are sitting in a meeting and everyone is only from your team or your discipline, if everyone looks like you or is your age, or has been on the same project teams with you forever – then you may not be embracing the DevOps ideal of an un-siloed and inclusive communication culture.

This idea is not about formal meetings where you are forced to invite someone from project management so you can say you tried. To reiterate, having a weekly “DevOps Meeting” with a rep from each department is not DevOps. DevOps as a culture is more passive. It is a natural result of engaging others and building trust. It is hard to know who you can depend on until you give them the chance to come through.

Think about those whom you know best at work. You begin to anticipate what they are going to say and think–and that’s not all bad. But if you can guess what they are going to say, then it is unlikely you will be exposed to a different view on a topic. Including people with a different approach or set of responsibilities can lead to someone identifying a problem or proposing an idea that will make the project better when the release gets pushed. Post-mortems are great; early catches are better.

HugOps and Trust

To me, the inclusion theme ties right back into the HugOps video that you may remember from ChefConf 2016.

Do you want to hug someone you don’t know? Don’t talk to? Don’t like? Don’t trust? Chef is approaching DevOps as an opportunity to meet and understand people whom you will eventually want to hug. Working together towards a goal builds trust. You need to include new people into your daily life so they can become someone huggable. And not just physical hugs, verbal ones too. The conversational hugs (i.e respect and trust) in a work environment may be the most important towards making progress on highly debated topics.

You may know that Chef is awesome technology. It will absolutely give you the ability to control an auditable and immutable infrastructure in order to make the compliance team feel comfortable with 10x daily automated production pushes. It’s another thing to be able to communicate that in a way that people in your organization will be willing to listen.

Inclusive Conversations

The Chef Community Guidelines is a great place to start for direction on how to initiate inclusive conversations. This type of attitude will lead you closer to a culture of DevOps.

  • Be welcoming, inclusive, friendly, and patient.
  • Be considerate.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be professional.
  • Be careful in the words that you choose.
  • When we disagree, let’s all work together to understand why.

DevOps Solutions from Chef

  • Learn about our DevOps workshops to assess your DevOps readiness, accelerate the integration of DevOps, and more
  • Download the ‘Automation for DevOps‘. This white paper focuses on the technical attributes of automation and the DevOps workflow and how they help you meet the demands of the digital economy
  • Read ‘Foundation of Devops‘ article in our Skills Library

Karen Kwentus

Karen is a Sr. Field Solutions Architect at Chef working primarily in the Southeastern states.