What the Military Taught Me About DevOps

Abstract

Before DevOps was coined an entire branch of the US military was living by its core fundamentals. Visualizing work, flow, diversity, failing fast are all things that I practiced in the Air Force from 1999 to 2010. I’d like to share my lessons learned serving during this time. This talk will broaden people’s view of how DevOps can be implemented, why diversity matters in DevOps, and how fortunate we all are to have the problems we have today.

Description

This talk breaks down how the military practiced most of the things we value in technology organizations today. From visualizing work to failing fast (sometimes too fast) to diversity, this talk takes you on a journey through my time in the Air Force and pulls from lessons learned prior to my time in the service.

DevOps Points

Kanban: Work could not pile up around anyone. Tickets could be used to track activity; used less to prioritize when to do work. Sure certain missions, personnel required immediate attention but first in, first out applied more often than not and every team member was an equal (a project manager’s dream).

Documentation: A lot of the standards and instructions were high-level guidelines; actual implementation guides needed to be developed based off needs. Hardware/software requirements, configuration templates, etc. were all built and needed to be shared through various teams/networks. Odd one-off problems and solutions rarely were documented so I created a “What’s The Fix?” wiki to identify weird problems and their solutions that were likely to be encountered again based off mission cycles

Configuration Management: Version control systems were not readily used during my time in the military but boy it would have been really nice to have a subversion/mercurial/git repo. Config standards were maintained through tight access controls but were frequently modified based off discussed improvements.

Fail Fast Because Ultimate Failure Is Not an Option: Do the unimaginable in a remote location under austere circumstances. Ideas had to be tested immediately and often needed to be abandoned quickly based on mission needs and wartime circumstances.

Diversity Was Everywhere: Black, Brown, Yellow, White, Green (sea/air/motion sick) did not matter to us. We were there to get the job done, period. Your gender did not matter, your socioeconomic status did not matter, and your ethnicity did not matter. If you didn’t know something, you were taught. If you were color blind it didn’t matter I could teach you to terminate Cat5e/Cat6 with the best of them. If you were willing to learn, I was willing to teach.

Conflict Resolution: The best idea rose to the top of teams. Rank seldom mattered so long as your idea was better. Input was constantly sought after from all parties.

Conclusion

I cannot stress how invaluable my time was in the Air Force. It made me who I am but it also taught me a lot of what DevOps is today. Don’t overlook veterans in your attempts to diversify.

Notes

I know a lot of people have a significant amount of anxiety about SOMETHING in our various fields. For example, Jessie Frazelle and I have talked briefly and even she has issues around trying to prove something and she is amazingly smart.

Presented to

  1. DevOpsDays 2016: What The Military Taught Me About DevOps
  2. Triangle DevOps: What The Military Taught Me About DevOps

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