I just remembered that it’s compulsory to write a blog post when you change jobs. This is mine. If you don’t enjoy it, I recommend you read A DevOps Christmas Carol instead, since it’s a lot funnier.
I’d worked at Chef for about three and a half years. Joining Chef was one of the most exciting things to happen in my career — not only was I going to be working for an influential and well-known brand in the DevOps world, but folks like Sascha Bates, Julian Dunn, and Michael Ducy would go from being just heroes to actually colleagues. I was as excited as when I learned about mintest-handler.
For the first two years at Chef, I was a solutions architect, which is the euphemism for “sales engineer” (I prefer the SE title, as it lets you get out of answering questions. Someone asks you a challenging technical question? “Oh, I’m the sales engineer…” or if someone asks you about pricing: “Sorry, I’m the sales engineer.” You can have that one for free.), working on the pre-sales team to help prospective customers understand why Chef was so rad, listen to their pain, and let them know that YES! IT COULD BE BETTER!
One of the best things about that role was that since I knew personally how much using Chef could improve the work-life of a sysadmin, I knew that I wasn’t selling snake oil. If a customer adopted Chef, their life would improve. For real. I used to say “I don’t believe in Chef because I work at Chef; I work at Chef because I believe in Chef.”
During my stint as an SA, I got to visit a lot of awesome companies, and learned a ton. I also made some real friends with these customers, including, but not limited to, the delightful Michael Hedgpeth, who even wrote up a blog post about our experience. (Actually, the blog post might not have been the one I was thinking of. I feel like he actually name-checked me in it. Maybe it was just an email. Either way, the whole thing was awesome.) I expanded my “network” within the DevOps community (I put that in air quotes because what I really mean is “cool people who I count as friends and what we initially had in common was wanting to make things better via DevOps”). And I even became temporarily legendary within Chef itself as “The Stratton”, which is a reference to the time that my manager told his boss to “relax…we’ll just Unleash The Stratton”…and lo and behold, I was unleashed and we got the deal.
After a while, the amount of travel required in my SA role was taking a toll on my personal life — I needed more predictable times of no travel in order to have time with my kids, and that’s really hard to do in presales — you have to meet the customer when they want, etc, etc. Chef did a great job of digging deep throughout the organization to find another role for me, and the effort the company put into this was both flattering and heartening.
I switched gears into a little further down the customer journey, and became one of the first Customer Architects at Chef, working within the Customer Success team. In this new role I got to work with existing customers who were getting started with Chef, and also usually going through a full DevOps transformation. I was able to create longer and deeper relationships with these companies and, more importantly, the people involved. Many of them were organizations who came to Chef with me as their SA, so it was a natural progression.
I loved being a CA. It was great to have the ability to get to truly understand an organization and how to help make things better — but even more so, be able to really see the change happening. In a large company, if you’re inside it, it can feel like nothing is changing. However, from the outside, it’s very apparent. Towards the end of my time at Chef, I was meeting with a long-time customer of mine (who I had worked with in presales as well), and one of the engineers at the meeting bemoaned the fact that they hadn’t improved anything (or something to that effect).
“Are you KIDDING me?” I asked. “Think back to how things were when I first came here. Look at all the challenges you had. Look at the things you are doing right now — the problems you have today, you wouldn’t have back then, because to have these small problems, you have to have reached a point of maturity that they even come up.”
I’m sure there are other things that happened when I was at Chef — here are a few that come to mind:
- Making my first meaningful contribution to open source software
- Gave a lot of talks at various conferences about Chef stuff
- Became known as a subject matter expert for using animated GIF’s in work chat tools
As delightful as my time at Chef was, I needed a new challenge. As I told my wife, I never thought I would say that I was going to leave Chef. And I still love Chef — it’s a great place and you should work there.
As of Dec 3, I have been a DevOps Evangelist at PagerDuty. I’m definitely in the “honeymoon/firehose” phase, when all grass is bright green (no pun intended), and I’m also outside of some comfort zones (in that I have no comprehension of the internal systems that run PD yet, although it’s only been two weeks, so give me a break).
Here are some of the things that make me super excited about this move:
- I’m diversifying across the DevOps stack (so to speak). I’ve been focused in the configuration management/software delivery world for a while, and this is letting me think about concepts and issues in a different part of the discipline.
- PagerDuty is a great place to work. And PD was one of the very first sponsors of Arrested DevOps, so I’ve always had love for the brand.
- Things that I used to do in my “spare time” (write blogs, speak at events, etc) are now my full-time job. This is great news for my work/life balance.
I have a lot of ideas for the future. I don’t know what the next 12 months will look like — I know that you’ll see me at a lot more events, and I look forward to reconnecting with so many of my “conference circuit” friends that I haven’t been able to spend time with lately. I also know that there is a lot to improve on with regard to how we, as an industry, think about things like incidents, post-mortems, and on-call…and I’m thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to visit how we can all, as a discipline, make this better.
When I was at Chef, I discovered how important it is to me to work for a company/product that truly improves the life of people — PagerDuty, like Chef, does that for IT workers. I’ve been a sysadmin. I’ve been in the shit. I’ve been on call.
Help me help make it better for you. And let’s have a lot of fun along the way.