It’s no secret to our readers that a sizable amount of Dyners traveled westward last week for the Velocity 2012 conference in Santa Clara, California. The conference is focused entirely on the web performance and operations space, and this year began to highlight the importance of the mobile web performance arena.
Moreover, one might argue that Velocity was the place where the DevOps culture movement was born: the idea of tightly aligning development and engineering teams along with their counterparts in the operations team. More importantly, it’s a conference that is helping to build the future of engineering and operations leadership in organizations.
A pervasive theme throughout the show was that of ‘raising the bar’ in all forms and fashions. This idea manifested itself in different talks and in a variety of frameworks. In some cases, it’s about raising the bar from a purely technical perspective, while in other cases it’s about developing your team. Sometimes it’s just about building the business effectively.
I want to share three talks that particularly resonated with me in these areas.
The first came from Mike Brittain of Etsy, who gave an excellent talk about “Building Resilient User Experiences” during Monday’s plenary session. Focused on reducing the potential failure modes of web applications and the user experience, his presentation explained how organizations like his own, Amazon and the New York Times have developed user experiences that can fail gracefully when backend services are unavailable.
The amount of cross team coordination to develop these complex integrations requires discussion through operations, engineering and product teams in an organization. Ensuring that all parties at the table are discussing both operational and business priorities is key to successfully rolling out an initiative such as this.
Theo Schlossnagle from OmniTI gave a talk about optimizing the use of both system and business metrics in his talk called “It’s All About Telemetry” – a deep dive into how to gracefully store key performance indicators about an organization at scale. As Theo can tell you, tying the ability to see key system performance indicators alongside key business metrics is a strongly persuasive way to understand the weaknesses and strengths of a system. In the ongoing pursuit of uptime and performance, this is a key way to help recognize and set priorities in an organization.
Another favorite talk came from Kate Matsudaira from Decide that was titled “Leveling Up – Taking Your Operations and Engineering Role to the Next Level.” With so much of the Velocity Conference focused on making our systems, our sites and our businesses stronger, it’s easy to forget about the people and teams.
Kate’s talk focused on the individual engineer, his/her interactions with teams and management and how to develop the right perspective and appreciation for each business function that one may or may not interact with at an organization. Though the talk dove into understanding how one develops at an organization, the key points were understanding your audience, how you communicate with people and how people communicate with you.
The Velocity Conference is teaching, coaching and mentoring engineers into being business leaders. The messages delivered at the show raise the bar for what it means to be a technical team lead. It’s making sure that not only are sound technical solutions being delivered, but that they are effectively plugged into the rest of the organization. It’s making sure that engineering, operations and product teams know how to communicate and coordinate with each other.
It’s ensuring that the business intelligence needs are being met with data. It’s keeping the communications flowing to bring the business, the product and the customer experience to the next level. It’s setting the expectation that it’s no longer acceptable to “hide” in an engineering world as the needs of business, customers and experience become more complex every day.