Last night I was speaking with a junior engineer who’s entering the job market. She’s had no trouble getting development internships (she has four of them under her belt right now) but has been having a hard time finding ways to learn about the area which most appeals to her: Ops and Infrastructure. That led me to post the following tweet:
Desperately Seeking Ops Schools
The hope was that this would turn up some online resources where a person could start to learn the arcane mysteries of ops and devops, but it didn’t really work out as well as I was hoping. While people did provide some resources (more on that below), overall it appears there aren’t nearly as many structured learning opportunities for ops as there are for programming.
And that got me wondering… just how are people learning this stuff? Ops and infrastructure is a tricky and complicated topic. It’s the foundation on which the entire internet is built. Thousands of people around the world spend their days setting up, scaling, monitoring, and maintaining infrastructures large and small. But how did they learn how to do that?
I acquired my own far-from-comprehensive ops knowledge in an ad hoc manner: Something would break, I’d virtually or actually tag along as it was fixed by someone more knowledgable. That was a perfectly cromulent way to pick up some basic knowledge, but doesn’t exactly scale to professional levels. And it certainly wasn’t actionable advice to give to a young engineer. What to do?
Well, crowdsource it, of course.
I’ve created a new repository in Github: devops-learning-resources. It currently contains all of the resources which people shared in reply to my tweet along with a few others which came to mind. Do you know of additional resources? Pull requests gratefully accepted!
Let’s do this thing, people. Let’s make it easier for aspiring ops people to find the resources they need to support our infrastructure for years to come.
Oh, and if anyone is interested in hiring an ambitious and eager junior devops person, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her.
I present at a lot of FOSS conferences and therefore have the chance to meet and speak with a lot of FOSS luminaries. These are inspiring people who’ve been working with, for, and on FOSS since the very beginning of the movement and who are still playing absolutely vital roles in FOSS at a leadership level. These are the people we all consult when forming a new foundation, creating a new license, or open sourcing an internal project. Most of the individuals who are working at these conceptual and policy levels of FOSS have been doing it since the beginning and helped to craft the history, the law, the processes, the politics of Free and Open Source software. It will be difficult to replicate that experience and knowledge.
But here’s the thing: We are, each one of us, getting older.
Some day the Tim O’Reillys, the Danese Coopers, the Simon Phippses, the Allison Randals, the Karl Fogels, the Bradley Kuhns, the other luminaries of the FOSS world will want to move on and/or retire. And well they should, as they’ll have more than earned a break for all the service they’ve given FOSS.
As I look around the ranks of FOSS policy leadership, I see all these great people but I see few to no younger leaders. These people have been serving us so well for so long that perhaps we’ve just had no need to supplement them with additional assistance and, in truth, it would be difficult to do so. Which I believe is precisely why we need to start thinking about this now before it’s too late.
So I have to wonder: do we in FOSS have a succession plan for these luminaries upon whom we’ve learned to rely? Are there programs and initiatives for training and mentoring the next generation of FOSS policy leaders? There are plenty of people working to build up the community leaders of tomorrow, but are we devoting enough attention to the policy and legal side of things?
Perhaps we are. I pay a lot of attention to what happens at that level of FOSS but won’t pretend to know everything which is going on. Mostly I just wanted to pose the question to see what thoughts and insights people have about the matter.