DevOps Journeys: Chris Jackson

28/03/2017   DevOps Journeys  

As part of our DevOps Journeys series, we spoke to Chris Jackson, Director of Cloud Product Engineering at Pearson, about his experiences with DevOps.

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What does DevOps mean to you?

DevOps means be good to one another.  The heart of embracing this for me is about being able to flip something around and look at it from someone else's perspective.  We get hung up on just developers and operations, but really, for me, it's about being able to put yourself in anyone else's shoes to generate some empathy about how others might feel regarding something you are working with them on.  If you extend that respect and care to others in your work they will reciprocate it and the entire organisation will benefit.

What was your first experience of DevOps like?

That moment for me was when my team diffused a hostile meeting with a group of developers by turning around and asking, ‘What is it that is difficult about your job and how can we help?’ The body language and direction resulting from that meeting set us on a pathway that we’ve never looked back from.

If you could give yourself some advice when you first started your DevOps ‘journey’, what would you say?

Stay out of tool politics.  I spent too long getting sucked into holy wars about the tools folks wanted to use to "do DevOps".  Afterwards, I realised that everyone had missed the point and that we were just substituting one kind of conflict for another.  We would have been better off stepping up a couple of levels all agreeing on the higher-order requirements and value and then agreeing which part of our group was going to go solve this for us.

What's exciting you within the DevOps space at the moment?

I like the realisation that people are having right now, that you can't stick DevOps in a can and sell it.  You can support it, enhance it, seed it with services and things, but ultimately I see people starting to take accountability for making this happen in their respective teams and businesses.  We've reached the point of realisation and on the back of that, I expect to see a new wave of challenges and sharing that will bring new ideas to the community.

What challenges are you seeing at the moment?

For me, I wonder where you stop with DevOps.  For example, do you really want your C-level exec's sponsoring "DevOps"?  In my opinion, when you hit the wider business outside of technology, you're actually asking people to support a culture of innovation.  Maximising the demand for the technical benefits DevOps offers by sponsoring more projects and saying yes to more things, knowing that you want to fail fast and not waste time or money.  We need to be careful that we stop stretching the boundary of definition for DevOps and recognise when we're fundamentally asking a company to operate differently.  If you bundle all of that up into DevOps, you're likely to miss key things or worse, assume its too difficult and ignore it.

What do you think the next 'big thing' in the DevOps world will be?

I think the next big thing for DevOps will be that everyone stops talking about it.  Every movement that becomes a buzz word will at some point become normal.  We've seen it with SaaS and Cloud and we will see it with DevOps.  The interesting thing will be whether the enthusiasm for the movement continues when the "new and shiny" veneer wears off.  This will be  fun to watch because I really don't see many of the elements of DevOps as anything other than good common sense... will people steer away from common sense if its not shiny!?

What are your predictions for DevOps in 5 years?

  1. No-one talks about it anymore!
  2. The IoT, learning internet takes the concept of speed to a new level - the constraint in delivery becomes humans writing code.
  3. We realise that anything can be continuously delivered with the right approach.
  4. There will still be a large number of organisations who have not implemented it.
  5. Open source and DevOps along with a crowd-sourcing culture will mean more companies team up on software to move faster - DevOps inception!

Chris is the Director of Cloud Product Engineering at Pearson. He leads a small team of incredibly talented engineers into a brave new world of containerised platforms for Pearson's next generation of digital services. His passion for building valuable technology combined with his amateur skills in all things code inevitably led him to a leadership role where he can help others achieve their goals and engage them in some of the most exciting technology spaces available. Prior to Pearson, Chris spent 8 years with Rackspace observing and participating in the cloud explosion through the eyes of a vendor and seeing how Open Source Software is genuinely changing our approach to everything. He is a reformed thought-leader who will over a beer tell you that many of the world's problems could be solved with a bit of DevOps...

When he is not working, Chris has a wife and two young boys who serve as a brilliant reminder that bettering education services is a worthy investment of his time. He also is an avid rugby, football and formula one fan who dreams of one day owning a car faster that his release cycles.