When everyone is facing the same headwind, go on the offensive

Sep 12, 2022 by Jim Douglas

Call me Pollyanna, but what a great time to be a Platform or DevOps engineer. If you’re working in a public company, the S&P is off ~20% year over year, so the value of your RSUs has wilted. If you’re working in a private company, venture funding and M&A velocity are anemic, making expansion capital hard to come by. Inflation is still hovering above 8%. Gas is 20% more expensive than a year ago (unless you live in California, then it’s 30% more expensive). The cost of diesel fuel is up more than 50%, driving the price of essential goods even higher. Companies are laying employees off. There is a war in Ukraine and saber-rattling in the Taiwan Strait. Every week brings new COVID-19 challenges and now we have the gift of Monkeypox. Yep, a great time to be a Platform or DevOps engineer!

Tongue in cheek aside — When market conditions are uncertain or downright bad, great companies prepare themselves to blow past their competition when conditions turn the corner. It doesn’t mean they don’t have to deal with the same short-term realities their peers do, but they think about how to attack, not defend.

This brings me to why it really is a great time to be a Platform or DevOps engineer. This is the perfect opportunity for companies to focus on building highly scalable continuous deployment engines to accelerate their cloud-native strategies and achieve greater velocity and reliability than their competitors. In the short term, the increase in productivity will drive greater cost efficiencies (which are the theme of the day). In the long run, the big win is gaining pole position to move faster than competitors to grab market share once the economy rebounds.

We’re all enamored with talking about cloud software. The reality is that most software in ‘the cloud’ is not actually cloud native. The vast majority of ‘cloud’ software is legacy code/apps that have been through a lift and shift motion into the cloud. Therefore, most companies running software ‘in the cloud’, are still grappling with how to manage the transition to cloud-native at scale. Do you execute a ‘cloud-first’ approach for all new apps (i.e., all cloud-native unless there is an overwhelming reason not to) or take a best-fit approach with a bias towards cloud-native? Do you construct a plan to migrate (i.e., transition to cloud-native) all legacy apps over time or just move them when there is a strong business case and limited technical challenges? 

Now more than ever, Platform and DevOp engineers in forward-leaning companies are in a great position to advocate for executing aggressive plans of attack to accelerate highly scalable cloud-native deployment strategies. Critical to your argument/proposal is ensuring the plan gets the business to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now. The strategy must incorporate support for the cloud services your company will need to support in the future (not just services used to deliver apps today) and facilitate a hybrid-cloud approach. Assume success, but articulate how to scale cost-effectively (e.g., how to add regions incrementally at any pace). Efficiency and employee engagement arguments for automation are nice, but your CFO will react better to the revenue implications of higher velocity and the cost benefits of greater reliability and stability. 

Platform and DevOp engineers — carpe diem. Seize the day. Now is the time to think aggressively and position your company (and yourself) for long-term success in the face of near-term headwinds.

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