Signs of Triviality

Opinions, mostly my own, on the importance of being and other things.
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This Way To Awesome

This Way To AwesomeI've switched jobs. Again. Since April 24th 2012, I work as a "Senior Network Security Engineer" at Etsy, and here are a few first impressions.

If you're working in the Internet industry, and in particular in the area of System Administration, Web Operations or anything like that you'd have to have lived under a rock if you haven't heard of Etsy. The operational teams (Ops, DevOps, Engineering, whatever you end up calling them) have had a good amount of exposure in the industry, and more than once did other companies I talked to respectfully reference Etsy's engineering department and methodologies as something to aspire to. Knowing where I went, another company whose very interesting and appealing offer I ended up turning down in favor of this new position, honestly admitted that they understood my joining Etsy. There's a lot of respect and good will for the teams I'm now working with!

33.6 deploys per dayTo me, Etsy is an interesting place that has done a great job at making public their enthusiasm for automated and continous deployment, for the progression of Operations on scale and all the support for tearing down the organizational separation between product developers, software engineers, System Administration and support and, in general, an open and supportive culture that permeates the entire company.

Etsy has been boasting the number of "deploys" to production per day for a while now -- no surprise, given the supervision of one John Allspaw of DevOps Fame. I've seen people ask why they should be impressed by, say, 30 deployments per day, and whether or not this constant state of flux might not imply a certain instability, but that is missing the point. Pushing code or changes into production several times a day is not really all that exciting when you only focus on what changes might be made. What is exciting is having the ability to do so.

1minute since breaking the buildWith this ability come a lot of extraordinary benefits: security fixes can be rolled out in minimal time. Fear of "breaking the site" amongst engineers goes down, since patches can be applied easily and quickly. Most importantly, it encourages a culture of fixing things, of owning things. If you see a problem, even a minor little thing, you can fix it. You have the very immediate satisfaction of having improved "the site", of having had an impact. I believe that this is the true and most important benefit of the tools that allow anybody to easily push code into production.

And so I did indeed deploy on Day One, which was fun, despite the trivial nature of the change. Psychologically, it's very satisfying to make a change on your very first day of a new job, and it immediately gives you a taste of the tools that are available. Now, all I did was push my profile image -- taken in the Etsy Labs Photo Booth -- to the Who We Are page (try the Konami Code on that page - yay!), but in the process I touched a number of moving infrastructure components, including my own virtual machine hosting my copy of the web site, an automated way to verify that my change doesn't break anything, a continous deployment setup integrated with an IRC bot orchestrating the different pending changes and the single-button deployment tool.

SculptureAs I come into this place, I find a very embracing and friendly, happy culture. The office itself is warm and open and full of crafty things (as you can tell from the various photos), and if you know me you might be surprised to find that I'm not annoyed by all this. To be honest, I kind of expected my cynical self to find the frilly design, cheesy conference room names -- a "food + band" theme: we have "Wu-Tang Clam", "Depeche a la Mode", "Ace of Bouillabaisse", you get the idea -- and overall granola-crunchy vibe to be amusing at best. Somehow, though, I'm just fine with it.

I really like the office. I like the fact that almost all the furniture and decorations come from Etsy sellers or that the kitchen has at least five different garbage cans. And I particularly like that there are lots of dogs in the office. Sitting on a couch and having a dog go around your legs or come by and let you pet it is a very nice way of making you smile while you work.

Anyway, those are my first impressions. So far, things seem pretty good. Now it's up to me to actually get something done there -- I certainly can't blame the lack of infrastructure if that doesn't happen. And I sure am surrounded by some rather fine engineers and hence in very good company.

May 08, 2012


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