DevOps Parenting

There’s no such thing as a staging environment when it comes to parenting. Every decision you make is in production. In this talk, Dawn will share her experiences adapting to parenting, working, and schooling and how she incorporates DevOps principles into her parenting style.

Dawn Parzych

Developer Advocate
Dawn is a Developer Advocate at LaunchDarkly where she uses her storytelling prowess to write and speak about the intersection of technology and psychology. She enjoys helping people be more successful at work and at life. She makes technical information accessible avoiding buzzwords and jargon whenever possible. Dawn has spoken at DevOpsDays, Velocity, Interop, and Monitorama. Her articles have appeared in numerous technical publications. In her freetime she serves as an organizer for Write/Speak/Code, the Seattle DevOps Meetup, and is on the organizing committee for DevOpsDays Seattle.

Holly Allen

Head of Reliability
Holly Allen is the head of reliability at Slack, with SRE, Monitoring, and Resilience Engineering in her portfolio. She is tireless in her efforts to make Slack the software reliable and scalable, and Slack the company a delightful place to work. Prior to Slack Holly worked at startups, DreamWorks Animation, and was Director of Engineering at 18F, a civic tech startup in the US government.

Lex Neva

Site Reliability Engineer
Lex Neva is interested in all things related to running large, massively multiuser online services. He has years of Systems Engineering, tinkering, and troubleshooting experience and perhaps loves incident response more than he ought to. He’s previously worked for Linden Lab, DeviantArt, and Heroku and currently works as an SRE at Fastly helping to make sure the Internet keeps running.

Tony Ferrelli

VP of Technology Operations
Tony is a 25-year Internet industry veteran who has served in various Network Engineering and Operation leadership roles, including Google and DoubleClick. Tony spearheads the management and operations of all Catchpoint monitoring data centers, supporting Catchpoint’s expanding corporate strategy, delivering stable, secure, and reliable operations.

Maira Zarate

Site Reliability Engineer
Maira is an Application Engineer at Autodesk, based in Novi Michigan. She is obsessed with learning, but especially with the learning process that accompanies on-boarding monitoring concepts for better site/service Performance and Availability. She has dedicated her past years to site reliability, working with different Synthetic and RUM monitoring tools.

Thank you all for having me. As Peter said, I am Dawn Parzych. I am a developer advocate at LaunchDarkly. And back in 2017, I gave this talk on DevOps parenting, how I use some DevOps principles to help us manage our day-to-day lives as parents. And earlier this year, I realized a lot's changed and maybe I should revisit this talk.

So here we go. My parenting story may be a little bit different. We became parents when we adopted our son in 2015. This is my all-time favorite photo of us as a family. It was taken on the day his adoption was finalized. And you may be able to see in here that he's a little bit of a rule breaker. You ask him to raise his right hand and he's going to raise his left hand.

So parents right now are struggling with working, parenting, trying to keep their kids occupied when summer camps are closed. We just got an email yesterday that Seattle schools are most likely going to be distant and remote starting in the fall. So there's a lot going on in our world. And I like to think of parenting as potentially one of the worst on-call scenarios ever. You're on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There's nobody else to hand the pager off to. And other times, we could take a date night and somebody could take our son for a little while. That's gone. We're home, we're alone. There's no escaping this. There isn't a formula we can use to figure out how many errors or poor parenting decisions are we allowed to make it a day before we just say we're done.

Now, if you were hoping this talk was going to provide you with these magical solutions to how to juggle parenting and working during these times, I'm really sorry to disappoint you right now. I don't have the answers. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm making this all up as I go along. And if you're in the same boat, great, we're not alone here. But here's how I use some DevOps parenting to help often develop strategies to help with our parenting style.

So, first of all, DevOps is founded in these three ways. The three ways are flow, feedback and continuous improvement and learning. Now, flow refers to how information moves within an organization. You want to make sure you're proceeding without any known defects being passed along, and you want feedback in short, amplified cycles by the recipient. And then you take that feedback and you incorporate it.

And so, for any of you that have kids, you know this is not the way kids work. This is not indicative at all of the parent/child relationship. We'll tell our son what to do and he'll argue incessantly, or, he just goes and says, "I'm going to go do it my way." As Jamie was saying earlier, that you need to reduce ambiguity.

There was an incident the summer where he was weeding the yard. He loves to weed. I'm like, "Great, go weed over here." I go out and he's moving bricks. He decided that the bricks were in the way of his weeding and so he had to go and move them. So I was very ambiguous when I gave him his instructions. I didn't say, "Pull the weeds, don't touch the bricks." So he took that upon himself. So we need to work on those feedback loops a little bit.

I first heard about this concept of Kaikaku at a DevOpsDays, and this is where you're making a radical or disruptive change. Sometimes change is expected and sometimes it's a total surprise. Just like incidents, we have to be able to deal with both of these things. We were thrown into this distance learning with almost no notice. I think we had two days notice before the school said, "Hey, we're closing on Monday and the kids aren't going back for a couple of weeks, and who knows how many weeks that's going to end up turning into?" But overnight, I went from being the only one that works from home to now, my son and husband are here all day with us. And so we've had a lot of disruption. We've all had to learn how to adjust to this. So I do what I do, I created a schedule and figured out how we can balance things, and we went with it from there. So we said, "Great, let's do this."

But the opposite or another principle from Kaikaku is this thought called Kaizen, where you need to slowly improve things. So while we put a schedule together in March, we realized it wasn't working for us. We needed to improve. We needed to figure out how we could better work together as a team. So just because we made the schedule, it doesn't mean that I had to stick to it. I had figured out like what else we could do.

And my husband was lucky that his company came forward and said, "Okay, we're giving two weeks paid parental leave, use it however you want." And so we decided that we were both going to go down to four day work weeks. My husband took Thursdays off and I took Fridays off. So that gave me like one day where I was 100% focused on work and one day where I was 100%-ish focused on the kid. And this worked and it was great. The hardest part of that was, at the end of June, when school ended, going back to working five days a week.

So this whole concept of planning and adjusting and acting accordingly, it was a huge part of what we were doing. I mentioned earlier we made this schedule. Part of that was because our son relies on structure, and if we just give him a, "Hey, just do whatever you want," really bad things happen. So we've had to adjust. And now summer is in [inaudible 00:07:18], we tried to do some more freeform, like, "Hey, just do what you want." No, that didn't work. So we now have like many tasks and schedules of things that he's allowed to do.

This week, I implemented an "I'm bored" cup where, if he comes to us and interrupts some meeting or says, "I have nothing to do," there are four chores and four fun activities, some Lego sets and science kits things that we have around the house, and he gets to pick one of them. Now, he needed to test this out. And on Tuesday, right after I implemented that, he came into the office and he's like, "I'm bored, Mom." Like, "It's 9:00 in the morning. You have stuff to do." He's like, "No, I'm bored." I'm like, "Fine, pick something," and he had the pleasure of vacuuming the floors and the stairs.

He then decided he didn't really like that. He was going to press his luck and he went for a second pick into the cup, and he was lucky that the second one was a Lego set, and so he got to play with that. And I was laughing because I'm like, "He's going to end up picking all the chores and cleaning the toilets and weeding and doing all these things." But it worked. He hasn't come back yet this week. So maybe he took his two things and that's it, but there's other fun stuff planned.

Community is huge. We all need help. And firstly, it's not always easy to ask for it. When all this started, I found myself saying no to projects at work and I couldn't figure out why. All I knew is I can't do this. I was really thankful that I had a supportive team at work where they didn't push back. They didn't ask. They just accepted the fact that I was saying no as, "Okay." I eventually figured out that this was something that was going to push me a little bit. And normally I would be thrilled to do that, but in this situation, I'm being pushed enough trying to figure out how to survive the world that we're living in.

So it was great to have that community. People are also super supportive of the fact that the kid comes into the office all the time. I do have a rule that if he barges in, he has to sing and dance for the people watching. So if he does pop in, you may get to see some cool dance moves. Having that community of people that are supportive and they understand, and they're not judging you, or if they are judging you, they're not saying they're judging you, has been super, super helpful.

So if you have coworkers that are parents, try to show them similar support, or if you need support from your employees or from your teammates, let them know that you need some extra help.

When all of this started, one of my coworkers suggested that I try to find ways to include my son in my work. I'm like, "That's not possible. I give talks, I write. What on earth am I going to include him in?" And then I slowly figured out ways that I could. He's taken over my Twitter account. He's helped me record some videos. He's actually written some things with me that have actually gotten published and he thinks it's so cool to see his name out on the internet now. And it's great for him to be able to see what I do and participate in that.

But sharing goes beyond sharing my work with my son. I'm also sharing my parenting message ventures on Twitter and articles and talks like these. It's not always easy to share some of the stuff that we're going through, but I feel that if I can reach one person and make them realize that, "Oh my God, I'm experiencing that too and I'm not alone," then it's going to make things a little bit easier for everyone.

This hasn't been easy, but in a lot of ways, I'm really surprised that it hasn't been a lot harder. And I want to say, if you only take one thing away from this talk, let it be that remember that you're not harming your child if the only thing you're doing is making sure that they are fed and clothed on a daily basis. Don't feel guilty about seeing these other parents with their beautiful Instagram posts of backyard camping trips and four course meals, and whatever else things that they're doing. Just like there is no one size fits all when it comes to SRE practices and DevOps, the same applies to parenting. We're all just doing the best we can and we really shouldn't be treating this as a competition. Thank you.

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