DevopsDays Edinburgh 2017 – Soft But Important Skills :


This was all before the recent celebrity revelations hit the news, so hats off to the organisers.

Beyond the fact that I don’t like and cannot abide the bro-grammer mentality, nasty internet trolling and any form of intimidation in the workplace I don’t have any particular axe to grind. Experience suggests that without positive efforts these things creep in.

The organisers made a real effort when it came to gender balance/diversity. There was a far higher proportion of female speakers than I was expecting. The organisation team also saw a good mixed representation. Which is leading from the front. Certainly in the breakout sessions I was in it was more often than not women compering. There were “diversity tickets” available.

Monoculture is never healthy, and experience should not be a weapon of intimidation but rather it is something to be shared, and ignored, then shared again, and finally to be demonstrated as right or wrong.

Despite the fact that it might sound a bit condescending the talk by Jenny Duckett was particularly robust in its coverage of both hard and soft skills, and the conference would have been lessened without her contribution. More about her talk on running security workshops in the “Security is a big thing” post.

The Edinburgh tech scene is, I like to think, a pretty liberal crowd. No we are not perfect and we are pretty homogenous.

Soft Skills

Work by Lencioni was mentioned (by more than one person) a very “soft skills” book, with talk of things such as healthy vs toxic conflict.


Chatops was mentioned many times. There is a long intro here

Basically, using Slack, and bots; all integrated with development and ops. Very “open kimono” – even to the extent of reporting failed developer builds so assistance can be offered. It is beloved of remote working scenarios and although I still prefer to overhear people swearing at their computers, to be honest from what I see of my 14 year old son, social interaction online is something they are very comfortable with.

Soft Skills for Remote Working

One of the breakout sessions was on remote working. The idea that if you have any remote workers then the local workers should communicate with someone sitting at the next desk by dialling into a chatroom seemed to have traction. It still seems weird to me.

Very comprehensive Chatops seemed to be very important for passing around general advice, updates, allowing people to overhear topics, and reducing isolation.

What I will say is my 14 year old son socialises with his mates online using Discord – “we just hang out, play games together, listen to music” so the younger generation is more at ease with this. He has this 21st Century soft skill – I see a lot of people chatting to kids using Facetime, so the young have these skills, too – I imagine my great-grandparents generation much preferring visiting to using the telephone.

I’ve used regular meetings over high quality video conferencing to work with cross site teams to avoid too much travel… much better than audio only.

Cross-skilling Doesn’t Happen by Accident

If you want devs to run the systems they build then you have to give devs training in recovering broken systems.

I would also add that if you want Ops people to check code/scripts into source control then you need to give them training too.

Even if you have automated things people have to understand what it is doing (not necessarily how it is doing it). Automation is never perfect. Instructions are never complete. If you don’t want behaviour resembling pulling the handle on the fruit machine hoping to win this time.