On the shoulders of giants

“Our minds are all we have. They are all we have ever had. And they are all we can offer others” – Sam Harris

When we talk about DevOps we often talk about it terms of temporal actions. We talk about culture as an observer or actor, we talk about Automation as a series of tasks, we talk about Measurement as things that we can quantify and we talk about sharing as connecting ideas and expressing them for others to know. Interestingly on top of this we still question or debate or convey what DevOps is or isn’t. (just watch #DevOps on twitter for the ceaseless battle)

To me, DevOps is everything above and much more. It’s an expression of not only empathy for fellow human beings, but an expression of love and passion for one another, not a personal love but a connection to other human beings that transcends in a way that connects us above and beyond what mere words can convey.

We often joke about “Thought Leaders” or express our fear of “Imposter Syndrome” or copy and mimic the perceived behaviors of the “Unicorns” but I find this merely an exercise in humility more than anything else.  All uniformly falling into the not seeing one’s self (or not fully crediting one’s self) as being part of this conscious activity we call DevOps.

This is a “big tent” party, there is no admittance card, just an open mind willing to learn, share and in essence respect one each other as one would love each other – not in a transactional “I love you because..” but in a way that connects the human spirit. It’s okay, not just okay, but perfectly reasonable and human to have your own perspective of what DevOps is and I hope more people feel empowered to share their experiences and their story.

It is this essence I think we need to take our discussion to – for the problems it solves aren’t limited to what we call the “DevOps movement”, it could help in anywhere from education, politics, home, work – you name it – anywhere humans are involved, we can take these lessons learned and apply them (and we should!)

I’ve been pondering how to write something on this for ages..  the last thing I want to do is come off all “hippy dippy” but at the same time, I don’t want to not share my thoughts on this – it’s hard finding a balance until I realized that the balance didn’t really matter. I feel the love, I feel the passion, I feel the energy – I should express this maybe as to remove the cloud of “hippy dippyness” and get down to what really matters. I’m not a psychologist, a scientist or even a philosopher but I am a human being so my opinion / views are merely expressed to share and have a conversation and connect with my readers. You bet I feel a sense of imposter syndrome and at the same time a desire (or internal mission/fire) for ”thought leadering”, but that isn’t what this is about.

The truth is, you really matter. Every single one of you. At first I got into this DevOps game because I felt how it helped, not just where I worked, but how it helped me. Years later, I stick to it and have realized how the lessons/concepts learned aren’t “Development” or “Operations” or even technology related, but universal to the human experience. I’ve shared some of my stories of “applied devops” and “how I’ve applied” it and now I’m sharing how I’ve internalized it and what it means to me – and I believe that is the true value of it therein.

Those of us wanting to share this experience often feel what we call “imposter syndrome” not because we’re faking it until we’re making it – but because we didn’t just invent this up even though we seem like “thought leader” on the subject matter, we’re just connecting/resonating with the philosophical and human experience of DevOps.
It’s this “a-ha” that fired me up to write again.. I feel I should not only explain what my message is in a way but open up to making this a series of how people can connect and relate not just to the experience of DevOps, but as human beings.

What I love about this community is the people. I love it that all the familiar names we know day in and day take time out of their busy lives to connect with us all, to speak to you in the hallway, to connect you to others and share experiences, their lives, their love and their passion. Not as celebrities taking time out of their celebrity lives to appease the plebes but as humans that have a general interest in making the world a better place to be.  The world is so small that even my personal and family experiences connect me with others, I’m warmed at the heart that John Willis and I crossed paths in many more ways than one and it’s those paths that we crossed in our unique ways that gave us a shared experience to know and love – and best of all John is just one of the many figures in this concept that go over and beyond to help make the world a better place.

John’s piece on burnout –  Karōjisatsu is heart wrenching, honest and passionate even if not written from the experiences of a professional psychologist or psychiatrist – but someone showing the humility to help those they love and respect and connect emotionally with other human beings who may be suffering from burnout. It’s hard to write and share such experiences in the light of imposter syndrome and it takes guts of steel to continue to share and talk about this at the many amazing conferences he speaks at and excellent (gut wrenching) stories shared on this subject.

We’re often not experts at all this knowledge, we’re merely connecting with it and expressing it through our own stories – Adding upon it.

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” – Isaac Newton

On the shoulders of these giants, we learn. We share. We measure. We experiment. We do what we have learned we can do to make our lives, our world, our jobs, our experiences better for us all. When Albert Einstein discovered his theory of Relativity, it was not invented out of thin air, it was a conscious study and internalization of the giants before him and a search for deeper understandings expressed through physics & mathematics. Einstein warrants his contributions to science, physics and the world, there is no doubt – but not as a guilty admittance of imposter syndrome or thought leadering, but as embracing the qualities of the human mind to understand itself and the universe.

We too can (and do) leverage mathematics as the language of measuring and quantifying (and we should get better at it). This is the temporal action of devops, the material result of plan, do, measure act and its super important and well covered in a plethora of other blogs so I’ll say its important, but not really the point. The point is you.

The concepts of DevOps is connecting humans to humans and recognition of our conscious ability to be aware, act on this awareness and respect how each one of us operates, grows and flourishes.  DevOps removes the obscurity of humans getting work done in the frame of “Development” and Operations” and it’s a stepping stone to a better understanding of the human condition so we can remove the influences of bad ideas, failed practices, crackpots and essential mysticisms and philosophies of everything  shaping our way of life and how we get work done.

The point isn’t to convey what we have learned and know as an authority of what should be done, but as a way for us to communicate and share what we know and can know. This is why we don’t say to copy each other and do what works for others – the culture, conscious and soul of a company isn’t universal and can only be understood through introspection and understanding the how and why and removing the barriers of connecting the work to be done through the experience of doing work with other human beings. (which could lend itself to some universality, but that would be a whole ‘nother story.. I don’t think homogenization is the answer 😉 )

We stand on the shoulder of giants recognizing the work of those before us, personalizing the work of today and having empathy for what will come tomorrow – not out of fear of change but the enlightenment of knowing we have the conscious ability to understand and have empathy.

DevOps in essence is the culmination of the human condition, our culture of free (competitive) markets, the popular sharing of ideas and an essence of equanimity as we struggle through our shared experiences and relate to one another. Knowing this helps our internal survival, our cultural survival and our career survival and that’s just the stepping stone of where this movement begins.


As I sit here preparing to click “Publish Post” and I just want to go run and hide in my own conscious safety zone in my mind, but as I grow I learn that what I can share may help others and that sharing is what connects me as a human being and that is what I cherish. Its not the fear of speaking up I should concern myself with, its the fear I could have done something but didn’t that I don’t want.


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