DevOps culture Ambassador

12/07/2019

Meet Tomas Stankevičius - Centric IT Solutions Lithuania Technical Lead for DevOps team. Tomas became the first DevOps engineer of Centric when the Dutch IT giant began setting up its subdivision in Kaunas. From the start, he helped to build a strong team of professionals, and together they continue to promote DevOps culture within the company as well as outside its walls.

Tomas can talk about his passion intensely and for a long time: "Everyone knows about DevOps - from my friends to neighbors. I am the ambassador of this IT field not only at work, in the company, but also in life. Why? Because I find it extremely interesting and when I see others engaged it inspires me to talk about it and share even more."

You have just returned from an international DevOps conference - tell us your impressions.

I was very much looking forward to this three-day conference in Amsterdam called DevOps Days. It is one of the oldest and most influential events, which shows how DevOps should cooperate, which direction should be chosen. It also reveals how major corporations are currently working, what solutions they are implementing, what problems are they facing and how they are solving them.

One of the best things that give the conference great value is the work in the theme-based groups. People discuss different issues they face in different companies and then while working together they try to find solutions to these problems. It happens that some corporations already have a good solution and want to share it, so it is a great way to get the freshest and most effective experience from the people directly working in this specific field.

And why is business interested in such information sharing?

Let's start with the fact that in DevOps theory we have a mantra called CALMS: this is the abbreviation of the first letters of Culture - Automation - Lean - Measurement - Sharing. And in this mantra, the two cornerstones that are crucial to DevOps practice are Culture and Sharing. If someone comes and says, "We want to sell you DevOps," in fact, they are trying to sell you only automation part - don't trust such salespeople because they don't understand what they are selling. After all, they take only automation alone - it is a long-existing IT field applied in almost every strong business: everyone is trying to automate processes to gain efficiency.

But first and foremost, DevOps is a culture of sharing. Helping smaller companies grow and stretch to the level of the big ones, we not only raise the bar for ourselves but also help small businesses develop their talents, who, by the way, in the future might end up in the teams of the large corporations.

However, sharing should be understood even more widely. Before the emergence of DevOps processes, problems often arose between the people who oversee the programs and those who write them. Why? Because they wouldn't communicate. So, from a more general point of view, DevOps (Development Operations) is not a role but some processes that enable communication between teams, companies, large and big entities and so on. That is why DevOps people consider the culture of sharing natural and a must.

How did you find yourself in DevOps?

DevOps is a culture and processes that help unify developers (Dev) and development platform operators (Ops). DevOps emphasizes team communication at all levels as well as automation of application release and infrastructure to achieve one common goal - to release the programs as quickly and reliably as possible.

I got involved in DevOps a few years ago. I have always been fascinated by automation - I have a passion for writing automation scripts. But while working as an automation specialist, I soon saw that it is possible to have a broader outlook - from a cultural side, to seek for cooperation, to try to unite the teams of developers and application support workers.

I really liked this DevOps idea and attitude. In addition, I like to share information when people are interested in listening, therefore I quickly became a true DevOps culture ambassador both at work and outside of it. Most people who know me have definitely heard about it more than once. And not only my friends - all my neighbors know what DevOps is. I try to talk about it wherever I go because it matters to me.

Friends and neighbors? What can you tell us about IT processes that non-IT people would find interesting?

Oh, so many things. For example, one thought from the recent conference: because one of the letters of CALMS stands for Measurement, some managers of the DevOps process offer to measure not only the numerical values of applications or code but also - people's mood at work. You see, people who work in application support often have to work at night. As the experience of that company showed even the most efficient employees, when working on a tight schedule, experience burnout and then affect the rest of the team with their fatigue and poor mood. So, their idea was to measure people's moods, identify the factors that determine them and find ways to change or eliminate those factors. Specifically, they decided to allow people during the night on-call service to react only to very urgent and important cases, thus reducing the strain and the level of stress.

So, this is an interesting story for you - not only for IT specialists but for a much wider audience!

Why do you personally find DevOps more interesting than other activities in IT?

Perhaps, first of all, because of its versatility. I work with a wider range of tools, communicate with more diverse people. In addition, I like the responsibility that DevOps professionals must undertake. According to DevOps, you are responsible for all the processes, from the beginning to the end. For example, this means that a DevOps specialist must be involved in both the application planning and release process, writing all the automation for the release process. Once the application is released and needs to be supported, the DevOps specialist is again involved because he/she is collecting information that helps facilitate the activities of people who work in application support.

What is the position of DevOps specialists in the Lithuanian market?

So far, there are not many specialists, but they are sought-after and the demand will only increase. The companies are becoming more and more aware that they need professionals who are familiar with DevOps processes (commonly referred to as platform automation engineers or similar).

That is why I am especially pleased when I succeed in attracting a beginner to the position of a junior DevOps specialist; I have 'converted' many young people like that.

What kind of knowledge and qualities a young specialist, who is wondering which IT field to choose, needs to have, so he/she could also think about the DevOps specialist's career?

I would say there are two parts that a person should acknowledge in himself /herself and develop. The first one is the technical part. You must have wide and great interests because DevOps automation can be applied to all of the platforms - from Linux to Windows. These are just tools that you need to be interested in and keep up with modern technology. I am not saying that it is necessary to concentrate on one specific tool, because I have no doubt that one company uses one type of automation tools and another company selects to use different tools. You just need to have a common knowledge and understanding of how automation works as well as be interested in best practices.

The second part stands for people’s qualities: not being afraid to ask and be willing to share information. It wasn't by chance that when working at Centric I launched the knowledge sharing sessions. Every month we all vote on what topic is the most relevant for us and a person who has accumulated the most knowledge on that topic prepare an hour-long presentation. During that hour, our colleague shares the knowledge and sometimes the sessions turn into a debate. Such practice is useful for all participants: the speakers and presenters are forced to purify the information they have in their heads and arrange it in a way that others would understand.

By the way, because of the same reason, it is very important to have junior (beginner) specialists at the company. The questions they ask - both logical and illogical - make experienced professionals think deeper and not only come up with clear answers but often discover something new for themselves as well as structure their own knowledge.

Does this mean that it is a bit early to look for a position in DevOps just after graduating from university, and more experience should be gained before that?

Definitely not. On the other hand, specialists working with DevOps should have a wide-ranging outlook, but this does not mean that young people cannot take this role right after the university. And here I have an excellent example: from the three students who joined Centric internship this spring, all remained in the company and one of them in the DevOps department. I can only bow my head in respect to my young colleague Jonas. He charmed me both as a very talented person and as a junior professional with great potential. It was impressive that while still being a student he knew more about some things than colleagues with much longer work experience. But not only that: Jonas had a great desire, enthusiasm and put a lot of effort, worked hard, thus proving that future role might not be determined by the field of study (Jonas studied internet informatics in Kaunas University of Technology) but by desire and interest.

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