Doing Interesting Work in Ops with Matty Stratton

I’ve always looked up to the Arrested DevOps Podcast since it started so many years ago, so I’m super excited to have this week’s guest: Matty Stratton. We talk about all sorts of fun stuff, such as how career progression isn’t linear, how we’ve accidentally fallen into doing interesting work, and much more.

About the Guest

Matty Stratton is a HumanOps Advocate at PagerDuty, where he helps dev and ops teams advance the practice of their craft and become more operationally mature. He collaborates with PagerDuty customers and industry thought leaders in the broader DevOps community, and back when he drove, his license plate actually said “DevOps”.

Matty has over 20 years experience in IT operations, ranging from large financial institutions such as JPMorganChase and internet firms, including He is a sought-after speaker internationally, presenting at Agile, DevOps, and ITSM focused events, including ChefConf, DevOpsDays, Interop, PINK, and others worldwide. Matty is the founder and co-host of the popular Arrested DevOps podcast, as well as a global organizer of the DevOpsDays set of conferences.

He lives in San Francisco and has three awesome kids, who he loves just a little bit more than he loves Doctor Who. He is currently on a mission to discover the best pho in the world.



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Mike Julian: Hi folks, I'm Mike Julian, your host for the Real World DevOps podcast. I'm here speaking to Matty Stratton today, DevOps advocate for PagerDuty and the host of my arch nemesis, the Arrested DevOps podcast. Welcome to the show.

Matty Stratton: Thanks Mike, I'm really excited to be here. It's always fun to be a guest on somebody else's show because you do a lot less work.

Mike Julian: Ain't that the truth? I've been watching or listening, I guess as it is, the Arrested DevOps podcast for, God since it began; it feels like a million years ago at this point.

Matty Stratton: It's over five years. December 2013 is when we started. I should know off the top of my head how many episodes we have but I don't. In the hundreds.

Mike Julian: Somewhere between five and 50,000.

Matty Stratton: Right. It's a non-zero number.

Mike Julian: Something that we were talking about before we started recording, was this idea of, there's a lot of people that shift from doing ops work into I guess you could call it an influencer role, where we're talking about the work and helping other people become better. It seems like that's what you've done five plus years ago with the Arrested DevOps as well as what you're doing now with developer advocacy or DevOps advocacy, whatever you want to call it. Is that about right?

Matty Stratton: I would say so. I have found that when I try to explain to people what I do for a living now, I say I worked in operations for 20 years and now they pay me to talk about it. But I didn't start out that way. The journey for Arrested DevOps was, it never started out to be a podcast. I didn't know what it was going to be, but when I was starting to learn about DevOps and started to do some DevOps transformation at an organization I was at, I was taking in a lot of the podcasts of the time, DevOps Café and the Ship Show and Food Fight. The one thing that I found was there was a lot of material out there that was related to DevOps but there wasn't a lot of stuff that seemed suited to people like me who were kind of dumb, for a better word. Just maybe a better way to say that is people who are very new to it. I actually originally intended to start a blog because I had done a lot of blogging, been blogging for years and years and years. I wanted to create a blog that was going to be very accessible. I don't remember if it was on Facebook or Twitter or somewhere when I was looking for ideas for what to call this blog and my friend Jessica, who is not in the tech industry, she's a writer. She's the one who coined the name,” Arrested DevOps.” I bought the domain but I didn't have anything to do with it for a while. I decided maybe I'll start a podcast. One thing I know about myself is I'm very good at starting things and very bad at doing them.

Mike Julian: Aren't we all?

Matty Stratton: Yeah. One of the things that helps with that is having a partner or having somebody else that keeps you accountable.

Mike Julian: Oh yeah.

Matty Stratton: I had met this cat named Trevor at an Azure meetup in Chicago and was like, he's a software engineer type and into this DevOps stuff and was like, "Hey Trevor, maybe we should do a podcast." That was back in November of 2013 — we did our first episode I think in December of ‘13. But what's interesting is how this, it never was intended to be in an influencer role. What I wanted to do was be able to take things that I was learning and make things accessible. One thing I learned very quickly with doing the show and Mike, I mentioned you've learned this lesson similarly with your newsletter and the show now, you can't control your audience.

Mike Julian: No, not at all.

Matty Stratton: Even in our very first episode, we had people who were tweeting at us because we used to live stream the show. They were tweeting about listening to the show and I remember thinking, "Why are you listening to my show? You should be on the show. You're not going to learn anything from me, you're the experts." Over the years we get the, “it's not technical enough, it's too technical, it's too many of the same people, it's too many people I've never heard of.” No matter what we can't appease everybody.

Mike Julian: Yep.

Matty Stratton: What we do is I just try to make myself happy and Bridget happy.

Mike Julian: That's really all you can do.

Matty Stratton: If we keep Matt and Bridget happy, that's fine, Trevor shows up sometimes. We have a new host, Jessica Kerr. We really want to make Jessica happy because she's new. We don't want to lose her.

Mike Julian: Don't want to scare her away too quickly.

Matty Stratton: Yeah.

Mike Julian: Yeah. I remember, before this I was going through, looking at the archives. I happened to look at the very first episode, the quality is so bad. The video, it's just this live recording, the audio quality is not awesome and you contrast that to the stuff you're doing today and it's just way better, so much better. I feel like a lot of people look at what people are doing now and saying, "I could never do it." It's like, "No, the people doing it couldn't do it either. It's years and years of work to get something great." The people hosting are not, I don't think I'm anyone special. Who am I to be talking about the stuff that I am? It's just, I'm the one interviewing people. It's kind of like going to a conference, I know you speak at a ton of conferences too, the people on stage are not necessarily the experts, they're just the ones on stage.

Matty Stratton: I found through my career, through doing podcasting and event organization, it gives access to conversations that you would not normally be able to have. I will quote from Bryan Berry, who was one of the founders of the Food Fight podcast which was originally a chef-oriented podcast and that was about all things DevOps. Bryan had a blog post that is unfortunately hard to find but if we can find it maybe we'll put it in show notes and it's called, "The Dirty Little Secret of Tech" no, "Why Everyone Should Start a Tech Podcast." In this post he said the dirty secret of tech podcasting is this how you get someone to sit and talk to you for an hour. You would not normally have that opportunity, you can't normally go up to folks at a conference and say, "Let's sit down and talk about this crap for an hour just to shoot the shit." It has nothing to do with people being rude, who has that time? Everyone's like, "I can't do that, I'm busy." Then you say, "Hey come on my podcast." "Sure."

Matty Stratton: We used to joke at ADO about how big did we have to get before I felt comfortable enough to invite Jez Humble on our show? It turns out I think that the magic number was we had to have 11 episodes I think was when we felt like, also by the way there was a point where it seemed your 11th episode had to involve Etsy. That seemed to be a thing in DevOps podcasting back in the day. But as you know, things have changed. There's no really, as an event organizer, I look at it as my goal and my role is a force multiplier, is a signal booster, it's getting people another avenue to communicate. But what ends up happening is you kind of come along for the ride because you're part of that signal that you're boosting. If you're clever, you learn along the way. I guess that's sort of a thing. It would be possible to do this and not get any smarter. I feel like it's a great opportunity because I've been able to have conversations that I have not had in my career until I started podcasting and started doing events that were just sitting and having chats. Then I can ask my questions, I can learn. The thing is, the thousands of people who are listening get to learn that as well. I can be, I look at it as a big part of my role on the show is to be an audience proxy. Say, "Let me sit there, I can ask the questions, I can check for you and then all of us can learn." 

Mike Julian: Absolutely. I have a friend who, he recorded, he got one of those guests that you always think you'll never be able to get, it's like the aspirational guests, they're so big, they're so inaccessible that you could never possibly get them on the show. But you try anyway. You reach out and you keep reaching out. He finally got this person to agree. Had to go through two layers of agents and PR reps and finally got this person to agree. It was awesome. He's like, "Crap, what now? I have all these questions I want to ask but I'm afraid of screwing this up. I want to make sure this is good for the person I'm interviewing, but more importantly that people listening learn a lot." One of the things he did, I thought was genius, he reached out to a bunch of people who were also in that space, this is in the consulting world. He asked a bunch of consultants and freelancers, "I'm interviewing this person you know, what should I ask them? What do you want to know? What have they never talked about before? What are you unclear on?" We ended up with hundreds of questions. We couldn't possibly ask all of them but the conversation that resulted from that was incredible.

Matty Stratton: I think the thing that's great about that, about sourcing from the outside, is it gets a starting point, again like you said to that conversation that might not have been, it brought in some flavor from minds other than the host. It was sort of the beginnings of that. Even if it wasn't getting all the questions answered, it was getting some of that flavor done. I think one of the things that, we talked about going from working in a role, working in operations or something like that into more of this persona if you will, influencer, whatever we want to call it these days, I found that it's great that this is my job now. This is 100% my job is doing stuff like this. I did have a little bit of a thought this morning that, how no matter what it is, I feel like, maybe this is just me, I'm hoping this is common. That no matter what it is that we're trying to achieve when we achieve it, when we get that dream job, that dream job suddenly becomes a thing we do everything we can in our power to not do anymore. By that I mean, tongue in cheek procrastinating.

Matty Stratton: But I was sitting there, for example, I have a blog post I have to write. I used to love blogging. I still love blogging but I would do it in my spare time and it was this fun thing, I did it all the time. Now it's because somebody told me to do it. I'm like, "I don't want to write that post. I just really don't want to do it. I so badly don't want to do it." The thing is, when I sit, I know later when I get off this recording and I sit down, I'm going to write it and it's going to be really fun to do but I think about the things that I quote “have to do” and if I could go back in time 18 months. 18 months ago Matty would hear what I was complaining that I have to do now would be like, "Would you just shut up? This is what you get to do." I think it's been the case but as I think about throughout career escalation, I guess what it boils down to is we're never happy. We're never satisfied. It doesn't mean that, by no means should this come across to say I don't like my job, I don't like the things that I do — it's just that no matter how much you may desire doing something, when you just don't want to do any work today it doesn't matter what the work is. You will decide you don't want to do it. That was my thing today. I don't want to work today.

Mike Julian: Totally been there.

Matty Stratton: No matter how fun the job is, I am going to do everything I can to do something else stupid that isn't work. That’s probably harder and less fun than actually doing the job, but it is technically not work.

Mike Julian: The lengths that we will go through to avoid doing the work are significantly more than just doing the work. The amount of things that I have found to do aside from writing, it's staggering.

Matty Stratton: Absolutely. That's true of writing… it  has multiple definitions but the one that I like, which is the, it's an amazing form of procrastination. I used to say the best thing in the world, if I ever wanted to get anything done in my apartment is, which is when I had a roommate in grad school, was during finals. We got so much done.

Mike Julian: Holy crap that apartment was so clean.

Matty Stratton: So clean, so much baking got done, we worked on projects together, anything but studying.

Mike Julian: There's this role, the role of the influencer, advocate, evangelist — goes by so many different names. It seems to have come out of nowhere, at least seemingly to me. It didn't feel like this role existed five years ago but now I see a ton of people doing it.

Matty Stratton: I think part of it, I have a couple thoughts on that. One is, it's been around for a long time. First of all, we know Guy Kawasaki was the original, the coiner of the term evangelist. He was an evangelist of Apple Computer back in the’ 80s. His job was to make Apple cool. I remember even from the Microsoft perspective that there were people that I worked with as a customer of Microsoft who were part of an organization at the time was called DPE or Developer Platform Evangelism at Microsoft. I remember thinking at the time when they would come and work with us, “You have the coolest job ever. Your job is to play with shit and come in and tell me how cool it is.” That was in, again, I'm trying to think when I started learning about DPE was probably in the 2006, 2007 era but I think what I was going to get at it’s kind of like when you have a red car-

Mike Julian: Yes suddenly you notice them-

Matty Stratton: ... suddenly you see all these red cars. I'm very aware of people in developer relations and developer advocacy and developer evangelism but part of that, I think is not echo chamber but you follow people that do things that are similar to what you do, those voices get amplified within your network effect, but I don't mean to say that it's not been exploding. I think that's absolutely true. I think we're seeing companies over the last few years, seeing the advantage in marketing and communicating to developers, marketing with a lowercase “m,” whatever that is, selling to developers is challenging because it's not a traditional audience. Especially by that what I mean is you're selling to them but you need to be selling to them because you're selling to the people who are influencers within their own organization as well. As our friend Cory is fond of saying, "Engineers make terrible customers," because most engineers don't have signing authority. They can't actually buy anything but they can be incredibly influential within the organization. Seeing, I think what we also are seeing and especially even large organizations like Microsoft has realized this over the last, I was going to say recently but I feel like they figured this out about five, seven years ago — is the old way of selling where you have your relationship with the vendor, the old IBM is the answer, what's the question. Right?

Mike Julian: Right.

Matty Stratton: This is not the way of the world anymore. You're going to be in some type of a network, you're going to be in some type of an environment and that means that you need to play for that network effect. I can't remember where I was going with this. I think that's why you want to see, I guess what's happening is you're not going to get the whole account. You're not going to get the whole company. You're not going to sell every bit and bite that Global Corp is going to consume. It's not going to be Britain is a PO to you for every bit of software they ever buy. You're going to be able to get in there in your piece and part. You need to win some hearts and minds in order to do that. You need to win hearts and minds by being the best solution because engineers, you're not going to sell to them through relationship selling. What I mean by the relationship selling is, you and I have a personal relationship. We go golfing together, you buy software from me.

Mike Julian: God I wish it was that easy.

Matty Stratton: Because it's too small. It doesn't work at scale, which means you have to understand, you have to see, you have to have a voice of the software engineer as the customer coming back into your company. I think that's where we're seeing, again why you're seeing more of the use of the word advocate as opposed to evangelist. We at PagerDuty rebranded my role and the role of my team, I say my role because I was the only one that was called an evangelist and then we changed, because it's a two-way street. We advocate to and for the community to help make the product better based upon what the community needs in order to build on that. To kind of wrap it up, this is where I was getting at, if you want to have success, people have to be able to extend and build with your product that they're buying from you because they're not operating in a vacuum. This is why developer advocacy and developer relations is so important because it's all about building that community and that platform, that developer platform that doesn't work if you're not really understanding what those folks need. That's my opinion about why I think we're seeing it, in today's industry, become more and more critical.

Mike Julian: Got you. What led you to switch from doing the hands on keyboard operations work to being an evangelist advocate role? What made you decide to make that change?

Matty Stratton: Like many things in my career, it all happened by accident. I kind of turned around and said, "What happened?" I've always been interested in public speaking and things like that. I was a theater major in college, I did forensics, I studied improv so any opportunity to present is always, no matter what I was doing I would always look for that opportunity. When I was running technology for this eCommerce company, for, I had several opportunities came up to do some conference speaking. They were at a vendor conference, it was a, "Hey we really like what you've done with our product" you know how they go, “Come and talk on our stage and kind of talk about that.” I absolutely loved it, I thought it was super great. Then when I left there, I was starting to, that was when I was starting this transition with DevOps and of course, a big part of DevOps that was happening at that time was DevOpsDays. Not that DevOpsDays isn't important now but there was a lot of, I was learning about DevOpsDays and I said, "I wonder why there isn't one of those in Chicago.”

Matty Stratton: To put things in perspective of how differently we thought about DevOpsDays back in 2013, 2014 there was a concern that having a DevOpsDays in Chicago and Minneapolis was too close to each other. The events might draw from each other. We weren't sure since there already was going to be one in Minneapolis, could there maybe be one in Chicago also? It was through doing that that I started to apply to speak at a couple of different events and that's also the time I started working at Chef, I was public facing, I was working as a sales engineer or I'm sorry, a solution architect. I always prefer the term sales engineer because it gets you out of answering the question you don't want to answer. If they ask you too technical of a question you can say, "Well I'm a sales engineer" or if they ask you a pricing question you can say, "I'm a sales engineer." Anyway. Very public facing, was doing a lot of speaking at customer sites and prospect sites. Started doing more and more public speaking through that.

Matty Stratton: It was in my role at Chef what I really started to get to know, especially getting to know the community a lot better. That's when I started running DevOpsDays in Chicago, got involved with the global organization and then opportunity kind of came up at PagerDuty where it was like, wait. This could be the whole thing that I do. I had been very interested in, I had been learning a lot more about developer advocacy and developer relations and community building. There wasn't really something for me at Chef in that capacity. I had been exploring opportunities within that organization and kind of shift my focus toward being more towards advocacy stuff, stars weren't aligning. It's one of those things I kind of went up for a job, didn't get it. Looked at the person they hired and said, "Of course you hired that person. You would have been a fool to hire me." That's always the way I like it. If I know I'm going up for a job and I don't get it, I always at least like to see the person who is hired, I would have made the exact same call. Yes, yes indeed you should have hired her. She's much, much better. Then it's been great. That's been what I've been able to focus on and learn a lot and learn about the community of DevRel itself, as we as a relative, even though it's a long standing profession, I think putting a lot of operationalization around it and businessification if you will, is relatively new. Learning about that has been really great.

Mike Julian: It seems to me like an entirely new career path has just opened up for people doing operations, DevOps, SRE, whatever you want to call it. Though it existed before, there wasn't enough opportunity and now there's way more opportunity for it so now we have a new viable career path for people who, if they want to do more speaking, be more public and be the lever to help the rest of the industry grow, they now have another option.

Matty Stratton: I think that's really great and I think you're right, it's really that operations advocate, that SRE advocate if you will, focusing more on the ops side and the DevOps side as opposed to software evangelist or the developer relation. I'm seeing more and more of that. It's definitely, we had a hard time filling for that role at PagerDuty because there's not as much. There's not as many people, because it's relatively new but I feel like every time I kind of look around I'm seeing more and more people who are moving into it who are phenomenal and who are great. Seeing that ability to say, to take the experience from real world operations and real time operations and then say, "What can I do to help make people better? Maybe I need to quote unquote put the pager down for a little bit and go help people be better for a little while." Then I see a lot of folks that move in both directions. Eric Sigler who was DevOps advocate and evangelist at PagerDuty for four years and he said, "I've done this for awhile. I need to go be an SRE for a while because I'm getting burnt out and it's time for me to go do some different kind of work for a while." I think it's nice that we can move around.

Mike Julian: Absolutely, I know a few people that have gone back the other direction. They'll 

go from being system administration to an advocate role and then do that for a couple years and go back. It's not that they didn't like what they were doing but bouncing between the two seems to give them a lot of satisfaction. To me, I think it's hugely valuable because now you understand concerns and challenges and hot spots from a completely different perspective.

Matty Stratton: I'm going to turn that on you a little bit. You've gone through your journey, through your monitoring newsletter, through now starting this podcast. What's your journey look like?

Mike Julian: Mine was just as accidental. I started working on a book, Practical Monitoring, came out in 2018 but I started working on it in 2015 and shortly after that I decided I wanted to go full-time consulting as well. I started looking around, what could I focus on? Clearly I should just do monitoring because it's what I'm good at, it's what I'm known for except I wasn't actually known at the time. I had a book proposal and that was kind of it. From there I started thinking, you know there's all these newsletters out here but there's no monitoring newsletters. We touched on monitoring in SRE Weekly and DevOps Weekly and Cron Weekly, which is currently on hiatus, all touched on monitoring from different perspectives but no one really focused on it. I was like, "I want to do that. I want to start this newsletter that is just going to talk about monitoring, it's got management, capacity, planning, all these different areas around the monitoring umbrella. That just kind of took on a life of its own after a while. That was never the intention. The intention was, I want to do a newsletter because it sounds like a fun thing to do. Pro tip, it is, there are many days where it is not fun to do. It was entirely accidental for me but I looked back at it, it makes sense that I am where I am in hindsight, but I could have never predicted that it would lead to different opportunities I have.

Matty Stratton: It's always kind of a fun game to play and as long as you can keep it fun to sit there and say, "Where did those two roads diverge in the wood?" I also find that going back to old stuff that I had written or questions I used to ask and stuff, sometimes it's better if things remain buried because you look back and it's like, "Really? That's what I thought was important?"

Mike Julian: I have a few of those articles. They are not online.

Matty Stratton: I remember very distinctly having things come up in whatever flashback machine or app that I had that would bring back old Facebook posts from years prior. There were ones when I was first starting to ask DevOps questions and I was very concerned about who was patching these servers. It was like, "If you have DevOps, who is patching the servers?" That was my main concern. I looked around, no you don't get it. That's okay. I'm proof that you can learn and you can become educated.

Mike Julian: It's wild, looking back at the notes from when I really started going 100% into the monitoring world. I was reading all these articles by people I thought were absolutely fantastic, I could never be as good as they were. I'm taking notes furiously of all these different talks and articles I'm reading and then I'm going back through and looking at my own notes. I'm like, "Wow, I was kind of an idiot."

Matty Stratton: The other side of that, not to go off on a crazy tangent but this is something I just find funny, because over a long career we forget things we used to be expert in or we used to have a lot of domain knowledge, because we don't work in that domain anymore. I remember years ago, coming across an old mail file from when I was a network engineer and looking at emails in this mail file. It's like, I don't understand any ... I knew these words because I was typing them, but it was all when I was managing frame relay networks and it was all very hardware specific around networking. It was like, I vaguely remember what this was about. But boy, did I sound smart.

Mike Julian: That's weird because I was also formerly a network engineer. Looking back through my own email history, it's just as wild. I'm like, apparently I used to know all sorts of stuff about BGP that I've completely forgot.

Matty Stratton: It's kind of a wonderful thing to be able to forget it.

Mike Julian: It's true.

Matty Stratton: There are other folks who can maintain that knowledge-

Mike Julian: Absolutely.

Matty Stratton: ... my packets just get delivered. Okay.

Mike Julian: I used to be a Windows administrator for a very long time and I had a client recently ask me a couple questions about how should I structure this forest? I'm like, "I don't know. I'm not sure I even understand the question." The road is interesting and long and generally only makes sense in hindsight, which is always fun. I recently had someone ask me the question, "How would you, if you could, what advice would you give to someone my age?" This guy is about 24, 25. I was like, work with interesting people, work at companies that are doing interesting things that you like and the rest takes care of itself. I think it's pretty good advice but you get the impression that what he's actually looking for is, can you give me step by step by step? I'm like, no not really. Careers don't really work that way.

Matty Stratton: I think you can do what you can to maximize opportunity and a lot of that is understanding when the opportunity is there. One bit of career advice that I did receive that I have generally found to be quite good was from a mentor of mine years ago. I was trying to make a decision between two roles and he said, "Never think about what your next job is but what's your next next?"

Mike Julian: That's fantastic advice.

Matty Stratton: The interesting thing now is if you were to ask me questions like that, I haven't the slightest idea what I'm doing next but that's okay. I think it also depends on where you are in your career but as someone who was kind of in my early 30s it was, okay where ... It was probably similar advice to the person you were talking to which is, you're not going to get a step by step and you don't have to have your whole career mapped out but if you know what you're going to try to do after the next thing, you're going to know if the next thing is the thing that's going to potentially help you. That's what the point that my mentor was getting at, is you're looking at these two roles, what's your next next job and which of these will help you get there because one of them won't. One of them sounds much cooler but is actually divergent from the path you think you're on which could be an incorrect path. It doesn't necessarily mean it's the right path, it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, but at least think with some bits of that. I think if I had, if you map out my titles I've done management, I've been a director, I've been an architect, I've gone back and forth, you know.

Mike Julian: Much more like a squiggly line than anything else.

Matty Stratton: It does. It goes up and down the leadership pyramid. I'll do my time when I say I'll never want to manage again and I'll be like, "If it was the right team, I could do that."

Mike Julian: One of my favorite sayings that I feel is misunderstood is, “luck favors the prepared.” The reason I think it's misunderstood is that I have found that experience, especially those who are older people, understand really what that means is do good work and be out there always doing good work whereas young, less experienced people will look at that saying and just they focus on the “luck” part and not the “do the work” part.

Matty Stratton: I can see that. I think it's, like all axioms, it hits for the 80% use case. If you're going to, you will be better able to activate opportunity if you're prepared. Just because, I think the opposite of that is just because you're prepared does not mean you're going to be lucky.

Mike Julian: Yes. It's always the catch, right?

Matty Stratton: Right. Some of us are going to be luckier than others.

Mike Julian: Becoming an expert in COBOL today is probably not going to result in a whole lot of luck.

Matty Stratton: Right. Also just from a position of the background and the opportunities that we might have. There was, I have a lot more... I will tell you that if you look at my career path, if I wasn't a straight white dude I would not have been given a lot of the opportunities I've been given. There were a lot more chances taken on me then I know a lot of other people have had the opposite. That's something I try to remember.

Mike Julian: That's very true.

Matty Stratton: I have stumbled into a lot of stuff and that's an opportunity that not everybody has to back into things. I try to think about how to help with that when I can, at least be cognizant of it if nothing else. If you were to think about what are the values that are, if we kind of think about what these roles provide thinking about the ones that are more ops-focused, talking to the operational side, how does that, in your vision or your visibility, how is that differing from the traditional developer relations that we're used to? Just thinking about the difference between the two you've been observing.

Mike Julian: It's really hard to describe without sounding denigrating to ops. People that go into ops have, in my experience, very different personalities and different ways of thinking than people who are software engineers. Traditionally speaking it's ops has been much more about stability and reliability and operationalizing things. We're thinking about all the ways that stuff could go wrong. By contrast, software engineers have traditionally approached everything from a, what cool new thing can we build? Less so from the long term reliability of whatever it is. I think that attracts two different kinds of people, two different ways of thinking. The end result there is that when you're an advocate for SRE, you're talking to a completely different audience then software engineers. I think it's really helpful, when you're working with a SRE audience or a DevOps audience to also have someone from in an advocate role from that background. I think it's also a lot harder to build. It's harder to pick up on that skill set without actually doing the work but, let's say software engineering. I could learn software engineering at home. It's very difficult to learn ops at home.

Matty Stratton: Yeah, some of the ... I think in both cases it's like once you get into scale there's no way to do that on your own.

Mike Julian: Exactly.

Matty Stratton: You can't learn software engineering at scale, you can't learn operations at scale by yourself. Some of that just comes from making some mud pies-

Mike Julian: Right.

Matty Stratton: ... and seeing what happens. I've seen that that's been one of the things, I think part of the reason why a lot of folks are enjoying going into ops advocacy is that it's an opportunity to share that experience.

Mike Julian: Yeah, like, “Let me show you what I've seen in the muck.”

Matty Stratton: Right. I've been in the shit.

Mike Julian: Matty, it's been wonderful chatting with you today. I'm curious, do you have any advice for someone currently doing operations or DevOps, SRE that is interested in going into advocacy? What would you say to them?

Matty Stratton: I think the great thing is you can practice part of this role before it becomes your main role. Be careful you don't get taken advantage of because that's easy to do, but just like if you want to start to build your career around software engineering you can look at areas in open source you can contribute to and start to build up your GitHub profile as one of the mechanisms people use. I think the advice I would give and this is from seeing people who have, I've interviewed with and that I've been mentoring and coaching as I've been going, is do what you can to get some kind of experience, whether it's written or public speaking. Bear in mind you don't have to be a public speaker to be an advocate. DevRel and ops advocacy has lots of different facets to it but you're going to probably need to have one. You're going to need to be a good writer and/or a good speaker. What needs to happen is you need to have something you can share with folks, with prospective employers.

Matty Stratton: It's frustrating to me, I'll interview somebody who I think or I'll be coaching somebody who I think would be great and then I'll say, "Let me see some talks you've given." "I don't have any" or "I've spoken at a bunch of meet-ups." "That's great. Okay try to get those recorded." They don't have to be, it's not even because I want to see some amazing, reinvent-level pyrotechnic extravaganza. It can be on somebody's iPad at the meet-up that you hosted but then we can see how it is or even if it's an internal blog, if you can have something that you presented, something that you wrote that's external. Think about little ways you can start moving towards it. Any time I'm happy to help mentor, I'm happy to help coach anyone who is interested. I'm easy to find on the internet, @mattstratton on Twitter. Hunt me down.

Mike Julian: All right. On that note, where else can people find more about you and your work?

Matty Stratton: The two places would be Twitter, @mattstratton on Twitter. That's usually a good place to find me. I keep, my website is The most useful part of that website is where I keep my calendar of public speaking events both that are upcoming and ones that have happened in the past. If you want to see videos or slides of talks or you've seen me speak before and of course, you can always find my podcast, Arrested DevOps at or just look for Arrested DevOps in your favorite podcasting tool of choice. You will probably find us somewhere.

Mike Julian: Thank you so much for joining me. It's been fantastic.

Matty Stratton: I really appreciated being a guest. Thank you so much.

Mike Julian: Thank you for listening to the Real World DevOps podcast. If you want to stay up to date on the latest episodes you can find us at on iTunes, Google Play or wherever it is you get your podcast. I'll see you at the next episode.
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