Bramavihara: The Four Immeasurables of DevOps

This is the fifth blog in the Field Notes from a DevOps Cultural Anthropologist series. This blog describes DevOps’ requirement for community members to be nice, empathetic and kind. It introduces the Brahmavihara, which is a series of four Buddhist virtues also known as the four immeasurables.

Practicing the Brahmavihara causes the practioner to be reborn into the “Brahma realm,” radiating:

  1. Loving-kindness
  2. Compassion
  3. Empathetic joy
  4. Equanimity

I have been in the continuous delivery and DevOps industry for nine years and have made a number of observations during that time. I have seen strategies succeed – and fail. My goal is to try to help you be one of the successes! I’d love to hear your comments and experiences with continuous delivery and DevOps.

The DevOps community requires everyone to be nice to each other, to be empathetic and to be kind. This is best evidenced by the DevOps Days Anti-harrasment Policy and their Code of Conduct. They require that everyone “create a harassment-free conference experience, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race or religion. They do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form”[1]. Violation of these requirements can result in expulsion or sanction from the conference organizers.

The anti-harassment policy requires that if you witness harassment, you must report it to a conference organizer immediately. It continues that “conference staff will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference”[2]. The code of conduct requires, that a conference attendee “understand that people are different and attempt to be forgiving of others’ actions at the level of their sincere intent, but their priority is protecting their safety and the safety of others. Participants will act without hesitation or reservation until there are no question of the safety of all parties”[3].

Article VI of the DevOps Days Code of Conduct states that conference attendees acknowledge that they “believe DevOps Days is about empowering people and I will not forget they are empowered to create a safe and nurturing environment. If any attendee violates this aspect of the event, they expect the conference organizers to protect the attendees by direct action, including expelling those in violation and contacting the proper authorities”[4].

The DevOps Days anti-harassment policy and code of conduct are the ways we should act towards each other in all situations, not just at DevOps Days conferences. They are human truths that are self evident in the DevOps community. DevOps’ DNA of teamwork requires that community members treat each other with respect and empathy. A team will not function well if even one person were to be a prima donna or other difficult personality type.

When going through the hiring process, it is important to evaluate an applicant’s personality. It could be cancerous and ruinous if a bad egg slips through the cracks and joins a high performing DevOps team. How can you analyze someone to see if they’ll make a good team member? Ask them about the breadth and depth of their team-based experience. I played American Football for eight years. I played on winning and losing teams, and believe that this experience has given me a fundamental understanding of what it means to be a good teammate. I believe I understand teamwork at its most elemental level. My role as a CloudBees senior DevOps consultant is to be a servant leader to my clients. I could also describe my role as a coach. My coaching style comes directly from my own personal experiences of being coached. To be a good DevOps community member you need to be a good player/coach.

I’d love to hear from others out there, in the DevOps role: What experiences have you had in your church, community or sport that make you a good DevOps player/coach?

How do you practice being nice, empathetic and kind? One technique is to mediate on the four immeasurables. They are:

1.    Loving-kindness (Pāli: mettā, Sanskrit: maitrī) towards all: The hope that a person will be well; “the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy.”

2.    Compassion (Pāli and Sanskrit: karuṇā): The hope that a person’s sufferings will diminish; “the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering.”

3.    Empathetic joy (Pāli and Sanskrit: muditā): Joy in the accomplishments of a person—oneself or another; sympathetic joy; “the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings.”

4.    Equanimity (Pāli: upekkhā, Sanskrit: upekṣā): Learning to accept loss and gain, good-repute and ill-repute, praise and censure, sorrow and happiness (Attha Loka Dhamma), all with detachment, equally, for oneself and for others. Equanimity is “not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind—not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation.”

Loving-kindness and compassion can both be viewed as hopes for the future leading, where possible, to action aimed at realizing those hopes. Joy and equanimity can be seen as attitudes useful for reflecting on what has already passed and, through this reflection, present us with an opportunity to apply knowledge to our actions. Central to Buddhist spiritual practice is a deep appreciation of the present moment and the possibilities that exist in the present for waking up and being free of suffering. The four immeasurables can represent a way of experiencing the past and the future in an enlightened manner, a manner that avoids suffering and encourages peace and happiness.[5]

DevOps Days and DevOps in general embody the principles of the Brahmavihara. Treating others in the community as equals and with respect is not an option, it is a requirement. Being a good teammate also requires it. In the DevOps world, kindness and teamwork are rewarded both intrinsically and extrinsically. If, for whatever reason, you are a person who has struggled getting along with others, now is the time to fix it. Take the Bramavihara to heart, and take the opportunity to get better at teamwork by joining team based organizations and activities. The dividends will be tremendous. 

Thomas McGonagle
Senior DevOps Consultant, Global Services
CloudBees

 

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