Jayne Groll - Bringing Knowledge to the DevOps Community

In this episode of DevOps Radio, we'll hear from Jayne Groll, Co-Founder and CEO of the DevOps Institute. We'll hear about her background in IT education, what the DevOps Institute does, and how it can help transform organizations towards more CD and DevOps approaches.

Andre Pino: You're listening to DevOps Radio, a podcast series that dives into what it takes to successfully develop, deliver and deploy software in today's ever-changing business environment. This show is sponsored by CloudBees, the enterprise Jenkins Company and continuous delivery leader. Hello from Boston, where we're recording DevOps Radio with Jayne Groll, the cofounder and CEO of the DevOps Institute. Jayne is an expert in all things IT training, and we're excited to have her here today for a conversation about getting a DevOps degree. Jayne, welcome to the program.

Jayne Groll: Thanks, Andre; really happy to be here today.

Andre: Jayne, why don't you tell me a little bit about your background. How did you really come to specialize in this area of IT education certification?

Jayne: So a long time ago, almost in a galaxy far, far away, when screens were black and green, I worked for a major Wall Street law firm, and we were a Unix site. So back then, there wasn't applications for Unix, and so everyone in the organization had to learn VI. And so I was actually on the business side; I was a paralegal manager. And so through that organization, I actually at some point got promoted into their education and support unit within their IT department, mostly because in those days, there wasn't a lot available for a Unix environment. So I've had a really good journey, kind of watching IT education, IT certification grow; kind of looking at the practices within IT. And then about 13 years ago, I was an IT director and got interested in IT service management and Agile, and founded an IT training company. And I've been really blessed to have been able to work in some transformations for some pretty large organizations. Very, very excited now about DevOps and DevOps training.

Andre: Today you're with the DevOps Institute. Tell us about the DevOps Institute.

Jayne: So about four years ago, Gene Kim invited some of my colleagues and I to a DevOps Days in Mountain View, California. And then we saw the spark of something really exciting. And even though at that point, it was probably more of a unicorn-based community – you know, start-ups and smaller organizations – we sort of recognized that there was something there. And then as we started to see DevOps evolve, we also understood that in most of these practices, they wrap around a community, a learning community. About 18 months ago, we stood up the DevOps Institute with the intent of creating and engaging a learning community, some of which, if you look at similar organizations, include training and certification, identification of new roles, new competencies and new skills. So we're really happy to say that since about 18 months ago, we're now working through 55 registered partners. But even more interesting than that is that it's a global learning community, and we're pretty much touching most regions of the world.

Andre: And so how are you defining DevOps curriculum? In other words, what courses are offered, and to what levels of people?

Jayne: So DevOps, unlike some of the other practices, doesn't have a single body of knowledge, and we really actually don't encourage that, because there's some constraints when you have a single body of knowledge, particularly something as big and broad as DevOps. Over the past 18 months, we've been really studying what we call a collective body of knowledge. Reading books like The Phoenix Project and identifying through conferences and interactions and others, what are the emerging practices that are evolving around DevOps? So we look at, for example, continuous delivery, continuous integration, automation, cultural transformation. So really been studying the landscape in order to be able to collect those into some type of reasonable and logical training and certification. So we started with the DevOps Foundation, which is really a – it is certification, but it's a sampler platter of not only just what DevOps is and what the benefit is, but it introduces the learning population to practices, such as again, continuous delivery, automated testing, platforms, chatops, immersion techniques. And also brings some of the prior investments in Agile or IT service management, Kanban and Lean, into the discussions as well. We just introduced what we call the DevOps Practitioner Series, which is role-based, so we're actually introducing training and education for roles based on principles. So we now have a continuous delivery architect role, which again is not tool-based, but more of the principles of how do you architect a continuous delivery deployment pipeline. We're introducing a DevOps test engineer, because we know organizations are evolving, testing into development and operation, and existing test communities. DevOps leadership, a cultural management of DevOps from a middle to tactical level of training. And then DevSecOps engineer for the security pieces of it. So those are the roles that we've started to see, as more roles start to be introduced and start to emerge out of the enterprise. We're very, very capable and interested in adding some more role-based competency certification training.

Andre: So Jayne, I know that you're on the conference circuit quite a bit. As you go around to the various cities and conferences and meet with folks who are in the DevOps world, what skills do you see today that are most lacking?

Jayne: Great question. I actually just taught a workshop this morning, and that was a question that we had a long discussion about. So there were really a couple of areas, so as you know, with Jenkins as a platform, architecting a tool chain or a deployment pipeline, while we talk a lot about the strategies behind that, the getting started piece, right? The role of an architect, somebody who can again, from a very high level, look at end-to-end systems thinking, is very frustrating right now at the enterprise level. Because they understand conceptually about automation, and the value of automation, and the different types of automation that they can lay on top of their deployment pipeline. But they're really not sure about how to build an architecture that's gonna serve their organization, and where to get started. And Andre, you know we're involved in DevOps Express, so part of that is what we're trying to define in that initiative, so that we can bring that kind of knowledge to the community. The other epiphany, and it's a very recent epiphany, that at some point, testing is gonna lay at the center of the DevOps universe. Not just for the testers – I mean that's an evolutionary type of training and certification – but we want developers to start to understand more about test-driven development, continuous integration and strategies behind the commits. In my class this morning, many of them were either starting on continuous integration, or dabbling in continuous integration, or even implementing continuous integration, but not quite sure what to do with the testing aspect. So we know developers are going to need to develop testing capabilities. We also know operations is going to need to develop testing strategy, as well as security and application support. So definitely seeing a lot of interest in how do we kind of deploy a testing skills base and tool base across that pipeline as well.

Andre: Right. So something you just said triggered a question in my mind. So you know, we talk about DevOps, but typically the people in DevOps are coming from more of a developer perspective, or more from an ops perspective. Do you find equal interest in training from both the developer perspective as well as the ops perspective?

Jayne: Again, that's a great question. Historically, more training has happened on the operational side. We know on the development side there was a heavy investment in Agile software development training, so I think that that's been one of the areas, and of course, tool-based training. I mean on the developer's side, learning how to code, learning how to stand up different types of automation, test automation, continuous integration automation. On the certification side, certainly there has been more certification interest – not in DevOps, but just historically – from the operational side. What I'm finding now, though, is that the developers are craving more information, and more education and more skills, because the demands on them are gonna change. They're no longer just coders, right? They're coders, and they're testers, and everything is shifting left. And also the cultural aspects. Now, we talk a lot about organizational culture, but really knowledge about how to change culture, how to be a change agent, how to bring transformation, is not something that's necessarily native. So on the development side, even at the managerial side in development, what in the past might not have been considered certification-worthy I think is starting to evolve in that direction.

Andre: Yeah, it's really interesting, and because, you know, as we look at especially folks on the ops side, when you think about the trend towards everything as code, you would think that they do need a little bit more of that developer skillset training as they start to look at putting a lot of what they do in as code, so that it can be version-controlled and tracked through the process.

Jayne: Absolutely. Operations folks are going to need to develop some type of coding capability, whether it's test as code, whether it's infrastructure as code. Somebody this morning coined the term delivery as code. So coding, along with testing, is really going to lay at the heart, and it's a great opportunity for collaboration and cross-pollination. So hopefully we start to see IT organizations embracing that.

Andre: So how do you go about developing your curriculum?

Jayne: First of all, we try to reach into the community to find the best subject matter experts we can. So those that have a lot of experience, say, in testing, or continuous delivery or in security. And so we've been very fortunate in identifying primary authors for each of our courses that really have been boots-on-the-ground, and have had some really tangible experience, and can bring it to real life. 'Cause certification is great, but the goals of a certification course is partially obtaining the certification, but mostly about learning how do I do this? How do I bring this value back to my organization? The primary authors are then encouraged to reach into their own communities, and engage other experts or practitioners. So for continuous delivery architect, we are working with Pearson, and we're using some of their assets from Jez Hunble's book. We have a great author who's helping us supplement that, and we also have a practitioner out of the U.K. who's going to bring the real-life to the practical assignments, and not only his case study, but other case studies, into the classroom. So we try to make it fairly holistic, building an ecosystem of experts. And then, of course, from a review perspective, we wanna reach out to a large community of reviewers, to do not only sanity checks, but really practice checks, because we're not operating against a single body of knowledge.

Andre: So I suspect that real-life perspective that you have referenced is probably some of the most interesting and important aspects of the curriculum.

Jayne: Absolutely. Absolutely, because again, what the learning public wants to hear is how, and they want to learn why. But they also want to learn who, right; who's done this, what have they learned, how do I avoid some missteps that somebody else has done, how do I capitalize on their successes, and not have to reinvent the wheel?

Andre: So how do you deploy the training around the world?

Jayne: We have right now a channel of what we call registered education partners. And so right now, we have about 55 registered education partners. They do reach into just about every region of the world. We have partners in Australia, we have partners in New Zealand, in India, all the way across Europe, and EMEA, and of course, in the United States and North America. So DevOps Institute doesn't do any direct training except at conferences, and that's mostly just to be able to provide workshop services. But we provide the curriculum, and then through our certification body, they administer the certification exams, so we ensure that there's a lot of integrity that sits behind it. But they're all delivered by our channel of registered education partners.

Andre: And that is global?

Jayne: It's global. I have to tell you very honestly, Andre, one of the most remarkable parts of this journey is we actually thought it would be North American and move out, and it happened in reverse. So I said we have partners in just about every region of the world right now, with the exception of I think mainland Japan, and that's coming.

Andre: So it's been interesting to sit back and watch the DevOps movement start out as just a small group of folks who were experimenting and trying, to now I would think we could classify it as a very big IT trend. How does the demand for training within the DevOps Institute, how does that demand compare to some of the other areas of training that you've been involved in in the past?

Jayne: In 2004, the training public couldn't spell ITIL and from 2004 to 2007, the crossing of the chasm was extraordinary, and we started to see organizations start to not only train one or two people, but they were training 500 to 1,000 people. They were training all across the IT service management spectrum. Some of that is starting to happen today, where the early adopters, corporate early adopters, are now starting to engage their DevOps security, some of their business stakeholders, and putting them in a room to learn about these emerging practices. And more importantly, to start to talk to each other. So we're seeing a very similar pattern, where the early adopters are now starting to get budget for training, are now starting to encourage their staff to go through training. And that's graduating from the public classroom, where you have open enrollment, and individuals sign up kind of one at a time, to large corporate engagements. Our reps are starting to report that they're doing more corporate engagements, where they are working with a single client for a very long period of time, training a very large community of folks. Again, mostly at the DevOps Foundation level, because that's where you start to develop common vocabulary, and common practices and common understandings. Now, with the introduction of the role base, they'll start to parse out their staff in terms of who needs what type of education, and how that will go forward. So yeah, it's a very similar path to what I've seen in large practices like Agile and ITIL, where they start up kind of slow and steady, and then they just kind of rocket when organizations recognize that training and – trainings in particular, and certification for the pride and return factor – is really a critical success factor.

Andre: Right. So in addition to the training that you've described thus far, if I'm a manager, and I'm trying to transform my organization to more of a continuous delivery and DevOps approach, do you have curriculum for me, to help me, give me the skills to lead my organization in that way?

Jayne: Absolutely. So there's a couple of paths that, from an internal perspective, an organization can take. Certainly DevOps leadership, and that's one of the roles and certifications rolling out in 2017, will help managers understand not only the cultural aspects, but that's a critical piece of it. But things like how to get ROI, how to resource, how to manage a flat organization as opposed to a silo organization, so those skills are critical to any type of management layer within IT. We also have the ability through DevOps Institute to partner with corporates that wanna do train the trainer. So they can either do it through one of our registered education partners, and designate some folks inside their organization to become trainers, so that they can not only train their own internal staff – and of course, there's some cost benefit to doing that – but they also speak the same language, right? They speak the same business language, and so there are opportunities for corporates to engage on multiple levels, and they would do it through partners, through our registered education partners. But they can inject a little bit of their business sense – into the educational aspects, so they can learn to manage, but they can also teach their staff to fish.

Andre: Right. So one question also that came to mind is the topic of certification. So is the need for certifications being driven by the individual that wants to be certified, or by the hiring companies that are looking for certified individuals?

Jayne: It's a little bit of both. In some cases, there's a little resistance to certification, and some concerns about commoditization, and certainly wanna put that out there, because I know that there's an aspect of the community that watches that very closely. Certification on the individual level is a pride factor, right, which means, "I sat through this course, I absorbed the material, and I was able to reflect that by passing" what we hope is a very fair assessment of their knowledge. So it's something that they've been able to demonstrate that they've absorbed. And again, there's a pride factor. We just introduced digital badges, very pretty digital badges, so when somebody passes an exam, they'll get issued a badge. On the corporate side, on the hiring side, sometimes the difference between candidates will be their certifications, because it demonstrates a little bit of the practical and a little bit of the theoretical. But it also demonstrates a little bit of skin in the game, meaning, "I took this course. I learned the best practices. I was able to demonstrate that I understand those best practices." And the return on the training investment is shown in the form of that certification. So it's a little bit of both. So I think that when we look at certification, it's kind of a benchmark of accomplishment. There is a certain return that the individual gets in the investment in the classroom, and the corporate or the hiring manager gets in the investment in the knowledge.

Andre: Yeah. That's a really good point, really interesting. Let me move on now to a completely different topic, and I have two sort of related questions for you. One is with all of the conferences that you attend, and the folks that you talk to in the DevOps community, what do you see 2017 bringing to DevOps, to the world of DevOps? And the secondary question to that is what's in store for the DevOps Institute in 2017?

Jayne: Well, great questions, and they are sort of related, because the hope is that the DevOps Institute will reflect what the community is looking for. And again, I'm hoping that we're observing that well. So the collective body of knowledge is certainly growing, and certainly the need for the market to condense through initiatives like DevOps Express where there are providers that have agreed to collaborate, and provide some type of common approach to DevOps, particularly from the tooling perspective. So I think 2017 is gonna see more of that alignment between conferences, between tool providers, certainly between practices, where we're gonna start to create common vocabulary, and we're gonna start to say the same thing, and mean the same thing. And I think there's a desire within that community to learn. And so we've seen many, many events, one of which was yesterday, "All Day DevOps," which Andre, as you know, was conceived by some of the folks that we know from Sonatype. There were 13,000 people that registered for that; that's huge. But it's also a message that this global community really wants to be a community, and they want to interact, even if they're not geographically near each other. So I think we're gonna see more – assume that we're gonna see more conferences, and certainly we're gonna see more DevOps tracks, and more DevOps presentations. But I think we're gonna see some consolidation and alignment globally, between tool providers, between educational opportunities, and also collaboration among individuals. So along those lines, DevOps Institute is actually gonna introduce a membership model next year, where we will invite those that pass the certification to join with a free membership. Those that wanna join and aren't ready for training and education will be able to join with a small fee-based membership. But our intent is to be able to grow that learning community, and be able to cross-pollinate across the globe, really leverage our global presence, so that as members of the DevOps Institute, individuals and organizations can help shape the direction that DevOps is going, and tell organizations like yours and mine what they want. To really kind of create a collective consciousness in terms of what they want. So we're very, very excited about the opportunity to kind of be at the core of creating that type of membership model.

Andre: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head, that what's really important here is the community of DevOps practitioners and professionals. And it sounds like certainly the DevOps Institute has a great plan for 2017 to embrace that community, and help them expand that single body of knowledge that you discussed. So Jayne, is there anything else that you'd like our audience to know?

Jayne: Well, I certainly have so appreciated the opportunity to do interviews like this, and to participate in Jenkins Days, and CD Summits and DevOps Express. You know, I would like to take a minute, and Andre, join me in this, because this is something that you've helped conceive as well, and talk just a little bit about the value of DevOps Express, and training, and what we're trying to bring forward. So I'll start, and I'll ask you to finish. When we first heard about DevOps Express, which again is this collaborative event, and I'm sure you're gonna do other interviews about that, from DevOps Institute's perspective, that allows us to really understand, not only from the practitioner's perspective what they want, but what kind of best practices are emerging out of the provider community? From the services providers, from the tool providers, from those that are somewhat on the inside of helping organizations transform. So our goal is to be able to take some of that, and convert it into different types of knowledge. So some of it's certification knowledge, some of it's not certification knowledge, but really being able to bring that kind of learning to a community that maybe can't go to every conference, and can't listen to every webinar, and can't read every blog, and bring some sanity to that. So we're really delighted to be a part of that.

Andre: Yeah, thanks, Jayne. And you know, the DevOps Express was really created with this idea that there is a community out there of folks who are attempting to implement DevOps, and transform their organizations. And yet from a vendor standpoint, there's a lot of individual organizations who have a piece of the puzzle, if you will, that help organizations to implement the technology stack associated with a DevOps transformation. And recognizing that we don't always make it – as individual companies, we don't always make it as easy as possible to do that. And so the notion behind DevOps Express is wow, wouldn't it be something if we could get a group of vendors and DevOps practitioners together, and say, "How can we make all these technologies work better together, and provide some added value collectively as a group to the market, and to the DevOps community, more so than we could deliver individually as individual organizations with responsibility for individual technologies?" And I think that we're really onto something here.We've had great response from the community and the marketplace to this notion, to this concept. And now we've got the opportunity to deliver on some of the ideas, and having folks like the DevOps Institute participate in DevOps Express, and provide some guidance from what you're hearing from the marketplace, as well as providing additional knowledge and information for folks who are looking towards DevOps Express to help them in implementing a DevOps solution. But also leveraging services, systems integration partner and services consultants who are out there helping organizations in their transformations bring some of that real-world knowledge back to this group to help provide some guidance as to how we can deliver greater value-add to the community is what DevOps Express is all about. So it's about the collective. It's not about the individual organization. It's about how individual organizations can work together, and deliver something that's of greater value, and something that will streamline the adoption of DevOps in the marketplace.

Jayne: And you know, it's funny, just to kinda add on to that, you know as I said before, we're gonna start to see the market contract a little bit in terms of collaboration. So we're all gonna start, little by little, to use the same terminology, and to kind of share intelligence across the tool chains, and to create this collective instead of individualism. And it really does reflect the values that we promote in DevOps. The values of communication, and collaboration, and moving faster in oneness. And so I think that's a common goal among DevOps Express, DevOps Institute, and many of the other contributors in the DevOps space right now, to the benefit of the enterprise that's just trying to make some sense out of this, right? I don't think there's a question about whether the DevOps is gonna deliver value in the long run; it's really a how do I get started, and how do I choose? And right now, maybe there's just too many choices. So I think by standing up membership, and creating a learning community, an inquisitive and curious community; by efforts like DevOps Express, and certainly by some of these more intimate events, like CD Summit Jenkins Days, and DevOps Enterprise Summit, which we were at last week, I think that's kind of creating this global community that really reflects the values that we're actively promoting.

Andre: You're absolutely right, and when you think about it, a DevOps solution is so broad it's almost unprecedented, in terms of starting with the source code of an application going all the way through the deployment of that application to production. There's so many pieces, so many tools, and so many components to it, that it is very intimidating to an organization. And so to the extent that we can collaborate and work together to deliver a more streamlined solution to the community, I think we’ll benefit the community as well as the community of vendors as well.

Jayne: Absolutely. I agree. I agree.

Andre: Jayne, thanks very much for joining us on DevOps Radio today. We appreciate your time, and we'll look forward to seeing you at the next conference.

Jayne: All right, thanks again. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Andre: Take care. Bye-bye. And thanks, everyone. Like what you've heard today? Don't miss out on our next episode. Subscribe to DevOps Radio on iTunes, or visit our website at CloudBees.com. For more updates on DevOps Radio and industry buzz, follow CloudBees on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Andre Pino

Your host: Andre Pino, CloudBees (also sometimes seen incognito, as everyone’s favorite butler at Jenkins World!). André brings more than 20 years of experience in high technology marketing and communications to his role as vice president of marketing. He has experience in several enterprise software markets including application development tools, middleware, manufacturing and supply chain, enterprise search and software quality and testing tools.