DevOps Institute

[EP79] DevOps and the Long-Term Shift to Hybrid Work Environments with Grant Fritchey

DevOps Basics, Humans of DevOps

June 6, 2022

On this episode of the Humans of DevOps, Jason Baum is joined by Grant Fritchey (@GFritchey) DevOps Advocate at Redgate. They discuss automation, configuration and planning, and how DevOps can help with the shift to hybrid work environments.

Grant Fritchey has worked for more than 30 years in IT as a developer and a DBA. He has built systems from the major enterprise to distributed systems to small boutique companies. He is the author of multiple books including SQL Server Execution Plans and SQL Server Query Performance Tuning. He develops and presents complete structured learning plans to teach Azure, AWS, and other data-related topics to developers and other IS personnel. Grant is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP and an AWS Community Builder.

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Lightly edited transcript below

Narrator 00:03
You’re listening to the humans of DevOps podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas and learning, or the SK il framework.

Grant Fritchey 00:16
In terms of that, the learning curve for people was not for the remote or hybrid, the learning curve for people was the fact that you’re not in the office, the fact that you don’t have immediate communications. And I think that is the biggest impact. It’s not. It’s not fully remote or partially remote. It’s remote at all.

Jason Baum 00:38
Everyone, Jason Baum, Director of Member experience at DevOps Institute, and this is the Humans of DevOps podcast. Welcome back. I hope you had a great week. It was a good one for me, it’s been hot and sunny. And I will take that, especially coming out of what felt like a very long winter. To say the work world has changed over the past two-plus years would definitely be an understatement. First, the mass for shift to fully remote, then the evolution of the attempted return to the office, then we didn’t return to the office than we were returning to the office. Are we still waiting to return the office? Who knows? Companies started to adapt. They developed hybrid strategies. Other companies said forget it, we’re gonna stay remote. Some even made their home base remote and their offices, satellite offices, we’re definitely still in the, I guess, second wave of change, which is just continuous change. I found a recent study, one that really piqued my interest. It was from January 2022. So I’m sure some of these statistics have changed because this is an ongoing thing. But I thought some of the stats were interesting. 66% of executives say their company is considering reorganizing its office space to accommodate hybrid work. It’s definitely different for each office, some are giving up the you have a space and have adopted the come in and share the space. Others are keeping their space but expect you to come in a few days a week 63% of high-growth businesses are using hybrid work models already hybrid model that works for all generations. Yeah, that one can be a little difficult. Apparently three out of four Gen Zers. Want more face-to-face collaboration opportunities, compared to 66% of Gen Xers and 66% of baby boomers, which is interesting to me being in the ladder as a Gen X er. Yeah, I don’t really want to go back. I’ll be honest, I’ve done my networking ice could still go out and do my networking at conferences. That sounds fun. But you know, I’m happy in my home office. A hybrid model in which employees can work remotely at least 25% of the time is preferred by 83% of the workers polled. 92% of those polled in one survey expect to work from home at least once a week and 80% expect to work from home at least three times a week. So that’s pretty interesting. organizations around the world are turning to DevOps as a way of working together to improve the efficiency and quality of software delivery, especially as they continue navigating to hybrid work environments. But for some still struggling through their own digital changes may not be as easy to adapt, which is why providing guidance to help some of these companies is critical. Here today to talk to me about the importance of adopting DevOps to support new hybrid working environments is Grant Fritchie. Grant has worked for more than 30 years in it as a developer and a DBA. He’s built systems from the major enterprise to distributed systems to small boutique companies. He’s the author of multiple books, including SQL Server execution plans, and SQL Server Query performance tuning. He develops and presents complete structured learning plans to teach Azure, AWS and other data related topics to developers and other IRS personnel grants. I’m Microsoft data platform MVP, and an AWS community builder and grants here today, and I’m very excited to have you grant welcome to the podcast. Oh, thanks

Grant Fritchey 04:29
for letting me play. Appreciate it.

Jason Baum 04:31
Awesome. Are you ready to get human? Yeah, well, you

Grant Fritchey 04:34
know, as much as I get anyway,

Jason Baum 04:36
yeah. Sometimes it’s tough getting human. So grant, you’re actually at a conference right now. So you’re with people, other humans.

Grant Fritchey 04:47
There’s Docker, I can see them. You

Jason Baum 04:49
can see people can you Well, hopefully not too much touching but I am sure you’re doing some handshaking, which for me is still I have to get over because I didn’t like handshaking before the panel I’m back. Now I’m definitely not Jacob too many hands. But, but it’s interesting that we’re having this conversation as you’re around so many people talking about hybrid. So I guess we could start with, how is DevOps being incorporated into the workforce? Well, I mean, the remote hybrid environment, I should say, is DevOps

Grant Fritchey 05:23
being incorporated, or enforced to be one question. But honestly, it is being incorporated into the hybrid workforce, because what they’re recognizing is that, especially when it comes to deployments, development, that kind of thing, when you’re not in a situation where you’re sitting eyeball to eyeball with someone, where you can’t immediately run down the hallway and go, Oh, my God, everything’s on fire someone fix it, you need a lot more automation, you need a lot more figuration planning, a stricter, more disciplined process allows you to have, frankly, a looser work environment. So where you don’t have to have that capability of instant communication, especially, you know, as much as we enjoy our hybrid, and I do, boy, do I ever wear cavemen, right, we aren’t jumped up monkeys, we’ve got a million years of evolution that teaches us that that eyeball to eyeball communication is more efficient. But we’re not going to be doing it as much. So we have to come up with other mechanisms supporting and DevOps is really acting as one of those mechanisms.

Jason Baum 06:33
And it’s interesting. We actually had the conversation a few weeks ago about, like, the crossover of hybrid and HR and the roles that they each kind of play or don’t play, or should play in everything. And certainly, with remote versus hybrid, there are differences. So I guess what, what major differences do you see are complications that are arising in a hybrid environment that don’t necessarily come up and fully remote. And then vice versa?

Grant Fritchey 07:09
Well, I mean, I would, I’m not sure that you’re going to be seeing a lot of stuff that’s hybrid that you’re not going to see in a fully remote situation. I’m either lucky or unlucky, or depending how you look at it. When all this went down two years ago, I’d already spent nine years working fully remote, or effectively, fully remote. I mean, I was always in the office, maybe twice a year, three times a year. So I would call that fully remote.

Jason Baum 07:38
Yeah, I think we can count that as remote.

Grant Fritchey 07:42
And so when the initial transition went down, I didn’t notice anything. Other than the fact that I wasn’t traveling to events like this. It was no big deal. But in terms of that the learning curve for people was not fully remote or hybrid learning curve for people was the fact that you’re not in the office, the fact that you don’t have immediate communications. And I think that is the biggest impact. It’s not, it’s not fully remote or partially remote. It’s remote at all. And you’ll notice that I mean, I used to complain about my company. Not that I complained about my company, I love my company. But

Jason Baum 08:24
I used to complain that we had our people are listening,

Grant Fritchey 08:28
why I say we had a hallway culture, because there are a lot of decisions that got made in the hallway, raw, a lot more decisions got made at the coffee urn that got made in the meeting rooms. And so they were very good about bringing in the right people to the meeting, even though I was remote, I would be brought in, I could make the calls, make you know, and make the talks. And we maybe make a decision or two. And then they’d all walk out with it on their heads and go to the copier and start drinking and suddenly, wait a minute. Hey, I’ve got an idea. And decisions got made that way.

Jason Baum 09:00
Yeah, those lightbulb moments. Yeah,

Grant Fritchey 09:03
and I’m not complaining about that that happened. It’s normal. But in terms of this hybrid, non hybrid remote stuff, that’s not happening now. And you need mechanisms in place that are going to allow you to support people’s ability to not be in the hallway. And I wouldn’t say DevOps solves that problem, by any means. But DevOps helps solve that problem as it moves. Again, it moves a lot of communication and a lot of mechanisms into known processes and out of ad hoc mechanisms. So instead of, you know, making the decision at the coffee here, we’re now making those decisions in a more structured fashion. And, frankly, the automation is helping the automation is my favorite bit. I love that aspect of DevOps, but I mean, I mean, I always remember it is people Process tools, right? That’s people or people process products, that’s the better way to put it. But thinking of it that way, it really makes a difference. I mean, it helps. It doesn’t solve every problem. But it does help in a major way.

Jason Baum 10:16
Yeah, there. I mean, there are some inherent issues, right? Because these are human issues. So, unfortunately, there’s not a tool or process to fix all of them. They just help them right or make it more efficient. I guess it’s the better word. But you know what, I find it to be fascinating how, and maybe it’s because in a time of crisis, you’re you go into fight or flight, and you just kind of react instantly. And we all have got, or I don’t know what it is this like, second, this, this thing switches on, right. And we just, we just go. And when the pandemic happened, that switch, I kind of have referenced it, it almost makes me think of y2k, except y2k, we had a lot of time to prepare. And then nothing happened. This time, we had no time to prepare and something happened. And we had to shift instantly. And something that was said, Oh, this digital revolution is changed. This is gonna happen. And it’s gonna take time it took no time it took like, it happened in weeks. You know, it would by April, everyone was remote. You know, it’s kind of fascinating to look back and think about, but the transition back to hybrid is much clunkier, much slower. Why do you think that is?

Grant Fritchey 11:32
Well, I mean, one people got comfortable. And if you’re comfortable, you’re not going to want to get uncomfortable. I mean, commuting sucks.

Jason Baum 11:43
Putting on pants, forget commuting. Well, I

Grant Fritchey 11:47
mean, just so everyone knows that the conference, I am wearing trousers. But once you’re comfortable, you don’t want to change. And so there’s resistance there. Whereas the discomfort before would be, you know, well, hey, am I gonna go out in this place where I don’t know whether or not the mask is going to work? There is no vaccination yet. You know, there’s there was a certain level of concern, right, valid concern. So so the switch was driven out of again, actually comfort, right? I’m more comfortable working from home. And then of course, you get used to it, and then you’re more comfortable working from home? I think that’s one of it. I think the other is it. It’s easier to work remote when everyone is working remote. It is harder when there’s when the hallway conversations come back in. And then some people aren’t there and you realize, oh, God, we can’t make this decision until we talk to you know, Susie or Peggy or whoever it is, it’s that’s going to be involved in it. And so, you know, it makes it more difficult. It just slows down the process.

Jason Baum 12:57
It’s so funny you say that, because I also worked remote prior to the pandemic. And you know, my home base was in Chicago, I’m located in the New York area. So you know, yeah, to go to the office was get on a plane. And same with you. I was probably in the office, maybe four times a year five, six at the most. And yeah, it’s tough like you go to the holiday party. So you could show face, you go to you know, you try to make sure that you’re there. You’re there for a week. Can you show face, but yeah, there’s still all those conversations that are happening that let’s go back to that, because that’s an interest, the hallway conversation, the coffee pot conversation. Just recently, my own company started coming back, you know, DevOps Institute, we started having in-person meetings, not that frequent. You know, we’ll fly down to our home base in Florida, get together for a few days. And I got to say, what you can accomplish when you are face to face, we forget, you get so much more done that could have taken weeks to do remote, and you get it done in a few hours. So there is that component that’s still there that even though those of us who are very comfortable working from home, there is that realization that I think that we are missing that. Right.

Grant Fritchey 14:17
Well, I mean, it lets you say I mean, it’s absolutely an aspect of it. And like I said earlier, we are monkeys, right? And we did it’s unavoidable that evolution is part of our communication mechanism. And as much as our technology has grown and just something like this is amazing and wonderful and really cool. It still doesn’t replace the efficiency of that face to face communication.

Jason Baum 14:44
Yeah, even this I’m always like we need the after conversation. I’ve been thinking and toying around with the idea I think I need to take it to like Twitter space or something. Like continue the conversation get more people involved in the conversation because I think we have a lot of these we have a lot of the one-offs. We have a lot of the Okay, I’m my team’s going great. But then what about all the other teams are missing out on other teams silos are made? DevOps is pretty good about breaking down silos, but it’s harder and remote. Right? So how do these processes? How does this automation? You said, you’re a big fan of automation? How does it combat that?

Grant Fritchey 15:17
Well, I mean, the big part of it is that you can’t automate everyone’s work, you need everyone involved to do the automation. So, you know, my work generally, is database, very, very focused on databases, fine. But I work very closely with dev teams, I work very closely with the ops teams, and I work closely with the business. And I can’t automate any of those other things. I just can’t I can’t control those. So I have to communicate with those people, you know, and say, like, Well, hey, I’ve got my piece automated up to here. Now, what do we do? Right? Who, who, who picks up the ball and runs with it from there, and, and we’ve got it, you know, I mean, for a good DevOps process, there’s got to be somebody doing each of those steps. I mean, and I know there are some people who specialize Oh, I can, I can automate the whole thing. I’ll bet you there’s, you still bring in some specialists on some aspects of it, to automate or control other little bits. But they’ve all got to go into the same process, they’ve all got to go through the same set of testing and the same mechanisms of protection for your production environments. It all lends itself to better and more efficient communication. And it all lends itself to better protection. But it does require a lot of cooperation, a lot of communication.

Jason Baum 16:37
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Grant Fritchey 17:39
Sure. Well, I mean, and frankly, you know, I’ve heard this over and over again, it’s like, well, you know, if you automate all these things, then what am I going to do for my job? It’s like one if your job is poking buttons like this, your Homer

17:53
Simpson, right?

Grant Fritchey 17:54
Well, maybe we should eliminate catch. But no, because your job, especially if you’re in it are jobs up here, you’ve got a lot of thinking you have to do and we need you to be thinking we need you not to be pushing a button like this. So no, it is about humans, it is about supporting the humans through their processes. Credit lost track on the question, no, that’s

Jason Baum 18:17
okay. So, no, I think that was great. So is hybrid, do we? So I read those statistics, first of all the generations, the adaptation from the generations, that’s an interesting one that really stood out to me. And it makes a lot of sense, right? Those early in their career, really need that face to face and are lacking in hell, I work with people who came into this workforce in this environment and know nothing different. In some ways, I feel like well, maybe they’re kind of more adept to work in it. And others I’m feeling boy, they’re really missing out on quite a bit of what we all had earlier in our careers.

Grant Fritchey 18:57
Oh, yeah. I mean, I mean, I learned so much early in my career from just being able to turn to the person next to me who, you know, had a year more than maybe only a year more and go like, What the hell is this?

Jason Baum 19:11
And get that immediate feedback. Right. I remember sitting in a conference room and just hearing everyone else talking. I’m like, wow, you sir. Smart people. Being a little overwhelmed a little bit of impostor syndrome. But it’s good, right? You soak it in, you absorb it, we’re missing that.

Grant Fritchey 19:28
Well, I mean, I mean, it’s talking DevOps, you know, in a fully remote, or they’re even in a hybrid situation. I may never have jumped on board with this. And I’ve been doing automation of database deployments and moving into a full-blown DevOps since 2005. I mean, I’ve been engaged in it for 12 years. Is that right? Yeah. Math is hard. Math is hard. 17 years, 17 years. 17 years. Oh, my God, I’m old, but I’ve been doing it for a long time. But I started it, because I had a developer come up to me and say, hey, you know, I think we can do this better. I’ve been reading up on these new things. And let’s sit down and talk about this, you know, and so we sat down, and we hashed it out, again, face to face. And, and we figured out some new stuff. I mean, you know, I went off and did my own thing, he went off and did his own thing. And then we got together with some other people. But, it was that initial face-to-face that made the difference in my getting started along this path. And you got to think if the poor people who are only on a hybrid or are only remote, they might not get that spark, they might not get that moment where you go, like, Yeah, we really could do something better. And then start making that change.

Jason Baum 20:47
Do you think the full amount because even fully remote before we were saying, Well, we still got, we were still in person a few times a year, there were still things that we did to be in person? Do you see a world where that’s like, kind of be I don’t think anyone’s fully remote anymore. I mean, I feel like some people are still doing, I even said my company, which is a fully remote company, we still get together and are planning to do that more and are thinking of other ways to get together because now that it is safer. And look, you’re never 100% safe, you know, no one can promise you those things.

Grant Fritchey 21:23
But I’m flying in an airplane tomorrow.

Jason Baum 21:25
Yeah. Look, it’s it’s naive to say you’re safe. Right? But, we certainly are safer than we were maybe a year ago or two years ago, for sure. But now that it is that way, and people are starting to get back to face to face, you’re at a conference. You know, do you think you’re gonna start seeing it returned to where it was before? The very least with remote companies still doing in person thing?

Grant Fritchey 21:52
Yeah, I do. I really think there was no good while there. You’re hearing the phrase regularly? Well, the new normal. Yeah, well, we’re we’ve already left what was right, that’s already gone. So it was never the new normal.

Jason Baum 22:09
I heard a really smart person call it the now normal in the time. Like, I love that I love Okay,

Grant Fritchey 22:15
that was good. I had not heard that I wish I had because then I would have felt better about it. Because every time someone said to me, Look, I know I’m old. I’m old. Try trust me, you’re wrong. The interesting thing here is that there is efficiency in the face-to-face. And so I think we are going to be going back to that. Are we going to be going all the way back to a fully in a place in a work environment? Now I think I think there’s going to be a degree of hybrid for the majority of people. I work for a company, I’m not going to name names. And the CEO once said he won’t allow remote work because he can’t allow it for everyone. Guess what, two years ago he left for everyone really have a choice? You know, that’s just how it went? And I think it’s okay. I think it’s okay, that you know, some degree of hybrid is still going to be there. Is it going to occasionally slow down some conversations? Yes. Is that occasionally going to impact some of our processes change some of the some of how we do some DevOps? Sure. But the fact that we’re getting back into that in person making that, you know, letting the monkey outplay, and doing that face-to-face communication is more efficient. And I think that that’s just going to continue. I just don’t I don’t think it’s going to be all the way back. I don’t think we’re going to see fully in person. For most companies, I think some may, but but probably not all, being my son went through the whole pandemic in manufacturing. And his job didn’t change an inch. They went to work because that’s where the machines are. And so, you know, there was just no choice.

Jason Baum 24:09
I mean, now there’s a good percentage of the workforce that that just worked. I mean, just based on those numbers. I mean, we said 66%, right, we’re, we’re remote. There’s still a lot that wasn’t. Right now those are transitioning, so there’s even less sure. There’s also you know, we’re coming close to the end of the podcast, but I did want to get a few more questions in there. Especially because you’ve sparked my interest on some things. And I’d be curious to know, we’ve talked to a lot of people on the podcast throughout the process of this pandemic. And they’ve been adopting some interesting things that I don’t think they’re gonna just go away. You know, now that they’ve been adopted, because like you said, we’re also creatures of habit. We may be monkeys but we’re also we’ve, we’ve adapted and we’ve evolved in this working from home remote, sort of Hybrid sort of knots, the constant change. One thing that I’ve seen is with the metaverse becoming more popular, and people starting to go towards it. I talked to at the beginning of this season of the podcast, a company called Modern, and they started beverage brand new. They sent me an Oculus, my first time ever using it, and I got to meet them in the metaverse at their office in VR. And let me tell you, it felt real, like I mean, like real, which is weird, because it was clearly not I was talking to cartoons, when they were next to me, you can sort of feel their space, your the space between you it felt like you know, someone was in your, if someone’s sitting too close, you felt like they’re sitting too close. All those things, which is very cool. You can see hand motions nodding your head sipping your drink, although that’s very weird because can’t see the cup. Again, oh, so all those things you can get up you could present. So that’s how they were working with their developers, right to move software, you know, have their stand-ups have their you know when they are trying to work out a bug and problem they would they could do it together. I’m sure you’ve heard of your own stories from other companies that are taking to interesting methods. You know, what are some other ways people can foster these type of environments or those hallway in-person conversations that you’re talking about?

Grant Fritchey 26:28
Wow, well, okay, I do have one example. Because the only one I have, I think I have one. One of my dev team well, and well, several my deficits, one of my devs have started doing this. And I kind of went, Oh, that’s stupid. And then I did it with them. And it was like, Okay, this is not stupid. And what they did was slack, I know, Slack. But they opened up a Slack chat, and it gets what it is. And they open it up all day long. So it was open all the time. And so you could just turn it on, you can mute it, if you’d like, if you’d like neck-deep in something that you really didn’t want to hear anything, you could mute it. But it was just there. And so people could, you know, crack jokes, say something, you know, talk to each other in real-time, responding or not responding as they wanted to. And it actually improved the communication between the team. It’s one of the reasons, there’s been a couple of teams at the company who’ve been a little reluctant to come back into the office, because they’re like, now we’re fine. Right? Why do we? So I mean, that is one in a little innovation. I mean, just it’s a small thing. But it is like you say it’s all about that hallway communication efficiency. And you know, it made it real and direct and more personal than simply typing into Slack or anything like

Jason Baum 27:51
that. Sure. Yeah. I mean, like some of these tools, and especially in pandemic and become just, like necessary, like Slack, like zoom like, you know, all these Yeah. And where did some of the other ones disappear off to like Skype for remember that? You either adapted and became a tool that people really use or you didn’t, we actually just launched a community for DevOps professionals practitioners, we actually set up so like, we have an AWS board discussion community, we have DevOps, human issues, we have SRE, I believe we have a whole bunch of them, that you could go in and talk about DevOps culture. So So yeah, I would definitely encourage those listening that if you’re looking for an outlet, if you’re looking to talk to people definitely come in and go to DevOps in the wild. It’s community dot DevOps institute.com. And maybe I’ll take some of these, these conversations over to DevOps in the wild afterwards. We’ll see. So yeah, Grant, I would love to invite you there. By the way, maybe we can continue the conversation in there as well. Yeah, absolutely. Well, I really enjoyed having you on, we usually ask one last question of our guests. And this one’s a little more personal. So get ready, put your personal hat on. So if you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be? I always throw a doozy at the end.

Grant Fritchey 29:23
All right, I’m gonna go a little self-serving on it for over two years now. Starting at the beginning of the pandemic, every workday, I have put up a good morning tweet, with a little positive message about health, sleep, whatever. I would love for that actually, to be something that people remember about. Yeah, it’s a tiny little thing, but it would just be cool.

Jason Baum 29:51
I love that I think. Well, I have to follow you now. And I’ve been starting to tweet as of like last week at A three song playlist to get you going in the morning. Like music is my way of just some sometimes in the morning like with that we just need inspiration. We need something to get us moving. Yeah, yeah, that’s great. I love that. Well, Grant, thank you so much for being on the podcast was an absolute pleasure. I appreciate you coming on to while you’re away and you’re in a coma for at a conference speaking at a conference, so it’s I really appreciate it.

Grant Fritchey 30:27
Well, no, no, thank you very much for having me. Love to come back sometime when I’m not, you know, in weird environments. And talk yeah,

Jason Baum 30:35
we would love to have you and let’s keep in touch. Definitely. Thank

Grant Fritchey 30:40
you very much.

Jason Baum 30:41
And thank you for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m going to end this episode the same way I always do encouraging you to become a member of DevOps Institute to get access to even more great resources just like this one. Join us in the wild our community, it’s community dot DevOps institute.com. I hope to see you there, where we’ll continue the conversation. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and most of all, stay human, live long and prosper.

Narrator 31:14
Thanks for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong

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