DevOps Institute

[EP57] Humans Are Human with Kristen Buchanan

Culture and Human Skills, Humans of DevOps

On this episode of the Humans of DevOps, Jason Baum is joined by Kristen Buchanan, founder of Edify. Find out how DevOps principles can be applied to people and team management, what the future of work holds and so much more!

Kristen Buchanan is the CEO and Founder of Edify, an AI platform that builds high-performing engineering teams, starting with onboarding. She started her first company in 2014 and built onboarding programs for companies such as AWS Elemental, Puppet, OpenSky Alibaba, Cirium (FlightGlobal), Cloudability and more. Kristen is passionate about developing the future of high-performing engineering organizations so that engineering teams can build better products, faster.

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Find a lightly edited transcript below.

Narrator 00:02
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.

Kristen Buchanan 00:16
And even like I was talking about earlier succession as people leave organizations, what is that continuous feedback that we have to improve but also around keeping our documentation, our assets, things like that. So I think that DevOps fits really nicely into Team design and team management.

Jason Baum 00:33
Hey, everyone, it’s Jason Baum, Director of membership at DevOps Institute, and this is the humans of DevOps podcast. On today’s episode, my guest is Kristen Buchanan. Kristin is the CEO and founder of Edify an AI platform that builds high performing engineering teams starting with onboarding. She started her first company in 2014. And build onboarding programs for companies such as AWS, elemental puppet, open sky, Alibaba, cerium, cloud ability, and more. Christian is passionate about developing the future of high performing engineering organizations, so that engineering teams can build better products faster. Welcome to the program. Kristin,

Kristen Buchanan 01:15
thank you so much for having me. Jason, this is really exciting to have this conversation with you.

Jason Baum 01:20
I’m very excited to have you on you know, what you do, it kind of covers everything that we talked about on this podcast, which is the human element of DevOps and, and it and tech and whatever you want to talk call it. You cover it, basically. And if we really want to get into the personal, you know, that’s what we always say, we want to get human on this podcast. So Kristen, are you ready to get human?

Kristen Buchanan 01:47
I think so. At last I checked, I am currently humans. Again, they’re a little bit

Jason Baum 01:54
like, Yeah, who knows these days? Right? I mean, there’s a lot of AI out there. Alright, so anyway, let’s Yeah, so let’s just dive right in. Because I think we have a lot to cover. So let’s just start with, Hey, how’d you get here? Tell us a little bit about your backstory. Maybe starting with, you know, you’ve you’ve been starting company, like you said, your first company that you started was in 2014. So why don’t we? Why don’t we start there?

Kristen Buchanan 02:19
Yeah, absolutely. So I started my first business in 2014. It was what I would not call it a startup, or I would not call it you know, it certainly wasn’t venture funded. It was a good old business, you know, regular business, sold stuff took money in that kind of thing. And it was a learning and development consultancy. And that really stemmed from my background in adult learning and museum education. I have kind of a weird background with art history and museum Ed and stuff like that. And I was working at a web development company, in business development. So fancy word for sales, and was was my job to try to bring in more customers. But I was noticing that those customers kind of didn’t understand the tech that we were going to build for them. And so in their RFPs, sometimes they would actually contradict themselves from a technical perspective. And our developers would get frustrated. And it was just not a great communication. And so I thought, you know, maybe I could use this to teach some workshops, to our customers and to our developers, to help them understand each other better to help ask clarifying questions so that they understood what they were trying to build and what the goal was. And I started doing that, and it worked. It was really cool to see that happen. And that kind of led me to realizing I actually didn’t like this workplace very much. I liked the work I was doing. But it wasn’t my favorite workplace. And I’ve always kind of joked that I have a bit of an authority issue. And so I knew I had been starting little pretend businesses since I was a kid. And so I was like, you know, what, now’s a great time, I have, you know, have 70k in student loans, I got $1,000 in the bank, this is a perfect time to quit, and to start my business. So I did and just kind of rolled from there, I was able to get some early, you know, contracts with some companies, helping them with at the, at the beginning, the very first thing I ever did was helped an organization with succession planning, actually kind of the opposite of what I do now. And I I kind of got into engineering onboarding, because I had friends who were shorting jobs in that arena, and having a hard time getting on boarded, and we would just sit down to coffee and kind of work through it. And I realized, you know, if this works for them, I could probably sell this as a service to other companies. And so I tried and it worked. And I kept doing it. And kind of I want to say like now we’re here but it was a winding road to that path. I was you know doing that for About six years and around 2018 started to get some push from one of my mentors who is definitely a human of DevOps, Luke cornice. Who started the company puppet asked me, you know, why don’t you just make software out of this out of what you’re doing, you already have this big spreadsheet that you’ve built that kind of is the formula and the way and the framework that you do. Why are you traveling all over the world to do this one by one, when you could really scale it with software. And I kind of thought, that’s not something I’m interested in. That’s not feasible. I don’t know how to do that. I had dabbled at teaching myself code and wasn’t really my favorite thing in the world. And so I kind of ignored him. And customers started to ask me back in my old business, if I had software for and I was going to leave behind anything other than another Confluence page or another Google Doc. And what I was doing at the time, was kind of fiddling with JIRA, and Confluence and GitHub to try to automate a system of onboarding. And it was imperfect, but it was better than what they had. So I actually started to rethink some of Luke’s advice in 2019. And actually prototyped on paper, you know, back when we could actually be in conference rooms with people, we whiteboard it out, what would this software look like? What was good about my service? As a consultant, what needed work? What could we do with software that we can’t do now. And by the end of the year, I just had so much conviction that there was going to be a software tool in this space, and I wanted to be the one to build it. And so I closed that first company, and I moved off all my old contracts. And Reese, you know, started a new one. And I, you know, decided I wanted to go the route of being a developer productivity tool. And we ended up building an MVP, raising a little bit of money, and going through TechStars Seattle. And that’s how we got here today.

Jason Baum 07:00
And that’s how you ended up here. So, I mean, there’s so much to unpack there that says, it’s such a cool story. And life is never linear. Right? You know, you’re so his ups and downs and ins and outs. And I love that you have an amazing mentor, and you chose not to listen to him at first. But it sounds like the feedback, you know, kind of steered you in that direction. Which is great, because I guess that means you have a really good mentor. I think they do.

Kristen Buchanan 07:30
Yeah, Luke is really smart. And I actually, I kind of tell people, like, I’ve been sort of accidentally training to run a software company for like, seven years. And what I mean by that is working with engineering teams, seeing how DevOps actually functioned. In small companies at scale, getting great mentors around me, like Luke wasn’t intentional, you know, it wasn’t like, I’m going to start a company here. And one day, in fact, you know, I still today sometimes wonder, like, am I the right person to scale a giant, a software company, when my you know, my vision is, is like this. And, you know, actually, Luke was one of the first people, even back in late 2019, when I started to tell him, I think I’m going to work on this. He actually thought the original vision for the company was too small, and was like, go home, work on it, come back, and we’ll talk about it. And I came up with a bigger vision. And so I am super grateful to all the mentors, I’ve got in my in my pocket.

Jason Baum 08:35
You know, so funny, we’ve talked to we’ve, we’ve spoken to a number of entrepreneurs on the show, and I’ve spoken, I’ve been lucky enough to speak to a lot of entrepreneurs. In doing podcasts in general, everyone shares the same. Same kind of, you’re not afraid to take risks. And it just seems like you have a really hard time, like you said, a hard time with authority, which is certainly a driving factor for I think a lot of entrepreneurs, but also, you know what you want? You’re right. I mean, you kind of have that vision. And even if that vision is not fully fleshed out, like you said, you kind of been training for it over time. You’re getting to it, you know what it is? You’re just kind of getting there.

Kristen Buchanan 09:19
Yeah, absolutely. I agree with you. I see that similarity in other entrepreneurs. We can be a little bit difficult sometimes. I always tell people that, you know, my favorite business owners, my favorite entrepreneurs. You know, they’ve like myself, many of us have either been fired or almost fired from a lot of our jobs because we’re difficult. We ask a lot of systemic questions or think about efficiency. We want to challenge the status quo. And I think that is how you innovate on things is saying, I don’t think this is right. I think it’s broken. I don’t necessarily know what The road is going to be to fixing it per se, but I have a vision of what the future would look like if I did fix it.

Jason Baum 10:06
I always wish I could be an entrepreneur, because I think I have a lot of those qualities, but I’m just risk adverse. I can’t be risk adverse and be an entrepreneur just like,

Kristen Buchanan 10:15
yeah, there’s so many different businesses that this is a whole nother podcast. But there’s like micro businesses, there’s all kinds of cool stuff. But I think you’re right, risk is actually kind of relative, I sometimes think about, you know, my first business allowed me to buy my first house, it allowed me to buy a car. It allowed me to support like my dogs, which sounds silly, but, you know, when I was in museums, I wasn’t making a lot of money. And so, you know, now I sometimes wonder like, oh, what I take the same risk. And I still think I’m kind of crazy still. So probably yes, but risk is relative to kind of where you are in your life, the responsibilities that you have. And it’s, it’s always interesting to me, when people you know, there’s in the startup world, there can be kind of shade thrown at the concept of a lifestyle business. And I hate saying that, because I think running a business is running a business, just at a different scale.

Jason Baum 11:16
Yeah, I always think about when we talk about risk, I always think of what they say on Shark Tank. And I think that sometimes they’re just they look, it’s it’s a TV show, but at the end of the day, they’re sometimes they give really great advice. And one of the things that always sticks is like if you’re not in it all the way and you’re not going to give up your day job, and they don’t invest, because they know you have to have risk in order to really excel as an entrepreneur.

Kristen Buchanan 11:41
That is true. Yeah, I do see that. And that’s some advice with, you know, I’ve worked with other business owners and mentoring them or helping them find access to resources for a long time. And I think at some point, you’ve got to tell yourself, you’ve got to believe enough that you will be able to land on your feet. And that can only that’s a decision that only you can make, right? That, you know, if if we’re talking like bankruptcy or divorce or crazy stuff like that, you’ve got to be able to ask yourself, can I do that? Am I willing to dive in? I don’t think it has to go that way at all. But there, there is a bottom, you know, the bottom that you might hit, and you have to ask yourself if you’re okay with those things, and if you’re not, that’s okay, too. You know, I think I think about the amazing people that I have in my company, most of them don’t want to ever be entrepreneurs. And that’s kind of good, because I need to employ really smart people. And I’m lucky that I get to do that.

Jason Baum 12:43
Yeah. So, you know, as the founder of an onboarding software that’s focused in DevOps principles, and the the human side, I have to ask, you know, what, what are those principles that you’re infusing into the culture?

Kristen Buchanan 13:00
Yeah, that’s a great question. Well, I think it depends on which companies white paper, you look at, there’s always these sort of like, their seven principles of DevOps, or their nine principles of DevOps. But, you know, what comes to mind when I think about DevOps, is that figure eight concepts that we might have seen before that continuous idea, where you’re looking at things like continuous feedback, going into planning, going into actually building something which goes into, from the the CI CD perspective, like continuous integration and deployment, actually monitoring what you’re deploying and operating on that and then going back into continuous feedback. And you and I were talking earlier about the idea that this is similar to lean and VP agile, you know, there’s so many things that that kind of are similar to DevOps. And I liked what you said earlier that you thought maybe it should just be called common sense, because it does seem common sense to me. But when you look at these principles, we have as of yet only applied them to code, which seems so limiting to me, right? And I’ve been thinking about this for going on almost, you know, six, seven years now that these are great people, principals as well. They’re great for, for actually managing teams building and managing organizations. Because at the end of the day, your code can be great, and it can have an excellent CI CD pipeline. But if you have a team, who’s writing that code is unhealthy, your software and your product and your customers are eventually going to be unhealthy also. And that’s not always a you know, you’ll see it in the customer tomorrow, you know, time kind of kind of timeframe. But I think that bringing some of these principles back probably all of them into the way that we think about people hire, manage onboard, develop those people give them career opportunities. and even like I was talking about earlier succession as people leave organizations, what is that continuous feedback that we have to improve, but also around keeping our documentation, our assets, things like that. So I think that DevOps fits really nicely into Team design and team management.

Jason Baum 15:17
Absolutely. And quite frankly, the more I learn about DevOps, I’m surprised that people haven’t done this before. And it doesn’t, that’s a great sign by the way of that you’re onto something. Because yeah, to me, like you said, like I said, it seems like common sense, the more I learn DevOps principles, because these are principles that are taught maybe in other forums, that are basically being repackaged in a really nice succinct way, by the way. And, you know, I’ve talked about how I see some psychology and I see some, certainly, it applies to HR principles. So it only makes sense. And I think this is it’s really interesting and great, what you’re doing. Thanks,

Kristen Buchanan 15:59
I appreciate that. And I love that you brought up kind of the psychology of it and the Human Resources element as well, that if you look at the employee lifecycle, that’s kind of a human resources phrase that we talked about, from recruiting, to onboarding to continuous development, that would be kind of learning and development of for an individual to performance management, and even promoting people or managing people out of an organization. And then in descent succession, you have this nice cyclical pattern that you can drop DevOps into, right. And there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be drawing a line, a thread between all of those elements of the employee lifecycle, and I think we can easily do that with DevOps.

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Jason Baum 17:34
Absolutely, and so I was really excited that you were going to be coming on the podcast, because we had Evelyn Orlick, our colleague on several weeks ago, she talked about the upskilling report that we do through DevOps Institute. And we talked about some of the skill gaps that we’re exploring as part of the upskilling report. And also taking a look at some of the impact that, you know, the a pandemic has had on that. And so I want to ask you about some of those things and what you’re seeing, especially with regards to the future of remote hiring and onboarding. So yeah, I mean, tell me a little bit about what you’re seeing the the impacts of the pandemic. And do you believe that there’s a skill gap going on right now? And maybe you could elaborate?

Kristen Buchanan 18:27
Yeah, that’s an excellent question. I think there’s so many different places we could start. But perhaps one of the, you know, the place that I will start Is that what’s been interesting, you mentioned psychology earlier, and I am not a psychologist, I’m not here to diagnose anyone. But you can look at the pandemic and objectively easily say

Kristen Buchanan 18:49
that this has caused a sort of generalized anxiety for pretty much everyone. Right? It is a fact of life now that your regular life has changed very substantially from how it used to be prior to March 2020. Right? Whether that meant that you, you know, you just know, you’re not going out to eat as much or at all, or you’re not seeing family, or you’re not going into an office if you’re, if your work at an office before that you’re not getting on a plane much or frequently at all. There’s all kinds of changes that have happened that I think have actually really impacted people in ways that they haven’t necessarily been able to unpack yet. And that is only naturally going to flow into work. So well, we have seen in the last 1820 months or so, this crazy development in remote work software, remote team management, you know, so many different white papers and guides about how to run remote teams. You know, I think edify even has one remote engineering teams, but the Fact of the matter is that people are a little different. Now we are more tired, we are more stressed out, especially parents who have kids at home or who have to school their kids, when they weren’t planning to the stress over whether or not to engage in certain, like medical decisions, all of these kinds of things are kind of flowing into work. And what’s been interesting to me is that I don’t think that as a society, perhaps or as a work culture, we’ve really stopped to think about how are people doing? And what are we asking of them? Right? What kind of outcomes are we asking? And what’s actually happened is kind of the reverse of that we’ve seen in the last 18 months, the venture capital markets totally explode valuations kind of astronomically. Going up the size of rounds, you know, it used to be that you raised a seed round, which was maybe like $250,000. And now seed rounds can be, you know, two to $10 million, sometimes it right. And valuations are super high. And I personally, I think there’s going to be an interesting market correction. But I bring up that component of it. Because we’ve actually asked people to do more in this period of time than we were asking them previously. And what can happen now that we all just live on Zoom, you just back to back yourself from meeting to meeting to meeting because you don’t have to physically move somewhere else. So I also wonder, I don’t see this happening. But I also wonder if there’s things we need to be thinking about with people’s health physically and mentally around this. And I think this is relevant to future of work, remote hiring all of this because, and I don’t I don’t have a solution for it. But I think it’s relevant, because at some point, people will start to burnout, right? We know already about burnout and pre pandemic. But I think people when we’re not using some of these principles, we are forgetting that humans are human, right? This is the humans of DevOps podcast. And humans are not machines that you just put oil into, or you just plug into the wall, they get tired, they get burnt out. And if you’re not thinking through, what is the cycle of how I support this human, give them the right environment to thrive, give them the right feedback, and give them breaks, frankly, then I think we’re going to struggle. And I’m kind of surprised that we haven’t seen more of that. on a broad scale, we have actually seen a lot of parents dropping out of the workforce and white collar knowledge worker jobs, which I think we are not talking about enough. But we’re also I mean, there’s certainly conversation we can have about blue collar workers right now. But really related to knowledge work in DevOps, we are seeing people get tired and frustrated, and realize that you get this zoom fatigue, right, from looking at yourself, or just looking at a camera all day, trying to figure out what is the body language of this person whom I can only see their shoulders up, right. And I think it kind of calls for a reimagination of how are we managing our teams. And I don’t think it’s in the direction of, quote unquote, employee engagement and perks or benefits. Like those are valid conversations to have too. But we need a fundamental shift of how we are designing work that happens on a day to day basis. Oh,

Jason Baum 23:38
God, I love that answer. And there were so much there. And I’m like, I’m trying to like, there’s so much that I want to touch on with no, it’s so great. So first of all, thank you for bringing up body language. I think that’s so important and something that’s been severely lacking because you really do only just see a face and facial expressions can be taken so many different ways and usually incorrectly. And you said humans are human? I think that’s first of all, I think that might be the title of this episode. And that we haven’t sold out there was burnout in in DevOps before this. We even touched on burnout a few episodes ago briefly absolute burnout people working unrealistic hours and so I can only imagine now when it seems like hours don’t matter anymore you’re you don’t have to commute so all sudden you can work more well that doesn’t really work that way but but but we all do it anyway because it’s right there. The computers right in the other room, you could just plug in and it’s it doesn’t matter but does it and then the other thing that you said you know that we haven’t slowed down. Not only have we have not have we not slowed down. There was no stop. Like you would think we went through as a society as a world when has that really happened? This Huge traumatic event. And by the way, it’s still happening. And we pivoted like that, which says quite a bit, by the way of the infrastructure of work have the ability to be able to pivot so quick to, to a remote workforce forks, the remote workforce pretty much globally. But yeah, we didn’t stop. It just kept going. Which that’s pretty. That’s pretty nuts. I don’t know how else to say it.

Kristen Buchanan 25:31
It is. Yeah. And it makes me wonder about you know, I don’t want to turn a podcast into like, discussion of philosophy, but

Jason Baum 25:42
it we usually go down that rabbit hole, so don’t worry,

Kristen Buchanan 25:45
you know, it really does make me wonder about like, what do we all looking for? And why are we working? And why do we work as hard as we work? I am I talk to my team about this. I’m a firm believer that, you know, the 40 hour workweek is a construct. And not I mean, it, you can go into the history of it. Look at Frederick Taylor. And how it actually came about is totally ridiculous study that he did. I think back in 1912, don’t quote me on that. My history professors are going to get mad, but the the idea that we are somehow really productive between nine and five. And the old idea, frankly, that we were productive when we were in an office, right, I used to work with engineering leaders, and other leaders who would say I will never go remote, because I won’t be able to see them. Well, what that means is that you won’t be able to control them, right, you won’t be able to push them in certain ways. And that somehow, having a person in an office is some kind of proxy for productivity, that is completely false. Right. And, in fact, many developers that I know and talk to feel that they actually are more productive in the same period of time, in their homes now or in the places that they choose to be. So it’s not all bad, right? That’s the other thing is, you know, having choice in where you work, right, having the ability to say, actually, I would prefer to commute to my office in my house today or to my kitchen table. But that may not be everyone’s choice, right. And so we need to think about when we talk about the future of work, and what does that look like, I do believe that there is some kind of hybrid happening here, I don’t think after 18 months, we can all require everyone to go back into the office, particularly engineers. And if you just look at the kind of market power that engineers have, and can command, there’s not enough supply, there’s a very high demand, it’s very expensive to hire developers right now. They can kind of say what they want to do and work where they want to work, for some, you know, for the majority of them. And so I think there’s going to be, you know, a pretty serious hybridisation, and that’s already starting to happen. I don’t think anyone has the key to what that really looks like for safety reasons for, you know, equity reasons. Do we all go into the office on some days or none other days? And of course, there are questions about usage. And from a business owners perspective, how much are you paying to have an empty office three days out of the five, right? So I think right now, you know, rather than try to prognosticate, if you will, on what the future is going to look like. I’ll just say I think we have a lot of open questions that need conversation. And just to go back to something you mentioned, I think we also have an open question need to ask ourselves, again, what is our goal here, and each of our businesses, perhaps the leaders who are listening to this podcast can ask themselves that? What’s what’s the goal here? Do I need to run my team this quickly? Because I just because I can, because they will. Because dinnertime runs into time when you can be on your computer.

Jason Baum 29:05
Yeah, I’m not gonna go too much into this. But I was reading about the CEO, I think it’s both I’m not 100%. He changed the he’s younger, which I think applies to this. And we can kind of talk about this aspect of it. But he changed the workweek for his team to be four days, forever, and, and remote forever. And the reason why he chose four was because they used to do these like, Hell weeks or whatever you want to call them where they get, you know, they hunker down and they get it all done. They had to do it in like four days. And he found that productivity actually was, it wasn’t just the amount of time that they were spending. It was just that when you have some time to do something, and you only have four days to do it. You’re gonna get it done in four days. But then they got a three day weekend. And they had all that time back. So Look, there can be arguments made for it. But the point of if you only have so much time to do something, you’re going to get it done in that amount of time. And that got rid of the five day workweek, which I think, I don’t know, I think for some, they would like that. So I think there’s gonna be a ton of different models like that sooner and sooner rather than later. I want to talk actually a little bit about generational differences and how that plays with onboarding and what you’re seeing, perhaps because of the pandemic, and I always think about the new hires, never worked in, in an office environment now, who are coming into the workforce, this must be a different experience, it’s got to be I don’t think you have to be an expert to know that.

Kristen Buchanan 30:46
Absolutely. I mean, we can go back to the fact that humans are humans. And a defining characteristic of human speed speak as humans as a species is that we are social, right? We are around people and people queue and key off of each other physically, both from the ability to hear, tone and match that to body language. Watch what other people are doing in an office. This is an extremely important point for people. For people who are more neurodiverse, that there are a lot of things about zoom and video that can make it really hard for you to feel welcome, and to feel like you’re joining the the true, you know, culture in the organization. But when you take people out of those contexts, where they can’t just pick things up through osmosis, what we’re talking about is sort of tacit versus explicit. And tacit things are those things when whenever somebody says to you like oh, you know, so and so is going to show you the ropes, the ropes are tassin, there are no literal ropes, they are not written down. But this is the stuff that people kind of think, is in somebody’s head. And hopefully it’s in somebody’s head. And hopefully, the way they explain it to you today will make sense to you. And you will be able to operationalize and build, you know, do new behavior based on that information that you’re learning. And an onboarding. Previously, when you were in a physical place, you could literally walk by somebody’s desk and observe what they’re doing, you could talk to them casually, could pull them into a conference room, you could whiteboard with them, you could actually work through things physically and kinetically, which is part of human development, actually. And if you think about folks who literally graduated out of college, or Code School, or their professional, you know, training in 2020, or just recently, in 2021, they’re not getting any of that, you know, they’re not going into places. And, you know, we were talking earlier, every generation is, has its own, you know, issues with the other generations and vice versa. And so this is not about that at all, I think it’s actually that there, there are things that in a professional white collar work environment, Emilio, if you if you will, there are things that you just pick up physically. And I think I actually believe that we have taken that for granted far too long. Anyway, for not just new grads, but everybody, right? It’s pretty different if you work at AWS or Microsoft than if you work at a family run software company of which there are 1000s, right? It’s pretty different. If you’re going to go work in Mountain View, California, or you’re going to work in Boston, right? There are really real and serious differences, two cultures, regionally, company culture wise, that we’ve just kind of assumed that you’ll pick up. And that’s really not a fair assumption for all people, because we don’t all interpret things the same way. And what happens when we do this, when we make these assumptions about tacit knowledge gathering, is that we actually really harm the new hire and the team. Because this is the stuff that leads to people getting fired, or people getting quit, you know, quitting, people getting really frustrated, because they realize, Oh, my God, if you just told me that, I would have done it that way. Right? If you if I knew that was your expectation, I would have either left because it doesn’t match my expectations. Or I wouldn’t have come here in the first place. Or I would just behave in that way because that’s what you’ve asked of me in this professional environment. So I do think that this is a great time for companies to start thinking about what are the core tacit parts of our behaviors and I call them professional expectations or norms, if you will. And there can be norms at the company level or the depart In level or even the team, and especially the team level, you know, how do you run stand ups? Do you? Does everybody talk? Is there a report out? Who is the leader who’s writing notes? These are all norms that, frankly, new hires have to just pick up on their own.

Jason Baum 35:16
Yeah, I mean, I was I was a new hire during pandemic. Luckily, I’ve worked remote before. But even with remote work before, there was a tangible place that you go to at some point. And I still was assigned a buddy and I still got to be shown the ropes and I still had my introductory lunch and you know, all the things that make you feel welcome. That used to be pretty much standard practice before and that doesn’t exist in a remote environment just doesn’t. And I always thought that going into remote that you need to have a certain personality that it only fits certain personalities, that you need to be somewhat proactive, you need to be more of an extrovert. And that really doesn’t lend well for someone who’s an introvert. Especially someone doesn’t want to show themselves on camera. You know, all those things, because now there’s built in, you know, an audacity is too strong a word, but now you have feelings towards like, Okay, why don’t you want to turn on the camera? What are you doing? Okay, great. You know, it just opens up a can of worms that doesn’t even need to be there. So I wonder how some people are even doing it. It’s not, it wasn’t an issue for me. But I always felt that way that you sort of had to have a person. Now I don’t think that way because everyone’s doing it. But I just wonder, Are there advantages, you know, for some over others in this in this type of environment?

Kristen Buchanan 36:35
I believe there are I haven’t seen any kind of what I would hope to see kind of like a mid Longitudinal Study of this from like a sociology or psychology perspective. But I would venture to say that it probably is harder on other people. You know, interestingly, I think that there are, there’s probably more axes and more vectors, for people who like remote work and thrive in in, and people who don’t, I certainly see that people who can naturally manage their time really well, or they have an internal clock, you know, I joke with my team, I have this tick that about five to eight minutes before a meeting ends, I will kind of stop us and say like, I want to be respectful of your time, I want to be mindful of your time. And it’s basically a cue to say we were winding down. Now, I want to keep my time, I want to keep your time. And as a consequence, most of the time, I don’t run over. But I also feel that like I can internally feel it’s been 25 minutes, or it’s been 45 minutes or what have you. That’s not the case for everybody else. On the other side of it, I ran my first business remote, if you will. But you’re right, there were always places to go, you know, I was going and visiting teams in their offices. Or when I had employees, I was bringing them together in a co working space or something like that. And personally, I don’t like this sort of, you know, the way that I am I read the sort of office as a control mechanism. And I don’t personally like it. And so I’ve kind of joked it might it might be gauche for a company, if the CEO doesn’t want to come to the office, right? So I probably won’t ever have an office. But that being said, I have people on my team who really thrive in that co working environment, or just working in the coffee shop or things that they’re still not really flexibly able to do reliably all the time. Right now it’s getting better, it’s getting easier. Certain things are opening up in different places. But it’s not always true for everyone. And so I think there are absolutely advantages for some people over other people. And I think one of the biggest disadvantages that we miss out on or that we don’t think about, is just people’s emotional and mental energy. And that might sound, you know, a little squishy, but again, humans are humans, and we have that kind of component of ourselves. And like, for example, yesterday, I had so many back to back meetings, that by the end of the day, I didn’t really even want to talk to my family. I was so tired, you know, and I was just like, I just want to sit here and watch reruns of friends. I really can’t talk right now. You know,

Jason Baum 39:23
oh, we’re watching Seinfeld. Oh, very good.

Kristen Buchanan 39:26
You know, I’ve worked through How I Met Your Mother twice in the pandemic, you know, all the shows. I’ve gotten their their time in the sun. And, you know, I think that’s not usually how my days go. But we are inadvertently penalizing people who do not get their energy from being on video and on screen, and some people do and that is awesome for them. But many of us don’t. And I will often tell my team like I’ll be on a video meeting and I will consciously have it off and I’ll say I’m feeling zoomed out. I’m gonna have my video off. It’s up to you And again, don’t quote me on this. But I feel like I recently bumped into maybe an HBR article or something about team trust and videos off. And I think it actually was I remember kind of bristling at it at first, because I also I do like seeing people and it kind of gives you as a, as a manager or a CEO, you’re like, Oh, if I can see you and you’re not typing, then you’re paying attention, right? And at the end of the day, actually, what you should be caring about an indexing for is whether they’re paying attention to you or not, are they getting the outcomes that you’ve asked them to get for the company? That’s what really matters. But the study, I think, was saying that teams that have the option of having having their video off, are more trusting teams, they are more, you know, tend to be high functioning teams, I’m going to need to go back and double check that but but I know it was suggesting that video off might be an advantageous tool for us. So I think that this kind of dovetails into the conversation we were having earlier about whether or not there’s a specific change we can predict for the future of work. But I certainly think flexibility and how we are communicating has to be one of them.

Jason Baum 41:19
Absolutely. And I think we’re working on it. You know, I think it’s being worked out for sure. I think that I think people know, I think that we’re we’re pivoting to that piece much slower than, hey, we need to get up and running. We got up and running. We did that right away. Now it’s okay, what is it actually doing to us? And how can we take care of people better. Also, by the way, there’s opportunities now, that didn’t exist before. And people are being selective. And we’re obviously all seeing that with the return to work and people finding new positions that they never thought that they would work in and all that. So I think that taking care of your employee has to take start taking precedence, for sure. Alright, so we’re gonna pivot out of this. And I mean, we could stay in this, I feel like I could stay in this all day, and talk this, but we only have a certain amount of time. And now we’re now we’re going to get goofy because that’s what we do on this show. So I’m going to ask you, something that we ask at the end of every podcast, every episode that we do, and that is, what’s one unique thing about you that no one knows. Oh,

Kristen Buchanan 42:23
that’s it. That’s a really good one. Gosh, there’s so many like things that I could say that I think are more embarrassing than anything,

Jason Baum 42:32
just don’t get yourself in trouble. That’s all that we ask something, something people don’t know. But it doesn’t have to be too deep. And the ball Yeah,

Kristen Buchanan 42:38
everything’s ethical. I would say, most people do not know that. I really wanted to be some sort of biologist when I was a kid, when I was very little, even up into college, you know, my trademark saying and my family would make fun of me for this is I’d run up to something on the beach or in the forest and be like, Is it dead? Can I touch it? You know? And I really loved

Jason Baum 43:04
every parent’s dream, by the way for kids to say, Is it dead? Can I touch it? That’s just

Kristen Buchanan 43:09
germs. So you know, picked up a lot of dead things in my life. I actually learned how to taxidermists in college, which is really weird, but interesting skill. So maybe that’s that’s something that I’ll leave you with.

Jason Baum 43:23
Have you ever had to put that to use? And maybe I don’t want to know the answer

Kristen Buchanan 43:27
to actually I in a previous life, I was a sculptor, and printmaker, and I actually did text her Mies a couple of birds that had a really sad, unfortunate death. And I they’re just so beautiful that I didn’t want them to go to waste, essentially. And so I had this amazing professor who taught me how to do it, and to preserve them and put them into a piece of art.

Jason Baum 43:53
That’s pretty cool. Well, you’re definitely the first person that I’ve had in the podcast. Who’s taxidermy? Yeah. So thank you for sharing and say, It’s always fun when we ask that question. Yeah. You never know what you’re gonna get. So I really appreciate you coming on. Kristen. Has a lot of great conversation, quite frankly, I feel like we didn’t even We just scratched the surface.

Kristen Buchanan 44:14
There’s so much more. But podcasts are short for a reason. So I’ve been honored to have this conversation with you, Jason.

Jason Baum 44:21
I hope we could do it again. I feel like there’s even more we could talk about so for sure. We’d love to have you come back and talk with us again.

Kristen Buchanan 44:30
Thank you.

Jason Baum 44:30
Well, thank you again for taking time to to chat with us. And thank you for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m going to end this episode the same as I always do, encouraging you to become a premium member of DevOps Institute to get access to even more great resources just like this one. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and most of all, stay human, live long and prosper.

Narrator 44:57
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 aren’t part of something bigger than yourself. You belong

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