DevOps Institute

[EP62] Dynamic Learning, DevOps and Dojos, Oh My!

DevOps Basics, Humans of DevOps

December 13, 2021

On this episode of the Humans of DevOps, Jason Baum is joined by Eric Chapman, DevOps Institute Ambassador and Principal Consultant at Liatrio. He discusses dynamic learning capability – what it is, why it’s important to software and DevOps organizations, dojos and more.

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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 SKIL framework.

Eric Chapman 00:16
Issues that are winning and winning in terms of embracing new cloud native practices and the way in, as I’ll say, in our quotes, digital transformation is becoming an overloaded term, but the organizations are winning or making heavily heavy investments in their employees and their Hold on folks.

Jason Baum 00:34
Hey, everyone, it’s Jason Brown, Director of Member experience at DevOps Institute, and this is the humans of DevOps podcast. Welcome back. Thank you for joining us again. Over the past few weeks, if you’ve tuned in, we’ve been diving deeper into human skills and human issues, especially with how they pertain to DevOps and tech professionals. If you didn’t have a chance to listen last week, I highly encourage you to listen to our first-ever panel. We covered imposter syndrome with Paulie nervous and Leonardo Mario, and I definitely encourage you to check that out. So please check it out and subscribe, so you don’t miss any of our podcasts. This week we’ll be discussing dynamic learning capability. And here to discuss the topic with me is Eric Chatman. Eric is a principal consultant at liat trio, helping their clients deliver software faster and safer. With a background in software development. He has spent the last 20 years architecting building and enabling software systems for large complex organizations spanning the US government, healthcare, financial and E-commerce sectors. And with that, Eric, welcome officially to the humans of DevOps podcast.

Eric Chapman 01:48
Awesome. Thanks. Jason is honored to be here, a big fan of the podcast. So thanks for inviting me in and excited to talk about the topic of dynamic learning today.

Jason Baum 01:56
Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us. And are you ready to get human? Yeah, let’s do it. The heart right? I always wonder if someone said no, what would I say? Yeah,

Eric Chapman 02:05
I was thinking in my head. But I was like, yeah, it’s a little too early to start dropping. Matt DevOps that joke, so better. Yeah.

Jason Baum 02:11
Oh, no, I always have bad bad jokes. Don’t worry about it. That’s we actually covered that in one of our podcasts. And I

Eric Chapman 02:18
mean, maybe that’s a future topic because we’ll just cover bad DevOps that jokes,

Jason Baum 02:22
I could fill 30 to 45 minutes or less. One-liner dad jokes. Alright, so we’re going to be talking dynamic learning capability, a topic I will self admittedly, have no knowledge on. So this should be interesting. So what do we mean by dynamic learning capability?

Eric Chapman 02:41
All right. So I’m going to start with my best impression of an Oxford type of definition for dynamic learning. And then let’s break that down. So what I’ve got is the organization’s ability to adapt to the methods used to teach and grow their team members to best meet the needs of their customers based on environmental and technological changes. How’s that?

Jason Baum 03:02
That’s a lot. That’s, that’s a mouthful. So what actually does that mean?

Eric Chapman 03:07
Yeah, great question. And I was hoping you would ask that. So I think it’s important to tie this back to DevOps, given the name of the podcast. So what does that mean wasn’t relevant in software delivery. And so DevOps, culture and organization. So So breaking that down? What’s that mean for an organization. So in the context of software delivery, as I said earlier, so tying it back to some earlier podcasts and big mover we see in our industry right now is value stream. So using inputs from the value stream to describe the system or systems in place that facilitate the flow of value. So I like to talk about these value streams or systems as paved roads. So the road doesn’t always have all the reflectors and all this, it’s always a fun journey. It could be a bumpy journey, but the systems are what they are. And the value stream helps bring visibility to that. And the version also highlights the constraints or gives you cost of delays. So those constraints manifest themselves as people process and technology. So so to take it back using the view of the reality within your organization to help drive the learning opportunities and the areas that need to be improved within your organization.

Jason Baum 04:23
You know, the word that keeps popping out to me, the one that really stands out with dynamic learning capability is the word dynamic. So what is it exactly about it that makes it dynamic?

Eric Chapman 04:38
Yeah, that’s great, great question. So if you think about there are some problems that are systemic problems that span across an organization. But typically, each product team or delivery team has their own unique challenges in terms of, you know, having less friction of flow, but able to deliver value to the customers and get feedback faster. So it’s important to not take a one size fits all approach, to address a need. So every individual or every human on the team is going to have certain areas where they may need to upskill or learn new technology. And every team will have their own capabilities. So there’s no one-size-fits-all here, in terms of learning and meeting the needs of an organization.

Jason Baum 05:25
Kind of agile learning? Or is that different? That’s a whole different topic? I guess, right. Now,

Eric Chapman 05:31
I think good merging in here. So why is

Jason Baum 05:35
it relevant to software and to DevOps organizations?

Eric Chapman 05:39
Yeah, it’s relevant. Because if you think about it, every product team, whether your customers internal-facing or you’re, you’re serving the needs of an external customer, you know, a core of what you’re trying to do is, is deliver value to your customer. And delivering value is really important because it could be in revenue, but you also want to get faster feedback. So I mean, that’s sort of what I incur a lot of this, too, is like, How can I increase the flow? Both of outputs going out for my team and inputs coming back in? And it’s yeah, that’s, that’s where I sort of see the relevance. In terms of who should embrace that. I don’t know if I’ve answered that before we jump into the who? Jason heard that, that that covered it.

Jason Baum 06:26
Yeah, no, why don’t we jump into the hoot? Like, so? Yeah, that would be great. I think that’s the logical next question is, is who would embrace this and, and practice it?

Eric Chapman 06:36
Cool. So what what I’ve seen across, you know, my, my tenure so far, and, and trying to say, connected to the community is organizations that are winning and winning in terms of embracing cloud native practices. And, you know, the win, as I’ll say, in air quotes, digital transformation is becoming an overloaded term, but the organizations are winning or making heavily heavy investments in their, in their employee and their and their full time, folks, especially, and tying it to a topic that’s pretty relevant today with the great resignation, you know, people leaving organizations for work-life balance, or whether it’s benefits or ability to work remotely. You know, companies who are heavily investing in learning and bringing their team members along the journey, are investing in the future, their company investing in their folks staying there. So, so, so, when I say who should do it, in my opinion, it’s, you know, organizations, everyone should be doing it, making heavy investments in their people.

Jason Baum 07:40
Yeah, I mean, so the question with the width, the why actually, that I didn’t ask is, you know, we asked why is it relevant? Why is it? We I think it’s like, why is it important to the organization’s why is it important to the individual?

Eric Chapman 07:56
Yeah, that’s a Yeah, Tiger back to the individual, I think is key here. Yeah, so I think was it to the individual, I think when you, when you signed up for, you know, getting in the technology industry, or it or computer science, whatever journey brought you to where you are today, either knowingly or unknowingly, you sort of signed up for the need to continuously learn. So in order to stay, to stay relevant and stay, really able to continue to deliver value as an individual is there’s this constant need to continuously learn continuously sharpen your skills, and offer one like, that was really enticing for me to get into the technology field is, you know, I enjoy learning, enjoy continuously growing and, you know, pushing myself to the next to next level. So, so I think, I think if you’re meeting that craving if you’re in an organization who’s helping you lean into that, and they’re challenging you in such a way that you’re learning and investing in you to continuously learning, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s important for both the individual and the engineers and an organization as well as, you know, the organization going forward. Because if you look at it, there’s you know, organizations build widgets or provide services but at the at the crux of it. Organizations are about people and you know, that it’s all comes back to people being your value generation.

Jason Baum 09:20
Yeah, absolutely. I think it was Mitt Romney who said organizations are people and not to make it it’s definitely not political. But you know, I just that that always strikes a chord with me because I couldn’t think of something that’s more accurate you know, you wouldn’t have the organization’s without the people behind them or the person who’s building the widget, so to speak. So yeah, if you’re not if people aren’t at least baseline Are you know where they’re at are and continuously learning, right? How will you continue to move forward?

Eric Chapman 09:56
And there’s a quote that I don’t know the author but if you’re not growing, then you’re dying, right? It’s Yeah.

Jason Baum 10:01
Yep. Well said, so how? So? So what are some examples or best practices

Eric Chapman 10:08
from? Yes, yeah, let’s jump into the how good, good segue there. So, first off, I think it’s just a tie back to what I said at the beginning. There’s no silver bullet here, there’s no one size fits all. And I think it’s important to take a step back and think about an individual’s learning styles and academia, they call it modals of learning. Simply put, that folks learn in different ways. There are visual learners, auditory learners, reading writing, there’s five actually, but what I’ve seen to be the most effective is this concept of immersive learning. So, tying that to sort of the DevOps community, there’s a large movement in the industry around the concept of dojos. It’s pioneered out of target Ross Clanton in a group over there started dojos. And we’ll dig into that some of what that means, but immersive learning is the intersection of the need for an organization to continuously deliver value. And the individuals need to continuously grow and learn. Simply put, you really can’t take, you know, organizations can afford to spend half their staff off to go learn cloud-native delivery. And when you’re ready, come back, and we’ll modernize our, our applications. So how do you do that? Well, it’s been proven most effective to ring that learning Ring Ring, the need to we’ll just go along with the example cloud-native delivery ring, the need to learn modern delivery practices to a team’s backlog. So like the example, I always like to use Jason is, you know if I want to learn something a lot more adventurous than otherwise would have been without YouTube. If there’s something around the house that is broken, I like to fix the mild style of learning is I’ll you know, research, then I will go find someone who’s hopefully fixing the same model of refrigerator that I have this broken, if not similar,

Jason Baum 12:08
I fixed my Pool Heater, because of YouTube. Like if I and that is like something I hope anyone who knows me I’m not hands-on. I’m not I’m not too great with work around the house. If it’s painting, I can do it, you know, something? I’ve dabbled in a little bit of getting electrocuted before. So yeah, so if it wasn’t for YouTube, my gosh, what would we do?

Eric Chapman 12:32
Yeah, my wife has far more confidence in my handy abilities than I do. But yeah, our refrigerator broken. And she was confident that I can fix it. So with some YouTube and some troubleshooting, just like he was pretty proud moment is a really simple fix, but to not have to call someone and all those things. And yeah, I really can’t take any credit was all watching the videos and all those things. But it’s, I mean, it’s taking it back to it, it is simply taking that approach, you know, learning and the flow. So I had a need, my need was to fix a refrigerator to keep my food cold. Well, organizations have a need in need to deliver. So you’re just bringing that back and doing it in the flow of their work. That’s the key takeaway here with the rest of learning.

Jason Baum 13:13
So tell me more about dojos? Because, you know, it’s a term I’ve certainly heard before, but I’ll admit, I don’t know all that much about them.

Eric Chapman 13:23
Sure. So let’s start with it with the core of the word for so. So anyone who’s been in martial arts or is perhaps watched Karate Kid, in the dojo is a Japanese word, for a space focused on immersive learning, it’s a place of the way is I think this how the translation comes out. But really, I think about Dojo as a cultural movement focused on helping organizations improve. So in the construct of a dojo, you have practitioners that are, you know, hands-on, as well as folks that understand, you know, the process technology, and it’s, it’s less of an academic approach to the world and more of this is the ground reality of my organization, folks who know, the paved road and know where the potholes and the paved road are and are actively working. It’s also about culture and community. Community is a big part of it, but it’s, it’s bringing, you know, practitioners and engineers to a delivery team and really making the challenges of the delivery team their own problems for the duration of the dojo. So, if you’re a stance, Jason, you know, roll back pre-2020. You know, organizations are typically making a physical space at dojo, so you leave your normal day-to-day and you go to space still inside of your organization, but it’s a space carved out where you’ll see other teams and practitioners going. It’s a great place to have your platform team co-located. The game has shifted a bit since 2020 With With hybrid and fully remote, but the concept still remains the same.

Jason Baum 15:04
Yeah, I mean, I’m a community builder by trade. So I, it’s this speaks to me, I love the concept. It’s almost like, you know, I’ve been, you know, talking to a lot of people about open source communities and this, it almost has that vibe to me. Where you go, you ask the question, you know, someone’s gonna know the answer, or 50, people will know the answer, but you’ll get like 50 different takes on the answer. And one of them will be you know, what you need to apply. It’s, I don’t know if that’s accurate. But

Eric Chapman 15:36
yeah, and I’ll warn you up front, this is one for anyone that knows me, this is one of the topics I get, I get pretty passionate about. So just go ahead, and I’ll give you the license to cut me off or, or mute my mic, or whatever you need to do. But I will talk about I want to tie into, like the concept of inner sourcing. So open-source practices inside of an organization, I want to tie that back to this because I think that’s a critical part. Oftentimes, what you see in our organization is whether they’re vertically, or horizontally slash, there’s the concept of silos, and it’s not by design, like organization don’t set up to say, you know, do you don’t talk to this group all put together, but just the nature of human interactions, that’s the way you know, things manifest themselves. So what does that mean? That means you have multiple people solving the same types of problems, right? So how do you solve that? You drop it on air, quoting here, a DevOps team or a platform team to solve it all? Well, the problem is, Jason, there’s never enough, nor should there be enough people or resources to spread across to solve every permutation. So, you know, using an 8020 rule, you’ll solve the base cases. And then to get the 20%. Instead of trying to solve every permutation, you use the concept of inner sourcing, again, open source concepts inside of an organization, where you say, you know, it’s, it’s almost the platform team, saying, you know, if you don’t like the platform, you have two options, submit a ticket, and wait for it get prioritized or submit a pull request, they stop complaining and open up a pull request. And I’m not suggesting platform teams, you know, make everyone in the organization the abilities are right, but give them read, access, share what you’re doing. And then you know, let like crowdsource there’s a lot of smart people across the organization. So crowdsource the growing solution. And really, like you said, community building is a key part

Jason Baum 17:26
here. Yeah, it’s almost like if your organization had its own internal Reddit, you know, where everybody could go on and answer questions. And, yeah, I think that makes a lot. I mean, certainly makes a lot of sense. Why don’t more organizations do this? Yeah.

Eric Chapman 17:40
Yeah. That I mean, it’s, it’s definitely taken, taking a big movement. I mean, it’s, you know, a couple of DevOps enterprise summits ago, there are quite a few talks around dojo. So yeah, and there’s, there’s not a shameless plug by any means. But there’s a dojo consortium out there, there’s there were other practitioners of companies get together. So I would urge any listeners who are interested to, you know, take a look at the dojo consortium. And, you know, talk to other folks who are doing this, again, back to community, like, share the lessons learn to help folks avoid some of the challenges and things like that they may run into.

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Jason Baum 18:53
Yeah, absolutely. What are some other examples that you have? Yeah,

Eric Chapman 18:58
let’s so let’s, I’ll give you a couple of examples of outcomes from a dojo, because I think I think we’ve talked about the concept we haven’t talked about, like, real-world application. So it maybe I’ll dive in a couple of those. So like, what? Yeah, one of my favorite examples, Jason was, I was working with a, with a large financial institution here in the US, and they had the need to modernize their, their banking, you know, core platform. So they were doing this by bringing in, they’re buying a product, right. So this product was going to use containers. So this is the first time the organization was wanting to run. Take software from a vendor that was in a container. So there was no pattern that existed for ingesting containers. We also had a delivery team who is relatively new to market services and containerized workloads like cloud-native delivery. So we had a few elements there, kind of at at play. So taking a step back for one moment, it’s also critical to know that, you know, I want to make sure I’m, you know, practicing what I’m preaching here in terms of not a one size fits all. So, when you’re truly doing dojos, you’re, as I said earlier, you’re chartering a team, you’re understanding what the team’s business outcomes are, and then you understand what their challenges are. So in this case, the challenge was, I need a pattern, for ingesting containers, and I need to learn how to run and use these containers. So what we did here, and the reason I like this example, like one of my favorites is, we actually brought the engineers from the external vendor to the dojo space, we obviously had the product team who was going to be responsible for running and maintaining this, this new core application. And the third group we brought to the table was the InfoSec, or the cybersecurity team, obviously, due to ingest in containers, you have to have all three of those elements. So through, you know, tight collaboration, the outcome was, we built a pattern for ingesting containers, assuming the containers are untrusted until otherwise vetted by the automated pipeline that would you know, we’re building insecurity, those type of things. And then once the containers were deemed safe, then they were moved into an internal artifact repository or binary repository. And then the delivery team through the dojo, we worked with them to understand how to, you know, for those changes, taught them helm and a whole bunch of other things that allow them to safely pull those in through this to the security scanning, and to update the changes and to roll those out to the various environments. So I think the takeaway here is, you know, it’s really like back to that community example, we talked about we hit with cybersecurity, we had engineers from the vendor, and we had the product team all sort of working together. And that sounds trivial. But like, the larger the organization, the more difficult it is to get that many people focus in a room on the same thing, you know, dedicated to do an initiative for several sprints. So that’s one of my favorite examples of a dojo and some of the outcomes.

Jason Baum 22:09
Yeah, it’s fantastic. I mean, you said it about silos, they just kind of exist. And I think we should stop viewing them as a negative more just as a reality. And I love that dojos are kind of one method, many that are probably needed to break down silos, but not necessarily. I mean, look, you’re never going to fully break down a silo because in some instances, you need to have collaboration in a closed environment. But it’s kind of bringing that then having more collaborations across the value stream.

Eric Chapman 22:50
yeah, I mean, I think I think just like you said, it’s not the organization are designed with silos, if you go to the individual parts of, you know, if you just follow the journey, someone has an idea and follow the journey, that idea leaving their head to that means becoming real realistic on a mobile application, if it’s a banking platform, or you know, an E-commerce site, you’re ordering some good, if you follow the flow of that, that goes to many different teams. And if you ask, ask the individual or individuals who are interacting with that, that idea that becomes an epic feature story, you know, all of those things, a pull request, ultimately. But like, if you get an interview individually, folks know where the pain points are, they know where the bodies are buried as the analogy that I like to like to use. But what organizations don’t see and tying it back to value streams, and the beauty of a value stream is it makes the whole flow, the whole flow of the whole journey visible. And then it’s sort of hard to argue and, you know, outside of the visibility, the other intangible piece is it helps build empathy amongst the teams, you understand that you know, the quality organization isn’t there to make my life difficult. They’re there. Their situation is there, they’re giving, they’re given, you know, their work to do after I’m finished, if I’m late, I’m making their LOFAR. So, you know, when you start running through the value stream mapping sessions, you’re, you know, you’re helping build the empathy, whether you realize it or not, it’s

Jason Baum 24:20
also thinking holistically, right. I mean, it’s in rather than thinking on my one, my one piece, which is very important, it’s what I get paid for, it’s what I go home and I’m supporting my you know, what I might hold daily, my life with. It’s extremely important. This is what I want to focus on. But sometimes you have to get outside that that piece, think holistically, and that’s how it all kind of it. That’s how the silos break down. Right? When everybody can see it in from the, I guess, the 3000-foot view, right? I mean, thinking more holistically, how does my piece fit in with all the other pieces?

Eric Chapman 24:55
Yeah, absolutely. And tying it back to community, you know, maybe the priorities that I’m working under You know, once I see the grantor view of things, maybe it makes sense to reprioritize you know, what I’m working on Can Can Can Can our can my team help solve the other problems that will ultimately help, you know, reduce the friction for us? So I think I think that’s another challenge that, you know, Value Stream Mapping and, you know, dynamic learning can help is, you know, everyone has their own initiatives, everyone has their own marching orders, ideally, you know, there would be, you know, two to three, no more than that, you know, mission statements that everyone’s working at. And if I can tie my stories or my day-to-day to one of those three mission statements, and I’d question am I am I working on the right things here?

Jason Baum 25:39
Gosh, yeah, that’s the perfect world. Right. That’s what you shoot for? Yeah, I would think that through the collaboration, that’s how you identify those things that that you would need to have that learning on, right. That’s how it ties back to dynamic learning. But is there anything else that you think we’ve missed that you want? Yeah, I’m probably

Eric Chapman 25:58
remiss to not hit on a couple of other learning styles. And I won’t unpack those as deep as immersive learning, I just, I just have seen that be effective in multiple organizations, but certainly don’t want to dismiss sort of the self-guided learning. And then companies invest heavily and, and you know, this learn at your own pace, like video-based learning. Things like Pluralsight, as folks may be aware, says things like that. So there’s a place in that it’s obviously not in the flow of what you’re doing. Also seen a lot of value in labs. So a lab that, again, it’s not in the flow of things, but it gets you into the context. So there’s, there’s a place in time for multiple, multiple learning styles and multiple learning approaches, just depends on what you’re looking at. But yeah, I think that’s the only other things I would say is, you know, it’s again, you know, I said, the beam is not one size fits all with it. I focus heavily on immersive learning, so I don’t want to over rotate on dojos too much without covering the rest of

Jason Baum 26:52
them. So Eric, which one’s your favorite? I’m just kidding.

Eric Chapman 26:56
Let’s, let’s rollback. Let’s hit it one more time. Just kidding. Jason.

Jason Baum 27:01
Thanks for coming on to talk about this topic. You know, you’ve taught me certainly about dynamic learning and, and immersive learning, what resources do you recommend that people kind of look into to learn more about the topic?

Eric Chapman 27:15
Yeah, that’s good. Yeah. Well, first of all, thanks. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Because I enjoy the podcast enjoy what, what what you guys are doing bringing the human element back to it? Yeah, I’ll start with maybe obviously, don’t want to just say go Google it. But there’s a lot of information out there on the community, I think the dojo consortium is another good place to look at. And the reason I’m pointing at that is that that’s the practitioners. That’s the other organization. So we’re running into so if I were starting in Dojo from scratch, I think I will start getting I think we’re both big fans, that community, I’ll start with where the community is at and then start building from there.

Jason Baum 27:47
Yeah, I mean, I, I certainly I said it before, but I love that component of it. I think we learned so much through communities. I mean, YouTube, that YouTube examples, so great, because that is that is, that might have been one of the not original, but an early form of it because those YouTube videos are all over the place. So Eric, you’re you seem like a good sport. We haven’t asked this question. On the podcast in a few weeks, I’m really missing it. So we’d like to get to know our, our guests. And one of the questions that I asked that I have totally not warned you about. So my apologies. Is what is one thing about you that maybe you have not shared publicly or professionally

Eric Chapman 28:29
and I want to talk back to the way pick this whole thing off with, with with with bad dad jokes. So I do have a degree in Spanish. Right. So as well as computer science, so So I have both of those degrees. And you know, Jason, I majored in both because I really just enjoyed languages. I learned to enjoy learning languages and the bad dad joke, if I’m not sure what fail is, is you know, obviously programming languages and speaking languages. So there you go. So yeah, not quite as exciting as hiking. humilating. But yeah, I wanted to at least leave you with one bad joke before we, we get it.

Jason Baum 29:05
I appreciate that. I’ve learned that my dad jokes I have a lot of bad jokes. And I don’t know why. Now, I’m going to be on the search for why I have so many bad jokes. Well, I appreciate you coming on the podcast, Eric, sharing with us a little bit about dynamic learning, but also, you know, some dad jokes and your love of languages already. Thank you. 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 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, State Human, live long and prosper.

Narrator 29:51
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