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KEYNOTE: Moogsoft -- How to Prevent Burnout and Improve Your Developer Culture

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Thom Duran
Moogsoft, Director of SRE

Thom Duran is a Director of SRE at Moogsoft, where he leads a team of SREs that are focused on building the platform for Moogsoft Observability Cloud, as well as spreading best practices to enable a DevOps culture. Focusing on stability and automation has been part of Thom’s life for the past decade. He got his start in the trenches of a traditional NOC. From there he moved into more traditional SRE roles focused on availability and monitoring at GoDaddy. At Moogsoft Thom’s goals are always about driving efficiency, making sure people love what they do, and that people have a place where they can excel.

Developers, SREs and engineers are wired to be in fire fighting mode. Understandably so, as they’re constantly putting out fires and preventing new ones while keeping customers happy, innovating the product and keeping the business up and running. No pressure, right?In addition, these professionals put a lot of stress on themselves to be all-knowing and to work longer, harder and faster than others. This is especially true in the startup world, where some may clock 100 hours each week. Does this make the developer who clocked 40 hours a slacker? Not if you want to avoid burnout.  There are a couple of reasons why burnout is becoming so prevalent in the developer culture: - Developers, SREs and engineers constantly feel like they need to keep up with the knowledge of their peers and the pace of changing technology. If they don’t know the answer to a question, chances are they quickly Google the answer on the side instead of asking for help. No one wants to feel vulnerable because of their lack of knowledge, but the pressure developers, SREs and engineers put on themselves can quickly feel like an all-consuming failure. In reality, someone is always going to know a little bit more than another person and not fessing up to needing help creates silos of knowledge and quashes collaboration.  - For some, it’s easier to not take a vacation at all than to go on vacation and think about work the entire time, or worse, actually spend time working on vacation. This again leads to burnout as teams are constantly working with no break.  What can leaders do to improve the developer culture and to ultimately prevent burnout from happening in the first place? During this session, attendees will hear from Thom Duran, director of SRE at Moogsoft, on incorporating a culture of trust, transparency and growth for developers, SREs and engineers. Takeaways include:  - Build a culture of trust and learning. As mentioned above, some developers and SREs are more likely to Google an answer than admit they don’t know it. As a leader, it’s important to instill a culture of learning by asking questions that others may have. As a leader, you likely know the answer, but opening up the conversation and encouraging questions mitigates the pressure to know every answer to every question. - Develop a strong training program. On day one of a new hire orientation, give them a list the company’s tools and encourage them to pick one or two to focus their expertise. Additionally, have other team members share their tips and strategies for processes or their advice for getting ramped up. Instilling this mindset during the training process encourages learning from day one. - Adopt modern tools like observability and AIOps. Observability and AIOps is on the rise, and it can not only make systems better, it can also strengthen teams through collaboration and transparency. AIOps allows teams to automate mundane tasks in the background so they can focus on the larger, customer-facing issues and collaborate on delivering the latest and greatest technologies. With observability and AIOps working together, teams have the data and knowledge to know what’s happening, why it’s happening and who is responsible for fixing it. Because teams have eyes on everything their colleagues are working on, responsibilities flow seamlessly between them. People can finally take that much-needed vacation without checking email or feeling that they are dropping the ball. Observability and AIOps empowers teams to collaborate, learn from each other, work together to overcome challenges — and sleep better at night. With these tools and team trust in place, gone are the days of finger pointing and blaming others when a system fails. - Include remote employees. As companies announce extended work from home orders once again, it’s important that leaders implement this same cultural mindset for remote employees. For example, at Moogsoft we have a tool that randomly pairs us off with other team members for an informal coffee break. The only rule is we can’t talk about work. We also have a very active Slack channel that encourages banter...and admittedly places bets on which hat I’ll wear that day. And when we do have Zoom meetings, I never call an end to them because the end-of-call chat is just as valuable as the meeting itself. By incorporating an open and welcoming environment, leadership helps prevent burnout. People want to come to work and more importantly, enjoy it.