Roughly three years ago, I made a decision that working with configuration management and sharing that message in a broader capacity was the direction I wanted to take my career. Several people I knew at Chef were excited about what was happening on Windows and encouraged me to talk to Nathen Harvey (thanks Mandi Walls, Julian Dunn, and Sean OMeara for those early encouraging words and to Mandi for setting up a call with Nathen!). Nathen and I had a good conversation and I made the difficult decision to leave one of the best possible jobs for a Windows sysadmin, an SRE at Stack Overflow.
I started at Chef as a Technical Community Manager. I had never used Chef, nor was I familiar with Ruby. My focus was talking to Windows admins and developers about Powershell, source control, testing, and working from the command line. The point was to help my community get to the point where they were ready to be successful with configuration management. After five glorious months of this (and learning some Chef and Ruby along the way), we had a reorganization.
As part of that reorganization (in January 2015), my team was turned from the Community team to Community Engineering. While that may not sound like a major change, it had a huge impact in the focus and direction for me. As part of that announcement internally, I asked Nathen, “So, do I have a different job?” Nathen replied, “Oh yeah, you’re a developer now. We’ll figure out the level in the next few weeks.” That shift changed my focus from just talking about tooling to working on the tools to help people make that transition. I became active in contributing to Chef Client, Test-Kitchen, and several other projects. I also began to take an active part in reviewing GitHub issues and community pull requests for those projects. I didn’t stop sharing with the community, but my primary focus had changed.
After a year and a quarter (in April 2016), I was honored to be promoted to Principal Engineer. I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to Thom May, Nathen Harvey, and Adam Jacob for the trust they placed in me. To me this wasn’t just a promotion, but a validation of my efforts at Chef to help evolve Chef (the software) and the Chef community in its embrace of Windows. It also signaled to me that I was really a developer. While my title may have changed over a year prior, I still had this image of myself as a sysadmin playing developer. I began to realize that being a sysadmin and being a developer were just flip sides of the same coin. One is not lesser than the other. In reality, I am technical. I am a developer. I am a sysadmin. And it is ok. Actually, it is better than OK. It is AWESOME.
Shortly thereafter (in June), we (Chef) launched Habitat. I didn’t get what problem it solved for a few weeks after that (I hadn’t paid much attention to it early on as the first cut was Linux only). Then just before ChefConf in July, I got it and lobbied Adam to let me help on the initial Windows effort. This was to be one of the toughest ramp ups I’ve faced. I had to learn Rust (which has a pretty notorious learning curve), native C/C++ toolchains on Linux and Windows, as well as refresh my basic understanding of the Windows OS and kernel. We got the Windows work well underway and had a Windows version of the
hab CLI tool (for parity with the Mac experience) within about a month. I couldn’t have done it without the support of an awesome team who helped my learning and understanding of Rust and the Habitat codebase. Jamie Winsor and Fletcher Nichol provided so much help and guidance. Right around that time, Matt Wrock joined the Habitat team and really kicked things into gear. I continued working on Habitat for the next several months, helping formalize some of the on-call process and troubleshooting (the Habitat dev team also ran the production and acceptance environments), working on our CI/CD in AppVeyor and Travis CI, and filling in where needed.
In March it was then time to come back to more general Community Engineering duties (just in time for Chef 13). I got back to working on Chef and some of the cookbooks in the ecosystem and prepping for conferences (PowerShell Summit, ChefConf, DevIntersection/ITTransformation).
That brings me to now..
My last day at Chef is June 15th.
I have been so blessed by the opportunities and people I’ve gotten to work with here. I could not possibly enumerate all the people at Chef that I owe a “thank you”. To all my #cheffriends, thank you for a wonderful two years and eleven months.
I’m not going far and I’m still going to be active in the Chef community
I’ll have more to say about what is coming soon.