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Flinging Slack at them won't get team talking – senior Etsy engineer

'Don't do DevOps because it is trendy'

Continuous Lifecycle Throwing collaboration tools such as Slack at a business with fundamental communications problems will do nothing to solve development and operational issues, said Katherine Daniels, senior operations engineer at Etsy.

In her Continuous Lifecycle London event keynote speech, she said: "You cannot buy DevOps as a service and the tools will not fix a broken culture. If people are refusing to talk, Slack is not going to fix that.

"The point is not the tools, but collaboration and understanding of what we are tying to achieve with them. Don't do DevOps because it is trendy," she said.

Last year Etsy floated on the stock market for Etsy $267m (£184m). The online craft bazaar has 1.6 million sellers and 25 million buyers. Sales for its first quarter results 2016 rose 40 per cent to per cent to $81m, with profit up 42 per cent to $54m. It has 819 employees.

Daniels noted that, inevitably, things are going to change as the business grows, and she expects bugs, outages and changes of products. "We have to be able to dynamically readjust," she said.

"It doesn’t matter how shiny your site is if it is down, but also it doesn’t matter how good your uptime is if your site doesn't solve customers' problems."

Etsy has a "blameless postmortum policy", where its DevOps teams openly work out why something has gone wrong, enabling other teams to learn from mistakes, she told delegates.

"[We want to find out] the circumstances, what led to it and what can we learn from it. Having them open has a lot of benefits," she said.

Engineers are posted in non-engineering roles, which gives them a good look into how people are using the products they build, she said.

"We encourage everyone at Etsy to open up an Etsy shop... doing something like that helps understand our customers," she said. However, working in customer service roles can be a surprise for how much it can take out of you to deal with the emotions of customer support.

"It can be draining to deal with that," she said.

She added: "We don’t want to create a silo of tech and non-tech. I've seen a trend of putting engineers on a pedestal... we want to avoid making any other group feel less than," she said.

Daniels believes empathy is the key to getting DevOps to work but it is also necessary for the entire organisation. "We need to make our organisation as inclusive as possible," she said.

"We need to ask ourselves why are there so few people who are different. Some people will say it is a pipeline problem, girls less interested say," she said.

"We are engineers and I want to see us using our skills to solve people problems, not just engineering ones.

"Winning in business requires a broad range of perspectives. There is no talent shortage.. comes back to empathy, empathy allows people to create the best most inclusive industry for everyone working on it.

"If DevOps is important to your business, then empathy and inclusivity is too." ®

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