For Max Koehler, a senior developer at a startup in Munich, Germany, culture is one of the most important aspects of working life.
That's why he's looking forward to PuppetConf in San Francisco this August. It's a chance to hang out with developers and other technology people, hear how they resolve the same kinds of issues he deals with – and oh yes, drink some good beer.
"I'm interested in DevOps and how people work together," Max says. "I can learn how other people manage deployment and infrastructure, how they reduce errors in Puppet runs, how they do their everyday tasks, and how they build teams. There are a lot of guys out there who have solved these kind of problems, and I'm looking forward to meeting and learning from them."
Wywy, where Max works, has a small team — about 20 people, with some located in Israel. Max and his colleagues try to automate as much as possible, so they can concentrate most of their energies on developing wywy's core technology for synchronizing TV commercials onto the second screen – smartphones, tablets and more – creating cross-media advertising campaigns.
"Once you do something for the third time, you should think about how to automate it," Max says.
As in most startups, everyone does more than one job. While it can be chaotic, Max enjoys the freedom to experiment, to discuss best practices with his teammates, and to integrate technologies in ways they think make most sense for the business. It's very different from how IT worked in the past.
"I've seen people setting up thousands of servers, and doing minor changes by hand, like firewall changes or log changes — completely trivial stuff. With Puppet, we add or change just one or two lines, wait a few minutes, and it works."
The time wasted by lack of automation frustrated Max. He knew the upfront investment in Puppet would save his clients time and money later on, but it wasn't his call to make.
Max says it's his engineering background that makes Puppet so appealing to him. "I can describe classes and functions, and how my infrastructure should look," he says. "I don't have to think about how to set up a server — I can just describe how I want the system to look."
Consistent repeatability is another benefit. "When I set up a server with Puppet, I can set it up seven times, and every time, I will have the same setup," Max says.
The wider world of DevOps that Puppet belongs to draws Max as well. "I hate working in silos," he says. His team works to improve communication across their different functions. When there's disagreement, "we try to figure out the problem in how we're communicating, and we talk about it so we don't continue to have these problems."
Other aspects of DevOps culture appeal, too. "We have Hack Days at wywy. Then we go to lunch and drink a beer together."
It's that kind of companionship Max looks forward to at PuppetConf, especially after meeting Puppet CTO Nigel Kersten at an April meeting of Munich Puppet users.
"He was very open about the community and about Puppet Labs," Max said. "And he told me all about the awesome hotel and conference venue."
Another big draw for Max is the two-week holiday he and a colleague plan to enjoy after PuppetConf. One thing we're sure of: They'll have plenty to talk about as they drive the California highways.
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