DOP 38: How Important Are You to Your Company?

Posted on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2020

Show Notes

#38: How important do you think you are to your company? It only takes one decision and you’ll find out. In this episode, we step on more toes than normal.


Darin Pope

Darin Pope

Darin Pope is a developer advocate for CloudBees.

Viktor Farcic

Viktor Farcic

Viktor Farcic is a member of the Google Developer Experts and Docker Captains groups, and published author.

His big passions are DevOps, Containers, Kubernetes, Microservices, Continuous Integration, Delivery and Deployment (CI/CD) and Test-Driven Development (TDD).

He often speaks at community gatherings and conferences (latest can be found here).

He has published The DevOps Toolkit Series, DevOps Paradox and Test-Driven Java Development.

His random thoughts and tutorials can be found in his blog

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Darin Pope 0:00
This is episode number 38 of DevOps Paradox with Darin Pope and Viktor Farcic. I am Darin.

Viktor Farcic 0:06
And I am Viktor.

Darin Pope 0:08
Today we're going to talk about how important are people to a company. Well, number one, you have to have people to have a company.

Viktor Farcic 0:20
So they're very important.

Darin Pope 0:22
Yeah, but how important are having the right people in a company? This question came out of the Docker episode. And your statement was and I'm not going to rehash it because it was a little harsh. But a lot of the people that you knew at Docker are gone. There's only a couple of people left there that you know. So Docker is no longer the Docker that you knew.

Viktor Farcic 0:55
Yes. And that, let me start by stating from the very beginning this not necessarily bad. It might actually be a good thing. But so that's a statement that I made needs to be combined with another statement, and that is that. So let me let me state it from the beginning. Most of the people I know from Docker are not there anymore. They left. And I'm not very happy with the new Docker. So if I would be happy with new Docker, then that's not really an issue that people left. And that would be a welcome change. But that's not the case.

Darin Pope 1:37
No, but this is sort of like a sports team turning over every year. Contracts run out, people leave, people get traded. Right? It's that concept of, man. if you're an NBA fan listening, Golden State, basically owned everything for the past five years. But then they've had a bunch of injuries, people have left and now Golden State is at the bottom of the ranks.

Viktor Farcic 2:04

Darin Pope 2:06
It's what it is. So the same thing happens in normal businesses as well, not just sports teams.

Viktor Farcic 2:13
Exactly. And then you can I'm not watching really sports, but I guess that you could find the different example of actually, most of the players, many of the players changed and then they've won some World Cup or whatever they're supposed to win right? And then you would not be this discussing that change. Right? You would be happy with that change. But the key I think, is that so you need to balance few things. You cannot. I'm going to keep sports analogy even though I know nothing about sports. You correct me. You cannot keep the same players forever and ever because the time comes to change the strategy and they're not well equipped with that strategy or they might be too old or too whatever. Right? So you cannot keep the players forever, you need to be replacing them. But you cannot replace the whole team in one season because then there is no continuity, right? Because then you would be forming a completely new team, you would not be benefiting from the history of the team you're changing. So, you need to be changing players, but it needs to be intelligent change and it needs to be gradual change. And all that cannot be changed because players are not happy with the team and went somewhere else. Right. So that's, those are the few things that needs to be taken into account.

Darin Pope 3:54
I think the big part to this is the people make the culture of a company. We made with some some HR arms (and if any of our favorite HR people are listening, I apologize) but HR thinks they mandate a five slide deck. "Hey, here's the company culture and this is the way it is." I'm sorry, that's bogus. Culture is defined by the people and by the groups and the interactions between those groups. And until that, and that makes the company whether it's good or bad, you can look at the Ubers of the world that were very toxic, at least from the outside. But I'm sure there were some good pockets within Uber. But overall, the overall it's got a reputation of toxic. You had Docker, which was you know, I'm not singling out Docker for right now, but it's just because we've been talking about him. You had Docker, pre the Mirantis sale, that was pretty good. And now you have what's left of Docker after the Mirantis sale? And it's in Viktor's opinion, I don't know anybody there personally, not so good. Is that a fair assessment?

Viktor Farcic 5:21
I would say actually not so good happened long before Mirantis sale.

Darin Pope 5:24
Okay. Fair enough. So at some point there was there was a there was an inflection point that caused a change.

Viktor Farcic 5:33

Darin Pope 5:36
what do you think that change was specifically for Docker?

Viktor Farcic 5:41
The realization that you cannot run on thin air and that you need to start generating some profit and that realization came came so fast that there was no other decision that could be made except go hundred percent for profit and neglecting everything that made Docker great. So that's the change and I understand why people left and I understand why that decision was made, I would make the same decision. The real problem is that decision was made earlier when Docker could live in both worlds.

Darin Pope 6:23
So, we'll try not to beat on Docker anymore, but we're using them to sort of as a case study here but the importance of people to a company and I'm going to sort of massage a little bit importance of people to a culture, not everyone fits into specific cultures. I am a white middle aged guy, living in the suburbs of North Carolina. Viktor's a Serbian living in Barcelona. Right? If we were to transplant both of us, like if we were to switch places I would not transition as well as probably Viktor would here because Viktor adapts very well.

Viktor Farcic 7:20
Yeah, maybe. I mean, I don't know about that. But

Darin Pope 7:25
that's I'm saying that so the reason why I was telling that story sort of story is sometimes within the companies like "oh, I'll just go change which group I'm working in and everything will be better." And that may be true or may not be true.

Viktor Farcic 7:41
Yes. So, in a bigger company, we cannot say that there is no single culture, single process this in a bigger company so that yes, one group can be better than the other

Darin Pope 7:52
Define a bigger company.

Viktor Farcic 7:55
Anything beyond the half a thousand

Darin Pope 8:01
Okay, more than 500 people. Okay.

Viktor Farcic 8:03
I would say so, maybe, and I'm talking about now engineering size, not the overall size of the company, right. So but before venturing into culture now, my first question would be, do you dear company x, Do you consider engineering to be a skilled profession or unskilled? And let me give you answer that don't think about it. Do you send everything to third parties and count success by how many hundreds of thousands of people you employ? this if that's more than the most important criteria? If that's the case, you think that this is unskilled work and then all Everything else is irrelevant, kind of like you're not discussing the culture of the company that is doing cleaning services in your company because you think that they're irrelevant as long as things somehow don't end up being too messy, you're happy with them, right? So all that talk about culture to me applies only if the company thinks software is important. It requires highly skilled people. And, and then we can discuss the rest if before that it's irrelevant before the company gets to that point.

Darin Pope 9:35
So let's go back to your first one. The company is, let's call it overly enthusiastic, about outsourcing software development. I'm not saying that it's bad to outsource some stuff, right? It may be, hey, this is a new thing that we're doing. We don't have the skill set. Let's bring in some people to help do that. Get us learned, if you will.

Viktor Farcic 10:02
but then ask yourself this. If you're an engineer, whatever your specialty is, do you want to work in a company that thinks that software is not important?

Darin Pope 10:15
No, of course not. Unless I'm just looking for a job.

Viktor Farcic 10:20
Because if a company outsource most of its workforce related to engineering, software engineering, then that company thinks that that's not really important. Does not matter what they tell you. It does not matter what they claim publicly. If it's outsourced, it's not important. Its as easy as that. There is no way that you will progress professionally in that environment. There is no way that you will build your career that you will do the right thing in a company who thinks that it does not matter.

Darin Pope 11:02
So how many of you listening right now just realized, Oh crap, what am I doing here?

Viktor Farcic 11:09
or oh crap Viktor is talking <>? One of the two things.

Darin Pope 11:16
I don't think you are. I think there's I think there's some I don't know I would go as hardedge as you on that. But I see that I see the point because then at that within the company basically your software engineering firm is nothing more than project managers and middle management.

Viktor Farcic 11:38
Okay, let's put it this way. Forget about software doesn't exist. Can you imagine now in your head of a company, think about a company, a real company. Now, tell me which jobs do you think that they're externalizing and do they matter? They are they are their business.

Darin Pope 11:59
Usually the So facilities usually outsourced meaning facilities, maintenance,

Viktor Farcic 12:05
doesn't matter. Cleaning doesn't matter. Repairing stuff does not matter. As long as it's done. You're focusing on your business and software is not your business because you externalize it, then don't fool yourself saying that. Oh, yeah, because I work for the company who does provide services to that company. The End User thinks he doesn't matter. But my company is very professional. We are Capgemini of the world, same thing they're selling you for price per hour, doesn't matter.

Darin Pope 12:41
Ouch. So if you're working for a consulting firm, is that really what you want to do? If you're working for a company, that you're mostly outsourcing everything, and you're the last one, you're the one that has to deal with the mess that's being dropped in your plate and you have to operate it? Do you really want to do that?

Viktor Farcic 13:09
I mean, do you have options? If you have options, then your question is valid. I understand fully that many people don't have options. You can be living in a city in a country where actually that's the only business. And I understand that completely and I respect that. But if you do have options, please please run away.

Darin Pope 13:32
And we're focusing here on the engineering part of it. But I believe this is true and you've called it out if a company's outsourcing the big chunks of it. Now, our case in point and I've worked for numbers of companies that have done this, you outsource payroll, right? That's a good one to outsource. Because that doesn't need to be a core feature of your business. Unless maybe you have half million employees.

Viktor Farcic 14:01
Yeah, it's not going to make you more competitive on the market if if you have that in house, but software, tell me the company that does not compete one way or another. With software, not only with software, I understand that. But that software is not important. Show me that company. That company doesn't exist.

Darin Pope 14:24
Doesn't exist. Well, you think about it, even though we say there are monopolies. Okay. I guess to a point that's true. But even there's two major aircraft providers, Boeing and Airbus, right? So there's, what's the competitive advantage of Boeing over Airbus, or vice versa? They're selling contracts and getting planes into people's hands. Or aircraft, right.

Viktor Farcic 14:54
And those planes run software.

Darin Pope 14:58
Yes, they do.

Viktor Farcic 14:59
I mean, takeoff without human. I mean, I might be wrong. But my understanding is that pilots are in planes now just in case.

Darin Pope 15:09
Close but close enough.

Viktor Farcic 15:13
And I'm not downgrading. Now it takes a lot of effort and skill to be a pilot. I'm not saying against that, but it's mostly automated. Of course now what differentiates one pilot from another is when things go wrong, do you know what to do or not. So, there is a huge value in being a pilot. But software matters. There are a lot. Now whether whether somebody is going to buy Boeing over Airbus based on software, I really I'm not in that industry or not, but it doesn't matter.

Darin Pope 15:47
Now, that was probably a bad example. But the point of it was, those are, you know, it gets back to and the other one to think about too is you know, McDonald's isn't in the hamburger business. They're in the real estate business. Because they go around and buy up all the land. I think Boeing and Airbus are in the aircraft business, at least big chunks of it.

Viktor Farcic 16:13
The really key question is whether you realize that or not. And a good example for that is car industry that which is industry until few years ago did not realize that software matters at all. Nobody cares. Nobody cares, right? until somebody came and says said this matter. We're going to build a car around software, which happens to be Tesla. And now everybody, all the car manufacturers are rushing to do that better, right? It just did. So it's true that it didn't matter a few years ago, but nobody realized how much it matters and somebody managed to profit from that realization.

Darin Pope 16:53
There's been software in cars for years. Plug in your OBD thing underneath the steering column and you'll get metrics. You'll get lots of metrics.

Viktor Farcic 17:05

Darin Pope 17:07
Now Tesla took that to a whole nother level. Now, whether that's good or bad, it's a whole nother conversation.

Viktor Farcic 17:15
It's bad at the very beginning, and they're failing big time. But they're just starting with something. So I give them slack on that one.

Darin Pope 17:25
But people make the company.

Viktor Farcic 17:27

Darin Pope 17:28
if you're in a part of a company that's highly outsourced, which I have been before. And then we had to intake the products that were produced by the consulting firms, the whatevers, and we had to operate them. We were not very successful in operating those things. Just because we didn't know it. We knew it from at least from an operational standpoint, but we had to try to debug something. It's like okay, now we've got to get on a bridge call with somebody that's 12 hours in front of us. And you know, there were their hours aren't our hours so we're always having to work on off hours. It's no good right at some point you get you get so much build up on yourself at that point. It's like okay, now you're headed towards burnout. Its like "see you, bye."

Viktor Farcic 18:24
Exactly. Because the discrepancy, bad handoffs, nobody cares really and all those things.

Darin Pope 18:31
I did my part. Here's the fence, throw it over, see you bye.

Viktor Farcic 18:37
When get let's change change. Let's let's put it this way. Now. Darin, think about I'm going to give you like 15 seconds... 10 software companies you admire.

Darin Pope 19:00
Yeah, pretty much.

Viktor Farcic 19:01
Okay, how many of them? How many of them have considerable engineering effort outsourced?

Darin Pope 19:09
Near zero. The bigs of the world the you know, the Google's AWS is as much as I hate to say it Facebook, phenomenal engineering organizations. Now whether or not they are healthy cultures is a different conversation.

Viktor Farcic 19:32
Yes, that's a different but at least at least they realize that that's important. Therefore, I'm not externalizing it. First step.

Darin Pope 19:41
Yeah. But just because they give you three square meals a day does not mean it's a good place to work.

Viktor Farcic 19:47
Yes, yes. And it can be a bad place and sometimes is. On the other hand, when I compare it with big enterprises, that I've been visiting, heck, it's a good place to be when Netflix is at Google and stuff like that. So you need to always compare it with something. Right? I would rather work in AWS than in typical Fortune 500 company enterprise. So all my dear clients, I'm sorry.

Darin Pope 20:20
Because I still want to feel like I'm making a difference in what I do.

Viktor Farcic 20:27
But you're doing consulting, and we're not talking about consulting in this episode at all.

Darin Pope 20:33
Well, even as an employee, if I was an employee, I would still want to feel like I'm making an impact on the bottom line for the business.

Viktor Farcic 20:42
Yes, and some do, there is always there is always some impact. The just the vast majority of us are really just not doing any making any writing getters setters.

Darin Pope 20:55
Well, and that gets us I think this is probably sort of the last pivot point is Okay, you're in a place you're five years from retirement or you're just riding it out because the benefits are great. The company is probably not going to fire you because of the they think you're too good to be let go. But all it takes is one management change. And you're gone. By not your will, but somebody else's will. TEhen what do you do? Because if you've just been riding the seat, thinking, Okay, I'm not going to have to worry about I've got a job for life or a job for at least a decade. And then all of a sudden you get that call. You find out how important you were to the company.

Viktor Farcic 21:54
Exactly. Again, it doesn't it Not really bad. We're all pawns in some company. I'm a pawn in my company. I know that. It's not bad. It's more that I see interest in being in a company right now. Because I help them, they help me. Some mutual benefit, right?

Darin Pope 22:21
But is there something else there? I hear something else in your voice.

Viktor Farcic 22:26
I don't know. I always have different voices in my head and I'm never sure which one is real and which one is not. So

Darin Pope 22:35
I think that's a conversation for a different day. And I do not play a psychiatrist on TV. And we won't go there. So how important are people to a company?

Viktor Farcic 22:47
Very. They should be very important, but in most companies they're not. That's the point.

Darin Pope 22:57
Most companies think of all of us as being interchangeable.

Viktor Farcic 23:00
Yes. And and we are all interchangeable. We are all interchangeable. But the question is, how, how easy or how expensive is to change us? It's not you. Anybody can change me wherever I work. But it might be expensive.

Darin Pope 23:20
Yeah. The misconception, again, I've already stepped on HR's feet so I will go ahead and step on recruiting feet. The misconception that a full stack developer is a full stack developer is a full stack developer is not true.

Viktor Farcic 23:39
There is no such thing that

Darin Pope 23:40
Well, okay, let's back that up. A Java developer is not a Java developer is not a Java developer. That's better because full stack implies you know everything about everything. It's really about six people's job. That's another conversation.

Viktor Farcic 23:53

Darin Pope 23:54
But a Java developer that started learning Java in '96 is not going to be is probably still stuck in the 1.1 ways and not the Java 11 ways of doing things today.

Viktor Farcic 24:07
Yeah, but there's a thousands, thousands of them hundreds of them working on a project. So they're got their differently going to come up with something. That makes sense, right? That's the logic. You know, like that science experiment. If you put enough monkeys to type random things will they will write Shakespeare and things like that.

Darin Pope 24:28
So if you are a hiring manager listening to this, be thoughtful about who you hire. If you are a person that has the purse strings and you're outsourcing everything. either keep outsourcing and get rid of all your developers so they're just not drug along.

Viktor Farcic 24:47
You know, hiring managers are irrelevant in those those stories because hiring managers are hiring whatever the lead of that project is, is wants. So it's not really their fault. The fault is the guy you will be reporting to probably gave instructions to hiring manager and hiring manager followed those instructions. So your future direct manager, he's the he's the one to blame.

Darin Pope 25:19
I think that's a pretty good place to stop right there.

Viktor Farcic 25:22
Yes, I was about to start swearing. So let's stop first.

Darin Pope 25:25
Well, you've already had one so that's okay. That's alright. So this was a little departure from norm. We'll, we'll talk about more tech stuff next. But if you're in a company that is outsourcing everything and you feel unappreciated, there's a reason why. You're not appreciated. You're just another cog in the wheel. Or another brick in the wall for a quick little Pink Floyd reference today. If you want to contact us, boy this one might fire up some people, you can reach out to us all of our contact information is it is at There'll be a link for it to that page down in the show notes. I think it's probably a good way to wrap it up. That was a pretty sad and harsh episode. But angry old white guy, right? And I sound angry, right?

Viktor Farcic 26:28
If you sound angry, how do I sound?

Darin Pope 26:32
You sound like a Serbian that lives in Spain. Okay, thanks again for listening to episode number 38 of DevOps Paradox.