Reflecting on the Platform Journey

In jest, I turned to my partner on the project and said, “We’ve tried nearly everything. We are going to look back and see that it was the hats.”

The Hat

I started on this journey with a team back in July of 2020. Before that, we built evidence for funding a cross-functional effort for a new developer platform. Innovating on our windows VM platform is expensive. The team I work with enjoys a rare amount of autonomy and freedom. The team delivers on a predictable schedule. We have the control and power to shape the platform for our customers. I want the people I work with to act as masters at their craft. I focus on my dream of easier development. How that happens is up to them. We are empowered.

I thought it might mean something to build a platform. A white-glove experience on top of Kubernetes and reach general enterprise availability within one year of the project start. Rancher accelerated us. The constraints made many decisions for us. In some ways, we could have accelerated further or not. Talking to one colleague with four years of Kubernetes experience, he’d only seen two on-premises implementations. Looking back, I thought there would be more surprises around Kubernetes or the project. Kubernetes is a mature technology. The community is huge. Knowledge accessible. People and processes are the hard parts of this journey. Rarely, the tools. Working together as a team in a remote-first environment. Aligning on what is important to do next. Receiving feedback from stakeholders. Communicating and educating leadership about the project.

Early on, when I entered the technology field, I would watch presentations about incredible technological achievements. I wanted to be a part of that. Now I am not ready to claim complete victory of this journey. I am ecstatic that we made it this far in a short amount of time. Migrating the majority of development from Windows VMs to DevLab will be the next challenge. We have six applications in production on the new platform. Adoption is slower than I would like. It is for the best. Training and education are important. In the meantime, we have significant interest from other departments. We are ready to support a wide commodity experience built on a white-glove CI experience. I am grateful that I work with wonderful people that want to solve hard problems and exercise their creativity.

Conclusion

I have greater empathy for people that start businesses or new projects to tackle a new business idea. I’m lucky that I like this stuff but let’s be honest. Improving the development tooling ecosystem is low hanging fruit for most organizations. As a developer, I am probably used to hard-to-use tools. What’s hard is trying to support too many varied use cases.

  • Try many things because it will not be clear what works. Everything might work just a little bit.
  • Seek feedback where you can get it. Be open to alternative opportunities if your main wellspring isn’t ready.
  • The hard work is showing up and continuing to push forward.