Building and maintaining complex distributed systems
June 19–20, 2017: Training
June 20–22, 2017: Tutorials & Conference
San Jose, CA

Software-defined culture

Timothy Gross (Joyent)
1:15pm–1:55pm Wednesday, June 21, 2017
DevOps & Tools
Location: LL21 A/B
Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ****.
(4.60, 5 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Developers, operators, and managers

What you'll learn

  • Explore how technology choices shape the organizational culture in startups and enterprises


Conway’s law tells us that “organizations which design systems. . .are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” Unhealthy organizations “ship the org chart,” producing software that reflects dysfunctional practices. When organizations are healthy and dynamic, adaptability and high-quality software result.

What if we turn Conway’s law around? Can bad software choices create new rifts? Are we selecting tech that disempowers developers and keeps operations up at night? Is our software architecture secretly encoding new divisions between our teams? Can technology choices improve an organization’s culture?

Drawing on his experience running containers in production, writing microservices, and operating all manner of infrastructure, from established favorites to the latest hipster trends, Timothy Gross explores how all the usual technological suspects (and maybe a few surprising ones) can shape the organizational culture in startups and enterprises alike and explains how to make technology choices that improve the culture of your organization. Timothy covers four principles for building software systems that have a positive influence on the culture of the organization that builds them:

  1. Building for reliability: Reliable systems can reduce internal conflict and improve morale and retention.
  2. Building for operability: Automated systems can lead to greater trust and autonomy.
  3. Building for observability: Measurable systems can lead to better decision making and derisk business choices.
  4. Building for responsibility: The choice of technologies influences the larger culture.
Photo of Timothy Gross

Timothy Gross


Timothy Gross is a product manager for Joyent, providers of the Triton Elastic Container Service. Previously, Tim ran ops at DramaFever, where he and his scrappy team ran Docker in production to serve a few million fans their daily dose of dramas, documentaries, and gross-out horror movies. In another life, Tim was an architect (buildings, not software). He took the leap into programming and operations after he discovered he could automate away almost everything boring in his life.

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Picture of Timothy Gross
06/26/2017 11:34pm PDT

> Great session Tim. Will you be publishing the video from the session?

Thanks Heather. Once it’s been made available to me I will and will link to that here.

06/26/2017 10:40pm PDT

Great session Tim. Will you be publishing the video from the session?