Build & Maintain Complex Distributed Systems
June 11–12, 2018: Training
June 12–14, 2018: Tutorials & Conference
San Jose, CA

Architecting a Post Mortem

Will Gallego (Etsy)
9:00am–12:30pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Location: LL20 A/B Level: Non-technical
Secondary topics:  Resilient, Performant & Secure Distributed Systems

Prerequisite knowledge

Collaborative and "soft skills", at least as a basis, are a good foundation but not required.

Materials or downloads needed in advance

Anything to take notes - a laptop, a notepad and pencil/pen, etc.


Engineers are frequently tasked with being front and center in intense, highly demanding situations that require clear lines of communication. Our systems fail not because of a lack of attention or laziness but due to cognitive dissonance between what we believe about our environments and the objective interactions both internal and external to them. In this talk, I’ll discuss how we can revisit our established beliefs surrounding failure scenarios with an emphasis not on the who in decision making but the why behind those decisions. With attention to growth mindset, we can encourage our teams to reject shallow explanations of human error for said failures, instead focusing on how we can gain greater understanding of these complexities and push the boundaries on what we believe to be static, unchanging context outside our sphere of influence. I’ll walk through the structure of post mortems used at large tech companies with real world examples of failure scenarios and debunk myths regularly attributed to failures. Through these discussions, you’ll learn how to incorporate open dialogue within and between teams to bridge these gaps in understanding.

Photo of Will Gallego

Will Gallego


Will Gallego is a systems engineer with 15+ years of experience in the web development field, currently as a Staff Engineer at Etsy. Comfortable with several parts of the stack, he focuses now on building scalable, distributed backend systems and tools to help engineers grow. He believes in a free and open internet, blame aware post mortems, and pronouncing gif with a soft “G”.

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