Are College Students DevOps Ready?
College students are great! They’re young, hungry, and eager to do well in such a fast-paced environment like DevOps. You might as well throw them in the show two weeks after they graduate, right? Well, you should if you enjoy failing builds and setting servers on fire (proverbial servers – cloud FTW). It’s nothing on them or you. There aren’t many good DevOps programs in universities, and I wouldn’t blame them either – learning DevOps from textbooks isn’t easy. Some would say that learning DevOps through literature isn’t even really possible due to professors’ lack of relevant experience.
The ideal Liatrio employee can transform organizations while constantly learning and transforming themselves. Liatrio has had issues with hiring quality consultants in the past because people would hold on to their practices from previous jobs. Chris Blackburn, CEO, recognized the potential of college students as a remedy for these issues. He knew that school prepares the students in different ways but thought that a supplemental platform would benefit the students, school, community, and Liatrio. Boom – the Liatrio Internship and the Intern DevOps Bootcamp were born.
DevOps Bootcamp Origins
Round 1: Two Guys in a Corner
The first round of interns started in Summer 2016 with another intern and myself being the first campers. We worked in Chicostart, a startup incubator, in Chico, CA. Our trainers were frequently traveling as part of the consulting practice during this time. The separation posed some interesting issues, but everything worked out alright. In the beginning, there was nothing but an outline of the topics that needed to be covered. Week by week, we would talk with the veteran team to discuss what needed to be accomplished, feedback on tasks, and the theory behind what we were doing. Documentation was created for every task, discussion, and piece of feedback. Sure – it felt like laying down the tracks in front of a train barreling down a mountain – but at the end of the summer, we turned around and realized we created a repeatable DevOps bootcamp that we could take advantage of in the future.
Round 2: Five Friends in a Slightly Larger Space
Fall 2017 came around and we brought on three new interns. We took the DevOps bootcamp and spruced it up before its second run. This second wave of interns worked through some interesting challenges and brought up issues that had never been faced before. The difference this time was a hierarchy of support. The first wave of interns would field all questions from the newest wave. These questions were sometimes easy for the veteran interns and other times required a lot of work. If the answer was not manageable for the interns, then the veteran consultants would get involved. This fostered growth for both set of interns and created trust throughout the company. Updates to documentation and removing more wrinkles in the DevOps bootcamp helped to get it to a stronger state.
Round 3: Four Newbies Run Through in Our Own Office
The third round was the first “run through” of the repeatable camp. During this time, we moved to our own office with a new manager for the Chico branch. I led and provided structure to the camp while all of the veteran interns and I shared training tasks. During this round, we completed Leader Docs which was the final piece in the repeatability race. These interns went through it faster than the previous two rounds with less issues and more learning. A successful DevOps bootcamp took place.
We Did It
Nine people have gone through the DevOps bootcamp. Five graduated and accepted full time offers as DevOps Engineers. The rest are now interns working on actual DevOps products in our company such as LDOP. College students understand DevOps and contribute to the company, their school, and community. These students have used their knowledge to enhance their projects in school and provide workshops on campus allowing other students and professors to learn. This success came from the iterative nature of the bootcamp’s creation and the interns’ desire to produce quality work.
It Wasn’t Always Beautiful
Long-Distance Relationships Are Hard
At the beginning of the DevOps bootcamp, the interns were all by themselves in a small space roughly 200 miles from the boss. Quick discussions weren’t always easy, and timing was impractical. Thinking about it now, I’ve never heard of interns alone in an offsite office happening anywhere on the planet, but there’s a first for everything!
It’s an Investment
This is a paid internship! I know that sounds crazy, but its true. Chris knew it was a long term investment for the company, and learning skills that make us valuable in the market is one hell of a risk. There is no revenue gained up front from the running of the internship and DevOps Bootcamp. It has been working out, though; we have full time converts who benefited the company soon after graduation and current interns working on actual products and material that add to the business.
DevOps Bootcamp One Year Later
The third round completed June 30th, 2017. It took around a week to wrap up and do a postmortem. There was a retrospective where the entire Chico team got together to discuss the camp’s past and future.
What a time sink, right? Wrong. The success of this program has been impressive. We have learned so much about the process and truly believe we can create competent DevOps practitioners through this. Chris still believes this was the right move.
DevOps Bootcamp Contents
Here’s a current overview of what is in the DevOps bootcamp.
Ch. 1 – Introduction
- What is DevOps?
- Company Culture
- What to Get from the DevOps Bootcamp
Ch. 2 – Ops Primer
- Ops of the Past
Ch. 3 – Development
- Git and Branching Strategies
- OSS Guidelines
- Build an App. with Current Campers
Ch. 4 – Maven & NPM
- Build Tools
- What is Maven
- The Maven Way
Ch. 5 – Tools Admin.
- Learn Common Tools
- Security Introduction
- More Git
Ch. 6 – Orchestration
- Amazon Web Services
- Configuration Management (Chef)
- Containerization (Docker)
Ch. 7 – Consulting
- Faux Client Engagement
- Veteran Interns and Employess Act like Employees for a New Client
- Campers Run the Entire Engagement
The Future of the DevOps Bootcamp
Liatrio will always be refining this process with new tools, tasks, and practices to makes sure every wave comes out with a fresh understanding of the current DevOps playing field. The team recorded the notes necessary to make the next iteration a successful one and will revisit them before the next wave.
There’s also been chatter within Liatrio about open-sourcing the DevOps Bootcamp. We have put a lot of work into this and would love for others to be able to add to it and use it. Liatrio wants to give back and I can’t wait to share it with the community. There is a bit more work that needs to go into the docs before we can share it, but we are eager to try.
Let’s Talk Soon
Setting up a DevOps Bootcamp is a lot of work and effort. This is going to be the first in a blog series about setting up, running, and maintaining a DevOps bootcamp. If you have any questions please reach out!
Update – 3/12/2018
Great news! We’ve started open-sourcing the DevOps bootcamp! Read more about it here.
Justin Bankes, @justin_bankes
Liatrio is a collaborative, end-to-end Enterprise Delivery Acceleration consulting firm that helps enterprises transform the way they work. We work as boots-on-the-ground change agents, helping our clients improve their development practices, react more quickly to market shifts, and get better at delivering value from conception to deployment.