Episode Summary

In this episode of the Adventures in DevOps podcast, the panelists talk about getting started with DevOps and learning its principles and technologies. Lee and Scott mention that they share a similar journey, initially starting as system administrators and working their way into DevOps. Nell says that she was a Ruby and .NET developer before learning cloud technologies such as Heroku, Chef, and Docker.

To someone with a programming background wanting to get into DevOps, Lee highly recommends three books – The Practice of System and Network Administration, The Practice of Cloud System Administration: DevOps and SRE Practices for Web Services – Volume 2, and Time Management for System Administrators. He mentions that they are technology-agnostic and help in understanding what is really going on in the system. Scott stresses on the importance of understanding basic networking, linux systems and commands, bash scripting and knowing the core fundamentals and interactions of the underlying systems. He suggests going for online resources, tutorials and boot camps which are plenty nowadays and easily accessible as well.

Nell advises listeners to pick a cloud provider such as Digital Ocean and learn the basics by working with it, which can later be applied to any other cloud provider. She also recommends learning programming languages to get a good software development foundation. The panelists talk about working on specific projects and getting hands dirty rather than traditional learning, to enhance their DevOps skills.

Nell explains how they implement the 'learning by doing' concept at work. She mentions that understanding how virtual machines and physical servers work is crucial before moving on to learning about containers. Lee suggests Vagrant – a tool for building and managing virtual machine environments, as a good resource for the same. They caution that while it is important to learn things during our time off, self-care and setting healthy boundaries is paramount. It is ok to take longer to learn something given that DevOps as a whole can be extremely complex, and working in a non-pressure environment can be very beneficial. They recommend Ops School for beginners which is a comprehensive program aimed at people who want to get into operations engineering.

They then share their insights on monitoring and how to get started with it. Lee recommends the book Practical Monitoring, and Sensu – a monitoring event pipeline, as good starting points.

DevOps can be considered as a technical as well as a cultural movement. To that effect, they discuss where should people start learning the associated cultural elements. Nell recommends reading the books – Effective DevOps, and The Phoenix Project and Crucial Conversations. Lee advocates going old school with the writings of Richard Stallman, and books of the 80s and 90s such as The Art of C Programming. They mention that conversational skills and dealing with people are critical skills in today's work environments. Scott recommends Google's Site Reliability Engineering books which have a lot of great stuff to build a solid foundation and are also free to read online.

Finally, they talk about how to keep learning and expanding knowledge. Some effective suggestions discussed include extensive practicing, working professionally, solving business problems, building expertise in programming, and attending DevOps Days events and Linux Users groups. They end the episode with picks.


  • Nell Shamrell-Harrington
  • Lee Whalen
  • Scott Nixon




Nell Shamrell-Harrington:

Lee Whalen:

Scott Nixon:


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