From Ops To Advocacy

Hi, I’m edunham, and I’m an infra person. Our buzzwords include DevOps, Cloud Operations, and Site Reliability Engineering, though if you ask any two of us about the difference between those terms, you’ll get at least three answers. Whatever name it’s wearing, doing ops well requires not only the “how” of changing systems, but also the “why” of making the right changes. Although I’ve always loved helping spread the information that my colleagues need in order to build the systems that work best for them, I’ve chickened out of taking the leap into pure advocacy many times, before finally diving into it here at Okta!

opening up a server in the OSL datacenter

I got my start in open source and the tech industry as a student software developer and sysadmin at the OSU Open Source Lab. The OSL gives students hands-on expertise with skills essential to those careers, and there weren’t enough of us to satisfy all the companies who wanted to hire us as interns! To help address this problem, I created the first iteration of our DevOps Bootcamp training program. I was amazed by how good it felt to take information I was lucky enough to have special access to and share it with others who found it useful. When looking at where to steer my career after university, I considered building on my growing resume of talks to pursue evangelism roles, but it wasn’t time yet. I wanted to go out and apply my skills at scale, rather than just talking about them.

Ferris plushies and Rust stickers

As ops for the Rust and Servo teams at Mozilla, I was again able to play the positive-sum game of sharing the most interesting and useful insights I learned from my unique access to fantastic engineers. But as the sysadmin and speaker roads diverged in that forest of mercurial trees, I stuck with the ops route.

Missing the conference circuit as growing responsibilities meant less time for talks, I started working on a transition toward advocacy in early 2020. Faced with a choice between making the switch then or building on my ops skills for a while longer, the engineer in me won out. Switching fields, into a field that was frantically reinventing itself at the time, was just too many simultaneous changes to roll out to prod without any staging environment or CI available.

Okta’s developer advocacy team is in the right place at the right time for me. I get to use my background to help useful information flow out of the company to our community, as well as bringing the community’s observations and insights back to contribute to internal decision-making. Our product has made my life better as an engineer whenever I’ve worked with it, increasing my knowledge about how to do security well.

edunham's face

I’ve been working remotely since 2018, and I put the time that I would otherwise spend commuting into gardening and an assortment of maker projects, which I sometimes mention on my blog. I’m a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical responder with my local fire department, and I play tuba and sousaphone poorly but enthusiastically on the now-rare occasions when we can get enough people together to make some music.

You can find me on GitHub and some IRC networks as edunham, and on Twitter and LinkedIn as qedunham, or email me, e.dunham@okta.com!