Profiles in Rad: Mary Poppendieck

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I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately doing research – research on microservices, research on kubernetes, research on helm, research on aws, research on research. And in the course of all this research, I ran across Mary Poppendieck.

Honestly, I cannot believe I have never heard of her before. She’s written multiple books about lean software development, and she speaks regularly on the entire pipeline of software delivery, including Operations and DevOps. She’s a big advocate of streamlined and efficient processes, a proponent of federated systems, and event-driven delivery. She’s also not afraid to call out bad approaches or tawdry attempts to excuse poor product.

I came across her when I was reading an article about the migration of services to microservers. In the article, he mentions a great talk about the past 20 years of software development, and what has changed.

The talk is about an hour, but worth it. She spends the last 20 minutes talking about DevOps – referencing the book The Devops Handbook by Jez Humble, Gene Kim, Patrick Debois and John Willis. She also mentioned the 2010 book by Jez Humble (boy that guy gets around in the Ops world!) and David Farley entitled Continuous Delivery. She discusses and recommends practices to prototyping, along with a new process for development, with new phraseology (for example: ‘problem statements’ vs ‘features’)

You can find a brief profile on her and her husband’s website, but I’ll sum up here. She was a programmer who then went into IT Management. She decided to write about a better IT process after working on government technology projects, which honestly, isn’t that surprising. After collaborating and writing over four books, she still continues to tour around and give keynote talks about better ways to develop and deploy pipelines.

In March of this past year, she was featured in a blog of 7 Inspiring Women in Tech, and I have to agree, she’s inspiring. She bridges the gap between technology and general conversations, between manufacturing and DevOps, and she makes it seem accessible and plausible. Plus, her recommendations just make sense – she is a big advocate of brainstorming in ways that don’t cater to the most outspoken, or doesn’t unnecessarily narrow scope too soon.

Honestly, I find her talks inspiring, and she make me want to do better DevOps. It helps put a context around the kubernetes/docker/helm work that I’ve been doing – she helps me focus on the impact, or the why, of what I’m doing. She advocates a lean mindset, and I’m starting to develop a better one.

So check her talks out, if you’re at a conference where she’s speaking, definitely talk to her, and in the meantime, follow her on Twitter. While we all make an impact in what we do, it’s great to have Mary as a beacon to help push us all forward, as co-women in tech.

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