Mandi Walls: Welcome to Page It to the Limit, a podcast where we explore what it takes to run software in production successfully. We cover leading practices used in the software industry to improve the system reliability and the lives of the people supporting those systems. I’m your host, Mandi Walls. Find me at lnxchk on Twitter.
Folks, it is the end of 2023. This is our final episode for the year. So we are doing a recap for you of some of our favorite moments, events, podcasts, all that stuff from the past year. We’ll put a bunch of links in the show notes in case you missed any of the fun things we did this year that we want to share with you. The highlight of course for us, having a new member on our team, Tiago joined us over the summer. We’re happy to have him with us. We’ll have a new member coming in, hopefully in the first quarter of next year. We’ve been waiting for her for months and we’re excited to introduce her to you when she finally formally joins us. We’ll have more news on that, hopefully, fingers crossed in January. So yeah, let’s kick it off. Kat, you want to start out with something that stood out for you this year?
Kat Gaines: There were a couple of categories of things that stood out for me, and one of those things was a couple of the episodes that we did here on the podcast. So a recent one that folks might want to check out if you missed it was the one called Pagey’s Nostalgia Hour. We had a lot of fun generating that title and trying to figure out what to call it, but I think it was a really fun just trip down memory lane with a lot of our oldest Dutonians, just kind of talking about how we got here, what our favorite memories are, what we’re excited about in the future. It’s a fun look into the inner workings of PagerDuty minds that have been here for a while. So that’s one I think people should check out. And then another one that I played host for earlier this year was the sustainable on-call culture episode with Paige Cruz. I really want to encourage folks to check that out because that is all about what PagerDuty does, if you think about it. We are about making people’s lives easier and more sustainable, and sometimes it’s really hard to figure out how to achieve, especially if you are implementing some new on-call practices in your organization, or you have a team who’s scaling and suffering from some burnout as part of that. So we had a long talk about how to navigate those things. Paige is just a gem. She has this wealth of knowledge and information on that subject, and so I really want to encourage people to check those out. So that’s the first thing that stood out for me this year, just those couple of episodes.
Mandi Walls: Yeah. Awesome. Tiago, how about you? You’ve now been with us, is it six months now?
Tiago Barbosa: Yeah, almost six months.
Mandi Walls: Almost six months. So what stood out for you in your first half a year with PagerDuty?
Tiago Barbosa: Well, first of all, on a personal note, well, I have to say that being part of this team has been top level for me because it’s just been amazing the way that you have welcomed me and how you kind of got me involved immediately in everything that you are doing, and it’s a lot. So thank you for that. Then we have the podcast, right? And the podcast has been amazing, and Kat already mentioned a few of the episodes. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to host one of those myself, and I would have to mention it because it’s on one of my favorite topics on team topologies that we recorded back in September with Manuel, and is something that I see very often in customers, in customer conversations where people are looking for tools to solve cultural problems and to improve the way that teams work and communicate. And that’s probably not the way to go. And so team topologies kind of approaches that in a sense. So it’s one of the topics that I really recommend folks to go and listen in our podcast, but well, I can mention dozens more that are really interesting.
Mandi Walls: Yeah, awesome. Both of those episodes. Paige is a trip. She’s a gem, absolutely. And the Manuel episode, really good. And I have an episode coming out in January. We actually talked a little bit about teams topologies as well. It’s definitely part of the way folks are thinking about improving their organizations. And the two that I wanted to highlight are we had Tim Armandpour, who is now our CTO on the pod over the summer and talking about the current landscape for incident response and incident management. And following up with that, of course, PagerDuty’s now acquired Jeli. So looking at out across the landscape of folks are actually thinking about for realsies, incident management beyond just on call and being very prescriptive about what they learn from their incidents. And we followed that one up with J. Paul Reed came back to the podcast to talk about a post he had done about the culture of actually getting the learnings from your incidents back into your work stream. It doesn’t always happen. And the non feature operational work that comes out of incidents in particular doesn’t always make it back in. And all of that stuff’s going to impact your reliability going forward and therefore downstream have impacts on your incident response and the number of incidents you have and how you handle them and all that kind of stuff. So I felt this year on the podcast was some real gems. We had some really, really good conversations with folks. And Kat, you and I had filled in one earlier in the year on instant communications that were just like, we haven’t actually really gotten into this before and just kind of went at it and it was really good too.
Kat Gaines: That one was really fun.
Mandi Walls: So for folks out there, if you’re listening and you have folks that you think we should talk to, let us know if you want to be on the podcast always. Moving on to things like events. We did so many events this year in different places. I went to Sandusky, Ohio at the beginning of the year for CodeMash, which is an amazing event at one of those indoor waterpark resorts, and it was immense and there was a kids' track and all this crazy stuff that’s going on, and that was super good. Tiago, you got to go to our London summit. What was that like for you?
Tiago Barbosa: Yeah, it was a fun event. It was my first event as part of PagerDuty. We had a lot of customers there. We had our UK team basically giving awards to the most active partners as well. We had Dormain joining from the US and basically we had a lot of people attending the event. We had a lot of people sharing what they’re doing with PagerDuty. We heard a lot of feedback as well on how we can improve. And the good thing is that some of these topics have served as a way for us to build new stuff for them and to create content and to provide that feedback to the product teams. And we are trying to solve some of the challenges that they have mentioned, and this is a good thing. And we will actually have one of the guest speakers on that event. He’s going to join the podcast really soon, hopefully in January. And so you’ll hear from him really soon.
Mandi Walls: Excellent. Kat, where did you get to go this year that was super cool?
Kat Gaines: Oh my gosh. A lot of them were so fun. And I think something Tiago just said about getting feedback from people at the event, that being really interesting. That’s the thing, I feel like I go to these conferences to deliver my talk. Yes, but also I want to connect with people who use PagerDuty or who are thinking about the types of things that we deal with and can help with. And there were a few events where I had people just kind of hunt me down after my talk to have conversations. So one of those was DevopsDays, Taipei, another was DevOps, Barcelona. And then I can also think of at the Support Driven conference this year, there were folks… Actually at two different Support Driven conferences, there were folks who had really good challenges to just talk through and just came to me for help and we just had these quick hallway conversations, but it was a really nice, okay, cool, we walked away from that with something really actionable that we can take back and use. And I just think one of the things I’m grateful for this year is that I think at every single event I went to, the organizers were so well-prepared and put together, I was really impressed by the quality of events this year and then just the engagement of people. I didn’t really go to many conferences this year where it was kind of people walking around, checked out, not really there for anything but the swag. Everyone was actually there to learn things and connect with each other, which is the point, but I think we sometimes forget it. So I was really happy to see that this year.
Mandi Walls: Definitely. And as we’re recording this, we’re recording this the week after re:Invent, so I’m mostly recovered, but my Fitbit’s like, yo, what were you doing last week? What is going on, eight miles every day? I don’t understand. And I was smart. I booked a massage for the Saturday after I got back, and that was definitely the move to make. But yeah, same thing. Re:Invent is a massive event. It’s the biggest event really we do other than Dreamforce, right? And being there in the booth, we’ve got a lot of name recognition. So folks did stop by to say, hey, we’re a user, yada yada, it’s great. And we had new Pagey pins for them and that was awesome. And also folks stopped by with really creative and interesting feedback that from their perspective that I think was really helpful. We were able to note things down and I met a blind engineer who had some really good feedback for us for the product and accessibility, and that was excellent. I hope we get some of his improvements and get to talk to him more about improving the product for differently-abled users. That was excellent. It’s also great to meet people who are just like, yeah, we love what you do. And it’s always a treat for me to feel like someone stops by and says, hey, we listened to the podcast. That was the first time that’s happened. I’m like, holy crap, you’re my best friend ever. So shout out to Vitor at Duolingo because that was super exciting for me. It was a highlight of my week to meet somebody who listens to the podcast. Thank you for being part of our audience and everyone else who stopped by at re:Invent. It makes it good for us as a place where there’s a large audience that we get to talk to who may or may not be our current customers. So it’s super helpful from that perspective.
Kat Gaines: It is so fulfilling to hear on a podcast when you met the hosts or talked to them and they remember you. So I think you said Vitor at Duolingo. There’s a Great British baking show podcast that I listened to and I sent them a baking question recently and they actually answered it on the show and it was just so thrilling to be like, yes, you’re out there, you hear me. And I think it’s good for us too, to hear that yes, you’re out there, you hear us, right?
Tiago Barbosa: Definitely.
Mandi Walls: Yeah. For folks who don’t know, we see how many streams there are, but we don’t necessarily know other than geographic locations where you are. So if you ever have any feedback for us, totally drop us a line.
Kat Gaines: We want to hear from you. Absolutely. Please say hello.
Mandi Walls: Awesome. So that covers events in the podcast. Other stuff that we did, number one, from the beginning of the year for things that this team used to cover. I just want to say thank you to Jose Antonio. We do a Terraform roundtable every quarter. He’s on the Twitch stream Wednesdays covering that stuff. When Scott was here, that took a lot of time to manage the Terraform stuff that we didn’t then get Scott doing other things. And now that Jose Antonio is here and picking up that lift, that’s been great. He’s a rockstar and it’s just grinding through all that stuff and it’s amazing. So thankfully we have him, applause to Jose Antonio for taking over the Terraform, the port there. That’s been awesome. And the next Terraform roundtable will be in January for folks who attend those. So that’s a good one. All right, what else do we want to cover? Tiago, do you want to talk a little bit about the Backstage stuff? I don’t know that we’ve mentioned that on the podcast yet.
Tiago Barbosa: Sure. So we were approached recently by the Backstage folks and because they were kind of announcing their plugin marketplace for Backstage, this was I believe back in September, something like that. And we were one of their top plugins in terms of downloads, and so they wanted to kind of transition the ownership to us. And so that’s what happens. So we are now not only contributors, but also maintainers of the PagerDuty plugin for Backstage. And we are fully hands-on and basically releasing new features. We actually released a new feature yesterday that allows people to basically add an action on their software templates in Backstage that allows to create a new service directly in PagerDuty, create an integration to Backstage and add that information on the service configuration on the Backstage side. So when you open the service page on the Backstage side, you’ll see the PagerDuty plugin automatically there with all the information on your service. You can create incidents directly from there. You can see active incidents, you can see who’s on call. And this is just one of the… It’s actually the second release that we did since we took ownership of the plugin, but there will be a lot more. So if you are interested, the project has new documentation page as well with all the information of what the plugin is capable of and some information about the roadmap and the features that we are working on.
Mandi Walls: Awesome. That’s super exciting. Is that all open source? Are you taking…
Tiago Barbosa: Yeah, everything’s open source. So the support is also open source. So basically it’s what we have at this point. So it’s basically on me in the community and a few folks actually at PagerDuty that are contributing already because we also use the plugin internally. Our SRE team is basically using the plugin internally as well.
Mandi Walls: Excellent. There’s been a lot of product changes this year. The engineering team has really been rolling through lots of things and lots of different aspects of the product. Lots of things have changed over the past year. Kat, is there anything that stands out to you that you think folks might be interested in if they missed it during the year? Because there’s a lot, it’s easy to miss.
Kat Gaines: There’s so much. There’s so much that has happened. Please, if you want to know what’s happened this year, go check out the PagerDuty blog because there are just pages on pages of updates. And I think I want to give a shout-out to our CS ops product team and to de-acronym myself, that’s customer service operations for folks listening, who just I think are constantly focused on my favorite thing about the PagerDuty product, which is just making people’s lives better and easier. It’s a really clear north star for that team. And one of the things that I’ve seen this year in that same vein have been just the updates and announcements around status pages. Something that can be a very kind of menial, nagging task for someone to maintain. And there’s been so much in the product to just make that easier, faster, a little bit automated, and just kind of make sure that that’s not part of your incident response process that’s hanging you up in the moment, which it really can be sometimes. So I’d recommend to folks to just check out the updates there if you haven’t, if you don’t know about them, if you’ve missed them, or if you aren’t using it yet to maybe consider checking out that part of the product as well. And again, just thanks to that CS ops team for really focusing on that goal of just making sure that things are easier for people to manage.
Mandi Walls: That definitely streamlines the whole process, and that’s another one where we eat our own cooking on that one. We migrated our status pages over when that launched as well. We had been using a third party service just like everybody else probably was, and migrated that in and made it part of our incident response process, especially for major incidents that need to go out. So yeah, definitely streamlines things for us on our side as well. Tiago, anything on the product that stands out for you? You get plugged into the process automation folks too, so they’ve been busy.
Tiago Barbosa: Yeah, exactly. So all the shift that they’ve done into the Runbook automation stuff and also kind of simplifying the work that you need to do and the workloads and the infrastructure that you need to maintain to run things like process automation. It is very complex and the integrations that they have been adding to Runbook automation, and more specifically in simplifying the integrations that they have, for instance, with AWS in terms of authenticating and running across accounts and all that. I think the work there is really, really interesting. And also there is a bit there on Runbook automation, but it also covers other aspects, which is on the Gen AI topic, which I think… So we do have that for generating Runbooks, but also generating to help users generate the postmortems and all that. But one thing that I would like to highlight there is that the approach that PagerDuty is actually taking with Gen AI, which is we see a lot of companies just going to Gen AI and trying to do stuff that is not necessarily bringing value. PagerDuty is taking a slow approach to Gen AI, but everything that we released so far and what we actually announced or showcase last week with a video that we released during re:Invent, we are kind of slowly getting into Gen AI, but we are doing things with Gen AI that kind of bring value. So it’s not about replacing people, it is actually about helping them to become more effective when resolving an incident or trying to identify the root cause of an incident. And that’s an approach that I really, really like and it’s being built into our product.
Mandi Walls: Yeah, there’s so much going on on that side. If folks haven’t seen the first reel for Copilot, we’ll put it in the show notes and can talk to your account team about getting on the EA and the beta lists for that. I’ve seen some of it internally from the engineering team so far, and it is super interesting how it works and how it integrates with Slack and some other things that they’re doing as the first pass, the post kind of things on it. And it’s definitely different and I’m like, oh no, do I want to talk to a bot? I feel like I talked to bot too much. I don’t know. But certainly puts a lot of things more at your fingertips than digging through the UI on the [inaudible 00:18:17]. Hopefully folks will check that out. Like I said, we’ll link it in the show notes there. Other things that I have found interesting, it seems to go in phases, maybe it’s the end of quarters or things like that. You get questions in the forums about how can I go through my account and do all this data gathering and reporting and yada yada stuff? And you’re like, well, here’s the API and good luck. But our analytics team has been working on a lot of stuff and have been reworking basically everything that analytics was into what analytics is going to be. And some of that work is pretty extensive. Like the insights reports, you can do filtering and changing of tabs and if you want to download stuff and do your own regression testing or whatever you want to do with it, it’s all there to download a CSVs and you can plug it into your favorite whatever that way. But other than that, it’s very nice and clean and the dashboards that are coming for accounts as well I think will be super helpful for folks, especially management across teams to really get a grip on things like burnout that we’ve definitely seen impact team’s ability to get their work done, and hiring and retention and all those kinds of things that we know are sort of downstream of having, we’ll say reliability issues rather than lots of outages or whatever, but to hopefully give folks more of the tooling that they’ve been asking for along that side. So the analytics folks definitely have been putting a lot of stuff together. And working with some of the product management, we’ve been trying to have more of them on our live streams just to give folks more of a view into what we’re thinking about, where the products are going and how things are evolving in ways that will hopefully make it more helpful for everyone. So I hope folks are taking advantage of those as well.
Tiago Barbosa: Definitely. And one thing that you mentioned is the community forums, and this is something that I would also see as one of the areas of improvement that we identified earlier in the year, and we are starting to go in the right direction now. There’s a lot of work that Xenda, our community manager did there, kind of removing all the spam and creating new challenges and new ways to interact with the community. We are getting a lot more questions that I believe we were in the past and the questions are actual real feedback from customers. And personally, it has helped me grow my knowledge as well in the platform because some questions, well, I didn’t have them, so I needed to go and grab them and experiment with the platform and reach out to the product teams and get their feedback before I could actually answer in the forums. So it’s one of the improvement areas that I feel like we identified, we did something about it and we will do a lot better in the next year for sure.
Mandi Walls: Yeah, definitely. It’s hard. There’s a lot of questions that come in that are about weird little dark corners and very unique use cases and some other things. Like you say, I try and fire it up in my account and try it out and if I can’t get it to work, I’m like, okay, who can I ask in engineering that we can track this down? What are you looking forward to in 2024 then? Bonus question.
Kat Gaines: More podcast guests.
Mandi Walls: Yay.
Tiago Barbosa: Exactly.
Kat Gaines: Shameless plug. Again, please let us know if you’d like to be a guest.
Mandi Walls: Yes.
Kat Gaines: We’re looking forward to talking with you.
Mandi Walls: I personally am looking forward to onboarding more of the Jeli folks. I’m anxious to see how we can incorporate some of their stuff into what we do, and it looks like it might be some opportunity to update some of our documentation, some of our ops guides to reflect some of their perspectives and things like that. So I’m hoping we can take advantage of that, especially in Q1 of next year as they are more fully integrated into PagerDuty and we get them on board. We don’t get a DevRel out of that merger, so we just have to pick up the content ourselves, I guess. So that’s going to work. It’ll be fine. It’s going to be good. So definitely looking forward to that.
Tiago Barbosa: Yeah, definitely. On my side, basically Backstage continuing to release features that community has been requesting us, so there’s a lot of work there. So if anyone is willing to contribute as well, feel free to join me and the rest of the community there. And also starting to go to more events as a speaker. This is one of my main goals for 2024, I would say.
Mandi Walls: Awesome. Is there any one event in particular that you’re hoping to snag?
Tiago Barbosa: I don’t know. PlatformCon is one of the events I would like to go, but there are others.
Mandi Walls: Cool. Kat, anything else you thinking about for 2024?
Kat Gaines: I think that wraps it up for me and other than just saying a huge thank you to our listeners for being here and sticking with us.
Mandi Walls: Absolutely. We crossed that 100 episodes mark. It feels like that was a major milestone for us. So thanks to everybody, all of our previous guests, everyone who’s been on and thank you out there to all of our regular listeners and our incidental listeners and anyone who stumbles across this at any time, thanks for listening to our stuff. We hope it helps you learn about interesting things across development and operations. There’s a lot of stuff out there that we try to cover that isn’t necessarily right in the workflow of incident response because it impacts so much across the entire organization. We really feel like we want to cover lots of different topics. So I hope that’s good for all of you too. So we’ve got lots of cool guests lined up for the first part of next year and things that are already in the hopper and things that are getting recorded soon and new stuff coming and it’ll be super good. All right, so with that, I guess we’ll bid everyone a happy new year. I will wish everyone an uneventful new year, so shout out to everyone who is on call over the holidays and whatever your holiday is and how you celebrate. I hope it’s great. We will be back with you the first week of January with a new guest. Like I said, if you have any feedback for us, we’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, we’ll talk to you again in the new year. That does it for another installment of Page It to the Limit. We’d like to thank our sponsor, PagerDuty for making this podcast possible. Remember to subscribe to this podcast if you like what you’ve heard. You can find our show notes at pageittothelimit.com and you can reach us on Twitter @pageit2thelimit, using the number two. Thank you so much for joining us and remember, uneventful days are beautiful days.
Tiago Barbosa is a Developer Advocate for PagerDuty. With 13 years of experience in the tech industry, he has helped hundreds of companies of various sizes and industries on their journey to build resilient and scalable cloud applications while working for Microsoft and AWS. Before moving to PagerDuty Tiago ran the Cloud and Platform Engineering teams for Music Tribe. When he is not busy working or travelling, he is most certainly spending some good time with his family, playing music or surfing.
Kat is a developer advocate at PagerDuty. She enjoys talking and thinking about incident response, customer support, and automating the creation of a delightful end-user and employee experience. She previously ran Global Customer Support at PagerDuty, and as a result it’s hard to get her to stop talking about the potential career paths for tech support professionals. In her spare time, Kat is a mediocre plant parent and a slightly less mediocre pet parent to two rabbits, Lupin and Ginny.
Mandi Walls is a DevOps Advocate at PagerDuty. For PagerDuty, she helps organizations along their IT Modernization journey. Prior to PagerDuty, she worked at Chef Software and AOL. She is an international speaker on DevOps topics and the author of the whitepaper “Building A DevOps Culture”, published by O’Reilly.