An expert perspective with Brendan O'Leary

Nov 4, 2020
  • 4 min read

We had the first Ask Me Anything as Teck Camp on Thursday 22nd October, and what an event! Senior Developer Evangelist at GitLab and Cloud Native Computing Foundation Board Member, Brendan O’Leary joined us for an insightful evening. Brendan spends a lot of his time connecting with developers, contributing to open source projects, and sharing his work about cutting-edge technologies on conference panels, community events, in contributed articles, and in blogs. He has a passion for software development and iterating on processes just as quickly as we iterate on code. Working with customers to deliver value is what drives Brendan's passion for DevOps and smooth CI/CD implementation. Brendan has worked with a wide range of customers - from the nation's top healthcare institutions, to environmental services companies, to the Department of Defense. Outside of work, you'll find Brendan with one to four children hanging off of him at any given time. Or occasionally finding a moment alone to build something in his workshop.

Over the course of the evening Brendan let us pick his brain on topics such as how GitLab manages the sheer number of open source contributions, and best practices of learning how to learn. Remember that you can view the entire transcript of the evening over on the Teck Camp Slack in the #ask-me-anything channel.

The GitLab way of working

GitLab is the first single application for the DevSecOps lifestyle. On 22nd of every month, GitLab releases an update. We’d have been remiss if we didn’t ask Brendan about the latest one!

“One of the coolest things in 13.5 is actually a contribution not from GitLab engineers… I'm proud to say that every month we have literally hundreds of changes from people who don't work [at] GitLab.”

Being an open source community, GitLab lets its members contribute to what GitLab might look like in the future. This does mean however that there are a lot of helpful and insightful contributions from different sources. How can one go about collaborating so many different approaches?

“It can be challenging, but we've found that articulating clearly the principles that you are focused on as well as mid-and-long term vision are really really valuable in helping everyone both make and understand the decisions we have to make to ensure the teams are focused on the right things.”

Brendan also stressed the point of writing things down. Doing so allows you to take in the information whilst also understanding it and iterate on it.

Learning to learn

This topics is close to Brendan's heart. Learning to learn and accepting where you’re currently at on your learning journey is important to personal growth. He spoke at DevRelCon Earth this summer on the subject, focusing on the harsh knowledge divide that is often present within tech.

“All too often in tech it's a battle of who is "technical" and who is "not technical" and I just don't like that distinction. So I intentionally named that talk to say I am not technical if we're going to draw that line… I don't want folks who haven't learned to code or don't have a computer science degree or don't feel like an engineer to be discouraged from contributing to tech. As the whole world becomes more and more dependent on technology we should be doing everything we can to encourage a diversity of thought and experiences to be brought to bear on solving the world's hard problems.”

Brendan went on to point out that we are all technical. We all know a lot more about computers and technology than our grandparents did, simply because of exposure.

Personally, one of my favourite sections on Brendan O’Leary’s Developer Evangelism plan is the ‘Useless is not Worthless’ section. The section was inspired by Charlie Gerard, and it holds a very important message from Brendan:

“Finding a "reason" or an "idea" is often the hardest part of learning a technology. So "useless" ideas are not so useless if you are learning.”

If you want to discover more about this from Brendan, you should also check out his blog for more impactful lessons on learning.

Want to learn more?

You can find the full Ask Me Anything with Brendan O’Leary on the Teck Camp Slack channel. It’s in the #ask-me-anything channel. You can register to be part of the Slack workspace here.

Thank you to all who took part in the Ask Me Anything with Brendan O’Leary! A huge thank you to Brendan especially for taking the time out for us to ask him our unanswered questions. It was great to be able to pick his brain! You can follow Brendan on Twitter, @olearycrew.

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