Are you a rock star, a builder, or a janitor? Alice Goldfuss, site reliability engineer at New Relic, wants to know. And she wants you to know that whichever category you fall into, you’re doing it wrong. In fact, that was the title of her presentation at FutureStack16 San Francisco: “Your Team of Rock Stars, Builders, and Janitors: You’re Doing It Wrong.” The problem, Alice explained, lies in the categories themselves.

Rock stars, she said, are innovators and idea merchants, always introducing and improving new things, always iterating at breakneck speed. Which can mean they’re also impatient, prone to getting bored, and often disinclined to think about the end user.

Builders, meanwhile, take the rock stars’ sparks and make them into reliable, scalable products. They aren’t afraid to ask “but what if?” Which can also turn them into the resident doomsayers, too often slow and reluctant to let things go.

As for the powerless, uncelebrated janitors? They understand the weaknesses in your system, are expert at applying Band-Aids to keep things running, and can do a lot with very little. But they also get stuck in the weeds, cleaning things manually ad infinitum, resisting bold change that could make the overall system run better.

Sticking people into these categories creates stasis and tunnel vision. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Discover Alice’s solution in the video below:

Watch other great presentations from the event:

You can see all available FutureStack16 San Francisco presentation videos, including the keynotes, at our FutureStack16: San Francisco YouTube playlist.


Photo: © Andrew Weeks Photography.

B.J. Hinshaw is a freelance writer based in Northern California. View posts by .

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