Interview with Keynote Speaker Eveline Oehrlich, Chief Research Director at the DevOps Institute

We caught up with keynote speaker Eveline Oehrlich, Chief Research Director at the DevOps Institute, to find out a bit about their backgrounds and interests. Find out more in the interview.

Eveline, can you tell us a bit about your professional journey and how you came to be Chief Research Director at the DevOps Institute?

My career started in IT as a programmer in 1994. I was hired by Hewlett Packard to help develop a CASE tool in a software team in Colorado, USA at the HP plant. However, the day I started, the team was disassembled and I was left with the option to start as a programmer or find another job. As I already had lots of HP experience (as I worked in Germany at HP for 3 years and I loved the company and its philosophy) I accepted the programmer position. I worked as DBA, System Admin, Developer, Data Warehouse Specialist in IT and shifted to the HP Software group in 1996. There I worked in presales, sales operation, technical marketing and became the Director of Competitive Intelligence for Software in 2002. In 2004 I moved to Forrester Research where I conducted research and helped clients and vendor around their IT strategy. I was VP and Research Director and lead a team of analyst in the topics around DevOps. I moved back to Germany in 2018 to be close to my German family. Unfortunately, all my vendors and customers had been in the US and it was exceedingly difficult to be with my family as I worked and traveled a lot (back to the US all the time). This motivated me to shift to a vendor I admired and I become the EMEA CTO for New Relic. But once an analyst always an analyst. I missed the research work, the connecting with thought leaders across different topics and met Jayne Groll, my CEO partner and CEO of the DevOps Institute. At DOES London in 2019 we decided to work together…and that has been the beginning of my DevOps Institute journey. Today, I am responsible for establishing our research strategy which is a bit different from how we conduct research and develop content at DevOps Institute than at Forrester Research. We believe in collaborative research and though leadership and are working with Ambassadors and other partners to develop key playbooks and other artifacts to aid DevOps humans in their journey onward.

You have been in the IT industry already for more than 25 years. Why did you choose the IT industry?

I love solving problems and I love solving it with other people in conjunction. The role of IT used to be only technical but even in my first job as a programmer I had to confirm what I developed fits and suits the end customer. That is what really made the job fun. I had the opportunity to consolidate data centers, support Y2K, develop new software, drive Go-to market campaigns, help advance enterprise IT teams with all kinds of challenges and questions, consult vendors in their strategy, assist CIOs with their challenges, motivate individual contributors all with the backdrop of automation, technology, efficiency, productivity and a dash of fun. IT people are creative, focused, detail oriented, sometimes stubborn but also focused on continuous improvements. That is what tickles me …to continuously improve for the better of people, processes, and technology.

How does digital transformation affect your role as a DevOps professional?

There are two impacts I believe. The first one is to focus on what is important to the customer instead of what is important for the developer or other IT members. This is what I call the outside in perspective. The value of the software (or digital service) does lie in how those who consume the service perceive the service. The WOW factor!

The second impact is that of ensuring that the value stream which exists to design and then deliver is connected, aligned and can be continuously improved while automating and eliminating waste. Both, the outside in and the value stream thinking this requires a variety of skills across many categories such as human skills, technical skills, functional skills, automation skills, process skills and business skills. These are the topics which we at the DevOps Institute study and share with the DevOps community.

Is AI an important aspect of your job?

It is an important aspect of everybody’s job sometimes in the future and for many of folks in the business and IT teams it already is. I see AI in all areas I study from ITSM, to ESM to CI/CD, monitoring, observability, storage, compute, cloud, you name it. The key aspect is to understand how to apply AI so that it augments us as humans (e.g. in Robotic Process Automation), or that it supports us with analytics (such as AIOps) or it reduces the amount of work (as in intelligent incident management within ITSM). I believe the business teams within the enterprises are further ahead with leveraging AI than we are in IT but yes it is a very important aspect of my job and our research agenda.

What IT trends are you most interested in?

I am most interested in areas which evolve around the changes in culture of an organization. Agile has been around for a long time and DevOps is now a teenager (almost 11 years old). These methodologies are changing topologies of teams and with that how people work, lead, organize and function. The future of work is visible for many but we have many demographics, diverse teams now with COVID19 even more of a challenge to find the best way of working together. I am also interested in Value Stream Management as I believe that will give us the orchestration, collaboration and measurements to really make DevOps valuable for the business and not just for IT.

You’ll be speaking at Swiss Testing Day | DevOps Fusion about the essential skills in the new world. What do you mean by the “new world”? For which roles is this topic most relevant?

The new world or next world is one where digital services are an essential part of how we live and work. There will be smart hospitals, smart groceries, smart cities, smart insurances, smart car sales and more. If the pandemic we are in has accelerated one thing than it is the development and creation of digital services which once connected can from a vertical or cross vertical ecosystem. Think of a smart hospital where your couch becomes the hospital bed for some patients and the doctor and pharmacy are connected into this service. This requires a next way to work and think and collaborate and automate and analyze and monitor and and and…you get the picture. That means developers, operation folks, architects, product owners, consumers (aka patients in the case of the hospital) all will need to work together on designing the experience and the way these digital services are managed and consumed. That requires different leadership styles, skills, ongoing learning and much more to be successful. This also requires different ways of working…and DevOps, Agile, SAFe, Chaos Monkey and much more is the start to a next normal.

And finally,… do you prefer cats or dogs? Why?

I am actually afraid of animals. We never had dogs or cats at home in Germany where I grew up as we had a car shop and gas station in a small town and animals just did not fit there. Later on when I moved to the USA in 1986, we did have a cat named Fortran which I liked so in honor of Fortran who died in 1998 I will vote for cats.