#161 Russ Miles is now a professional chaos monkeys tamer
- The Chaos Toolkit: An open-source chaos engineering project that Russ Miles co-created.
- Reliably: Russ's current venture focuses on aiding developers to embrace reliability.
- The book "Chaos Engineering: System Resiliency in Practice" was written by Russ Miles.
- Book "Learning Chaos Engineering: Discovering and Overcoming System Weaknesses through Experimentation"
- Excel Venture Partners: The venture capital firm that initially funded Reliably.
- Chaos Monkey A tool that randomly terminates instances in production to ensure engineers implement their services to be resilient to instance failures.
- Litmus Chaos Another chaos engineering tool mentioned by Russ.
- Gremlin: A commercial option for chaos engineering.
- Verica: A company developing tooling for chaos engineering.
- Snyck: A company helping development teams embrace security.
- Russ's Twitter profile: @RussMiles
- Russ's Homepage
- Email: [email protected]
- Chaos Toolkit Slack: join.chaostoolkit.org
- Cover Campfire Rounds by Blue Dot Sessions is licensed CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
Navigating Interests and Learning Languages (2:15)The interview begins with Russ Miles reflecting on his early interests in mathematics and philosophy, highlighting the importance of curiosity and continuous learning. He remarks that learning a programming language is akin to learning a spoken language – it's about understanding and communicating ideas. As a junior developer, immersing yourself in different languages can broaden your perspective and enhance your problem-solving skills.
The Art of Debugging (8:22)Russ shares his experiences at the Ministry of Defense, where he worked as a software engineer. He emphasizes the value of debugging and problem-solving, referring to it as an "art form". He advises junior developers to embrace debugging as a crucial aspect of their job, encouraging them to learn from their mistakes and continually improve.
From Debugging to Creating Software (15:40)Moving on, Russ talks about his journey from being an engineer who fixes things to someone who builds software. He describes the significance of understanding the business needs and how it can directly influence the software you develop. He encourages developers to engage with stakeholders and users to better understand their needs.
A Shift Towards Teaching (20:57)Russ shares his experience of transitioning to teaching, where he worked to equip other developers with the necessary skills. He emphasizes the importance of good communication in teaching, and how being a good teacher requires understanding others' perspectives.
The Importance of Open Source Projects (28:00)Russ then delves into his involvement in open source projects. He talks about how such projects can be a great avenue for developers to learn and contribute. He stresses that participation in open source projects not only enhances coding skills but also provides a platform for collaboration and communication.
Venturing into Chaos Engineering (33:50)Russ shares his introduction to chaos engineering, the practice of intentionally inducing failures in systems to ensure their resilience. He speaks of his work in Chaos Toolkit, an open-source chaos engineering project. Russ advises junior developers to start with the science and understand the hypothesis of chaos experiments.
Fundraising for Startups (38:10)Russ goes on to recount his experience with Excel Venture Partners, highlighting the significance of patience and persistence when seeking funds for a startup. He underlines the importance of timing in fundraising and the need to understand investors' needs.
From Chaos to Reliability (42:33)Towards the end, Russ talks about his current venture, Reliably, and how they aim to help developers embrace reliability. He highlights the challenges of reliability as compared to security, with the world acting as the "malign actor". He encourages developers to consider reliability as an integral part of their development process.
Wrapping Up with Advice (46:14)Russ wraps up the interview with a piece of advice for those interested in chaos engineering - start with an experiment, understand the hypothesis and don't rush into production. He extends an invitation to reach out to him for guidance and insights, demonstrating his commitment to continuous learning and sharing knowledge.
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Russ Miles 0:00
Oh, I've programmed since then a few 1000 times, I guess maybe if you want 1000 times I, I've never gone back to that program. It's haunted me. It's there in my mind. It's a constant reminder that I don't know what I'm doing, which I think is a great mantra for every developer on the planet. We don't know what we're doing. No one knows what they're doing. But we're getting by we're working on it. So I've got a good sort of introduction into this world from that first magazine.
Tim Bourguignon 0:31
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey to podcast bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host, Tim. And on this episode of 161, I receive Russ miles. Ross is a self confessed polyglot programmer. He is the founder and CEO of reliably, and to ensure that he has as little spare time as possible. He contributes to various open source projects and has co authored a number of books, including xpect trade cookbook learning UML, judo, headfirst software development, and he also travelled the world. Last time we met, it was at a conference in Estonia back when traveling and conferences were still a thing. Russ, welcome deaf journey.
Russ Miles 1:18
Thank you very much for inviting me.
Tim Bourguignon 1:20
It's my pleasure. It's been a long time in the making since then.
Russ Miles 1:25
It has it has a whole world has changed a lot since then has,
Tim Bourguignon 1:29
indeed indeed. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew, and help me spend more time on finding the nominal guests then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info, and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. Though Ross, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story look like. And he mentioned how to shape their own future. So as always, let's go back all the way back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your dev journey
Russ Miles 2:20
while I was in the womb? And I thought no, I'm not gonna go quite that far back. I think it's fair to say my journey started. And I know that my uncles could validate and verify this. I, I got absolutely addicted to coding before I got addicted to anything else, because I didn't own a computer when I was very, very young. And my parents didn't come from an engineering computing background or anything like that. So it was a new thing in the household. But I went to visit one of my uncle's. And he had an old Atari that I was infatuated with Atari 800, XL. XL isn't when I was sort of word, letter combinations that always makes me laugh, just don't know what was large on it, and what was extra large on it. But anyway, the 100 XL and then there's a magazine and I had an article in it on how to write a program in over many, many, many pages have multiple columns on those pages have lots of numbers that didn't do anything as far as I could tell. And I had to I had to put it all in I was so obsessed. I think that's it. That's that first reason I got interested, so obsessed with what I could do now. And so I started to type this thing in and it took me all weekend, my whole visit, I was incredibly unsociable that weekend. And I typed it all in, I got to the end. And as a big sort of dramatic finale, I hit the last Enter key and then you hit hit run, it's going to run. This was a moment in my and I'd love to say it worked. I'd love to. I'm not going to say that. Because what happened, what happened is I learned a lesson. My very first program was hamstrung by something called keyboard buffer. Now that might confuse people. But there's only so many characters that the computer could remember, whilst you're typing. Without it's having to forget stuff from before. And the problem I'd had is I had written this entire, many, many 1000 Line program into the computer without pressing return. No, it has to be told this has to be told because anyone who then sees me now on stage, or I start to sound like I know what I'm doing. You have to remember this is a kid that didn't even know what the return key did when he first encountered the computer. I just didn't know what return was at no point in the magazine. Did it say press return? So I hadn't. And then the magic didn't happen. I mean, what actually did happen is my my uncle, basically that I've already typed in once before, so let me show you what it does, which is really disheartening for me. So watch this little stick figure walk across a screen that I dreamed mine would do, but know that someone else could just stick in a use a tape at the time, load it up after the fourth or fifth try, let's be honest, load it up eventually. We all remember those of us of a certain age and certain haircut these days, we remember that, you know, there was a sound, you could tell if the tape was actually gonna go in or not, we're gonna work. Even worse, if you're like, 45 minute game load, and you're still sitting there get about 30 minutes, and then that and horrible noise just changes, your honor. It's not gonna work. Anyway, we got this, he got his version into the computer. I saw it happen. And I walked away. I walked away, though, in an attitude that's got been with me for my entire career, which is a, I would call it stubbornness, I think is the best word for it is like, it didn't work. But I learned something. And that gives me a reward for my stubbornness. I don't know why I'm like that. I know a lot of people that aren't like that. I know a lot of people right now that I respect usually were that would be sitting there right now going, that would have stopped me ever touching your computer again. But for me, it was. Well, that was that was great, but horrifying. And now I want to go and see what else I can try and do. Can I do it next time? I did. I'll admit, I never typed that game in again, or that particular program. And again, I never did. And I got very frustrated with the Atari 800 XL game games. They gave you magazines, because they gave you just reams and reams of numbers to stick into registers. There was no language exploration for this. It was just is it here's a magic number, pop it into this area here. And I think those games were designed that way, because it'd been sort of encoded, they wouldn't give you the original source code. But they will give you the numbers to pop into registers. And it used to be horrifying. If you've got I'm not that exacting. It's one of the reasons by the way, I'm not the world's best programmer, is I'm not that exact thing. I don't, I can't pay that. That amount of attention to what I'm doing. So although I've programmed since then a few 1000 times, I guess maybe if you want 1000 times i I've never gone back to that program. It's haunted me. It's there. In my mind. It's a constant reminder that I don't know what I'm doing, which I think is a great mantra for every developer on the planet. We don't know what we're doing. No one knows what they're doing. But we're getting by we're working on it. So I got a good sort of introduction into this world from that first magazine,
Tim Bourguignon 7:12
sternness failure, multiyear requirements, that everything's in there.
Russ Miles 7:15
Exactly. I mean, almost everything I've ever done in my entire career happened in that first weekend. And I'm still doing it now. I mean, the program didn't run I broke it. I didn't break it on purpose, I suppose. But it did you break it. Since then I've devoted sort of gone off in different directions into working with chaos engineering, and microservices and complex systems and not so complex systems, all that great stuff and architecture. And I was a technologist on the way there somewhere in there. And at some point, I decided public speaking was a good idea. Don't act. I do remember when it happened. I don't remember when I thought was a good idea. Exactly when it happened. And all those things have resulted. I think from that attitude on that weekend, maybe it was an attitude I'd had before. But I had no evidence of the attitude before. But the attitude was, this is magical. What we do is magical. And even if it's hell, if the magic has kind of worked, I was still in love with the fact that I could make this CRT television, do something. I didn't know how to CRT work. I didn't know how any of the circuits in the machine worked. I didn't know what how the the Atari 800 XL worked. But I knew that if I entered in the right commands, something magical for me would happen. And up until that point, anything that had been on TV screen was out of my hands. And now suddenly, it was in my hands. And that's what's Yeah, that's that's been the buzz ever since
Tim Bourguignon 8:27
I totally understand that. And for the record, I have yet to hear somebody speaking about this typing programs and who managed to make one work for the first time. If
Russ Miles 8:37
you think maybe they used to see them with the odd bug and just go, they'll type it all in and then they'll use the disk or the cassette on the front. And then then we've not lost anything anyway. I mean, you could convince, I guess, the legal beagles that we're not giving anything away. If we if we give away something's got a slight bug in there anyway. I don't know. Maybe Maybe I'm a bit too skeptical of these things. I don't
Tim Bourguignon 8:57
think God is not something we do anymore. But anyhow. So you're at a place, a stubbornness, passion, you saw the magic, you got a glimpse of this world and say who that might be interesting. So obviously, you you sketch the path toward becoming a developer. And it's been your vision until then, and it was fixed from the very beginning, right?
Russ Miles 9:17
No, no, no, no, not at all. It's a lovely idea. I really wish it was but developer didn't exist. When I was at that age, someone gave me a programming book, C programming book. And again, I'd love to say I fell in love with C. And I've been that way ever since I hated it. That very, the very first chapter of that book introduced something called a variable. Now, I'm seven years old variable. I don't even know what that word, I wouldn't even be able to make the connection to vary that variance. None of those things were in my mind. So variable was I bring this sort of knowledge these days to the books I write sometimes. He said, You know, you have to remember the audience frequently doesn't have a clue what you're talking about. And you have to make sure you build a story around it that helps them get there. But I remember this book was one of those Classic technical books that just assumed a lot of the reader, or they at least perhaps assume that the reader wasn't seven years old. And I had no idea there was no internet. I mean, I was sending like a granddad now, but we didn't have it as good as we have it now, I couldn't go and ask someone. There was no career progression for this. As far as I could tell, there was programmer that was it? Are you a programmer? Or are you a designer? Well, I didn't know what I was. So no, it wasn't a straight path, I'm afraid. What happened in truth is, I eventually got a computer remote, I think, I think I went out and bought a horrendously overpriced computer, eventually, we've got it on credit when my mother actually brought it home. And my dad was horrified because my dad works in car sales. And one of the things he knew really well was credit systems. And he was looking at going, this is terrible, you're gonna, it's gonna take years for you to pay this back. It's out of date already. And yeah, he was very derogatory when it came to the purchase. But he was always incredibly encouraging in terms of what I wanted to do, he could, my dad had a sense, as did my mom, that what I was doing was good for me. Even though you think about it, I spent all weekend staring at a computer screen, putting the numbers in, some people would probably get that kid to a psychiatrist. They didn't, they thought it was good. They thought it was impressive. Even though they had no idea what they're looking at, and actually that same attitudes come from there my entire career as well. They're extremely encouraging. I always give them a free copy of one of my books, I tend to mention them in the books, they never read the books. They read the preface, they read the the the attributions and that sort of thing, because they mentioned, but in the end, I knew very early if I was going to do this in any way for money, so it was can I be a programmer for money was my first thought, if I'm going to do it for money, no one's going to understand what I do. And this also led to some of the my attitudes when it came to socializing. When you're a developer or when you're working in industries. I don't know how many social events I've been to where people say, what do you do, and I say, I work in it. And I just That's it. The conversation is kind of over and I talk about motorcycles, or I talk about guitars. But the crazy thing is then when someone gets to know me, they start to look at the stuff I've done online, they start to look at the the open source projects I've worked on, they go on, you're quite good at this. I said, Well, I'm known for it. I wouldn't say I'm quite good at it. But I'm known for it. And I get further and I go there, hang on, you've got a master's degree at Oxford, and you've got yeah, I've done all that, too, then why don't you bring this up at the start of the conversation as important? Because I don't honestly look at it as something that everyone's going to grok the moment I say anything, and I think everyone in this industry has experiences like this, where they feel quite isolated and alone, when maybe less these days, maybe because we have, you know, movies about people like us back then. If you said you were a programmer, and that was all I could refer to myself as at that point, I get nothing out of a conversation. So I usually made up something else. And in fact, I was something else for a while. But I'll step back just as just a bit back in time first. So just
Tim Bourguignon 12:58
just a question in between. How do you present yourself nowadays, so that you don't get this this blank stares thing? Oh, okay. And then
Russ Miles 13:05
very much depends on whether I'm dating on a first date, or whether I'm at a social event. At the first day, I'll often make something up incredibly dramatic. Something like oh, I don't know, I'm an author of books. But but then I was ready for the question that comes next, which is Oh, great. Have I read any? No?
Tim Bourguignon 13:26
No, do you like UML?
Russ Miles 13:29
We all write books in our youth that we regret. No, I don't regret that book at all. But it was certainly a book for its time and place, I think, indeed. But yeah, so I author is one of the excuses I give, really, I will often say I work in it. And I build some of the most amazing systems you can think of. And that's that's kind of how I do I talk about the systems. I don't talk about my job on a daily basis, particularly as CEO, now a CEO of a startup, people don't really tell you what that means. And you have to discover it for yourself. And it's it's really fun, really fun. But it is constant self analysis and change. So if someone says, What are you and I say a CEO, they say, Wow, what you're CEO of a startup. Okay, wow. What do you do with that startup? So I'm now I'm already back to systems. So I go, Well, we help systems become reliable. We help developers build reliable systems. That's usually where I start to shut so we move on to something else. But yeah, on dates, it's usually author, because it's about as glamorous as I can possibly be.
Tim Bourguignon 14:30
I made the exact same, the exact exact same experience. I used to present myself as somebody in it and doing it programming doing something like that. And like, like you said, usually it was discussion over and nowadays, I'm more introduced myself, like I helped 200 engineers work together without starting a war highlight that one that gets the discussion going usually. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
Russ Miles 15:39
I wouldn't be different I would help 200 engineers go to war.
Tim Bourguignon 15:46
Okay, sorry, I took you in in tangent. You wanted to? Yeah,
Russ Miles 15:48
none of it. That's a great tangent. And so I was going back in time, because one of the things I think people don't admit, as much as they should, is where things went wrong. And I my career is full of where I went wrong. So I obviously started off with this burning ambition to do things with computers didn't really leave me hanging there with me, but I then didn't get great. GCSE is the sort of small scale qualifications we get in in the UK. I didn't get great ones I got okay. But I didn't get great. And then when I was going for my A levels, because I didn't get great in maths, for example, I couldn't pursue maths at a level. So my maths was kind of quashed a little bit. And when I think about it, now, it's such a strange jump. But because I couldn't do maths, they said, Well, why don't you try physics? Okay. It's a science, maybe it'd be interesting, I'll go do that. So I ended up doing French physics, computing. And I think psychology. If I know psychology, that's one of the favorite ones in there. And I learned something about myself in a levels, my levels, because I already had an inkling of this, but this was when it came to the fore. I am not a generalist, I'm not gonna sit there and learn something I find utterly boring, I can't do it, I really, it's almost like a physical barrier. It's almost like people who suffer from anxiety sometimes describe that anxiety is like a sort of barrier, it's a sort of a fuzzy barrier around you for the rest of the world. You can't seem to experience the world or the way other people do. And I have that in a different way. But I have it with topics I'm not interested in. And so my French and physics really suffered. I can tell you right now, I got grades on those that I don't even think people can get any more. But there was an n and a u u means ungraded. You didn't turn up, which is entirely true. N means you turned up and spell your name, right. It's terrible. And but then you contrast it with what I do enjoy. When we go and look at computing, I got an I gotta be psychology, I got an A. So you can see it's completely we call it Marmite in this in this country. You either love it or hate it. That's how I am when it comes to topics. And I was never really infused with the love of academic study or learning for learning sake Are any of those things which I developed later on much later on. But that point, I hated learning because I'd failed. I couldn't go to the university I wanted to go to I left I was working as an usher in a cinema. So I would take people to their seats. If you want a terrible story being an usher on a Friday night, when everybody's out trying to impress their girlfriends, and you're the one that has to stand at the front of cinema with a little punch of ice cream that they can buy off of you, you're standing there in a sort of deck chair style waistcoat, you're either thick skinned or you die. And so I learned a little bit of being thick skinned at that job. But rightly so my parents were horrified. But this was now going to be my chosen career. Because I have a deep love of films, most media actually, but films and music, a deep love of mine. And so I was okay, I got to see for weddings in a funeral 30 times. I saw Dumb and Dumber, probably more than that many times. It's still one of my favorite movies in the world. I have great memories of of those times. But my parents rightly freaked out, decided they had to get me a job somewhere. And fortunately, one of my dad's friends was looking for sort of an intern apprentice role working with on a project that they were developing, which was to control Kodak processing machines, the old for shape, you'd send your film away, and it would come back three days later, with lots of stickers on it saying you can't take photos. That's those machines were the machines I would work on 10,000 films a time going through these massive metal monstrosities. Most of the chemicals were awful to man and beast. So it was a bit of a good experience. And I was writing a control system for these for these machines. updating them, I think would be the phrase. And the crazy thing was I learned so much in that job. I did it for two years in total. I learned so much in that job about how not to write software has zero tests, other than production tests. We had no configuration management, we use LabVIEW LabVIEW was definitely it's a fourth generation language, a graphical language. It's not Oh, it wasn't great for what we were trying to do. And I was also working with people that really didn't know we didn't, none of us knew what we're doing. But we but we also didn't know, we didn't know what we're doing. And that's always a danger in this industry. And yeah, I walked away after two years of that were with higher National Certificate in software engineering, because that was part of the deal, I would get this job. If I wouldn't got an agency in computer studies, which I did. I was disappointed to learn the agency didn't involve any programming whatsoever. It just involves getting to known databases and word processing tools, and on honestly stuff that I love to be able to do. But my goodness, it wasn't gonna be a career. But then I got burned, I got very lucky, I got very lucky because my uncle was working at a company called computing devices at the time. And they literally build computing devices, for the military for defense applications. And when I joined, they were just changing their name to General Dynamics UK, they've been bought by Jim works over in the States. So suddenly, I got an opportunity to work there, at the lowest possible grade, you can imagine my job description was configuration manager that meant, I mean, to put it in context of these days, that meant I was the get person, that's all I would be doing. In fact, I was using Unix tools for version control, I was running around making sure that no one got slowed down by the terrible versioning tools they actually had, whilst they were developing these control systems for all sorts of weapons on aircraft, most mostly aircraft based based things, but But the beauty of it was I joined a company, and part of our interview process a question, I was asked the question, Do you know how to write software to build and deliver software? And I was like, I do, I really thought I did. I thought it was terrible. But I thought I knew how to do it, I was persevering. And the guy that interviewed me turn around, said, We know how to do software here. And I thought, Wow, I'm in the right place, they're going to show me there's going to be a bright light at the end of that tunnel, it's going to be so wonderful. So we know how to do this. And he said, what you said, we take nine month projects, I thought my months convenient, okay, but nine months, at the end of nine months, first six months, we're just doing design in this thing called Rational rose. You can see this is going up six months of squares, being drawn squares and ovals and lots of arrows. And then we crank the handle and he literally made the gesture of cranking the handle on a monkey box, right little clapping monkey on it or something. And out produces the code, right? Is there, here's some code, and then we go and run it and and it works every time. And I sat there and thought, in my naive state of mind, I just thought I want to do this. Because if this is how good this is, I need this in my life. Or what I've just been through the hell is this, this is going to be fabulous. I can honestly say I was at that company for eight years. And I don't think I ever saw that happen.
Tim Bourguignon 22:44
You remember eight years,
Russ Miles 22:45
I did. And there's a reason. Because again, it was part of a package deal. I was offered this opportunity to work at General Dynamics, but part of it was you're not qualified enough for us, you've got an agency, but you're not qualified enough. We would really like you to do a degree alongside so one day a week, I would go off and do this degree in Greenwich, Greenwich University in London. And so I did it. But I didn't I was a bit sneaky. I did it in three years, it's not supposed to be possible. So I did my degree for in three years. at Greenwich, I was doing one day a week. So I did it in the same amount of time as a full timer. But I did it with one day a week of study. And when it came to give me my grade, they actually gave me my grade the day before I went to get my certificate because they had to go through a third or fourth review process because people didn't believe I'd done it in three years. And I was about to get a first class honours degree. So it was it was under a lot of rigorous testing this this stuff I'd submitted to make sure I was for real. And luckily, they came back and said, Yes, you are. So I got my first class honors. But that's only three years. I'm not counting the eight years yet Am I so many five years come from several things happening at once. The first thing that occurred to me is I want to do another degree because I was kind of a glutton for punishment also, because I hadn't been very academic, I wanted to be more academic. I was like, I could do this. I've got this. And so with absolutely no humility at all. I applied to the Masters mastering software engineering program at Oxford University, and said, I want to come forward and do this. And I submitted a proposal to them. And when I turned up for the interview, because I got an interview, which is great, but it's not the interview, Jeremy Gibbons, who headed that department. It was a functional programmer, big on functions and the formal proofs of functions. Amazing, smart person. He turned around to me my interview and he said, Russ, we've never seen a proposal like yours has that. Is that is that good. I'm hoping that's nice. You said you've submitted a proposal in UML. Why? Because believe me, that's what I've been doing a lot of for the last three years on these projects. And he's like, I kind of like it. I like like your thoughts. I like you know, the fact you've used tooling in this area to produce his proposal, where I described the packages I wanted to study the modules I wanted to study I'd literally treated like an architectural breakdown of a computer system and this is the things I want to do this is what things I want to I want to Learn. And so I got in. But I was slow. I took, I could have finished it probably in three years. But it took me five. And I was pretty slow at it in general, I was slow to do the final paper. But let me explain why I was slow. I was slow because I was also entering the world of writing books. Okay, so this is where I start to go. Either I'm arrogant, or I'm stupid, or I just lack humility completely. But I submitted my proposal to Oxford University for my dissertation for my masters final piece of work. And they came back saying, Look, this looks great. You can do Aspect Oriented Programming here that sounds cool and cutting edge. However, what you've described isn't a piece of research. It's a book you've described, you're going to learn about these things. It's not, you're not forwarding the craft here. Okay, but I heard the word book in there. So I took that proposal, and I sent it to O'Reilly with nothing, always no cover note just going, I would like to write this book for you, because I love your books. And quite rightly, they came back and said, No. And then I spent about three months going back and forth, and all sorts of pain trying to figure out if I could actually write a book for O'Reilly. And in the end, they said, Look, we want a cookbook style book. Can you do something like that? So I bought a bunch of cookbooks, from O'Reilly studied their format, their form, went into what mine could look like with that, and got it accepted. So then I'm in an interesting position. I'm doing my master's dissertation, because I did have something that was allowed. And I'm writing my first book at the same time. So as of the end, I'm working full time. I'm only every six weeks. I'm about a week in Oxford. That's all I'm doing. So I'm full time working. I'm writing a book and I'm doing Yeah, it's crazy. Even though I'm doing my master's dissertation, it's fair to say my social life suffered completely. And if I went back in time, I would have let it that happen. That was that was something that my obsession took over. I had no sort of No, no romantic relationships in this period of time whatsoever. I ended up writing, writing two books in that period of time, the learning UML one you've mentioned, and also AspectJ, a cookbook. And I got my masters at Oxford, and I went enjoy getting my final rewarded certificate there at the Sheldonian theatre, it was fabulous. I don't regret the outcomes. But along the way, that was that was very, very harsh on everything else, but the obsession, but then I had a problem. I was working in a company, and General Dynamics who are wonderful at helping people understand engineering and getting to a massive, incredible point in their career. But I was hitting a bit of a ceiling. And I felt I was and I was curious. I was curious to know what the rest of the world was doing. Because I was working on the typhoon, the Euro fighter I was working on even systems for the Harrier, the old Harry, I worked on a little bit. And I was working on cutting edge sort of intelligence processing systems, and sensor and systems are very exciting. But these projects seem to be extremely long. And I was watching the rest of the world move a lot quicker than the world I was in. And so I was intrigued. I was I was driven by the thought maybe they're doing it better than we are. And so I took a big decision to leave, move to Guilford and work for a company called Volantis. And I learned a lot about how they were writing software. And they were shipping it because they it was supposed to be a turnkey solution for mobile portals. So they're all interesting. Now I can honestly say I have never used the word turn words turnkey system for anything said after that project after that product. Because I would say it's yes, it's a turnkey system. If you're okay, mining the ore from the ground, and managing the processing into something that can be used for making the key and the lock. And then you might be able to get the two to work together. It was it was very much a kind of bespoke custom thing that you could play into wherever you were working. But I was way out of my depth. That was something where I was you couldn't see the source code, you could raise issues. But you were there on site. I got to travel a lot during this period. And but you were there with customers were going, when's it going to work? And you can't I don't know. I don't know why it's not working yet. So yeah, I learned a lot about how to be in a room with people that knew less than me, but only a little bit less than me. And I was trying to put their fears to rest in an honest way, authentic way, whilst at the same time knowing that we'd sold this thing as a turnkey solution. And I don't think that was entirely true. So I was with Volantis, I think for a couple of years, maybe a bit longer. I wrote, did I write another book at that point? No, I wrote my third third book came up towards the end of that. So I left Atlantis and I decided to work for myself as a startup didn't work. I won't bore you with the details. It was it just didn't work. But I did get an opportunity to write for the head first series of books now the headfirst series. It doesn't really matter if you hate the format or you love the format. What I was so impressed by and what I take him with me since then, is I got to go and have a three three days, of course with Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates who The creators of that series of books over in Colorado, and it totally changed my life. It changed my life in terms of how I think about my readers, how I think about users. It made me it gave me a level of empathy with the user I never developed in any other scenario. Personally, when you're working defense, you don't hardly ever meet the users. So this was a whole new world for me. And the way that they think about writing books, they think about how people approach a book, how people learn from it, so much so deeper than anybody else I'd ever met. But I learned so much in those three days, I came away a complete convert, que mucho, I was an evangelist, since from that moment on, that there is better ways to build systems and write books that are accommodating to the human that's approaching them. So that was a big deal for me. After that, I tried to write his first book, and I failed. I tried to write headfirst. UML I couldn't do it, and no one wanted it. And the problem with head first books is you can go quite a long way, writing one of these books to them find that it's not right. It's not what people want, so they won't release it. headfirst books are best sellers, there's a reason they put massive amounts of effort into them being best sellers. And if it's not a best seller, it's not gonna be a best seller. They don't release it. That's how it used to be anyway, it may change now. So I was, yeah, I was left without a book. And I wanted to write another book. And then I left the job and I was without a job too. And then I got this invite out of the blue to work with someone I've consider a great friend Dan Pallone, on headfirst software development, which is a book he was writing, but he was struggling, because he lived in NASA. And in NASA, they had both agile related projects, and sort of UML based, you know, I mean, this sort of iterative, but not really waterfall style projects. And what that meant is he'd written headfirst software development, apologizing for these two different approaches throughout the book. And he tried to service them both because that's the world he lived in. And but that's not what you do in your first book, you try and you try and share the opinion. That's the right way to do this. And so I was brought in as someone who maybe I may be able to help with that. I think we did a great job in the end of her first software department became a best seller, and I'm really pleased with that. And that was that was not okay, so there was a big outcome out of that. It burned me slightly. Because her first software development what No, her first book writing is such an intense process, I came away from it really quite burned out first on my career, I felt burned out from writing, I didn't want to write again. And I didn't write, I didn't write anything for about 10 years for the massive gap them in my writing career. So writing something I love now. But I'd lost my love for the writing. Fortunately, I've been invited to work at that point, I actually got in touch with a an old and hold color colleague is not interested. But someone else in the industry, someone I'd known from way back, Adrian Collier, who if you haven't, if anyone hasn't met Adrian, or if he hasn't been on the show, you need to invite Adrian office, I want to hear his story. Because Adrian is the smartest, nicest, most kind of empathetic person I've ever met, or he isn't any of those things. And he's an incredible actor. But I think he's genuinely those deeply those things. And I managed to get an interview to SpringSource interface 21 Spring foot source at that point, which was my first jump into open source. I started being paid to write open source paid to communicate, open source. And my first day on the job in SpringSource. I was I was dropped into a situation where delivering a course in London on the Spring framework. And I had to walk in and do some modules that day, it was very much a trial by for the first time I'd ever done public speaking. And of course, of course, it's public because it's people that have I've never met before on this course. And I found I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the communicating first firsthand to people in an audience. I hated it. Because I'm an introvert, believe it or not, I'm very introverted. But I was incredibly empowered. I think, by this interaction with an audience. I became in love with this audience. I hadn't had that with my books. I hadn't had that with anything really in my career. Now I had a bunch of people I'd never met before. And I could make them smile about things. I could tell them the stories behind things. I found I was a storyteller. I didn't know as a storyteller. I'd never planned to be a storyteller. But I was one. And that was a big eye opener. And it has become really, the key skill in the rest of my career, is my ability to take something that is quite dry, can be quite complicated, can be quite can be quite difficult for anybody to pick up or get to know and turn it into a story that they can embrace. And it has to be a story, of course that they aligns with their experiences too. So that was that that chimed with the stuff that I'd learned from Kathy and Bert, which is about storytelling in her first books. And then it chimes with this moment of interactively creating stories, because what I would do is I would take a module in the spring training, and I would look at it and go It's very dry. I mean, it's literally you could walk through the slides. But if you're talking to the slides, it's boring me, let alone boring the audience. So what I would do is go, Well, why did why do we have that feature? Why would you have that, and I'd make up something I go, you could do it this way. But actually, it's better if it's this way. And now we've made it more interesting. But it took me probably about a year or so of doing that with SpringSource, to make me realize this was something that other people didn't do. A lot of people would deliver training, literally the accurate training that's on those slides, where I was always going in with I got so good at it, I would literally walk in on the first moment of the of the of the other module and go, let me tell you something you don't know about this. And it always open them up a little bit. SpringSource was huge. For me, I started doing public speaking on stages in front of people, I started develop techniques in that. And then I was made redundant. Actually not, that's not true. My some of my friends were made redundant from SpringSource, because a big change in direction. And I felt I couldn't align with that changing direction. So we created a company that was essentially a bunch of consultants. I'm sure there's a collective noun for that, I think it's an invoice. And we started to go off and tell people how to use emerging technologies that we saw. And that got us loads of interesting gigs in different financial institutions, different media institutions. And I thoroughly enjoyed building a company from zero to 40 people at that point, and it was my first time as a CEO, it was my first time trying to understand what the heck that role means. It first time being a leader of any sort. And I can honestly say, I'm still learning to be a leader. It's a wonderful, wonderful thing to learn how to do. So yes, then I sold open credo, I am I exited, I think it's a phrase and started another company didn't go so well. And then started the company. I mean, now, I know, I didn't know it, I joined a joint Atomists, another company with Ron Johnson from SpringSource. In between hours every two years. And that was an interesting experience. Because it's a company with incredible people, incredible people. But it's it's I think it's fair to say that all of us struggled to pick the right problem to solve to make something amazing. And it's almost like they had almost an I think they have that they've, they've got there now. They had huge amounts of money, but no discrete final vision that was missing. And it's, that's one of the hardest things to ever get. It takes time. And in the end, when I moved on from Atomists, I moved on with my best friend. So van hillock wash, and we both were sitting there after leaving atomistic. And we've got a few months where we don't have to worry about, you know, food on the table. What can we think what can we do now? And I said, Well, you know, I'll sit there going, Well, I'm gonna see I'm gonna continue to be the CEO of something. Now, I didn't say that at all. I did what most people do, which is go, what can I do I know how to do I know the code, do this, right, I'm gonna go find a developer job. That's that's kind of how it goes, I'm gonna go train people, something like that. But so vandalize sat down said we can do something different here. Because I've been involved in the early work around blockchain chaos engineering. And I was, again, I was utterly enamored with this different perspective on systems. It was entirely different. Anything else never done in my career, in that everything I built, I built with this idea of getting it right. It's going to work. I now call this hope driven development, and that you build something great. So take, say, for example, I'm going to deploy an H A instance of this application, this database, so I do, I follow all the instructions, and now it's Ha, and then I move on to something else. That's hope driven development. You don't know It's Ha, you don't have a clue what happens when things go wrong. But you follow the right recipe, therefore, you must be done. And so I love this, because it was the scientific method for systems for systems we work on. It was a way of going all that doubt, you've got all that skepticism, you pour it into these experiments. And then you can see, you can start to gain confidence in what you need to know and what you end up not knowing. And that's why it's so powerful to me, it's not really about causing chaos or any of those things. It's for me, it's the fact that you are exploring a system to gain confidence. And I love that part of it. But one of things I noticed was Silvan is that there was nothing out there. That codified chaos engineering for the open source world. And I wanted to do something like that we created the Kaos toolkit. We're both Oh, big open source contributors. It went from there. I mean, at the moment, we have like 70,000 experiments a month this thing runs. So if we should come really well, but it was never intended to be the next big thing we did. It was just something that we wanted to do, because we were quite excited by chaos engineering as a concept, but I felt it wasn't really service. Well, there was also another aspect of it. I wrote up in a book I contributed to, which is the chaos engineering book by Norah Jones and Katie Rosenthal, my chapter in that is about open science and open chaos. And the fact that I feel that chaos engineering needs an openness to it, in order for it not to fall into the same traps that science sometimes does. Where great learnings happen, but no one can see them and know and can share how they came up with those learnings. So that's one of the reasons it became sort of our mission for the Kaos toolkit was this is the way that this is our way to make these things open and to protect them as an open endeavor, a scientific approach to exploring complex systems and how they, how they behave under turbulent conditions. So that was a big deal for us. That because it led to ventually, getting a call from investors. But before I go there, I want to talk about before about the investment, I want to talk about how we got attention. Because it's weird. We didn't find any investors at all that time we might have done later on, but not not that time. But we what happened was, and this is back to me being slightly reckless, is I was at a conference. And it was the conference after party, lovely people, it's conference, I've got to go to Chicago or something like that. Go to people. Wonderful, lovely people. And you're sitting there and I think there'll be whiskey is a bit broken out. Right. So it was that late in the evening. And the question was brought up, I thought tongue in cheek, someone asked the question, What can we do to make this conference next year, even more amazing. And so I'd had enough of a drink to turn around and go, I need to do that. I said, what you want to do is you want to pay a motorcyclist to work their way around the United States, literally the whole thing. And everywhere they stop, they do a talk. That is one of the talks that's going to be at go to, and they're going to promote the conference as they do it. And I forgot all about this statement for a few months. And then someone phoned me up and said, I think moron, okay, okay. I think that how it is. And that's what we did. We did this tour of the States, I called it the chaos tool. Because it was chaos at times. Sometimes I was talking to three or four people. Other times I was talking to 200. Other times I was talking to bridging onto a 500. And some places, I did it for everywhere from the West Coast to the East Coast and back a little bit again, I've met fabulous people along the way. I only fell off once. Although if anyone from Harley Davidson is listening, I didn't fall off at all. I only had a little spill once in Arches National Park of all places. And it was just incredible. I think it was a two and a half week six and a half 1000 mile thing that I planned out and I just did it. I had one day where I was on the bike for 13 hours. And I went from freezing in the morning, boiling hot, midday, and then freezing again at night to get to Oklahoma City. I think that's what I was aiming for at that point. But and I also went through Vail so I went up through the mountains. Again, I wasn't thinking very straight, I just saw a straight line road. I didn't realize it's no season. I'm riding a motorcycle. Well, one side of me, I've got trucks going past me with chains still on there looking at me going, you know, shaking their heads like I'm insane. And they're on the other side of me. I've got people in skis, going along the sort of walkways are slightly ways on the point. And I've I and everyone thought I was insane. I was riding like 20 mile an hour with my feet on the floor to then have a ton the Harley Davidson, you know, to be guided along this row. Anyway, it was intense. It was wonderful. Everyone I met on that tour I it's some of my best memories ever. But what it did do, and it wasn't really planned. But it did happen that way. It put me right in the center of the chaos engineering sort of bubble that was growing at a time. And so even on that tour, I would have be asked to I'd have to pull into a McDonald's car park or something like that, to have a call with a VC who's going after it's interesting what you're doing. I've looked at the cows talking, you've got some users, you've got this happening. Yeah, maybe we should talk. I didn't know what I was doing. I was like, Yeah, okay, let's talk. And I got back from that tour. And at that point, you could say the cows talk, it was on the map. So van and I knew that it was it become a thing. And it was a bit quiet for a little while. And then we got a phone call from a massive VC firm, Excel, gave us a call and said they'd like to talk to us about what actually went a bit different in us. Adrian Collier, again, was now working with Excel. I was badgering him a little bit saying Why don't you fund us? We're an open source project. Why didn't you fund us? We liked you. And we know that you're genuinely lovely person. And so he said, Well, maybe we could, we could fund you. But he said I don't have any money for this. He said XL their funding is at round A's and B's we don't really do lower than that. You're asking for a tie, I think we're asking for 200,000 pounds or something like that, which is ridiculous. By the way, you're gonna raise funds, you're gonna spend at least a quarter of that on legal. So we didn't have any of the sense to know that. But he said, you know, keep at it and see where you are in a year's time. And we did. When we came back in a year's time, he's like, things have changed slightly Excel, we're now quite excited about earliest stages. So bearing in mind, this can be a really bad idea taking money from a VC at a very early stage when they normally do later stages, because if they don't delay the stages, it's gonna look bad on you, we would perhaps like to talk to you about it. And so I was doing a course in London at skills matter on chaos engineering. I took my lunchtime to go and do essentially Dragon's Den XL Venture Partners and met some incredible people there. That understood what we were trying to do. They framed it with testing, which is a little more a little further away from it than I would have caught it but worked for me places in the testing brackets fine testing in production. Okay, so chaos engineering is one of those facets right And a week later, they gave us a term sheet, we raise 1 million pounds to start a company, which was chaos like you congratulations. And so the story from then is really, we've had one one further round of investments since then we have some amazing customers and users. But our mission has changed very specific, specifically. Now to reliably that's where we changed. Our name, actually, is to communicate that we are helping developers embrace reliability, just like companies like snick are helping development teams embrace security, we are taking very similar approaches to embracing reliability reliably is quite different from security is sometimes blurrier than security. Security has the benefit of there being usually a malign actor, whereas with reliability, there's no specific malign actor it's the world that is against you. But yeah, so we, we've been working on that now for few years. And pretty happy where we are. So there you go from early days of navigating things to work on now, in my latter days, perhaps, of stopping things from working and showing that you've learned some from something from it at the time they go. That's that's my story.
Tim Bourguignon 46:04
Thank you very much for that. Let's let's let's stick to the yokels engineering, what would be the one piece of advice you would give to someone to get started with chaos engineering?
Russ Miles 46:14
Well, there's a fabulous book written by this little known author. And I'm not. It is a great book. I'm very proud of it. But anyway, don't worry about the book. For now, I would say to everybody who's interested in Chaos Engine, go and grab the chaos toolkit. And again, I'm biased there, but it because it's free and open source, I feel like I can be genuinely recommending of it. Go and use the Kaos toolkit, create your first experiment understand what an experiment looks like, understand that it has a steady state hypothesis that it has a method that it has a way of operating these things. So it's not just about inducing thoughts inducing faults is, I'm not gonna say it's easy, because sometimes defaults are not easy, but they are certainly there's certainly simpler to sort of grok but an experiment isn't about necessarily the faults that you're applying. It's about what are the assumptions that you're exploring what is the hypothesis that you have? And one of the things that kales toolkit does better than anything else that I'm aware of. It emphasizes the hypothesis as the important factor. And so I would always say go and use the Kaos toolkit get in touch with me. I'm always on the chaos toolkit slack so there's a join dot chaos toolkit that org put out years later, I'm sure but there's a slack you can join if slack is your way of communicating you can come and talk to me on an immediate basis about your experiences are doing this. My job is CEO of a company that also has chaos engineering as part of what it does, based on the open source cares toolkit. My job is to help people so get in contact with me is another easy answer. You know I can get I can point to a different articles we can find out where you are. One thing I would say don't do if you're about to consider chaos engineering, don't roll out and some sort of experiment to production as your first attempt. It happens it I hope we all laugh, but it it it happens. I've had that phone call where someone phoned me up and said Ross Ross, Russ, you're gonna love us. We've run an experiment in production, great to run Chaos Monkey. Great. It broke everything. Okay, and he and he's and the next sentence was the best part is we knew it would. Okay. You're not be a scientist, now. You're being a sadist? What should what you should be doing is going, we don't know what's going to happen. Let's explore it. And maybe we explore it in production, maybe we can explore it somewhere else. Wherever we can learn the lesson is a good place to do the chaos, the chaos experiment. And so yeah, that's, that's that's what I try and avoid more than anything else. I am lucky. I haven't had many people say to me since that they've done that. But that's why I say start with the science. Start with the experiment. Get that into your mindset. And then then you can look at all the plethora of different implementations of chaos engineering out there, some great ones littmus Chaos is fabulous. You've got Gremlin as a commercial option. You've got the tooling that Verica are working on as well. Kaos toolkit is one of those things in into the middle of all this, as far as I'm concerned. That's trying to emphasize experimental format more than anything else. That's why I pushed people to learn the format learn to look for in terms of what good chaos experiments could be, then you can translate that into any probably any tooling you want. Awesome. You mentioned connecting you Where would that be? Oh, I hover about in lots of places so you can email me [email protected] is pretty good to get ahold of me. You can also say join the chaos toolkit Slack. So that's a Euro URL wise that's joined dot kaos toolkit.org. You can also find me on Twitter mostly. So at Ross miles, ping me on there, my DMs are usually open. So happy to speak to anybody about what their experiences are with anything I've talked about today or anything I have forgotten to talk about today. Because one of the things that I can say my entire journey in this industry has has bedded into my soul is that I'm still learning every single day. I learned more from talking to other people than I do from any book. So just reach out I'm hopefully a friendly individual I'm happy to respond. If you do send me an email, please forgive me if it takes me a day or so to respond. Email is a slower response time than Twitter, or, or slack. But either way, I will get back to you. And we'll compare notes on where your journey is compared to where I am anything else, you want blogging, I don't have anything else to plug I mean, other than perhaps, I have to drop the thing in for my company reliably.com. There's we've got our free and open source CLI that you can grab, to start to code up service level objectives to understand what reliability looks like for your systems. There's my plug, if you if you want to start using our latest and greatest stuff. reliably.com is the place to begin.
Tim Bourguignon 50:37
Thank you for listening. Thanks for the nice. All right, thank you very much. Pleasure. And this has been another episode of their journey and with each other next week. Bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep t i m o t h e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info talk to you soon.