Tell us a bit about yourself.
Chris Short has worked in the Information Technology field since 1995. Getting his start working summers and vacations for manufacturing and textile companies, Chris quickly latched on to the fast-paced tech sector and has been advancing technology as a resource since his youth. As a senior in high school, he was the webmaster at sandtech.net, a dial-up Internet Service Provider, in Hickory, NC, and embraced Linux as a platform in the predominantly Windows world of the late 90s.
When the Dot-com bubble began to burst, and trouble loomed on the horizon for tech jobs, Chris joined the US Air Force as a Tech Controller (3C2X1). During his eleven years in the Air Force, Chris served at four duty stations: Langley AFB, VA, MacDill AFB, FL, Buckley AFB, CO, and Pope AFB, NC. Chris participated in countless exercises across the globe and deployed three times: twice to the Middle East and once to Central America. Chris served under three US Presidents: Clinton, Bush, and Obama. In October 2003, while conducting a training exercise, Chris suffered an injury that damaged his long thoracic nerve. However, that did not deter Chris from trying to exceed all expectations despite living in continuous pain. In 2008, he won Air Force Communications-Computer Systems Outstanding NCO of the Year for Pope Air Force Base. In 2010, Chris was medically separated from the Air Force.
Chris is now working in the open source, Linux systems, Cloud Native, and DevOps spaces. He currently is a Senior Developer Advocate at AWS, working with Kubernetes. Chris writes and maintains the DevOps’ish newsletter while contributing to the KubeWeekly newsletter. He calls the Greater Metro Detroit area his home.
What do you feel is the most important part of your job?
Helping people. Plain and simple. As a CNCF Ambassador, I take it very seriously when someone asks to help them narrow down their tooling selections. More often, though, the question I get asked as an Ambassador is, “How do I get started contributing to Kubernetes?” I am working inside SIG-Contributor Experience to make that a smoother path. We’ve stood up the Kubernetes contributor site with instructions on getting started as a Kubernetes contributor as it’s a frequently asked question.
For my day job, I help folks solve their problems by driving feedback into the product, enabling them to be comfortable tackling problems based on solutions myself and my team have built. More importantly, make sure they’re delighted with the products and projects they’re using under the AWS or CNCF banner. More recently, I’ve trained my focus on GitOps and how I feel it is an excellent implementation of DevOps. I’m still stunned operations teams are pushing things to production manually, are having Change Advisory Boards, or think their configuration management database is accurate. As an implementation of DevOps, GitOps will be many organizations’ first step into automated deployments. It’s a fun journey to help people go on. Building trust in your systems is hard work. Putting safeties in place is even more challenging if you’re not ingrained in the codebase. GitOps forces some organizations to speed up while it forces others to trust their automation and continually improve it.
I live in Detroit. Thinking that Ford or GM don’t trust their robots to build cars is a fallacy. They trust the automation around their assembly lines because of the ability to detect drift or anomalies baked into the system. Acceptable tolerances have gone from being measured in fractions of an inch to single digit millimeters. This all has to do with the evolution of the technologies the automakers have built. Your organization can have that too.
What is something you’re struggling with?
Time management challenges are real. The lines get blurry when you have kids, meetings, newsletters to read and write for, and learning to do when it’s all from the same place (home). I learn best when I can shut the door and dive deep into new technology with minimal interruptions. We’re finishing our basement right now. I’m in our guest bedroom (not many guests coming over when there’s a pandemic), where the hustle and bustle of the home are much more apparent. Plus, people are coming and going as well as noise from construction. But, it’ll all be worth it in the end because I’ll be able to work from an that’s custom-built to my needs.
But, having a lot on your plate means you have to be good at context switching, and well, to be honest, I’m not excellent at it. Timeboxing is something I’m working on with my manager. I am not sure I’ll ever master it, but I will make the conditions better for it. I think that’s the best I can do given the circumstances.
Tell us about a time you were inspired by someone or something in DevRel.
I’m continually inspired by anyone who can get up on stage and talk about their craft. But, if I had to choose some folks specifically, I would say Mary Thengvall, Kaslin Fields, and Angie Jones have been recent inspirations. The work they’re doing is phenomenal and truly worthy of praise. Mary literally wrote the book on DevRel, Kaslin just gave a keynote at KubeCon that was fantastic, and Angie has done so much this year alone it’s hard to imagine doing all that myself. These folks are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There are many other great folks out there doing amazing things. You can draw inspiration from a lot of great folks right now.
What’s one change you’d like to see in DevRel?
Defining it and getting it under Product. DevRel and Developer Advocacy still mean different things to different companies (sometimes they mean different things at the same company). What you should hear when you ask, “What part of the org am I working under?” If you hear Marketing, you’re not in a place to drive feedback into the product directly. Ask how that process works in that org. Working at AWS, even though I’ve only recently joined, I already see the path to getting product improvements into our services. That’s the real DevRel superpower, in my opinion. If you can look a customer in the eyes and can feel their pain, you’re driven to help fix it. It’s tough to do that from a different part of the organization.