DevOps Students Learn the Value of Uptime With 3 a.m. Calls


Students at the Holberton School, San Francisco’s innovative new school for training students of any age to be full stack software engineers, are being woken early, really early, to learn just what’s it’s like to be a part of a DevOps team.

DevOps is a set of practices, a philosophy aiming for agile operations, to expand the collaboration between developers and operation folks to make them work toward the same goal: contribute to the entire product life cycle, from design, development and shipping, up to the production stage. This is a radical shift from the industry norm of separate engineering and operations departments which often operate in opposition to each other.

Holberton is partnering with PagerDuty, a 6-year old IT incidents management startup, to wake students up to the reality of on-call engineering. Students will be on call, 24/7 for their personal projects but also for group projects.

In the industry, engineers are often on call for systems they did not build, but that they still need to support. In that situation the challenge is even trickier.

“Uptime is the number one goal of any SRE/DevOps/System administrator team,” said Casey Brown, manager, Site Reliability Engineering at LinkedIn. “Nowadays, well established companies like LinkedIn, Facebook and Google are also expecting developers to be fully responsible for their code in production. Having production in mind and being ready for it is something that every good developer must have, yet no school prepares students to that.”

Hands on Devops training isn’t the only way we have been innovating. Since the school’s inception last year, we’ve been offering unique opportunities for students; from our tuition model and admissions process to our certificate verification process based on blockchain, the technology behind bitcoins.

One of our core precepts is that our students learn by doing, and being on call is a lot about experience, it is not something you can learn in a book.With this program, students will already have one-and-a-half years of on-call experience, because we put our students through their paces, and that sometimes means a panicked call at 3 a.m. What better way to be prepared?

Sylvain Kalache is a co-founder of Holberton School and a former Senior Site Reliability Engineer at LinkedIn.

Holberton School is a project-based alternative to college for the next generation of software engineers. Using project-based learning and peer learning, Holberton Schools mission is to train the best software engineers of their generation. At Holberton School, there are no formal teachers and no formal courses. Instead, everything is project-centered. The school gives students increasingly difficult programming challenges to solve, and gives them minimal initial directions on how to solve them. As a consequence, students naturally look for the theory and tools they need, understand them, use them, work together, and help each other.