My View of OpsCamp

November 30, 2018

Internal company training events are often associated with boredom, long monologues, and Powerpoint presentations. My first Ad Hoc training event was exactly the opposite. OpsCamp featured role-playing team members seeking to sabotage our efforts, a card game to learn incident management, and an active scenario that used our skills as a team to respond to a carefully planned incident. In a short period of time, I have applied the skills I learned to help myself and my co-workers provide resilient digital services.

Image of a computer cooking on a charcoal grill, a fun reference to combining camping and computers

Ad Hoc OpsCamp focused on managing and responding to incidents as a team and learning from them in a non-punitive, constructive fashion to prevent similar events in the future. Teams of engineers and product managers simulated the real-world demands and dynamics common to agile team structures.

The camp had one day of lecture and one game day. The lecture featured a variety of topics focused around an operations hierarchy of needs, with monitoring forming the basis of solid operations and UX at the top of the hierarchy. As we moved through the pyramid, we learned to think about how these needs can be applied to everyday tasks and why each one occupies its place in the hierarchy.

The game day was the real highlight of the entire event. Our team was given an AWS account with an unfinished application; we were told that the previous team had been fired. Our team of people quickly went to work to secure the application by revoking old access keys and updating credentials. We then began working on troubleshooting the application and getting it up and running. Another team of people was devoted to causing confusion within our team and demanding ever-changing requirements to keep us on our toes.

In the end, we were all scored on various metrics regarding our technical ability and our non-technical incident management. We participated in a post-mortem of our process — just as we do a post-mortem of a real incident — to improve future responses. The goal in all situations is to learn from them and improve your process for the future.

OpsCamp gave the engineers and project managers who participated the tools and training to continue Ad Hoc’s delivery of robust, resilient critical government digital services. In addition, the people who attended the event will share what we learned with the rest of our team. Training events like this show me that Ad Hoc is interested in the personal growth of its employees and that the company as a whole continually strives to be on the forefront of technological growth.

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