8 on K8s with Alex Ellis

Aug 28, 2020

Welcome to our new series 8 on K8s where we interview interesting people in the growing Kubernetes community. It’s our hope that we encourage an ongoing conversation with insider insights and great recommendations. If you’d like to be featured or know someone who’d be a great fit, tweet us and spread the love. 

Alex is a respected expert on serverless and cloud-native computing. He founded OpenFaaS, one of the most popular open-source serverless projects, where he has built the community via writing, speaking, and extensive personal engagement. As a consultant and CNCF Ambassador, he helps companies around the world build great developer experiences and navigate the cloud-native landscape.

What's the last book you read?

How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie.

What problem are you trying to solve?

I'm trying to find a balance between building great open-source tools for developers, and a sustainable software business.

What’s an interesting trend you’ve observed in our industry?

I've noticed that with lockdown, everyone in tech has become an expert baker and it's giving me FOMO.

What’s the last thing you read about our industry that got you really fired up?

I have just bought Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software by Nadia Eghbal. My understanding is that she's not an OSS maintainer, but has spoken to many in her research. One of the focus points is about how often a small group of people carry a whole project, and that it's not about sheer numbers. That's been my experience with OpenFaaS, and other projects I've started too.

What do you do that helps you maintain balance in your life?

One thing that works against me is my smartphone — if left unchecked, I feel like I'm always on call, to thousands of unpaying customers on Twitter, Slack, email, and GitHub. So I unplug as much as possible at the weekend, go for a bike ride, out for a coffee, see family, grab my compass and a map, and walk through the ancient countryside.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

I quit my job to work on OpenFaaS full time, and it didn't work. No end-user companies wanted to sponsor the project because it was free for them to get anyway. Since then, I've learned how to build a consulting business, and have been helping companies on their cloud-native journey. Having an expert or external partner on-tap can be surprisingly reassuring.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

There are so many people that it's hard to name them all, but I think of small bootstrapped companies like Kinvolk, 56k Cloud, Container Solutions, and others. They have a healthy balance of customer work, with open-source leadership, and to get this right requires tenacity.

Can you hold two contradictory thoughts in your mind simultaneously without feeling uncomfortable?

Life is uncomfortable and rarely fair, but acceptance is one of the things that can help manage worrying.

Finding your own swim lane is important, as is understanding what you want from your career.

For me, it's about enjoying the work, gaining mastery, and being rewarded.


➡️ Stay connected: Follow Alex on Twitter and check out the OpenFaaS blog. 👋

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