8 on K8s with Rich Burroughs

Feb 23, 2023

Welcome to our series 8 on K8s where we interview interesting people in the Kubernetes community. In fact, check out our previous one with Álvaro Agea. If you’d like to be featured or know someone who’d be a great fit, tweet us and spread the love. 

Rich is a Staff Developer Advocate at Loft Labs where he's focused on improving the happiness of teams using Kubernetes. He's the creator and host of the Kube Cuddle podcast where he interviews members of the Kubernetes community. Rich was one of the founding organizers of DevOpsDays Portland, and he's helped organize other community events. He also has a strong interest in how working in tech impacts mental health. Rich has ADHD and has documented his journey on Twitter since being diagnosed, and moderated a panel on ADHD at KubeCon Detroit.

What’s the last book you read?

Inverting the Pyramid, it's about the history of soccer tactics. It was an audiobook, I listen to those much more than reading.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Our team is focused on helping platform teams and developers use Kubernetes better. I worked very closely with developers for many years in my Ops roles, and I know how frustrating it can be to be stuck because of infrastructure problems. Making environments for things like dev and CI/CD fast and easy to use can have a huge impact.

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

The rise of platform teams, and thinking of the platform as a product. A few years back I started to see some shops hiring product managers for their platforms. I thought it was a great evolution, as the Ops teams I'd been on in the past had almost no support like that. Looking at the platform as a product means collaborating with the users, and as someone involved in the DevOps community for a long time, that also really speaks to me.

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

I'm having trouble thinking of one. The last thing that got me really fired up was a conversation I had with Joe Beda, one of the founders of the Kubernetes project. I do a podcast about Kubernetes called Kube Cuddle where I interview people from the community, and Joe was a recent guest. We talked Kubernetes history and about some things he would have done differently with hindsight. I also watched the Kubernetes documentary from the Honeypot folks to prepare, which is really great. It's on YouTube. I think it's helpful to understand the origins of projects like this; to have a context for them. Like what the founders were trying to accomplish.

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

I work remotely like a lot of folks, but I had done it for a few years before COVID. I find it's really important to try to keep some sort of separation between working in my home and living in it. I have a dedicated office, and I try to finish work at the same time daily when I can. I also like to get out for walks once or twice a day. I usually listen to podcasts while I walk, about other topics than tech. I have ADHD, and I have a therapist and ADHD coach both for support. They're great and have helped me a lot.

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

I'm not a big risk-taker, to be honest. I have a lot of phobias, lol. I think the biggest risk in a while was taking my current job. I'd worked at several early-stage companies before, but this time I came in as employee number four. The big irony is that I was feeling burned by startup life, and I was looking to join a large company. But once I took a look at the product and met our CEO, Lukas, I got sucked in. The tools were solving important problems that a lot of people face, and the designs were really clever. And when I talked with Lukas, we were very much on the same page about where to start. Outside of my career, I think moving to Portland many decades ago was pretty risky. I didn't know anyone here, but I took a trip to visit and loved it. I've not thought seriously about moving since then.

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

Wow, these get harder as they go. I'm a little scared of the next question already. I'm honestly not sure if I can do that without being uncomfortable. One thread that goes way back in my life, before tech, is an interest in storytelling. I think telling and hearing stories are both basic human needs. Our brains naturally construct narratives about our lives, and sometimes they make judgments in those stories without a lot of information to go on. And if there are facts that don't fit the story, we can change the story or change the facts. I was on my college debate team and studied logic, and I think I tend to look at things from that lens a lot. I think if there were two contradictory ideas in my head I would probably want to prove one of them wrong.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

There are a lot of people, but the first one that comes to mind is Kelsey Hightower. I met Kelsey back in 2015 when he spoke about Kubernetes at a small tech conference here in Portland. We both live here, and so I bumped into him at some local events over the years, as well as at other conferences. We both worked at Puppet at different times, and we bonded some over that. I've also had the pleasure of interviewing him a couple of times, for my Kubernetes podcast and a previous one. There's a lot to admire about Kelsey, but the biggest thing about him that inspires me is how generous he is with his time. I've heard many stories from people that he's helped in some personal way, and he's given me advice and encouragement. He also really listens to people. I remember once being in a circle of people at a conference who were chatting near the snacks, and Kelsey was like the magnet for us all. We were hanging on his every word. A person I didn't know walked up kind of on the fringe of the circle, and Kelsey went out of his way to include them in the circle and get their opinions on what we were talking about. A lot of men with his presence in the industry would be more interested in hearing themselves talk, but despite how famous he is in our community, he looks for things that other people can teach him. It's incredibly inspiring. I am somehow managing to work in a second plug for my podcast Kube Cuddle here, but I think the conversation we had is really great. He told me afterward that I had asked him some questions he'd never been asked before, and he does a lot of interviews. If the readers would like to listen, they should be able to find it in their podcast player, or they can listen through a browser at kubecuddle.transistor.fm

Thanks for all of the great questions, this was very fun. 

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